“Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” ~ Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven, a titan of classical music, and to my mind the most pioneering composer and pianist of the romantic era, turned 245 today. At least, the 17th December 1770 was the day of his baptism in Bonn, and most likely his date of birth.
The deaf maestro wrote so many unforgettable, transcendental and downright epic tunes and melodies that his position in the lexicon of humanity’s geniuses is eternally guaranteed.
No-one remembers the pompous aristocracy (except for his kind patrons) that thought themselves above a low born musician, because centuries after they popped their noble clogs Beethoven’s music is still making an emotional connection with millions of people around the world.
It’s still relevant. It’s still innovative. It’s still heart-wrenchingly moving and profound… That’s what was so brilliant about Beethoven.
His personal life was complex, passionate, and a catalogue of almost insurmountable challenges. They nearly broke him, but his music moved them into the realm of the divine, into victory with a capital V. His music was his life and his eventful life provided plenty of material for musical inspiration!
He suffered greatly for his art. Who else could have endured such despair and yet still have produced such earth-shattering music? Only dear Ludwig. Suffering really does transpose into the most achingly beautiful and timeless music.
“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business: Beethoven’s deafness, Goya’s deafness, Milton’s blindness, that kind of thing.” ~ John Berryman
I didn’t intend for this to be a lengthy post, (anyone who knows me will be aware that I can get quite carried away when I’m passionate about something). Rather, it’s a short celebration to mark the life and contributions of a person I deeply revere.
These BBC docudramas are superb; they really bring his life to life!
My tribute to Beethoven from chapter 21 of my novel, The Virtuoso:
Also mentioned in the book is his violin concerto in D Major. Here is my all-time favourite performance that I grew up listening to, of Itzhak Perlman with Carlo Maria Guilini conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra from their 1981 recording:
I also love this transcription for the clarinet performed by the amazing Michael Collins:
It’s great on the piano as well… Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra:
My two favourite recordings of his Romance No. 2 in F Major, Op. 50:
If you hang out on Twitter do join in the birthday celebrations, just use the hashtag #LvBChat.
See you there!