Beethoven

That is the title of a sonnet by Albrecht Haushofer, a poem about grief.

<<Der so geschrieben, war ein tauber Mann.
Verstehen wirst Du’s erst in spaeten Jahren.>>
Sie schweigt. <<Wenn Dir einmal das Herz gesprungen
Und weiterschlaegt und weiterschlagen soll.>>

When one day your heart breaks, and goes on beating, and has to go on beating, says young Albrecht’s old piano teacher.

There are about ten minutes between the gym and my house, and the classical station decided to toss me the scherzo from Beethoven’s Eroica, a breakneck sprint with a tally-ho of horns barreling right through the heart of it. It is a thing I love, though this particular recording — it was their CD Pick Of The Week, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the wonderfully named West-Eastern Divan Orchestra — was a little leisurely for my taste, nothing shabby about Barenboim, I just like it a touch more headlong, and I began saying to the empty inside of the car “Ah, c’mon, pick it up. I like this a little faster, don’t you? I bet Norrington would tear it up.” (Roger Norrington’s “historically accurate” tempi all sound like Too Much Coffee Man was involved.) There is no one left in my face to face life who would get what I was talking about at all, but my late and ex husband would have, and he was right there in the passenger seat, I had my eyes on the road but imagined reaching out and touching him, the horrible twill pants he used to wear until they were shiny and the bony shoulders under any old size of tee shirt. The last night he spent in my house, ten years divorced from me, homeless but refusing to admit it, and already crumbling from cancer, we played “who composed that?” with a late night broadcast (he guessed Mahler, I won with Bruckner). The man in the passenger seat of my new Fit cared nothing about death or endings; he was listening to Beethoven with the fist-pump I used to see when a really ballsy moment burst out of the brass section or the soloist tore up the cadenza in some bravura concerto.

“Well, it’s not like there’s anything shabby about Barenboim,” I said. I mentioned grief, didn’t I? Joy sits in grief’s lap, like a big dopey dog incapable of respecting solemnity.

I drive weeping sometimes, but so far I haven’t had to pull over.

Norrington finishes about ten seconds quicker. Not a big-ass difference. It’s really all about the horns, anyway.

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15 thoughts on “Beethoven

        • I’d take it slow or fast (there’s an elevator line) but those goddam rubatoes can drive you crazy. I mean have you ever heard the fun-house job he did on the finale of the Tchaikovsky 4th? It sounds like a kid who’s just learning to drive and keeps jerking his foot off the pedal. Can’t remember the recording, the horrid memory goes back years.

  1. Barenboim brought the orchestra to the Proms last week and played all the symphonies.

    In a BBC program about the full cycle, he said that while Bach’s music was about the relation of human beings to God, Beethoven’s was about the relation of human beings to human beings.

  2. Wonder what the composer would think of all those “interpretations” of his creations? Of course we will never know for sure despite annotations on the original scores when we have them.

    • Now you’ve made me think of another favorite of my late and ex’s — the scene in “Annie Hall” where Woody Allen fetches Marshall Mc Luhan to pwn the know-it-all in a movie line who is laying it down about the meaning of Mc Luhan’s work.

        • I would pay serious money to witness a supernatural event that would allow you two to converse. Whatever his many difficult traits, he, like you, refused ever to be any older than he could help. And he had a lot more tolerance for kids than I do. He taught them chess and a first-timer’s chess tournament for young players was held in his memory.

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