crysania4: (Default)
I can't really remember when or how I was introduced to this piece. It very well might have been through Mr. Holland's Opus. There's a heartbreaking scene in the movie where the main character discovers his son is deaf and discusses Beethoven's deafness with his class. Playing in the background is the second movement of the Symphony No. 7.

Strangely enough, this was not the only movie to make use of this particular movement to highlight their child's deafness. Some years later, I discovered it was used in the Nicolas Cage movie, Knowing.

At any rate, whatever drew my attention to it, I found myself instantly in love with it. Enough so that I ended up using it as my senior music theory project. That's right, I spent an entire semester analyzing the work back in the Fall of 1996. I guess it's always had a special place in my heart.

The work was written in 1811-1812. Despite the emphasis on deaf children, Beethoven was not completely deaf at this time, though he had given up performing by this time and was almost entirely focused entirely on his inner world of composition. (If you want to envision what Beethoven's hearing might have been like around this time, check out this page).

Immediately after its first performance (which Beethoven himself conducted), Beethoven remarked that it was one of his best works and the second movement, marked Allegretto, was so popular at the time that it was immediately encored (ahh the days of people applauding between movements of a piece!) and was often performed on its own even though it begins and ends on an entirely unstable cadence.

Richard Wagner described the work as the "apotheosis of the dance."

I have a special affinity for Beethoven, as many folks here know. I've always loved his works but somehow losing my hearing, quite possibly from the same malady that afflicted Beethoven, has drawn me even more into his music. I've spoken of my love for Beethoven's music here many times before (check my Beethoven tag) and so it should come as no surprise to find something by him high on my list of great works that everyone should know.

My favourite performance of the work is the one done by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which is no doubt blasphemy in some Beethoven circles. The 2nd movement is technically marked "Allegretto" (moderately fast), while Bernstein takes it closer to Andante ("walking tempo"). But I admit to liking it slower better. Somehow it draws out the beauty of it even more for me.

You can listen to each movement on youtube if you would like to.

I. Poco sostenuto – Vivace This movement begins with a very long slow introduction before launching into the faster part of the movement...Vivace means "lively and fast." One contemporary thought that the chromatic bass line at the end of this movement meant Beethoven was "ripe for the madhouse."

II. Allegretto (Though played more Andante here!) Listen for the awesome buildup starting around 6 minutes in -- the syncopation, those off the beat notes, used to build up tension is just sublime.

III. Presto – Assai meno presto (Presto means "very fast") Thomas Beecham, a 20th century conductor said of this movement: "What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about."

IV. Allegro con brio ("Fast with vigor and spirit")
crysania4: (Default)
I meant to post this one yesterday with the other quotes from the Beethoven book I'm reading.

From Grillparzer's Oration at Beethoven's Funeral
March 29, 1827

As we stand here at the grave of this departed, we are, as it were, the representatives of a whole nation, of the entire German people, mourning the fall of the one highly celebrated half of what remained to us of the vanished splendour of native art, the flower of our country's spirit. True, the hero of poetry in the German language [Goethe] is with us still--and long may he remain with us! But the last Master of resounding song, the sweet lips that gave expression to the art of tones, the heir and successor of Handel's and Bach's, of Haydn's and Mozart's immortal game, has ended his life, and we stand weeping beside the tattered strings of the silent instrument.

Of the silent instrument! Let me call him so! For he was an artist, and all that he was he became only by virtue of his art. The thorns of life had wounded him deeply, and as the shipwrecked cling to the shore, so he fled into thy arms, glorious sister alike of goodness and truth, consoler of the suffering. Art, whose origins are above. He held fast to thee, and even when the gate was closed through which thou hadst entered into him and hadst spoken to him, when he had grown blind to thy features because of his deaf ears, still he bore thy image in his heart, and when he died still it lay upon his breast.

He was an artist, and who can bear comparison with him?

As Behemoth rushes, tempestuous, over the oceans, so he flew over the frontiers of his art. From the cooing of doves to the rolling of thunder, from the most subtle interweaving of the self-determined media of his art to the awe-inspiring point where the consciously formed merges in the lawless violence of the striving forces of Nature, all these he exhausted, all these he took in his stride. Whoever comes after him will not be able to continue, he will have to begin again, for his predecessor ended only where art itself must end...

He was an artist, but he was a man, too, a man in every, in the highest sense. Because he shut himself off from the world, they called him malevolent, and because he avoided sentiment, they called him unfeeling. Oh, the man who knows himself to be hard does not flee! The finest points are those which are most easily blunted, bent or broken. Excessive sensibility recoils from sentiment. He fled the world because in the whole realm of his loving nature he could find no weapon with which to oppose it. He withdrew from men after he had given them everything and received nothing in return. He remained solitary because he could find no second I. But even unto his grave he preserved a human heart for all who are human, a paternal heart for those who were his kin, himself as a heritage to the whole world.

Thus he lived, thus he died, thus he shall live for ever.


Dec. 22nd, 2009 10:05 am
crysania4: (Default)
First of all...sorry for being Miss Posty this morning. I have a lot to say I guess. I found all this stuff last night that I wanted to post this morning! I would have posted SOME of it last night but I couldn't get my laptop to connect via the wireless connection at OCC and the main computer in the room has a really loud keyboard so I didn't want to type too much.


I've been reading this book called "Beethoven: Letters, Journals, and Conversations." It's basically a collections of Beethoven's own letters to various people (patrons, publishers, and friends), some of Beethoven's notes jotted down in journals or on calendars, and some reminiscences from others at the time who knew him. It creates a fascinating picture of the man. I've copied down some of my favourite passages and have put them behind the cut for anyone interested!

A little bit of Beethoven stuff )

Edited to add: I forgot to include this little tidbit I read on a website about Beethoven: Medical science is divided as to whether Beethoven's deafness was due to direct damage to the auditory nerve (sensori-neural deafness) or to thickening and fixation of the bones which conduct sound through the middle ear (otosclerosis).

Otosclerosis? That's what I have. That's what is causing my hearing problems in my left ear. So glad they have a surgery that can fix it now!

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