Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beethoven - The Great Clarion Call?

The other day I wrote about my sense of the core language of Mozart and the immensity of its communicative power, and today this particular aspect of reaction brought me to Beethoven. I hasten to point out that in neither the Mozart blog nor this perusal of Beethoven is there an examination of the stylistic prowess of either composer - I am intrinsically involved here in the core issue of communication:
We know that Ewen wrote a book on Beethoven calling him the "man who freed music." The title is indeed appropriate as it applies to the ways of Beethoven's unparalleled power in projecting human emotion for the sake of its existence; hence, the beginning of the Romantic era.
However, the core rationalization, to me, stems from Beethoven's being a true Child of the Enlightenment, a period when European Man began a focused examination of his place in relation to the powers around him. Before Beethoven's language asserted itself, the arts bowed to both the possessors of great wealth and royalty, both acquired and "handed down." As an example, I think of the gifted painter David, essentially a "court" painter of the Napoleon entourage, and I am thinking of two paintings in particular depicting Napoleon as either the second Hannibal or the sentinel who remains awake at all hours as Protector of the people.
Conversely, Beethoven was never obsequious in his language - remember his rage at Napoleon, to whom he originally dedicated his 3rd symphony? He roared "so he is a man like all other men"
when he discovered Napoleon's true motives, and expunged the tyrant's name from the first page, and re-dedicated the symphony to another. Never was a note changed.
I recall his saying to Goethe that, in a discussion relating to royalty, that "it is they who should bow down to us." He was, therefore, the first great composer, it seems, to outwardly declare that tyrants may come and go, but the Art shall remain - one sees that truism from Beethoven through Hitler's failed attempt to desecrate the artist's infallible independence through his organizing the largest art exhibit up to that point in history, "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art), in 1937, proving his inordinate fear of the artist who never bowed to his power and brutality.
Beethoven's music and Thomas Jefferson's words were true brethren, both created during the same period - more powerful than the wonderful creations Beethoven gave to us lies the power within the composer's spirit that created these masterpieces. How ludicrous, how unknowing Hitler was by championing Beethoven's music - the composer would have loathed him.
The Master's music is a clarion call, reminding us of the elemental right Man was born with, and, sadly,which is always in danger because of the elemental weaknesses that Man, it seems, is born with.



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