Thursday, September 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday: How is it that Beethoven never goes out of style?

A blog post from 2007 beginning with journal notes from February 2000.

Watching Immortal Beloved about the life of Beethoven. It is easy to understand how a man could become so troubled. His great love was music, and he went deaf. To think that he wrote/composed several great symphonies after losing his hearing is one of the wonders of the world. His Ninth Symphony would be an achievement for any living person with all their capacities. But for a totally deaf man… it is astonishing!
Feb 10, 2000

Not yet finished with Immortal Beloved but have reached several of the “Ahas” in the latter part of the movie. The scene of young Beethoven lying in the lake, floating on the water beneath the stars, was wonderfully conceived… the Ode to Joy playing as he reveled in the freedom & music of the spheres, at one with the Universe.


The great “Aha” in the film is learning of his passionate love for a woman who married his brother. His tortured life was filled with rejection, misunderstanding and the difficulties due to his deafness… but this was an especially stinging wound.

Feb 12, 2000

Re-discovering Beethoven. What a wonder this music, squeezed through pores of pain to enrich the world. It is said that he was possibly the first to create music intended to have an immortal life of its own beyond the life of its composer and first listeners.

Feb 13, 2000

He began going deaf early in his life, suffering from the disease of tinnitus (ringing in the ear) which interfered with his ability to enjoy music and eventually left him completely deaf the last nine years of his life.

When I was about eight years old I began taking piano lessons. I had a piano teacher who early introduced me to the masters. Like so many young piano students the romantic lyricism of Beethoven and Chopin drew something out of me.

This film, like many tragic films, overflows with heartbreakingly beautiful moments. I think especially of the scene of anguish with Gary Oldman (Beethoven) failing to make it to a pre-arranged tryst because the wheels of his carriage get mired in muck on a dark, stormy night. Throughout the scene we hear his inner agony expressed via the score from his Seventh Symphony, second movement. Though the Seventh has always been a favorite, that section will for me never be the same.

A more recent film on the troubled life of the Maestro is Copying Beethoven. Ed Harris plays the role of revealing new facets of Beethoven’s life. Though I find Harris a compelling performer in many if not most of his other films, I did not find myself emotionally bonding with this portrayal. Yes, he did his best with the material he had to work with. The supreme wonderment of the Ninth was given ample screen time, but could not entirely save the film. I was constantly aware that I was watching men and women playing roles.

Both movies show a man of complex emotions, conflicting drives, a somewhat brutish and impulsive, crude and difficult, yet reflective and humble man of genius with a wrenching pain in his heart and turmoil in his soul. And yet the music he has created lives on. To what extent did his temporal suffering contribute to these effervescent and profoundly inspired compositions? We who would desire to produce similarly great art, in any medium, how deeply are we willing to embrace those sorrows that plow the heart so that the seeds of achievement might find good soil? What sacrifices are we willing to make to hone our craft, our vision, prepare ourselves to translate vision to reality? How much are we willing to have our motives, our works and our lives misunderstood?

As for Ludwig Van, what is it that makes his music so compelling? Power, majesty, poignancy... and a precious sweetness.

Do you have a favorite piece of Beethoven music? Can you share it in the comments?

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