Jacqueline and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday — with Ludwig von Beethoven. We heard his Pastoral Symphony at Davies Hall in San Francisco. Herbert Blomstedt conducted. We strolled through the woods, heard the birds singing and the brooks babbling, the storm coming quickly and leaving just as quickly. It was a thrilling performance. We always enjoy a concert, but this was one of those exceptional concerts that we will remember forever. Blomstedt is 93 years old. He conducted the Beethoven and then Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, from memory, without any music in front of him.
His movements were so expressive to the musicians and in sync with the music. The audience was aware of the magnificence of this performance. The standing ovation lasted 15 minutes. I felt the energy flow of into my soul. We left uplifted and thankful, that such genius exists in the world. Thank you, Beethoven. Thank you Maestro Blomstedt.
This brought back a memory from my college days. I had taken a course in music appreciation. One of the assignments was to write a paper. I chose to write about Beethoven’s third symphony, the Eroica.
I read. I listened. I reflected. I wrote. I enjoyed learning about this piece. It was the opening of the Romantic period. It was startlingly different from anything composed earlier. It had been commissioned by Prince Lobkowicz, one of Beethoven’s benefactors. Beethoven was inspired to compose this by Napoleon. He saw Napoleon as an Eroica – the hero. He had liberated France from the tyranny of the monarchy. But soon after Beethoven finished it and before it had been performed, Napoleon held a ceremony in which he took the crown from the hands of the Cardinal, raised it above his head and crowned himself. Beethoven was furious. Napoleon was no longer the liberator of the people, he now announced himself as the next king. Beethoven tore the inscription which had been to Napoleon from the piece. And changed the title from Napoleon to The Eroica
The work was premiered at the castle of Prince Lobkowicz. The prince was in the front row and other nobles were in the audience. When the orchestra finished playing, the count was so taken by this revolutionary piece that he said, Play it again Ludwig. It was performed again, and then a third time! This was the beginning of the Romantic Period in classical music.
I handed the paper in. The professor returned it with the following written on the first page, Wonderful paper, great insight into Beethoven’s mind and the history of that time and place. Clearly expressed. Well thought out. And then in large red letters –
YOUR GRADE is D minus! YOU MISPELLED BEETHOVEN EVERY SINGLE TIME!
This was one of the most powerful learning experiences I’ve ever had.
Oh, and by the way, my spelling has improved – thanks to microsoft WORD’s spellchecker