Beethoven

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Hi, I found some interesting articles and videos on Beethoven that I thought I would share here. The video below talks about how he, as a composer, began to deal with his hearing loss and how he managed in spite of his handicap to make some incredible beautiful masterpieces.
What was interesting was that when his hearing started to go in the upper registers, he adjusted his composing to be within the registers he was still capable of hearing. In Moonlight Sonata for example, the notes are quite low compared to some of the pieces he wrote earlier. But it was also lower than the notes he would compose long after he went completely deaf, as if he embraced it and found another way to do what he loved.

By Nancy Spannaus​

Two hundred and fifty years ago, on December 16, 1770, the world welcomed the birth of the man I call the “Composer of Freedom,” Ludwig van Beethoven. Let us celebrate Beethoven today for his historical and ongoing contributions to liberating mankind from tyranny and ugliness, including in our own republic.

Although Beethoven was born a German, and lived most of his adult life in Vienna, Austria, there is a sense in which he was the quintessential American in spirit. The composer was well known for his revolutionary sympathies, writ large in his stirring composition on the subject of the Dutch Count of Egmont, who died fighting against Spanish oppression in the 16th century, and his opera Fidelio. The latter deals with the liberation of a political prisoner by his wife, and bears striking similarity to the story of the Marquis de Lafayette, who suffered imprisonment by the Austrian empire, and was ultimately freed by the efforts of his wife and the American government.

beethoven.jpg


Ludwig van Beethoven

Listening to political prisoner Florestan’s famous aria, or the prisoners’ chorus which precedes it, would convey to anyone a clear idea of Beethoven’s commitment to freedom.

However, to Beethoven, as to other Classical artists and many of the American Founding Fathers, freedom was not just the idea of liberation from political oppression. It also involved liberation of the individual’s creative powers, a commitment to the brotherhood of all mankind, and the determination of uplift mankind to a life worthy of a species infused with a spark of the divine.

To experience this passion of Beethoven’s, one need only listen to his setting of Friedrich Schiller’s master-poem The Ode to Joy, the Ninth or “Choral” Symphony, which continues to be at the apex of popularity among Classical music listeners in the United States.

It should be no surprise, then, that Beethoven has also been credited with “democratizing” musical performance in Europe, by making his concerts open to the public, rather than just in the salons of the aristocracy. Indeed, his wide popularity in Vienna is credited to his 1795 performance of his Second Piano Concerto, which was held as a benefit concert for the Vienna Composers Society, which was established for the support of musicians’ widows and orphans. We could use more of that same kind of “democratizing” of Classical music today.

Beethoven in America


A more-than-400 page book[1] has been written about the rich history of Beethoven’s influence in America. The earliest reported performance of his works was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1805; it featured his Second Symphony. His popularity grew rapidly over the subsequent decades in locations as diverse as Philadelphia, Boston, and Lexington, Kentucky, along with that of composers such as Handel, Haydn, Bach, and Mozart.


The first Beethoven Society was established in Portland, Maine (my hometown) in 1819. Such societies were largely devoted to concertizing with Beethoven’s choral works, as choral societies were then very popular in the United States. According to today’s Beethoven Society of America, the most popular work was Beethoven’s oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, which deals with the story of Christ’s hours in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest.


If you have never listened to this work, I urge you to do so.

I have a very personal connection to this oratorio, which I listen to every year during Easter week. It just so happened that my college chorus, of which I was a member, had the honor of performing the work under the direction of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Eugene Ormandy. I unfortunately don’t recall the exact year—but it was sometime between 1962 and 1964. I can’t find it online. My Bryn Mawr women’s chorus combined with the men’s choir from Princeton University for the performance, which featured professional soloists. It was an unforgettable, glorious experience.

Beethoven’s Mount of Olives oratorio was written and first performed in Vienna in 1803, at a point when the composer was trying to come to terms with the fact that he was going deaf, and determined that he would continue to dedicate his life to his art. “Oh God, you look down on my inmost soul, and know that it is filled with love of mankind and the desire to do good,” he writes in the document known as the Heiligenstadt testament which otherwise reflects his struggle against despair.

