Week27: beethoven


The student Neefe took on was small, sullen, and grubby. Ludwig had two brothers, no friends, and very little schooling. Yet soon after their lessons began, in a magazine article Neefe declared that if this little boy kept going as he had, he could become the next Mozart. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit

it was during the beethoven stretch of this catalogue that i came into the idea for this blog---just a couple weeks removed from a year ago. i have little recollection of this Symphony No. 7 save for the wingspan of bernstein’s arms spreading imperiously over the string section as he conducted, urging the taut spread of every fibre that stretched from the first violins to the back row of the cello section. (imperial is one of those dirty words that, perhaps only in the musical instance, might still be able to get free of its bad conscience. so too is gallantry, inasmuch as it describes the pausations and whisperings---interspersed by the caterwaul of the full orchestra ---that characterize this symphony throughout, and the Allegro con brio that concludes the symphony in the style of a ride). these brief moments of quiet substitute the need for an Adagio, thereby maintaining a pressing pace throughout, the pressure of which is released via  cataracts blasted on trumpets and timpani.


Even if beethoven was too self-involved to much understand others, and in the end had contempt for most people in the flesh, he never deviated from his foundation in Bonn: his art was to be his gift to humanity. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit

RCA Recording . Printed in U.S.A. // Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) // Symphony No. 7

Philharmonic -Symphony Orchestra of New York, conducted by Arturo Toscanini

Symphony No. 7

  • Poco Sostenuto; Vivace

  • Allegretto

  • Presto meno assai; Presto

  • Allegro con brio  


(beethoven: beyond the cliche)

‘Beethoven’ by Jeremy Lewis @jplewisandsons

‘Beethoven’ by Jeremy Lewis @jplewisandsons

i don’t think i like beethoven all that much. like in that personal way, that sibelius kind of way, or the terrifyingly intimate music of stravinsky, for example. that’s one of the dangers of a repertoire: that one becomes unable to hear the manifold personalities in the music. the name becomes the foremost thing. might even, at times, become louder than the music, example of which is the attendant difficulty of listening to ‘beethoven’ in 2019. albeit such a sentiment suggests that that hair-raising intimacy is unavailable in the music of ludwig van, and in fact to claim enjoyment is cliche:

The trick to truly getting into Beethoven, beyond the cliche, is to put aside the hoopla and rediscover the passion, the humanity, the strangeness, the unceasing variety within his tireless pursuit of organic unity. Forget the myth. Listen to the music. You will find not “Beethoven,” but instead a collection of unforgettable individuals that steadily reveal new territories of sound and emotion. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit

there are those who might have been introduced to the classical repertoire by the most convenient means, inevitably; then there are some who come to it by need, after a prolonged expedition for the sake of taste and satisfaction, to find a medium that won’t exhaust the span of their attention and can afford, occasionally, an experience of catharsis that is entirely independent from any one genre of music, (but it is language of music itself---the ‘language of the spirit’ according to musicologist jan swafford). to the former type, beethoven is an obvious endorsement, a necessary feature in their musical landscape. for the latter, however, there remains a tremendous question mark as relates to his work. there can be no guarantee of satisfaction. there is only the promise of a multivariety of musical inventions, one of which might unlock what huxley below refers to as the inaccessibility of the ‘cosmic consciousness’…

Mystical experiences, theophanies, flashes of what has been called cosmic consciousness—these are not to be had for the asking, cannot be repeated uniformly and at will in the laboratory. “” aldous huxley, The Devils of Loudun