Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ludwig!

"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets."

You probably think this came from some well known writer.
It didn't. I'll let you guess.
Time's up. Ludwig van Beethoven.

I have to tell you first off, today I finished my first ever murder mystery. Sent it off to my publisher, and work on the next one has been put on the front burner. Without the music of this master, I don't think my afternoons would be quite so enjoyable! Keeping me pushing on to get it done. Thanks, Ludwig!

Obsession is a funny thing. I find myself obsessed about something, or someone famous. If I find them, or it, particularly fascinating, I have to look at every aspect about them. Their history, and whatever they've accomplished.

I've always loved classical music. I guess it comes from when I was small and too fussy to go to bed, my father would carry me around the dining room with the record player going--Mozart playing in the background. So, it goes to figure I have this deep connection with classical music. I was a strange teenager, listening to Beethoven's symphonies--all 9 of them--on the record player. Not that I didn't get into the Beatles when they came along.

Beethoven more than any other composer grips me. No matter what he has written. I'd like to just go on and on about him here, but it would probably bore most of you. And, even if you are at this point uninterested, you should at least listen to some of his music, beyond the ones you know. He wrote so much! Some of it impossible to even attempt by an amateur pianist.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born December 16th 1770
Died 1827
Beethoven, as most know, is a German composer, born in Bonn. His grandfather was also named Ludwig and was a court musician. His father was more of a drunk than anything who often beat his son during piano and violin lessons. Hopes were that the child, Ludwig would carry on the family name and that he would become another Mozart. But where Mozart was a child prodigy, Beethoven became a virtuoso. For Mozart, creating music as a mere child was, well, child's play. If you ever listen to either composer, you can see the difference. At least I can.

Many of Beethoven's compositions on the piano are so well known you can't be in this world and not know the beautiful Moonlight Sonata, or Fur Elies. I taught myself on piano (not well) how to play both of these from sheet music. The second movements are not easy by any means. But Beethoven was driven.
Remember the quote from above? Beethoven said that about his craft. He taught others how to play the piano. He composed volumes of music. He was both a classicist and a romanticist, but transcends both -- "his compositions are the expression of one of the most powerful musical personalities of all time.

To me the power of his works are found more in The Pathetique Sonata Op. 13. and then there is The Sonata No. 21  I love watching David Barenboim play these pieces. You can find more, much more!

Of course everyone knows the famous 5th and 9th Symphonies. But he wrote so much more, as you've seen above.

The first symphony was considered "the last symphony of the passing era rather than the 1st of the new". He hadn't yet had the impulse to break loose of the old style. But when he did, oh boy! He did it with passion and majesty.

Eroica his #3 symphony shows where his music stepped away from the norm. Eroica means "hero". But it wasn't the original title He had originally written it for Bonaparte. He had thought Napoleon Bonaparte would honor his promises and give people in France democracy and all they wanted. Well, it isn't the first time a leader lied just to get to power. When Beethoven heard that Bonaparte had made himself emperor, Beethoven destroyed the title page. That's how it came to be known as Eroica. The powerful first movement sounds like a battle. It's amazing what one can do with music. The second movement was said to nearly bring people to tears because it sounds like a funeral procession. Over all, the piece was quite the most exhaustive piece anyone would ever have hoped to perform, pushing the instruments of the time to the point of, well, unable to bear up to the whole thing.

Here is a BBC movie about Beethoven presenting it to the prince, his patron. Beethoven's Eroica. I thought it was well done, and shows you the instruments they used back then, and even a little glimpse in to the romance he was striving for with a woman of nobility and why she couldn't, or wouldn't commit to him. Beethoven never married, but not for the lack of trying. His famous love letters composed to an unknown woman shows his romantic side.

 Even at the point of finishing this third symphony, Beethoven was going deaf. Nearly no one knew this. He didn't want anyone to know. He didn't want to be treated differently, thus people though he was moody, or down right rude. His doctors told him there was no cure. He told them he would "take fate by the throat." No wonder many of his pieces were loud. By the time he'd finished the 9th Symphony he was completely deaf and didn't hear the audience's response to it and his players had to tell him to turn around to see the overwhelming response.

Back to Symphony No. 3. It was also much longer than anything anyone had ever written, much longer than a Hayden, and he is shown sitting in at the rehearsal of #3 in the movie.

As I've said I could go on and on about Beethoven. Let me leave you with the Triple Concierto y Fantasia Coral with Yo-Yo Ma, Perlman and Barenboim. The Coral is similar to the 9th Symphony Coral, only not quite with all the gusto and beauty.

Overall, Beethoven championed liberty in his music, and it is noticeable.

If you listen to any classical station, switch it on today. You might find they are playing music of this fascinating composer.

Happy 246th Birthday,
Ludwig van Beethoven!


  1. He was the greatest composer who ever lived, and his music was the closest any human being has ever come to perfection.

  2. Right, William. I would agree with you there.

  3. It's okay to like more than one. (:

  4. I love classical music as well. I was quite a strange teen-ager too. Good post, Lorelei!

  5. Thanks, Shelly. I've been really surprised by the response here. But you and I have hit on a number of similar things, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

  6. Barenboim did a cycle of all nine symphonies back in 2012 at a British annual event called the Proms. I suggest you look them up on Youtube. They're great performances.

    1. That's exactly what I did, William. There are other ones with him as a younger man (and older) playing piano sonatas, piano concertos. And there's the Triple concerto which I thing I've mentioned above with him conducting at the piano along with Yo-yo ma and Perlman playing.
      All wonderful. I put one on and let them play down the list throughout the day!

    2. I've seen Perlman in concert once. They were all younger in that video!

    3. Wow. How nice!
      Oh, yes. Definitely.


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