One cannot but hear the same passion in Beethoven’s writing of Christ’s duet with the angel in the Mount of Olives, where He becomes reconciled to sacrifice Himself for the love of mankind.

The Power of Beauty

In the midst of the dangerous, roiling turmoil that currently pervades our political and social life here in the United States, we need the power of beautiful music more than ever. Classical music has the ability to convey beauty and truth in a way that no political speech or tract can possibly do.


(video shared below snipped)...

Beethoven believed that “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”

The idea that Classical music lifts the mind to the realm of true beauty and freedom hardly seems popular in the United States today. But if this post can encourage its readers to experience at least one of the Beethoven masterpieces I have mentioned, it will have accomplished some good.

What I thought was really cool was during the commemorative concert for the fall of the Berlin Wall the composer, inspired by the moment, changed the lyrics of Ode to Joy, to replace joy with Freedom (which sound very similar in German).

Articles on some letters of his, and what they reveal about his character:
It is indeed very hard to come by anyone who has never heard of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers of all time. However, despite this level of fame which has followed him, nearly 200 years after his death, there is little that is truly known about the man himself. For certain, there have been numerous movies with numerous depictions of Beethoven, such as ‘Immortal Beloved’, who may catch aspects of who the man was, but I would daresay, rather miss the whole person. Some depictions even go so far as to portray Beethoven as partaking in madness, that is, the so-called madness of genius. I think this portrayal is especially misleading, and is a common thought by many, that creative persons who are passionate and even temperamental, seem to ‘ordinary’ folk as completely mad.

It is of course true, that to be creative necessarily means to challenge the existing boundaries of thought during that period, and thus most-naturally, confront much opposition and confusion by the majority of people, including its institutions of the time. It is very much for this reason, that creative persons are often wrongfully depicted as partaking in madness, however, when one really reflects upon this, we often have to conclude that it is rather the opposition to that creative genius that is partaking in madness. That is, if one is presented with a challenge to their own world outlook, but that this challenge, or new idea, partakes in truth and can be known through reason, than it is the resistor to such an idea who is mad, not its presenter!

This appears to be the special task of biography: to present the man in relation to his times, and to show how far as a whole they are opposed to him, in how far they are favourable to him, and how, if he be an artist, poet, or writer, he reflects them outwardly.

– Goethe ‘Wahrheit und Dichtung’
It should be noted that this book of ‘Beethoven’s Letters’, was never intended by Beethoven to have been published and thus he is not writing with this in mind. However, despite this we at times are shown a window into Beethoven’s sensitive soul; his awareness of the responsibility that is brought with great creativity, and how one almost always feels short of that ever-reaching goal, as he writes in 1798 at the age of 28:

If I told you that the verses you just sent me did not perplex me, I should be telling a lie. It is a peculiar sensation to see, to hear one’s self praised, and then to be conscious of one’s weakness, as I am. I always look upon such opportunities as warnings to approach nearer, however difficult it may be, to the unattainable goal, which art and nature set before us. These verses are really beautiful, but they have just the one fault, which, indeed, it is customary to find in poets; for that which they wish to see and to hear, they actually do see and hear, however far it may be, at times, below their ideal. You can readily understand that I should be glad to make the acquaintance of the poet, or poetess, and now also I tender my thanks for your kindness shown.
Keeping in mind that the last symphony Beethoven wrote was to Schiller’s poem ‘Ode to Joy’ in its final (fourth) movement, and that Schiller held a dear place in Beethoven’s heart, it is fitting that we end with Beethoven’s quoting of Schiller in a letter he wrote to his friend and student, Lenz Von Breuning, who unfortunately died the following year at the age of 21. It was thought by many that the quote was Beethoven’s but is actually from Schiller’s play ‘Don Carlos‘ and the words are those of the Marquis of Posa to the Queen in the fourth act.

Wisdom is for the wise,
Beauty for a feeling heart;
And both belong to each other.

