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Beethoven rocks my world

I wish Beethoven could be my lover. I’m sure he smelled bad, had yellow teeth, and was probably a difficult man, but still … he gets me. Or at least his music does … and it’s certainly spent enough time playing in my bedroom.

While I’ve written in the past about being in bed with the Bard, I have to say, if I had to choose, I’d choose the other bad boy of the arts and make my lover Ludwig von Beethoven.

In fact, I did quite a long time ago, bond with this dead man in some ways more than I ever have with a living male.

Image from The Wall Street Journal June 5-6, 2010, page W14

Image from The Wall Street Journal June 5-6, 2010, page W14

How could I not? Beethoven feels like my soul mate. Except maybe for the anger part. But I like to think I could have soothed that savagery. Or at least had a damn good time trying. I might have lost my hearing or my heart. But, oh, all the moments in between.

I remember once, a real lover of mine was leaving to go back to Europe for an extended stay. We’d just made love and Beethoven was still playing in the background. Sonata in C minor began.

The moonlit sonata transported me unusually so. Was it because I was dreamily relaxed or in love? I don’t know. But I do know that I closed my eyes and listened. Listened with my whole body. Not with my mind, not necessarily with my heart. Just with my senses and my collective state of being.

Beethoven’s music is nearly the only thing capable of moving me to tears and this time was no different. Warm, salty tears slid down my cheek.

My lover, younger than I, reached over to wipe a tear away and said, not out of naivete really, but out of that singularly self-centered world in which the young exist, “Don’t be sad. I’ll be back again in three months.”

Though it was hard for me to not be irritated that he’d interrupted my reverie, I just smiled at him and said, “I know.” I didn’t want to burst his bubble by telling him it was Beethoven moving me to tears, not him.

In late April of this year, for my birthday, I was taken to Sarasota Orchestra’s multi-media performance of Beethoven: The Angry Revolutionary. While some of the presentation was just plain goofy, Conductor Leif Bjaland’s commentary made it clear that he was as passionate about Beethoven as I — it would have been hard for anyone to resist his enthusiasm for the man and his music. And the performance of the orchestra left me newly enamored with the musicians. It was a stunning and moving (yes, I cried) performance of Symphony No. 5. If you missed it this year or last, you should try to be sure to see it if the Symphony does it again in 2011. It’s really a can’t miss event in Sarasota and I believe those are few and far between.

For a fabulous read about the man I’d most like to sleep with tonight, check out a fabulous article in last week’s Wall Street Journal about Beethoven. The writer did a wonderful job of presenting the man behind the music and I’ll bet compelled not just a few readers to listen again, more closely, or possibly even for the first time, to the music of the man who “first fills the soul with sweet melancholy, and then shatters it … .” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Except to say that when Beethoven shatters your melancholy, he leaves joy in its place.

You can read the article here: Beethoven’s piano sonatas grip us and refuse to let go

Posted on June 11th, 2010Comments RSS Feed
17 Responses to Beethoven rocks my world
  1. Hi Mary Catherine,

    Ricardo Muti, then the Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was the speaker at my graduate school ceremony. This was 1987, just before the Wall Street collapse that fall. So, here we are, thousands of grads sitting in 93 degree heat on the artificial turf of Franklin Field. Meanwhile, Maestro Muti was describing the importance of a Liberal Arts education to a good musician’s background and traning. As an example, he cited Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the “Eroica.” Beethoven orginally dedicated it to Napoleon, who Beethoven thought was bring deomcracy to France. However, upon learning the small dude had invaded Russia, Beethoven angrily ripped up the dedication. He then re-dedicated his work to Mankind (sorry, he wasn’t THAT progressive.) The Maestro said that he needed to know that history to accurately intrepret the music.

    I wasn’t the only person listening intently and with excitement to the speech. However, sad to say, most of the Wharton grads were waiting to become “Masters of the Universe.”

    Se la vie.

  2. Geez, how can I compete with that ? I can’t even play “Chop sticks” on the piano.

  3. Howard G — thanks for the history lesson — have you seen Immortal Beloved? If you’re a B fan, it’s a fascinating (though I’m sure lots of liberties were taken) film. And, now those Masters of the U have decimated our economy.

    JW — It’s not the type of talent a man has, it’s how he employs it that matters. 😉

  4. Hi Mary Catherine,

    Bien sur! I especially liked the scenes where he was in the lake thinking about the music he would later write. Not sure if it was historically accurate, but it was great film.

    Another history lesson: Beethoven would sometimes listen to the Kol Nidre chant – this is the prayer calling Jews to ask for forigivess at the beginning of the Yom Kippur evening service – as he was, of course, fascinated by other religous music.

    As for the Wall Streeters, no surprise to this camper. It’s all legalized gambling – some worse than others. :(

  5. Howard,
    didn’t know that about the Kol Nidre chant. My idea of a film festival? Immortal Beloved, Remains of the Day, The Last Castle (schticky, but still satisfies my attraction to Machiavelli), and Moonstruck. God, what a great idea — an entire weekend of my own private film festival. How come I’ve never thought of that before!


  6. All I can say is once you listen to Bach…. you never go Bach to Beethoven!

  7. I’m woefully underexposed and under-educated about you, Herr Bach. But, if you’re trying to steal me from my first love, the man who wrote “I can live only wholly with you or not at all”, it’s just not going to happen.

  8. Oh my dear Mary Catherine you must read my quotes but for starters I give you”Romance is thinking about your significant other when you are supposed to be thinking about something else”If you need more convincing let me know that was just a tease.
    And to the man you call JW ,I would say spend some of that $$$ you have and buy a piano and practice MY songs and then you may have a chance with the most beautiful Mary Catherine..

  9. Dear JS,

    I think Beethoven would disagree with your theory on romance. He and I both would suggest that “Infatuation is thinking about your SO when you’re supposed to be thinking about something else.” Romance, my dear Bachy, is acting upon that thinking.

    MC and LvB

  10. You got me on that one Dam…….Okay you win, now finish that book and I’ll show you two romantics how to party:-)

  11. “All I can say is once you listen to Bach…. you never go Bach to Beethoven!”


  12. I thought it was quite clever JW!

  13.      “Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.”
    Your boyfriend could also write!!
    You are one complex gal,MC.
    It’s a pleasure to read your blog

  14. Ah, Piano Man, I think I’m pretty simple really, but I appreciate being thought of as complex (like a fine wine? hmmm yummy!). It’s sweet of you to say you take pleasure in my blog. Thanks!

  15. Gary Halperin
    June 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    hi mary catherine,

    just wanted to make sure you knew that the final concert of the Sarasota Music Festival on June 19 is all Beethoven.

  16. Gary,

    Thanks so much for letting me know. I did already know about the concert and am going! Very excited about it.

    But if I hadn’t known, I’d be grateful for the heads up, so thanks for taking the time to drop a note to me.


  17. Maybe you are right, stay simple.
    “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
    But then you will only ever get a single rose ,
    never wanting a dozen.


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