Happy 240th birthday, Beethoven!


Beethoven's bust statue from death mask by Hagen. Pic from Wikipedia

I’m reminded that today’s Beethoven’s birth anniversary. At least, it could be his birth anniversary: it’s not certain whether he was born on 16 or 17 December 1770. Anyway, it doesn’t matter –  because 240 years on, people are still playing & listening to his stuff!

I still remember discovering an old LP record of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony at home as a kid and blasting the vinyl to a young heart’s content.

Later on, the wide-eyed (or eared?) innocence waned, and for a period of time I wandered off cavalierly in search for other sounds.

But of course I was young & stupid! There is more than mere sounds in Beethoven’s music. It is a whole universe of experience that is still marvellously relevant today. There are tonnes of academic analyses of his works which I shan’t bore you with.

For me – to put it simply – his works embody

  • the fateful – Symphony no. 5 in C minor. Even if you don’t listen to classical music, it’s very likely you’d have heard the famous first 8 notes before.
  • the visionary modern artist – Sonata no. 29  in B flat “Hammerklavier”
  • the heroic – Symphony no. 3 in E flat “Eroica”
  • the ethereal – 2nd movement of Piano Concerto no. 5 in E flat “Emperor”
  • the full embrace of nature – Symphony no. 6 in F “Pastoral”
  • joy – final movement, Symphony no. 9 “Choral”: so much so it forms the basis for the song Joyful Joyful in Sister Act. Yes, that one with Whoopi Goldberg.
  • sweetness – Romance No. 2 in F

Beethoven was a complex man. Apart from the music, read these words from his letters to his “immortal beloved” –

Be calm my life, my all. Only by calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together.  Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me, never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
Ever Thine
Ever Mine
Ever Yours”*

Mmm… so much for the legendary caricature of an angsty grouch.

Anyway, Beethoven’s  list of music repertoire goes on, and I’m still exploring. Happy playing & listening!

(*famously quoted in the movie Sex and the City, which itself is an interesting thought: who knew Beethoven & Carrie Bradshaw could ever be mentioned in the same breath?!)

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