I came across these first two items all by chance within the course of the last couple of days. It can be quite interesting, the biographies of people you hear know OF but haven't examined really closely. I think his life contains some great lessons in perseverance. I suppose my favorite music of his I enjoy is the Ninth Symphony (so creative, I know). Do you have any favorite pieces of this artist?
 

Anthony

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
There was also an interesting article on OffGuardian site recently, some relevant excerpts below:
Ludwig van Beethoven was baptised on 17 December, 1770, and so was probably born on the 16th. I remember the fuss made by the mainstream media on the occasion of his 200th anniversary just 50 years ago, but where are the mainstream media now? I’ve heard nothing from them so far in the UK about the 250th anniversary.

Could that just be because of the current obsession with COVID-19 and the lockdown, or could there be some other reason for this silence? After all, Beethoven is still just as popular as he was 50 years ago, even if playing live music in concert halls is being made impossibly difficult by The Powers That Be.

Could it possibly be that reviving the memory of a dissident could be dangerous for the current world order?

After all, all sorts of dissidents today are being censured by the big corporations of Silicon Valley. Medical experts in various fields are being suppressed, merely because they challenge the wisdom of the World Health Organisation, an organisation heavily infiltrated by the elites of Silicon Valley.

Beethoven was so political that, by the end of his life, some of his friends refused to dine with him: either they were bored of his constant politicizing or they feared police spies would overhear him”.

[...]

Ever a master of himself, the composer didn’t care for royalty […] “Prince, what you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am of myself” […] Franz II allegedly refused to have anything to do with Beethoven, on the basis that there was ‘something revolutionary in the music’. And what friendship the composer had with Goethe was ended abruptly in 1812 when, walking together in the park, he disdainfully shunned the passing Empress,”

[...]

“This revolutionary spirit inhabits much of his work […] The Beethovenian idée fixe is that of freedom … For many listeners, this sense of struggle comes through the music and is ultimately what makes it so compelling”, Gibbs wrote.

[...]

So if Beethoven had enemies during his lifetime, could it be that some want Beethoven to be eradicated from history now? The Chicago Tribune on 30 December, 2019, published a commentary: ‘Beethoven was born 250 years ago. To celebrate, how about we ban his music for a year?’. ‘Canceling Beethoven is the latest woke madness for the classical-music world’, ran a headline in the New York Post.

The author mentioned that Beethoven was inspired by Friedrich Schiller (“the poet of freedom, impassioned enemy of tyrants everywhere”), who was briefly mentioned by Matthew Ehret on the recent MindMatters show.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
There was also an interesting article on OffGuardian site recently, some relevant excerpts below:


The author mentioned that Beethoven was inspired by Friedrich Schiller (“the poet of freedom, impassioned enemy of tyrants everywhere”), who was briefly mentioned by Matthew Ehret on the recent MindMatters show.

That entire article is great and imo worth reading in its entirety. It really seems like there's a real battle for the soul of mankind and our sense of history going on at all times, and the theater for the struggle for liberation from pathocracy and tyranny is much wider than many modern day dissidents or "aCtiViStS" 🏴 truly realize. In fact many of these two work at cross-purposes to even accomplish the opposite of their goals. But I think that armed with this knowledge we can try and do our best to promote the works of subversive and creative individuals to try and hopefully make a difference for the better under the radar of most people who understand what the real struggle is actually about.

Another important piece of the puzzle, though covered in other places on here, was the role of the CIA in promoting a certain brand of European culture against what they saw as subversive Soviet artistic or musical conventions. This ended up being an assault on Europe's classical traditions in art and music en masse, and consequently a stiffling of our historic and cultural memories of the ideals of liberty and justice and reason. Based on some of the more recent conversations around aesthetics on this forum, we can see that the classical tradition can be a strong lifeline to the ideals of a previous age, about which the 2020 cultural narrative knows little and cares less.

