Beets for Beethoven’s Birthday!

So it’s true! All these years, you’ve carefully pronounced the “beet” in Beethoven’s surname as “bait,” you well-educated music lover. And you’re right, you’re right. But dig a little bit, and there really is a beet!

On a suggestion from my linguist friend, the Seattle violinist Sandra Layman, I checked with the popular music historian and educator Robert Greenberg, who confirmed this. He writes, “Beethoven’s paternal grandfather (also named “Ludwig”) was a Flemish-speaking native of what today is Belgium, where “van Beethoven” means, literally, “from the beet field.”

As pictured above, simple baked* golden beets reveal their lyrical internal patterns, decorated with a little spiky tomato stem—suggestive of the birthday boy’s inclinations to take the simplest of musical elements and, sometimes spiky and sometimes sweet, build something startlingly new.

So, to celebrate Ludwig-From-The-Beet-Field’s birthday, December 16, may I suggest serving this earthy, health-giving root? Especially since the genius was born in the season of celebratory red?

You also see a raw chioggia beet picture, which pales when baked. So, like the maestro’s music itself, it’s best appreciated unadulterated, to reveal its true colors: intense, earthy passion and a pure, pure soul.

*Bake beets unpeeled, tightly wrapped and on a cookie sheet (beware of drips in your oven), 350° for 90 minutes or so. Cool a bit, slice off the thick–and possibly muddy–root end, and slide the skin off with a paper towel. (This gets messy. Plan on one whole paper towl per beet. If you’re baking red beets, wear gloves or wear the consequences.) Slice parallel to the cut you made at the root end to get nice round slices.

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Antonio Salieri, left, to Victor Borge, passing the baton down a line of a century of master keyboardists. CREDIT: via Wikamedia Commons

Passing The Baton: A Century Of Keyboardists From Salieri To Borge

A Venetian with a passion for books and sugar, brought to Vienna at age 15 by a kindly patron. A Hungarian steeped in Roma music and religion. A native of a working-class neighborhood in Glasgow, appointed a church organist at the age of 10. A member of a highly cultured Jewish family in Copenhagen. Four very different personalities–Antonio Salieri, Franz Liszt, Frederic Lamond and Borge Rosenbaum–linked by education. In fact, they form a direct line of mentors and protégés, spanning almost exactly a century, from Vienna of the 1820s to London of the 1920s. Continue Reading Passing The Baton: A Century Of Keyboardists From Salieri To Borge

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