Patterico's Pontifications

12/16/2020

Happy 250th Birthday, Beethoven

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:20 pm



The exact date of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth is not known with certainty, but the composer himself believed (as do most scholars) that it was December 16, 1770. He was baptized on December 17, 1770, and tradition was to baptize children within 24 hours.

I listened to his Ninth Symphony today to celebrate. The version I heard was the version I listened to on cassette as a child: Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic. I believe this is a different performance but it’s the closest thing I could find on YouTube:

Today should have been a year of celebrating Beethoven’s life with concerts worldwide. Alas, it was not to be, thanks to some guy who ate bat soup in China, instead of settling for the Impossible Bat. (That’s Norm MacDonald’s joke.) Still, take a moment to appreciate the man’s genius. He was truly one of a kind.

17 Responses to “Happy 250th Birthday, Beethoven”

  1. I love this post! Happy birthday to an absolutely brilliant man. I enjoyed listening to the performance you linked. I also enjoy his No. 8, the “little symphony”. A less significant piece of work, certainly, but I’m amused at how it’s sandwiched between such major works and yet is engaging in its own right. Additionally, I admit to forever loving Für Elise, which I first heard when I was about 8 or 9. Even then, it seeped into my bones and remains a favorite to this day.

    BTW, P, watching the concert you linked reminds me that it was just about a year ago today (I think) that we were enjoying Handel’s Messiah in Los Angeles. What a muddled decade this year has been.

    Dana (cc9481)

  2. Required listening. Hated it when my uncle made me listen to the classics as a kid, but I always sat there patiently and listened. Now I kiss those days and appreciate what my uncle taught me. Great man.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  3. Beethoven’s 9th, in Osaka. A new Year’s tradition.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ayw4l58IWb8

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  4. I got the set of Beethoven symphonies as a Christmas present — very much a specifically requested present, too.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  5. Beethoven’s 9th, in Osaka. A new Year’s tradition.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ayw4l58IWb8

    Kevin M,

    Absolutely! The Osaka tradition of performing the Ninth with a choir of thousands is mentioned in the documentary Following the Ninth, which I discussed in this post last year (albeit without mentioning the Osaka tradition in the post). An absolutely fabulous, life-affirming tradition that sends shivers down the spine.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  6. This is a great post Patterico, thank you for sharing! No doubt Beethoven was an inimitable genius. I love his compositions, and had many memories as a kid listening to my father play LPs of his works. I remember how satisfying it was to finally learn and play Fur Elise on the piano. Way back in the day, I took piano lessons at behest of parents and didn’t like it at all. But once I started learning some solo works of Beethoven, practicing piano changed from being one of grudging obedience to a labor of love. My favorite Beethoven symphony is the Pastoral, #6, and my favorite solo work is the Piano Sonata Op. 31 #3. Now as an adult amateur, I still love playing Beethoven, wrong notes and all.

    If there is one thing I’m definitely looking forward to post-pandemic, is attending live classical concerts once again. I miss it a lot.

    HCI (92ea66)

  7. The Ninth is often said by music cognoscenti to be the greatest piece of music ever written. Such judgments are of course inherently subjective, especially when one makes such grand claims as that, but any time you listen to it again you can understand why the critics say this. It is my personal policy to try never to miss a live local performance that I can attend by driving to it. Even when the Long Beach symphony did it and the baritone stood up and started singing seven minutes early (poor guy! I kind of understand what happened, due to a combination of the conductor’s decision to take a dramatic pause about three minutes in, together with the baritone essentially having drifted off into a stupor at the beginning of the movement) I have never regretted the policy since I instituted it some number of years ago.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  8. HCI,

    I enjoyed reading your comment.

    Dana (cc9481)

  9. I can understand your appreciation of Beethoven. He was great composer, but he only composed 9 symphonies. Mozart composed 41. To me, his greatest was the 40th.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTc1mDieQI8&t=62s

    This guy composed his first piano concerto at the age of five. What followed was thirty years of piano, violin, flute, horn, even glass harmonica, concertos and sonatas, operas, symphonies. There never has been a prodigy like Mozart. He was the best of the best.

    For thirty years Mozart wrote the most brilliant music in every genre. He died at the age of 35.

    Yet no one remembers him. This is sad.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  10. Yet no one remembers him. This is sad.

    I’d sure like to know how you arrived at this conclusion? It seems to me that he remains one of the more popular composers.

