Panel Discussions

Complementing the musical programs, we will continue to present our series of in-depth panel discussions in which leading scholars explore topics related to “Why Beethoven?” 6 talks will be presented this season: 3 in Santa Barbara and 3 in Pasadena. Participating scholars include Lydia Goehr, author and Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, and Daniel Chua, Professor and Chair of Music at the University of Hong Kong.

Presented in association with:
Pasadena Conservatory of Music
With generous support from:
Chaucer’s Books

Due to a generous, anonymous donation we are pleased to offer tickets to our Santa Barbara events free of charge. Please call or reserve tickets online using the links below.


November 6th | 7PM | Karpeles Manuscript Library, Santa Barbara
November 7th | 7PM | Pasadena Conservatory of Music, Pasadena

Lydia Goehr, author of the book of 1992 that lends this discussion its title, talks with Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, about concert hall culture and the conditions that impact how music is made, heard, and packaged for a public. Goehr’s opening provocation was that “Bach did not intend to compose musical works,” to show that the idea of musical works fully emerged in the period after Bach: namely, with Beethoven. If, to add to the provocation, concert hall experience today still holds to the Beethoven paradigm, would we say that the concert going public is lagging far behind the times? Or should rather we better rethink the entire thesis? 


January 22nd | 7PM | Karpeles Manuscript Library, Santa Barbara
January 23rd | 7PM | Pasadena Conservatory of Music, Pasadena

Ever since the beginnings of a classical music scene in the New World, Beethoven has been the central figure.  The New York Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s 5th symphony at its first concert in 1842, and Boston’s Symphony Hall, which opened in 1900, has a proscenium surrounded by a series of plaques intended to display composers’ names. Beethoven’s is the only name displayed, above the center of the stage. To this day the other plaques remain empty. Today in China, Western art music has the stature it once had in America, and, again, it is Beethoven who is most highly revered. Why is that? Is it a question of specifically Chinese cultural values?  Professor Hao Huang suggests that although the Chinese relationship to Beethoven has been volatile over the years his music continues to be a central factor in Chinese engagement with Western culture. China has witnessed life and death conflicts over whether Beethoven is a national hero (relevant to Confucian values of self-cultivation and persistence) or a “dangerous Humanist” promoting corrupting bourgeois individualism. A question pertains:  in China, Beethoven is still relevant to defining national culture, even self-definition; does the same apply to the West today?

March 11th | 7PM | Karpeles Manuscript Library, Santa Barbara
March 12th | 7PM | Pasadena Conservatory of Music, Pasadena

Modern concert etiquette developed in the 19th century as part of a culture largely shaped by reverence for Beethoven. At the beginning of the 21st century isn’t this model failing and if so, what will be the replacement? Will we be able to enjoy Beethoven without confining his music with antiquated traditions? Will we be able to attract new audiences and create new concert experiences to celebrate the masterworks of yesterday and the music of tomorrow? Shouldn’t our music schools be the incubators of such change, yet curricula remain firmly rooted in the 19th century? Like the early 19th century, however, the beginning of the 21st is a time of change, negotiation and possibility. So, 100 years from now will Beethoven, Mozart & Haydn still dominate concert programming, demanding the same devout reverence, or is there something wonderful and new in store for the concerts of tomorrow?



Jindong Cai Orchestra Conductor and Professor of Performance at Stanford University
Daniel K.L. Chua Professor and Chair of Music at the University of Hong Kong
Lydia Goehr Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University
Dr. Hao Huang Bessie and Cecil Frankel Endowed Chair in Music at Scripps College
Derek Katz Associate Professor of Musicology at UCSB
Sheila Melvin Journalist and Author
Alex Ross Music Critic for The New Yorker
Laurence Vittes Music Critic


Barry and Amalia Taylor
Bob Weinman
The Towbes Fund for the Performing Arts, a field of interest fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation

Jan Swafford’s “Anguish and Triumph” is the Beethoven biography recommended as the companion to our Beethoven Project.

“Impassioned and informed…Swafford’s exuberance is infectious, prompting the reader to revisit works both famous and obscure.” The New Yorker

Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
A New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book of the Year
Time Magazine Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2007

One of The Telegraph‘s Best Music Books 2011
“An indispensable, erudite collection.”Entertainment Weekly

“First rate… [Gaines] writes superbly and makes us feel at home with things that would have sounded arcane otherwise.”Daily Telegraph

Purchase books from Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara (805) 682-6787 — an independent, arts-supporting bookstore — or through Camerata Pacifica. In both cases, all proceeds will benefit Camerata Pacifica.