Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beethoven's 9th

From the book “The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824” (2010) by Harvey Sachs:

“Beethoven is the quintessential genius of Western culture,” wrote Tia DeNora in her 1995 study, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius.

Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian revolutionary, heard the ninth for the first time in Dresden in 1849, and told the conductor, Richard Wagner, that “if all the music that has ever been written were lost in the expected world-wide conflagration, we must pledge ourselves to rescue this symphony, even at the peril of our lives.”

Heiligenstadt, where Beethoven wrote his famous testament, is now part of Vienna.

Conservative musicians told him, regarding an unorthodox passage he had written, that the rules do not permit it. His reported response: “The rules don’t permit it? Very well: I [italics] will permit it!”

Furtwangler: “To compare Bach with Beethoven is like comparing an oak tree with a lion.”

The feminist poet Adrienne Rich “reviled the entire work as a ‘sexual message’ written by a man ‘in terror of impotence or infertility, not knowing the difference.’”

Toscanini on the third movement: “It lifts me off the earth, removes me from the field of gravity, makes me weightless. One becomes all soul. One ought to conduct it on one’s knees.”

Meyerbeer, who wrote grand operas, at 23 is said to have played timpani or bass drum under Beethoven’s baton in a performance in Vienna of the Battle symphony in 1814. Beethoven reportedly said that the young man “did not strike [the drum] properly and was always too late. Therefore, I really had to give him a dressing down. Ha! Ha! Ha! This may have upset him. Nothing will become of him. He does not have the courage to strike at the right moment.”