Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

The Symphony to End All Symphonies!

How great it was to see Beethoven's Ninth Symphony posted in its entirety on AOW’s political blog! Take time, and LISTEN. You can’t help but be encouraged, energized and inspired if you give it your full attention. Yes it takes a full hour, but I assure you, no matter what you may think, you have nothing better to do with your time this Sunday.

I find Beethoven to be the most warmly human of all the great composers and at the same time very probably the closest to The Truth of Being -- God's immutable, eternal Love -- the source of all Life, Inspiration, Hope, Joy, Satisfaction and Delight in Living.

Whenever I stop to think that this tremendously beautiful, incredibly powerful, brilliantly complex, and profoundly ENCOURAGING utterance came from the mind of totally deaf, tormented genius, whose life never knew a moment of what-we-think-of-as ease or privilege, I break down and cry -- humbled by admiration and an odd feeling of empathy.

The phenomenal contributions made by our very few authentic geniuses have given me more reason to believe in God than all the words that lie dead in the pages of The Holy Bible -- waiting to be brought to life by perceptive, benevolent human beings eager to do good and bring about awareness of the awe-inspiring BEAUTY and sheer MAGNIFICENCE of God's Creation -- and the great potential that lies dormant in every human heart.

God SPEAKS to us THROUGH music of this astoundingly high caliber. Beethoven -- along with J.S. Bach and W. A. Mozart -- and a few others -- TOOK DICTATION directly from GOD.

With that in mind most of us ought to humble ourselves and make more of an effort to take time to LISTEN REPEATEDLY in order to get better acquainted with the Almighty.

Thanks for giving us this opportunity, AOW.

I didn't think I had the time to hear the ninth this weekend, now that I'm in the midst of it once again, I have NO CHOICE but to listen and learn anew.

I'm sitting here with goose bumps all over my body. I'd wish the same for all who stop by here today -- or any day.

If ever anything deserved our FULL ATTENTION and WORSHIPFUL DEVOTION, this great symphony is IT.

Here is Friedrich von Schiller’s Ode to Joy, as it appears in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in an English translation:

O friends, no more these sounds! 
Let us sing more cheerful songs
More full of joy!

Joy, bright spark of divinity, 
Daughter of Elysium, 
Fire-inspired we tread Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites 
All that custom has divided, 
All men become brothers, 
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created 
An abiding friendship, Or has won 
A true and loving wife, 
All who can call at least one soul theirs, 
Join our song of praise; 
But those who cannot must creep tearfully 
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy 
At natures breast. 
Just and unjust 
Alike taste of her gift; 
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine, 
A tried friend to the end. 
Even the worm can feel contentment, A
nd the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies 
Which He sent on their courses 
Through the splendor of the firmament; 
Thus, brothers, you should run your race, 
Like a hero going to victory!

You millions, I embrace you. 
This kiss is for all the world! 
Brothers, above the starry canopy 
There must dwell a loving father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions? 
World, do you know your creator? 
Seek Him in the heavens; 
Above the stars must he dwell.

Friedrich von Schiller

~ FreeThinke


  1. No argument from me about Herr Beethoven's genius and music. The 9th is certainly all you say, and everytime I listen to it by different conductors, I come away with a different reason to adore it.

    Beethoven was a complicated and troubled man--his behavior toward his brother's widow and his beloved nephew was disgraceful and puzzling.

    As much as I love the 9th, I still tell people to give a good listen to his 7th--especially the 2nd movement. Or his piano concerto #5,the last one he wrote, known as the Emperor Concerto. I never tire of hearing it; and if you have the chance to hear Jonathan Biss perform it, go to it! I wa
    s lucky enough to see him perform last year at the BSO.

    For shear beauty, elegance, and mastery of form that surpasses what the rest of us lowly humans can only dream of attaining, I strongly recommend Beethoven's 16 string quartets composed at the end of his life.

    There is nothing on this planet more beautiful to listen to.

  2. I wish I could share the enthusiasm of this hagiography, but I can't.

    There is much appeal in the idea of an "aristocracy of merit", but I don't share in it. For if there is one thing I have learned, it's that values are incommensurable, and that pure reason must sometimes "give way" to a more "practical" sort lest it perish of an excess of its' own hubris.

  3. FT,
    Thank you so much for the link.

    Isn't this work by Beethoven just glorious?

  4. Ms. Shaw,

    So good of you to stop by! As a lifelong student of music and one-time concert pianist, who was privileged to go to the Juilliard Preparatory school as a child, and graduated later with a degree in performance from one of our more prestigious conservatories, I naturally focused more of my attention on Beethoven's piano music than the rest of his output. I learned 28 of the 32 sonatas, several sets of variations, all five piano concerti, and several of the violin and piano sonatas.

