The Sunday Magazine

The case of four missing pages and the only Canadian who met Beethoven

Lower and Upper Canada were British colonies during Ludwig van Beethoven’s later years. That’s when a Quebec City musician named Theodore Molt was granted an audience with the moody maestro. Beethoven kept notes about all his meetings, but CBC Music host and raconteur Tom Allen was intrigued to discover that four pages of notes about the meeting with Molt mysteriously disappeared — a story Allen tells in a “chamber musical” called The Missing Pages, to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

The mystery has long fascinated veteran storyteller and CBC host Tom Allen

Ludwig van Beethoven in his study (circa 1890) from a painting by Carl Schloesser

On December 13, 1825, two men met for the first time.

One was a musician from Lower Canada named Theodore Molt.

The other was Ludwig van Beethoven — the greatest composer alive.

Molt travelled from Quebec City to Vienna to meet his hero — making him the only Canadian that we know of to ever meet Maestro Ludwig.

Tom Allen hosts Shift on CBC Radio 2. (CBC)

We know Molt and the composer met, because Beethoven's deafness required him to keep "Conversation Books" in which his visitors would write their greetings to him. 

But at some point, four pages of notes from his audience with Molt were ripped from the book. Out of anger? To hide a scandal? Or because of something else altogether?

The mystery of those four pages has long fascinated veteran storyteller and CBC host Tom Allen.

"I came across him first, just looking for stories of Canadian musicians," Allen told The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright. "If you look through the Canadian Encyclopaedia of Biography, you'll see entries where various musicians, Calixa Lavallée and others. And there's this fellow who met Beethoven. That really is why we know who he is because of a few hours spent on two afternoons in December of 1825."

Allen delved into Molt's life and history to produce a chamber musical called The Missing Pages. He explained that a chamber musical is one of a number of shows that he and his wife Lori Gemmell, the Principal Harp at the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony, conceived.

"We realised we had a shared love of storytelling and live music. So we started telling stories with music and invited friends ... The music is part of the storytelling and it's small — it's chamber music. So it's a chamber musical that mixes classical music, history and original song," explained Allen.

Allen and the cast of The Missing Pages were set to tour the production in 2020 — the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. But like so many plans, the tour had to be put on hold. Instead the cast is now filming a physically-distanced production of the show, which will be screened at festivals this summer.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full conversation.

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