Beethoven: Ode to an endearing pain in the a**

Some people run to the latest pop song, others to the Rocky soundtrack.  I run to the sound of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A major, the 2nd movement.

Ludwig van Beethoven.  I feel he is not as easy to love as Chopin and Mozart but infinitely more interesting and the complexity of his personality excites my imagination.

He is, extraordinarily enough by itself, the brilliant musician and composer who was almost completely deaf by the end of his life, composing his best symphonies with his ear glued to his piano, unable to hear his own work.  He was so deaf, in fact, that, at the premiere of his 9th Symphony, he could not hear the performance of his orchestra and had to turn around to discover the thunderous applause of his audience.

Depicted by his friends and family as brusque, moody and arrogant, one can easily imagine this musical genius avoiding social situations as much as possible to hide what he considered to be an embarrassing handicap, humming to himself on his daily walks, as he was, barely noticing the rain or the thunder when it came, his hair a mess, his arms flying to the measure of the music in his head.

There is something very noble to his stubborn perfectionism when, as the story goes, he would insist on making a whole orchestra start all over again if he noticed a single false note during a performance.

This sure sign of a passionate being finds an echo in the pressing and tender love he expressed in his letters to his “Immortal Beloved” as he would call “the only woman he has ever loved”, unimpressed by the heartbreaking reality that his social rank didn’t allow him to hope for more than a secret affair with her.

“Long – Long – may our love last – it is so noble – so much founded on mutual respect and friendship – even great similarity in so many things, in thoughts and feelings – oh let me hope that your heart – will continue to beat for me for a long time – mine can only – stop – to beat for you – if – it does not beat any more” 

Despite all his darkness and melancholy, his compositions are very often filled with optimism and energy (“Ode to Joy”) and it is said that his brutal and eccentric personality didn’t interfere with his good sense of humor.  His friend Carl Czerny declared that Beethoven “was always merry, mischievous, full of witticisms and jokes”.  Fellow composer Karl Webber found Beethoven to be “full of kind-heartedness and warmth”.

The man’s dramatic levels of intense darkness and light inspired me to emulate his only known official painted portrait, through photography, for an assignment, back in college.  I used my own father as my model for this picture and, exceptionally, I will include it in this post in lieu of my usual SL self-portrait because it still cracks me up (poor dad looked like a psychopath walking in the park squeezed in my little coat, a wig I personally styled and a flaming red scarf…  He must love me something serious to have agreed to this!).

Hopefully this week brings you many of your own little odes to joy. 🙂

Aramis xx

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