This year, consider one of the master’s all-time great works, the bittersweet pinnacle of his composition career: the Ninth Symphony, and the theme of joy.
It’s a familiar tale: an aging Beethoven, ill and deaf, conducting the orchestra and chorus in the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, conducting even after they had ceased to perform, after they had reached the end of the stunning new work, after the audience had already begun to applaud, continuing to conduct until a singer turned him around so that he could see the thunderous cheers that were resounding throughout the hall. The image is deeply moving, so much so that more cynical historians would like to discount it; it is, they feel, too perfect to be true. Yet this once, however, the cynics are apparently wrong, for several eyewitnesses tell the same tale of that fateful performance in Vienna on May 7, 1824.
Sound and more text provided at the link above.
In a related vein, tonight on ABC (7 p.m. in Denver, check local listings) is the replaying of A Charlie Brown Christmas. What does this have to do with Beethoven, you say? Those who have seen the classic cartoon special may remember the following exchange:
Schroeder: This is the music I’ve set for the Christmas play.
[Schroeder plays Fur Elise]
Lucy Van Pelt: What kind of music is *that*?
Schroeder: Beethoven Christmas music.
Lucy Van Pelt: What’s so great about Beethoven? Everyone talks about how “great” Beethoven was. Beethoven wasn’t so great.
[Schroeder stops playing]
Schroeder: What do you mean Beethoven wasn’t so great?
Lucy Van Pelt: He never got his picture on a bubble gum card. Have you ever seen his picture on a bubble gum card? Hmmm? How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on a bubble gum card?
Schroeder: Good grief.
Good grief, indeed.
Something extra: In case you needed more reason to avoid ingesting toxic metallic substances into your body, scientists recently discovered that lead was the cause of Beethoven’s lifelong debilitating illness. And though the article’s author does not opine, dare we ask… also a contributing cause of his passionate musical genius?
Hat Tip: Coyote Gulch