Week31: beethoven’s piano concerto #5


all of sudden the genius of a franz liszt or, to a lesser extent, frederic chopin, doesn’t seem  so inexplicable and spontaneous---it was the grand gestures of the classical spirit that was passed from mozart via haydn to the person of ludwig van, thereon adjoined  with the parlour intimacy of the romantic spirit to be inherited by aforementioned mid-eighteenth-century composers. beethoven, almost all by his lonesome, stood astride these two spirits of orchestral music and this Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.5 is an example of that amalgamation and presentiment of styles. in it the orchestra keeps a regal distance while the soloist occupies an intimate and pastoral foreground. it begins with an intractably long Allegro, which itself contains portions of several fast and slow movements. in comparison to its predecessor, the second movement is a brief respite in the foreground with an elegiac melody as its theme and an ending that creeps imperceptibly into the crashing Rondo as the orchestra is revived fully fledged in its regal prance. this time it’s the soloist scrambling to keep pace with the orchestra in a grand dialogue.



Deutsche Grammophon Original Recording // Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) // Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.5 in E flat major, Op. 73; Piano Sonata No.25 in G major, Op. 79

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.5 in E flat major

  • Allegro

  • Adagio un poco mosso, attacca

  • Rondo: Allegro

(on the importance of a musical education pt.1)

‘Beethoven’ by Jeremy Lewis @jplewisandsons

‘Beethoven’ by Jeremy Lewis @jplewisandsons

Indeed, we live in an age when the incessant, bewildering shifting call for education gives the impression that some tremendous cultural need is desperately thirsting to be satisfied. But it is just here that one must know how to listen properly---here, refusing to be led astray by the ringing sounds of these educational slogans, is where one must take a straight, hard look at those who talk so tirelessly about the cultural demands of the age. One will then feel a strange disappointment, my dear friend; we have felt it often. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education

above all, what one learns best from Nietzsche, better than any other teacher on the subject in the last century since his death, is a peculiar and marvellous intuition, an intuition without which no esteem is possible, let alone any kind of culture: an incorruptible talent for suspicion.  suspicion regarding every proclamation of culture and of it’s necessary kernel, education. and that is education in the old, generic sense, not as a conveyor belt of diplomas for economic ends. suspicion of the kind perfected by Nietzsche, with almost scientific consistency is, however, not at all immune to the full throttle of disappointment when one discovers these suspicions to be true. suspicion for example, that our ivy leagues and universities are hospitable to a hierarchy structured not by a proper and natural intellectual elitism for whose sake a ‘university’ has any meaning, but on the basis and promise of wealth, full stop. the college admissions scandal is disappointing, but in the same way that one might be disappointed by the lakers falling short of the playoffs this year: unfortunate, but of course!  

the dilapidation of the cultural value of education, it’s humanitarian mission, it’s inherent hostility towards anything that can be bought, its unabashed  belief in every manner of intellectual elitism, and the consequent sense of superiority towards of every other hierarchy---the political, especially---are the topics of concern in Anti-Education, a compilation of Nietzsche’s lectures on the state of the german Gymnasiums while he was still professor of philology at Basel University. these lectures, structured in the form of an autobiographical account, offer an unfortunately pertinent incidental commentary on the less sensational (but immeasurably more consequential) details of the unfolding admissions scandal. unfortunate because this, for example, was written in january 1876:

No, we must proclaim with one voice that people truly destined by nature for an educational path are infinitely few and far between, and that far fewer institutions of higher education than we have today would be enough to let these rare people develop successfully. In today’s educational institutions, intended for the masses, precisely the ones for whom such institutions should exist are the ones who receive the least support. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education

intellectuals ‘few and far between’... are there any words that stink of more elitism than those? it’s the stuffiness of ivory towers. yet who could, in good conscience, disagree with that last sentence? to do so would be to be one with administrators at every major university in north america: that a talent for education that isn’t available by nature, could be purchased with the price of admission. Nietzsche wasn’t at all daunted by this accusation of elitism, he cherished it, because he knew that education for the general population is impossible without a concentric intellectual elitism---and where that kind of hierarchy is lacking, so too is culture. take notice of the hint of a glint the eye of every instance of denouncing the cultural elitism of the french, especially in regards to their language---known to impudence as a kind of snobbery---there is also the secret wish to be on the inside of that, at one with the utmost seriousness in regards to the quality of one’s language. and one should make no mistake that language is the most persistent vector through which culture is disseminated; to compromise the former is to abdicate one’s access to the latter. and to be sure: there is also no culture possible within the politicized hostility evoked against outsiders (by marine le pen and the like) and that hostility is exactly opposite to the kind i mean here, hostility towards any hierarchy not established on the firm and fertile grounds of an intellectual elitism. that was to an extent the choice the french people made between marine le pen and emmanuel macron: and macron’s victory is proof of their belief that french culture isn’t the result of merely being born into it (therefore impenetrable by an outsider) but a thing to be learned,  a strenuous achievement, possible only by a uniquely french education. (i for one remain unable to explain how it was possible that there was so much doubt at the onset of macron’s candidacy---a handsome philosophy student who kept the promise of marriage he made to his high-school theatre teacher--- flying pigs would skate in hell before a man of such immemorial dedication loses a french presidential election).

