Saturday, December 31, 2005


Near the top of my pantheon of heroes is Mark Twain. The right opinions, astonishing sense of humor, and so smart. He was not just a humorist; he was a very wise man. He even knew the truth about King Leopold of Belgium.

Ben Franklin, too, whom I began to admire only a few years ago, when my book club read the Morgan biography. What a gifted human being!

Also: Bernard Shaw. The singer Jussi Bjoerling. Meriwether Lewis. Joan of Arc. Left-wing writers like Paul Krugman, Eric Alterman, the Frank who wrote "What's the Matter With Kansas," Nicholas Kristof, Al Franken, politicians like Corzine and Barbara Boxer. Yes, and both Clintons. And Harry Truman.

Among investors: Warren Buffett (although he has fibbed); Jimmy Rogers, although unlike his former partner, George Soros, he is not opposed to the abolition of estate taxes. Soros, although I have never met him. Marty Whitman.

And perhaps at the very top: Beethoven. What pleasure he has given me throughout my life! What future pleasure I will get from listening to music of his I haven't heard yet!

My ranking of the symphonies: 9, 7 and 5, 6, 3, 8. (E. M.Forster wrote about the 5th: the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated the human ear.) (In college, the cynical jaded young men in a class of mine APPLAUDED after hearing the 7th.)

My favorite piano sonata: the Appassionata. Piano concerto: 3.

WQXR begins its Classical Countdown today, and I am pleased that the symphonies always dominate the top of the list. The 9th always is No. 1. I'm somewhat disgusted that Dvorak's New World symphony sometimes breaks into the top ranks.

The three B's are Beethoven, Mozart, and Shubert.

He was anti-Semitic. But...

I ask my friends: Are you a Beeethoven lover? Many say no. I have resolved: Buy recordings of the 7th and distribute them to my friends. How can anyone go through life without enjoying Beethoven?

How to describe his music: Absorbing. Electrifying.

A fresh idea, even a great pun, can produce a small, wonderful explosion in one's brain. A delightful "pop!" Beethoven's music can be -- this is the best word -- thrilling.

***Comment re antisemitism from anonymous:

in a little-known novel, "The Man Who Thought He Was Messiah," Reb Nachman of Bratslav and Beethoven go on a walking tour of Vienna, and Nachman sings niggunim -- tunes -- that Beethoven uses in his music -- a lot of fun.

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