天之聪网校整理 2023-11-06 98次
Next year is the 250th anniversary of his birth and already the music industry is gearing up to celebrate.
What is it about Beethoven that has such a hold over us? First and foremost it is the music, of course. It ventures to extremes in a revolutionary way that his contemporaries found shocking and which can still stun us today with its sheer force. The ear-splitting dissonant trumpet-call that tears into the last movement of Ninth Symphony is one example.
Yet his music also glows with radiant humanity. Beethoven wrote some of the most sublimely calm music ever composed, in the Pastoral Symphony, and some of the most pitilessly concentrated and fierce. He could be tenderly lyrical, as in the Spring Sonata, and had a mode of aristocratic suavity and elegance. He could be gruffly humorous in a way that startles even now, as in the finale of the Eighth Symphony.
If the music is one thing, then there is also Beethoven the man. There is something incredibly moving in the story of a person tragically stricken with deafness and who leaves a heartbreaking message to posterity where he confesses to suicidal thoughts but adds defiantly, “I will take fate by the throat.” The genius Beethoven was the rack on which the fallible, eccentric, difficult human being Beethoven was stretched.
He gave up everything to serve his calling; fame, domestic happiness, and love, all had to be left behind in his efforts to elevate his music to ever greater heights. And yet failure in the life was rewarded with total success in the art. He became the model for every genius that came after. So part of his appeal is that his life comforts us with the thought that there is justice in the universe. He suffered, but in the end triumphed, and is triumphing still.
Central to Beethoven’s significance is the way he represents the idea of the hero. He scorned social conventions, showed scant respect to his aristocratic patrons, and rose triumphant over every obstacle of health or poverty or deafness. And Beethoven’s compositions embody his unstoppable will. This was a phenomenon never encountered before in music, but in truth only a small fraction of Beethoven’s output exemplifies that aspect of the composer.
Inseparable from the indomitable willpower is a huge ethical force, which had never been heard before in music, and has hardly been heard since. It has an irresistible power because we internalise the music’s own struggle and make it our own. As Victor Hugo put it, in Beethoven’s music “the dreamer will recognise his dreams, the sailor his storms, and the wolf his forests.” Adding to this sense of ideal freedom is the fact that Beethoven seems to stand outside the musical categories of his time, being neither wholly classical nor wholly romantic but somehow transcending both.
As for Beethoven’s stock now, it seems both completely secure and also somewhat uncertain. At one level he’s ubiquitous. He is the establishment “genius” par excellence, his symphonies and chamber music are played everywhere, his greatest hits are constantly recycled on Classic FM. But do we actually want to hear the message behind the music? Enlightenment optimism is now seriously out of favour, indeed hope of any kind is in short supply. Around us there seems to be nothing but crises, political or environmental, and within us there seems to be a constant gnawing anxiety. Every day brings more evidence that we are “fragile” in some way.
But perhaps this is precisely why we need Beethoven now. His blazing music reminds us there is such a thing as hope, and that obstacles, however immense and crushing they may seem, can actually be overcome. Far from being “irrelevant”, Beethoven’s music and its rousing optimistic message are more inspiring than ever.
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