“I remember,” the reprimanded student answered. “You always said that no one could strive for education if they knew how unbelievably small the number of truly educated people was, or ever could be. But that it was impossible to achieve even this quota of truly educated people unless a great mass of people were tricked, seduced, into going against their nature and pursuing an education. As a result, we must never publicly betray the disproportion between the number of truly educated people and the size of our monstrously educated educational system. That is the real secret of education, you said: countless people fight for it and think they are fighting for themselves, but at bottom it is only to make education possible for a very few.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education

how dare i even suggest that the hollywood millionaires named in the admissions scandal are victims in their own way…that they were tricked, seduced into believing education for their offsprings was something that could be purchased as opposed to earned. perhaps they’re victims in the same way the most well-meaning and ambitious professors are convinced to partake in this devaluation of education for the sake of ‘economic growth’: the greater the number of the sub-educated, the greater, too, the number of the truly educated, for whom their education is in every instance a liberation. and who would be at odds with such simple mathematics. but the most disheartening fact that has unravelled from the scandal so far has been the lack of enthusiasm for these schools shown by some of the students whose parents enrolled by crook. these were not students clawing to be admitted into the academic aristocracy of that comes with a diploma from Yale, and perhaps even their parents too have little more than a dim sense of what their efforts are worth. in fact it is the death of a true intellectual aristocracy---the beams and trusses of a perennial culture---that this scandal is a reminder of.

(speaking of which: what was the one diagnosis that even the courage of a Nietzsche was unable to proclaim? the man who hid an entire basement of meaning---of triumph and desolation---in the proclamation that God is dead, even he couldn’t bring himself to the proper estimation of a death that is of much greater consequence in the proliferation of an intellectual tradition of any kind, even he couldn’t say it: the aristocracy is dead. not the aristocracy of the steaming pile of the pale and jaundiced leagues of royalty whose dying embers we can never be too urgent in quenching, but a self-justifiable aristocracy. a hierarchy whose esteem isn’t accrued by the magnitude of the population it has oppressed, but the altitude of the heights achieved by its most daring individuals. in operas, books and (later) films, french artists had a way of acknowledging the death of that spirit of aristocracy, the spirit of the most exacting cultivation and intellectual pedigree which one such author, george bernanos, referred to as those who are ‘still holding on.’)

for the sake of those who are still holding on, who feel their instinct for the depth and breadth of an education that isn’t excused by specification; who refuse to submit the duty of philosophical discourse in the public realm to the ranks of journalists; who, haven’t been afforded an upbringing wherein education was in the service of cultivation, now seek to take up that mantle at a later age---for them, and for those purposes, a musical education is the most blessed first step.

To make a serious effort here is to undergo an ordeal like that of a grown man becoming say,  like a new soldier, who has to learn how to walk after having been merely a crude dilettante or empiricist of walking. These are laborious months. He is afraid he will tear a tendon, he loses all hope of ever being able to perform these artificial, and consciously learned movements  and place his feet easily and comfortably; he is shocked to see how awkwardly and crudely he puts one foot in front of the other, he worries he will entirely unlearn how to walk without ever learning to do it properly. But suddenly he realizes that these artificially drilled movements have turned into habit, become second nature. All the certainty and power of his stride are returned to him, stronger than before and even with a certain grace. Now he, too, knows how hard it is to walk, and he has earned the right to mock the crude empiricists of walking , the dilettantes of walking with their pretense to elegance. Our ‘elegant’ writers have never learned to walk ; their style proves it. Our gymnasiums do not teach this skill, either; our writers prove it. But a proper linguistic gait is the beginning of culture--- and, if begun correctly, it eventually produces a physical sensitivity to ‘elegant’ writers that we call ‘nausea’. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education

there is no more succinct estimation of the compelling strength of a person’s education than what we can glimpse of their musical education. it follows then that if one, at any age, wants to begin on the path of a courageous and liberating extent of education, a musical education is an ineluctable starting point. or at least a crutch in the meantime. it is to that extent that i have persisted with this blog.

Does anyone ask whether a scholarly discipline that consumes its creatures so vampirically is worth it? “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education