Hijacking European Culture​

Fifty years ago Beethoven survived the ravages of Congress for Cultural Freedom, an operation run by the CIA following the Second World War. Its purpose was “to promote an idea: that the world needed a pax Americana, a new age of enlightenment, and it would be called the American Century”, explained British historian Frances Stonor Saunders in her book Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (US title: ‘The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters):

Whether they liked it or not, whether they knew it or not, there were few writers, poets, artists, historians, scientists or critics in post-war Europe whose names were not in some way linked to this covert enterprise. Unchallenged, undetected for over twenty years, America’s spying establishment operated a sophisticated, substantially endowed cultural front in the West for the West, in the name of freedom of expression,”
On the musical side they organised an International Conference of Twentieth Century Music in Rome in 1954, under the directorship of Nicolas Nabokov, a “White Russian emigre who had lived in Berlin before emigrating to the US in 1933”.

Nabokov explained:
…we are going to have a composers’ contest that is unlike any other competition ever held. Twelve young and promising but internationally unknown composers are to be invited to Rome, all expenses paid. Each will bring a score and these will be performed…”
The festival had a heavy concentration of atonal, dodecaphonic composition, featuring new composers. Susan Sontag wrote:

For Nabokov, there was a clear political message to be imparted by promoting music which announced itself as doing away with natural hierarchies, as a liberation from previous laws about music’s inner logic. Later, critics would wonder whether serialism had broken its emancipatory promise, driving music into a modernist cul-de-sac, where it sat, restricted and difficult, tyrranized by despotic formulae, and demanding an increasingly specialist audience. Towards its ‘squawks and thumps’ […] we were deferential – we knew we were supposed to appreciate ugly music…”
Frances Stonor Saunders reported on an exchange with conductor Pierre Boulez, himself a leading figure in avant-garde music, who “wrote a furious letter, larded with insults”:

Nabokov, he [Pierre Boulez] said, was encouraging a ‘folklore of mediocracy’, nurtured by pretty bureaucrats who were obsessed with the number twelve – ‘A Council of Twelve, a Committee of Twelve, a Jury of Twelve – but who understood nothing of the creative process,”
This brought to mind an incident in about 1960, when I submitted some piano pieces to my school music appreciation teacher, who put a red ring round the title, ‘Three pieces in A minor’. “Why has it got to be in any key?”, he asked. I explained to him that otherwise we would be starting off from the Stone Age. I couldn’t understand his enthusiasm for twelve-tone music.

Of course, you can make some interesting impressionistic sound with twelve tones, as you can with pots and pans, but where was the drive for this movement coming from?

Beethoven was driven by having something to say, and in finding new ways of expressing himself; the twelve-tone music was driven, I felt by a destructive force. Now that I understand that it was being propelled by the CIA, I can understand much better what was going on around me in a musical sense in that period of my life. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not supposed to, whereas Beethoven’s music was supposed to make sense, and to many people did, and became more popular in posterity, whereas the twelve-tone-music stayed where it was: in academia.

The attempt to hijack European culture continues to this day, and this is now most evident in the field of journalism, as Udo Ulfkotte elaborated in his book ‘Gekaufte Journalisten: Wie Politiker, Geheimdienst und Hochfinanz Deutchlands Massmedien lenken’, which eventually appeared in English as ‘Presstitutes: Embedded in the Pay of the CIA’.

Put simply, Beethoven was not American. Musical tastes vary, but the message that Beethoven was trying to get across should be remembered, because there are now powerful people who would like it to be forgotten. The mad times that Beethoven lived in are returning, and Beethoven’s message is just as relevant today as it was in his time.

Cancelling Culture​

I just have to wonder how Beethoven would now be reacting to this Age of Darkness, initiated by the Clamp Down, long-awaited in some circles, and about to be set in perpetuity by The Great Reset. Anyone with Enlightenment ideas may well find himself being targeted.

If Beethoven were to talk of his political experiences at our London-based Keep Talking group I would not be in the least surprised to find ourselves surrounded by a menacing mob of slogan-shouters, calling him a ‘Fascist’, ‘Antisemitic’, ‘Misogynist’ etc. much as they have done to previous meetings, and as they have done to concerts by Jewish anti-Zionist jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, and many others.

