Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ludwig van Beethoven

I just finished listening to Ludwig van Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Eroica". The BBC was good enough to publish the recordings of the first five symphonies.

The finale is amazing. Beethoven is hard to play, anyway, but this is extreme even for him. It's like "ok, now you players are warmed up, let's play some real music." Except that, after playing the first three movements of Eroica, you're in no shape to play that finale. It's just astonishing how he puts one section after another through its paces.

Thinking about Beethoven, a concept (which had formerly been a bland stock motif of the SciFi trash I read) takes on a strange immediacy. At the time Ludwig composed his third symphony, he had already been going deaf, which was a great burden on him. The question now is, if he had today's state of the art hearing aids available, would he have been the same great composer? Or was it only his deafness which made him what he was? Would he have been a mediocre composer, with better hearing?

And would it have been right to deny him access to hearing aids? Do we, from a historical perspective, say "thank god" or "what a pity"?

Perhaps we say a little bit of both, through that dreamy, pink-tinted look we always take at history. Like Milan Kundera wrote: "The interface between the present and the past is the Kitsch".

PS: the BBC stopped offering the first five symphonies for download, but the next four will soon be up.


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