The first time I visited the British Museum in 89 one item that captivated me was the autograph of Beethoven. Alongside was that of Mozart. The tidiness of the latter was totally missing in the work of Beethoven. Comparing these is easier than analyzing why one is distinct from the other.
Yet both have been essential to me. Though I have no musical training to appreciate the merits of a composer from his style, in the manner one uses melodic, rhythmic or textural elements, my responses to both composers have been varied. Whereas one has smoothed my troubled spirit by life’s inconsequential hammerings, as an infant satiated by it mother’s milk, Beethoven has supplied more than ample muscle to keep me going through day’s chore. I require both. Even as I get on with tasks on hand, snatches of his themes are ever in my mind. I can smooth day to my liking.
Is there anything that I may pick out from works of Beethoven as infinitely of high order than others? Given the temperament and cast of my mind second movement in symphonies, the slow movements touch me deeper than others. Whatever I may be doing while the music goes on the background I pause in order to take the delicious passages: Seventh symphony, the third piano concerto are cases in point.
After becoming acquainted with his music for years my ear can note development of a theme, tonic major and minor relationships how bits and pieces of it are scattered throughout the work. Such juxtapositions of key and dynamics give the piece its variety; themes when restated are like memory playing tricks, a sunny brisk passage when restated is in minor key nevertheless balance is achieved. His music almost mirrors life in that that sunny outlook of a child derived from its influences may be transformed by tragic aspects of life. But such major minor relationships do not make life seen separately; overall unity of a Beethoven symphony is in its variety despite the motive force of life merely lets each of us to touch highs and lows of joy and sorrow. If the music has its structure and unity is neither of joy nor of sorrow of life can be isolated. They are part of a design. As long man is subject to such tempests of life music of Beethoven must be relevant to him.
As long as my ears can note the difference between a violin and drum I shall listen to Beethoven. If totally deaf with age I hope my memory shall continue to give my ruined state some semblance of sparkle. I shall end with a quotation of Lenin, ‘I know nothing which is greater than the Appassionato…It is marvelous, superhuman music. I always think with pride –perhaps it is naïve of me-what marvelous things human beings can do. (Maxim Gorky-Days with Lenin)’