I would just love to know how Beethoven would turn such disruptions into his Tenth Symphony. Perhaps he would have based his slow movement on John Lennon’s Imagine. John Lennon was a musician who was promoting peace and the ‘brotherhood of man’ (no offence to women), and was eliminated just forty years ago.

In 1970 we even considered inviting John Lennon to be the Patron of the 1971 Universal Congress of Esperanto in London, having been advised that the Queen would be unlikely to accept. I don’t know how Beethoven would have written his Tenth Symphony, except that he would have done it brilliantly.

The Schiller Institute is circulating a resolution internationally for the Year of Beethoven. The preamble probably describes the situation more as it is in the US than in the UK or Europe, but, as we have seen, what happens in the US will eventually cross the Atlantic. “A degraded picture emerges”, the preamble states:


Our education system hardly conveys any knowledge of classical culture, our so-called youth culture is dominated by a cult of ugliness, and classical culture itself is under massive attack. For decades now, post-war theater companies have invented new abysses of hideousness, productions of Shakespeare or Schiller have become unrecognizable, opera stages have also become battlefields for some time, on which the perverse fantasies of various directors are played out, and now self-styled modern composers are even molesting the compositions of Beethoven, evidently because they are unable to create anything themselves.
This must be stopped! The time has come to launch a counter-offensive!
[…] The Year of Beethoven, in which many Beethoven compositions will be performed all over the world, offers a wonderful occasion for us to recall the best of our cultural tradition in western culture and to oppose it to the moral downward trend of the past decades.


I signed the petition, and I just hope that the coming performances of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony will begin with the true beat of ‘di DI di DEE’, to drive forward the march for ‘Friede’, ‘Freude’ and ‘Freiheit’, and against cancel culture in the Age of Darkness which is descending upon us.
 

luc

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Thanks whitecoast for this research into a remarkable man!

I love Beethoven, and as for my favorite, I'm also not very creative - the 7th! And the string quartets of course. Here is the 7th conducted by one of the greatest conductors ever (IMO), Carlos Kleiber:


As for the "madness" of artists, I think this is a very nuanced topic, and there is lots of "scandalizing" around it because that's what people love. But I think there is something to it still - real, great artists are dealing with incredible energies, there seems to be an element of channeling involved, and I think this can sort of "fry" people in different ways. Carlos Kleiber is a case in point - I saw a great documentary about him, and he behaved very erratically, and although he was thought of as a genius by so many people, he conducted very little, he had a hard time with orchestras, withdrew, became an introvert etc. But when you see him conduct, you can literally see the energies flying around. Here he is conducting Wagner from the opera trench, just watching him apparently was a highlight for many orchestra musicians:


He was perhaps too much in touch with those energies for his own good. Other artists with other personalities may react differently, some develop an overblown ego or whatever, or various combinations. The sad part is that many modern artists kind of take these possible "side effects" as a role model and fake it, i.e. become inconsiderate introverts, egomaniacs etc. and use "being an artist" as an excuse, without being in touch with any creative energies at all. (At least that's kind of my theory.)

An anecdote about Beethoven: during America's mobilization of the populace towards WW2, they seriously tried to ban Beethoven music because he's an evil German! Another anecdote: my brother saw Beethoven's 7th performed in Berlin, and it was performed together with a Schönberg piece. That is, if you want to hear a Beethoven classic, you are expected to suffer through a modern piece to earn it LOL. Kinda shows the attitude of the modern, state-funded art industry. Although it must be said that classical music is still a refuge for the anti-postmodern heart; it's just damn hard to mess it up, unlike opera, theater and so on.
 

mkrnhr

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
One of the most compelling descriptions of Beethoven's music I found in this short segment where (towards the end), Bernstein described how if taken apart, the melodies, the harmonies, etc. in Beethoven's music are not that great. But when they come together, they appear as if it was "phoned in from god":

 
Top Bottom