Beethoven is King

Ludwig van Beethoven is King.  Beethoven is my hero.  Beethoven is my musical everything.  And I am Schroeder from the Peanuts cartoons, albeit a dark-haired version of the boy with the stripey shirt and toy piano.

I love Mozart too but I tend to have qualifications about Mozart, he the sublime master who passed away a couple of months short of his 36th birthday.  Mozart's music, at its very best, is absolutely first-class, and much of his later quintets and concertos read like an honour roll of great music.  I'm particularly fond of the master's piano concertos and his quintets for various instruments such as horn & clarinet.   The problem with Mozart for me is that, despite the easy listenability of his music and the melodic and harmonic grace he bestows on upon his work, there is something essentially impenetrable about Mozart.  I find there is a steeliness to his music that's somewhat difficult to really warm to, or relate to on a deeply emotional level.    I almost feel sometimes that Mozart's music is truculent.  Although I love a great deal of his work, illumined and enlightened as it is, I find myself rarely completely taken by it.   

Beethoven's music, in contrast, is perfect to me.  Beethoven was only 14 years Mozart's junior.  Yet given the turbulent and rapidly-changing epoch these two men lived through, they in effect worked through two distinct eras and their music is thus a reflection of their particular times.  Mozart's music is in effect pre-revolutionary whereas Beethoven's is post-revolutionary.  Beethoven was the first great Western musical artist to declare artist's rights.  He declared his work to be an artistic statement, to live forever, and lucky for him in his formative years the royal court of Vienna loved music and Beethoven.  Mozart, Haydn, & J.S.Bach, all worked and remained subservient courtly or churchly patronage.  Haydn enjoyed independent success toward the end of his long life wheras Mozart floundered in his attempts to break free of court patronage, of which relations were mostly strained.   Beethoven broke away from strict classicism and allowed his music to breathe with the new aromas of Romanticism.  This, coupled with his forcefulness, his urgent need to communicate his soul through his great music, his utter musical articulateness, made for perfect classical music that speaks to the 20th & 21st centuries as well or if not better than it did in the 18th & 19th centuries.   I believe him to be the greatest composer of music who ever lived.   

Beethoven's piano sonatas mean the world to me.  I'd love to buy the complete set.  I've not heard all of them but I love all of those I've listened to.  My favourite sonata is the Pathetique which is often cited by many people as their favourite Beethoven sonata.   To me, Beethoven's piano sonatas are representative of the human condition, relaying to the listener or performer in these remarkable pieces the entire spectrum of human emotionality.   Beethoven is open whereas Mozart to me is tight.  Beethoven is more wounded, more genuinely melancholy.  For me, there is a greater pool of feeling and emotion in Beethoven's music than Mozart's or at least, the expression of it.

Like Beethoven I had a mirthless upbringing.  Maybe that's why the man appeals to me so much.  I do smile and laugh a lot more that he appeared to that's for sure.  By all accounts Beethoven's behaviour and manners deteriorated as he sunk further into deafness and solitude.  He was a pretty appalling guy really.

I also love J.S. Bach.  I'm very fond of Haydn whose music is extremely enjoyable.  I don't like Schubert, except for the Ave Maria.  I should like him, just like I should like Neil Finn, but I don't.   I just find Schubert annoying and therefore I eschew him.  Oh, I don't like Tchaikovsky either because he's such a drama queen, but I like Shostakovich very much.

Why would anyone sing the words "roll over beethoven" rockers realise that Beethoven was pure Rock'n'Roll!!!  In his early days in Vienna, 1792 onwards, he was known to smash pianos with the sublime force and passion of his playing.  He was a punk, a genius punk.  If I'd stuck with piano I would have become a Beethoven specialist for he is really my style of music.

Beethoven is King.  That second movement of the Pathetique, the sublime Adagio Cantabile, that's what I want played when I exit this world....just make sure that those fortes and fortissimos are played really hard and LOUD!  And the adagio melody....make that as sweet and gentle as the love of the earth...


A.M. said…
Did you write this? Wow. Superbly written!!!!! I so very much enjoyed reading. I love your take, too, on Mozart and Beethoven!

"I find there is a steeliness to his music that's somewhat difficult to really warm to, or relate to on a deeply emotional level." I agree! I never really thought much about it, but that's it! Mozart is heady (for me) and Beethoven is soulful, emotional, romantic--carnal even!

Cheers, Ross. And thank you.
ross b said…
Thank you so much for your encouragement AM, it means a lot to me. I did write this, but I also wrote my first assignment for my creative writing course and I do believe, going by the feedback, I'm pretty much at the bottom of the class!! Lol. But, I plan to pick up from that and give it a real go. I don't plan on continuing with creative fiction but the exercise will give me some tools and further direction for writing in general.

I think about Mozart and Beethoven a lot. I had to think about what it was about Mozart's music that made me qualify my love for it, and I decided that it was the quality of steeliness. As my old piano teacher said in his croaky Italian accent, "Beethoven is perfect!"
A.M. said…
With fiction there are countless variables, all of which get ahead of me too easily. I suppose that's why, in the past, I always stuck to research, essays and non-fiction. Like you, I'm branching out.
Lian said…
Ross, I for one love Beethoven's Pathetique very much, and I guess I understand why you particularly love the second movement. It’s warm, I can completely feel how Beethoven loves his life, it shines brightly in every note. (can't imagine he composed it after his ears were deaf, was is why he entitled it as Pathetique?)

And I love your blog title: Bethoven is KING.

You are the first person I know who ever talked about Beethoven's music is Open and Morzart's is Tight . It's really interesting... but vividly described!
ross b said…
'Beethoven is King' was said to me by a double-bass player 5 years ago during a general conversation about the title is not entirely original I'm afraid!! Lol. But my ideas and words used in this piece definitely are. Beethoven composed the Pathetique while his hearing was still intact; Beethoven was able to ably compose despite his encroaching, and later complete, deafness as his inner ear was perfectly trained and developed. The Pathetique was named at a later date and not by Beethoven, and it was likely named for its grey, "pathetic", or maudlin mood.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the Pathetique must count as one of the very greatest masterpieces in Western art.

Have a listen to Mozart's sonata in A minor K.310 - it's a great masterpiece that fuses his usual tightness with an unusual passion, almost toppling Beethoven in the process.

Anne-Marie that last comment - I relate to those 3 sentences absolutely and entirely!

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