Tag Archives: beethoven

Fate and Heroism; a Musical Storm

Tacquamenon Falls, Michigan

As Georges Danton was to the French Revolution—“Audacity, audacity, and  always audacity!”—so Ludwig van Beethoven was to music in their time.

Beethoven battled to create a musical revolution, to free  the present from the past, a revolutionary tempest deposing  aristocratic elegance.  On an autumn evening,  I looked forward to Sturm und Drang in musical form, courtesy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

With a biting chill in the night air, winter served notice that its arrival was not far off, and the mild, sunny days of fall must give way.  Inside Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, with its elegant decorations and muted light, warmth would well  up from the music on  stage .

The evening’s musical program began with a pleasant surprise, a mood piece unfamiliar to me.  A discordant modern arrangement followed, with the evening’s anticipated musical sparks to be struck after the intermission.

After the brief respite, the musicians, in their black-and-white formal wear, returned to their places.  The conductor strode briskly to the podium to generous applause.  When he raised his baton, the orchestra came to life, like toy soldiers suddenly animated in a Christmas fantasy.  The string section played the most recognizable opening bars in music, the staccato notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Fate knocking.  Drawn in by the magnetism, the audience leaned forward in their seats.

The ominous tones of Fate were–after some lighter fare– answered by the clarion call of Heroism in the final movement, sung in shining tones  by the brass instruments.  In a liberation  of emotion, the Hero triumphed in aggressive chords driving to  the finale.  The audience, released from the music’s grip, responded with its own storm of applause.

The symphony is symbolic of Beethoven himself, or of the Revolutions of his time, if you prefer.

Strolling out again into the crisp night, I found myself reflecting that the heroic spirit of Beethoven’s Fifth lies dormant in our time.  It is perhaps sleeping in a vault with old clips of John F. Kennedy speaking, his finger jabbing the air.  Or captured on grainy film of Jackie Robinson dancing on the base paths, and  facing down the racists as he broke major league  baseball’s color bar.

Today, we are in desperate need of men and women to take up the baton, to show audacity in the face of today’s pervasive cynicism and nihilism.   Fate is knocking, yet we await Heroes to answer the call.


Divine Spark in Melody

Last night, I went to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play one of my favorite pieces, Beethoven’s 6th, or Pastorale.  The Michigan climate did not mirror the music–the April evening was more like February, complete with snow and blustery winds.  The music, by contrast, brought a warm glow to the hall.  The sublime melodies of Beethoven not only foretold spring and summer days to come, but gave voice, if only briefly, to that spark of Divinity we can touch if we are open to it.

kensington park, michigan

Kensington Park, Michigan in July

Photo Challenge, Cover Art: Fate, Triumph, and a Solicitous Piano

With the piano tapping out the familiar Beethoven theme of Fate knocking, his 4th piano concerto opens with a mood of expectancy.  Since this is Beethoven, the closing spirit is one of a hero’s triumph.  Between is the short, lyrical 2nd movement, which one reviewer described as the piano playing the solicitous
daughter to the orchestra’s troubled King Lear.

Photo Challenge:  Cover Art

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

A Michigan lake in summer