    Dana (cc9481)

  11. I can understand your appreciation of Beethoven. He was great composer, but he only composed 9 symphonies. Mozart composed 41. To me, his greatest was the 40th.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTc1mDieQI8&t=62s

    This guy composed his first piano concerto at the age of five. What followed was thirty years of piano, violin, flute, horn, even glass harmonica, concertos and sonatas, operas, symphonies. There never has been a prodigy like Mozart. He was the best of the best.

    For thirty years Mozart wrote the most brilliant music in every genre. He died at the age of 35.

    Yet no one remembers him. This is sad.

    Gawain’s Ghost (b25cd1) — 12/16/2020 @ 9:54 pm

    Given that Beethoven had 57 years of life, I always wondered what Mozart’s compositions would look like had he been blessed to live to the age of Beethoven before he died. Since Mozart was only 14 years older, he would’ve also bridged the Classical and Romantic period as Beethoven did(as evidenced by the style of his later compositions).

    HCI (92ea66)

  12. Also, it’s interesting to see how many here were impacted by listening to classical music during childhood, and as a result, continued to enjoy it as adults. As a kid, I used to lay down on a pillow on the floor and listen to mom’s album of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake while looking at the photo booklet inside of the album. The incredible music, the images of ballerinas, and the story itself stayed with me. To this day, both the music and the ballet are favorites.

    Dana (cc9481)

  13. Six years of classical piano lessons also impacted me greatly. Although I was never more than adequate – good ear, clunky hands – the pieces really took root, unbeknownst to me. Debussey’s Clair de Lune, Bacarolle Tales from Hoffman by Offenbach, and all the standard classical pieces we learn still hit the spot. It’s too bad that when I reached middle school, I decided I had outgrown such music.

    Dana (cc9481)

  14. Beethoven’s 9th, in Osaka. A new Year’s tradition.

    I wish I could have found a better Youtube.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  15. Be thankful you had parents who provided you with such music as a kid. My parents stocked my tape recorder with Willie Nelson (a classic to be sure but no Beethoven), Simon & Garfunkel, and my best Christmas present ever – a Star Wars movie cassette tape. Could listen to the movie whenever I wanted.

    Hoi Polloi (7cefeb)

  16. I saw a piano recital by Rudolf Serkin in celebration of the 200th. I didn’t really expect to be here for the 250th. I do agree that the 9th is a towering achievement of unsurpassed genius. It is symptomatic of the world that the youtube video presented has downvotes. What are people thinking?

    Fred (92cd93)

  17. As a kid, I used to lay down on a pillow on the floor and listen to mom’s album of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake

    One of my earliest memories is hearing my mom playing the piano — probably Chopin or Brahms — while I drifted off to sleep upstairs. We didn’t have a lot of money, but my (not very musical) dad thought it was essential for my mom to have a decent piano, and she gave lessons for many years. She taught the five of us to play piano and had us play other instruments too (brass for the 3 boys, violin for the 2 girls), and we went to local nursing homes and such to give concerts. She also had us singing in 3-part harmony at an early age, though none of us turned out to have a great singing voice.

    We all continued our instruments willingly at least through high school. Mom was successful in her wish that we all have some musical appreciation, without actually being professional musicians. I’m grateful for the early exposure to good music, including some great church hymns.

    But my tastes are quirky. While I played a fair number of violin concertos, I was never really drawn to the Beethoven concerto. (He definitely did better work for the piano.) And I find the Ode to Joy far less joyful than the part of the Brahms Deutsche Requiem where the last trumpets sound and death has lost its sting, especially in the brisk tempo of Bruno Walter (which is how I first heard it, on an LP paired with the Mozart Requiem, which is far and away the best thing Mozart ever wrote). Like HCI, I like the Pastorale best among the Beethoven symphonies, probably because it’s the most Brahmsian. (I know someone whose highest praise for a musical work is to call it “Mahlerian.”)

    My favorites in any genre or among any composer’s works are generally not the most popular or the things that are so often authoritatively pronounced “the greatest.” I love the Bach organ works, but my least favorite is the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. And I stand by my claim that the Glagolitic Mass is one of the most fulling satisfying pieces of music ever written, especially if you hear Charles Mackerras conducting the original score with Czech singers.

    I think if I started to agree with what the largest numbers of people say is the best, I would be worried about myself.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)


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