Phil Grabsky follows his excellent documentary In Search of Mozart (2006) with another in-depth study of a musical genius, once again using standard materials—talking-head interviews, performance footage, urban landscapes—to fashion an engrossing personal portrait. This one is longer and slower, and the ending is anticlimactic (peculiarly so, given that its subject's orchestral career ended with the thundering Ninth Symphony). An intimidating figure in his day and ours, Beethoven seems to have inhibited the sort of personal revelation from the conductors and performers interviewed that made the Mozart movie so surprising. But Grabsky does manage to convey how shockingly dramatic Beethoven's music seemed to the first people who heard it, and the musicians' sensitivity and articulation—both verbal and musical—fire this chronicle of one man's extraordinary artistic journey.
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