Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller


<<<  <<  -- 3 --  Margaret Willson    OPPOSING STRENGTHS


Even with his mostly crass behavior, Beethoven had a gentler side that is hardly ever acknowledged. He fell in love with a number of different women; all of which were unrequited passions. He held women up to a practically unattainable ideal and accordingly was frequently disappointed with the reality. However, on a number of occasions it seems as though he just wanted someone with whom he could share his unorthodox life. A passionate love-letter was found in his possession after he died addressed only to his 'eternally beloved' which appeared to never have been sent.

The more I learned about his life, I connected to the piano concerto; the turbulence of the first movement, the subtle quietude of internal emotions in the second and a rousing triumph suggested in the final movement. I imagined Beethoven as a grandfather-like figure that sat by himself in an armchair mumbling to himself and throwing things at people; always agitated, always annoyed, and pushing everyone in his life away from him until people just wrote him off as 'crazy Grandpa Ludwig. Just ignore him, he talks to everyone that way.' But, when someone takes the time and patience to sit with him and show him understanding and the desire to get to know him, he will open up and the listener will hear something beautiful. An emotional and complex past as well as hope for a better future is what I hear when I listen to this piano concerto.

Due to his lamentable hearing loss, although he continued composing, he could no longer perform any of his works in concert. As a result, by the time the Emperor was completed he was not able to play the solo piano part at its public première. However, even with it performed by a student of Beethoven's rather than Beethoven himself, the quiet confidence of the piece still shone through and was considered a masterpiece by audiences.

I can imagine a packed concert hall in the early 1800s; all of the elite classes gathered to hear what has been built up as one of Ludwig van Beethoven's greatest works, his latest accomplishment. As the concerto ends, an uncontrollable applause echoes throughout the large hall. People are standing and cheering, the pianist takes a bow, and the one man that made it possible, the man that poured his heart and soul into his art, is standing with the audience. Although he did not hear a single note played, he cannot perceive the vociferousness of the audience; he knows that it is a triumph.

Copyright © 3 January 2008 Margaret Willson, New Jersey, USA


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