Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brother

Today is believed to be Beethoven's 239th birthday.  There is no record of his birth, but we know he was baptized on December 17th, and it was customary at the time for infants to be baptized the day after they were born.  The son of an abusive, alcoholic father, Beethoven was himself surly, cruel, lonely, despairing, frequently ill, sometimes suicidal, and, in the latter third of his life, more and more profoundly disabled.  His inability to successfully carry out a courtship and achieve a reciprocal love that would culminate in marriage was a terrible difficulty to him.  He is the kind of man that history would scorn, except for the fact that he wrote music that is more than music; it is, to paraphrase the Schiller text that he set in his Ninth Symphony, a spark from heaven that illuminates the soul of man.  I can hardly hear his music without weeping; it makes me want to die and live, which I suppose is what teen groupies have historically felt for their heartthrobs.  As composer and critic George Grella so memorably wrote on his blog, The Big City:

Beethoven is not my friend . . .  and I don’t always like him.  He can infuriate me with his scorn, his pettiness, his arrogant and cruel moods – he’s not a person who, if I did not know, I would pursue a friendship with.  That doesn’t matter, though, because I do know him, and he knows me.  He’s my brother, and so I will always love him.

Happy birthday to one of the greatest of mortal men.


Melanie B said...

Speaking of Beethoven and thinking of Charles Schulz, did you see this? I don't read music so was fascinated.

Pentimento said...

I did read about that exhibit. It sounds very cool and I wish I could have seen it.

Enbrethiliel said...


This is a beautiful tribute to Beethoven!

Anonymous said...

For the lowbrows such as I, I offer this -



Pentimento said...

Cute! Did you notice that the actor who voices Rowlf is the same one that does Oscar the Grouch?