If Beethoven had come from anywhere but Bonn he still might have been a genius, but he would not have been the same man and composer. True, he was more self-made than anything else, could see the world only through his own lens. He was a legendarily recalcitrant student and claimed to have learned nothing from any of his teachers. His most celebrated teacher, Joseph Haydn, sardonically dubbed Beethoven die grosse Mogul—in today's terms, the big shot. Yet at the same time, Beethoven was by no means aloof. He soaked up every idea around him, read voluminously in classical and modern literature, studied the music of older masters and modeled what he did on them. His art drew from myriad sources, among them the extravagant humanistic ideals floating around Bonn in his youth. One of the things it all added up to was something like this: music as an esoteric language wielded by a few enlightened men for the benefit of the world. Beethoven was all about duty to the abstraction called humanity. That was what he was taught and what he lived and wrote for, through all the miseries of going deaf and a great deal of physical pain. It was people he didn't much care about. But in taking up Schiller's Ode for the Ninth Symphony, he proposed not just to preach a sermon about the brotherhood of humanity and the dream of Elysium. He wanted the Ninth to help bring those things to pass.It's an interesting article; read the whole thing.
Friday, December 19, 2008
A Very Illuminati(ng) Beethoven Story
On Tuesday, I posted about how I had integrated Beethoven's birthday into my beginner lessons this week, and the next day, an interesting article from Slate was posted to my fraternity's listserv: How the Illuminati Influenced Beethoven. Here's a sample: