This exhibit was created with funding from the American Beethoven Society and grants from Applied Materials Excellence in the Arts (a program of Arts Council Silicon Valley) and the GRAMP Foundation
The existence of the Beethoven Center is due solely to the passion of the man for whom the Center is named. Although he began to build his collection in the mid-1970s, Ira F. Brilliant’s enthusiasm for the composer dated back at least to his college years, and on one of his first dates with his future wife Irma, they attended a concert at which a Beethoven symphony was performed. Ira’s dream was motivated by this statement of purpose: “I must translate my love of Beethoven’s music into a tangible act of devotion.” That sense of purpose, devotion, and discipline resulted in the finest collection of first editions and manuscript letters in private hands in the United States by 1983, at which point Ira felt that they must serve a better purpose than sitting on the shelves of the special room that had been built for the treasures in the couple’s home in Phoenix. On Memorial Day that year, he called Arlene Okerlund, Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts, SJSU, and history was made. Arlene described their first contact with these words: “From the first moment I met Ira Brilliant, I knew that he was a man on a mission. It was not just that HE loved Beethoven, he was determined to share that love with the world.” President Gail Fullerton agreed: “If we shared his vision, he would work with us to make it a reality. His enthusiasm was contagious. … Thus Ira Brilliant gave us his treasures: his first editions and other manuscripts, a fortepiano among other tangible gifts. With these gifts, he gave himself: his knowledge, his contacts, his energy, his passion.”
Since the Center originated in Ira’s gift of eighty first editions, we decided that the best way to celebrate the Center’s twenty-fifth anniversary was to create an exhibit of twenty-five of our most significant treasures. The hardest task was winnowing down the treasures to a manageable number, and Patricia and I elected to show off even more items by surrounding many of the treasures with auxiliary items. For each treasure, I have written an introductory paragraph to orient the reader to the significance of the item and a brief description about the treasure.
Bearing in mind that the exhibit will be viewed by people of all ages, children to seniors, and by experts on Beethoven as well as people who know nothing about him, I have tried to strike the right balance in writing these texts with the hope that everyone could take away something new and valuable. In several cases, I have translated German texts into English where there was a problem with the standard English edition of the letters; I would especially like to thank Dr. Michael Lorenz, Vienna, for his assistance sorting out two puzzles. As you will see, all of the treasures have been gifts from donors.
The exhibit would not be possible were it not for a generous 2010 Applied Materials Excellence in the Arts Project Support Grant from the Arts Council Silicon Valley. I must also thank Paul Hertelendy, a board member of the American Beethoven Society, and the GRAMP Foundation for its generous support, as well as the individual donors who have helped make this exhibit a reality. On the occasion of the Center’s fifth anniversary, Ira wrote a six-page statement on the Center. It ends, “Finally, at the risk of sounding pompous and overdramatic, I want to claim that a principal purpose for the Center is to preserve in an appropriate setting the symbol of Beethoven. The concepts of brotherhood, freedom, and struggle to triumph over adversity are interwoven into our democratic traditions and they have been expressed most eloquently in his language.Our presence on the scene will serve as a constant reminder of these concepts and will help to inspire us with mission type fervor.”
To Ira we pledge to continue to build a center that will honor Beethoven’s humanitarian values and unequalled music with missionary fervor.
— William Meredith