Holy Smoke

Beethoven’s victory over sickness and fear

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In this episode

Damian Thompson

This week's Holy Smoke podcast is a celebration of what must surely be the most inspiring piece of music ever written by a sick man recovering from illness – the slow movement of Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 132, which he entitled 'A Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity by a Convalescent'.

The relevance of this sublime music hardly needs spelling out. But what makes this episode particularly special is that, when they learned of the plans for the podcast, a brilliant young string quartet based in Kansas City, which calls itself The Opus 76 String Quartet, offered to record it for us. And that's what they did, without charging a fee, in the lovely acoustic of Visitation Parish Church just before it closed its doors because of the virus. They made a video of their luminous performance, which you can find on the Spectator's website, and there are two short extracts in the episode.

My guest is the leader of the quartet, Keith Stanfield, who must be the only classical chamber musician in history to have played football in a World Cup qualifying match, for his mother's country, Western Samoa. I couldn't resist asking him about that.

He and his colleagues went to heroic lengths to play Beethoven's 'Song of Thanksgiving' for Holy Smoke. Please listen!