    It's very difficult for me to pick "favorites," since I believe each of his works is a unique marvel that deserves to be enjoyed on its own merits. There isn't one of the symphonies, piano concerti or the piano sonatas I do not like.

    If I had to pick just one of the five concerti, however, it would be the fourth.

    My favorite pianist for bot the fourth and fifth concerti would be the Brazilian woman Guiomar Novaes, whose sensitivity, brilliant-but-never-bombastic virtuosity, superior phrasing and great variety of tonal shadings make her recordings stand out n a field admittedly filled with giants.

    Thank you for telling me about Jonathan Biss, however. I am always very interested in hearing younger, newer artists. Novaes, Alas! has been dead since the mid-seventies. I've been delighted to rediscover, and enjoy her more than ever on YouTube.

    As for "personal behavior" I suppose I am one of those who could forgive geniuses of Beethoven's rare caliber almost anything.

    All men (and women! ;-) are NOT created equal. Every once in a great while, a singular individual comes along who has so much to offer the ordinary rules that apply to everyday mortals should be suspended for him or her.

    Can you IMAGINE having all those sounds in your head? We can only speculate with awe and wonderment as to how much never DID get written down for posterity.

    Creative Vision for such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven must have been almost like a continual series of AVALANCHES in the brain. I'm sure it was difficult, despite their seemingly super-human mental facility, for these guys to keep up with the rushing torrent of inspiration that continually ran through their minds.

    Those possessed with genius rarely just have "fun" with it.

    Everything extracts a price.

    I'm just grateful to be able to appreciate what they did. I no longer regret not being able to compete with it.

    One thing I learned for sure: No amount of hard work can make up for what one lacks in talent. Geniuses are born not made.

    ~ FreeThinke

  5. Thersites,

    If you can't love Beethoven, it doesn't mean there is anything lacking in Beethoven -- or in you necessarily.

    There are LOTS of things that many others think wonderful that either leave me cold or repel me outright.

    We can't all love everything.

    So what?

    ~ FT

  6. Beethoven is a wonderful composer and pianist... don't get me wrong. He's just no "imaculate saint". That's all I'm saying.

  7. Thersites,
    He's just no "imaculate saint". That's all I'm saying.

    Who IS?

  8. Well, I just found FreeThinke's hyperbole a little over the top. It's wonderful music... but I doubt it was a dictation from the Almighty Himself.

  9. In his grand statement on high culture why doe Jean-luc Godard pan to David's Oath of the Horatii?

    Really, I've always wondered if he's just goofing or maybe there's a meaning. At any rate, culture is never transformative for these three.

    Can art or culture be transformative any longer?

  10. A valid question, Ducky.

    The inescapable flood tides of musical excrement emanating from boomboxes, over loudspeakers in restaurants, elevators, lobbies, waiting rooms, grocery stores, shopping malls, corridors, public rest rooms, public parks, public beaches, in TV commercials, in the background of every vile "contemporary" show on TV -- literally EVERYWHERE -- has so desensitized the average person to musical sound that little hope exists that he might ever develop awareness of the value in high quality music.

    Oscar Wilde said, "Whatever is popular is wrong."

    The universal "broadcasting" of artificially produced "performances" that grind on endless in the background are destroying cvil society.

    The cell phone is one of the most evil developments in a long succession of degenerative developments thanks to the ubiquitousness of ever-expanding, ever-more-domineering forms of technology in every phase of our lives.

    I do everything possible to live under conditions where I may CHOOSE what, when, how and where I'm going to listen to music or watch selected movies or comforting reruns on TV.

    I avoid going out to shop as much as possible.

    'Tis far better to be alone than surrounded by bad company.

    ~ FreeThinke

  11. Yes, Freethinker, technology has been a real factor in making culture a commodity. Warhol figured that out early.

    I think Godard was early realizing that the "youth culture" was going to have the money but not the consciousness and that bode poorly.

  12. Circuses, Vaudeville, Motion pictures, then radio, then recordings and jukeboxes, then television, then boomboxes, then cellphones that do everything but jerk you off while you're driving.

    Been downhill all the way ever since The Machine Age made ubiquitous, omnipotent Mass-Pop Culture possible.

    Once the masses gain control you can kiss high quality good bye.

    The Common Man has a boundless, unmitigated appetite for ess-aitch-eye-tea.

    The Common Man would swill down Vintage Diarrhea, if you put in a cute enough bottle. Call it Celebrity Diarrhea, and he'd pay five times as much for half portions.

    Does this mean I have contempt for the Common Man?

    Not at all; my pity for him knows no bounds.

    ~ FT

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