This previous week introduced us an oft-overlooked day of significance for music lovers. Buried amid the hustle and bustle of the vacation season is a day that receives far too little recognition and even much less celebration. I’m speaking, in fact, about December sixteenth: Beethoven’s birthday.

This yr marks a selected milestone: born in 1770, we’re observing Beethoven’s 250th. Nonetheless, it got here and went with out fanfare. In an effort to rectify this appalling lack of consideration, I wish to shine the highlight briefly on the grasp composer and humbly submit my high 5 works of Beethoven.

Quantity 5 – Symphony quantity 6 – “Pastoral”

As detailed in a earlier publish, the sixth symphony was my introduction into the world of Ludwig Van Beethoven. It depicts scenes of nature, brilliantly expressed by way of music: the countryside, a brook, birds singing, and most vividly – a violent thunderstorm and the calm that follows. To explain such scenes so superbly by way of the artwork of music alone – with out penning a phrase, with out one stroke of a paintbrush – really reveals his genius.

Quantity 4 – The Egmont Overture

So that you’re keen on attending to know the works of Beethoven, however don’t wish to make investments the higher a part of an hour to hear to at least one single piece? The Egmont is a good place to start out. It clocks in at just below 9 minutes (roughly equal to 2.3 pop songs) and it’s an incredible instance of his technique of beginning gradual, teasing with the promise of coming grandeur after which delivering on that promise.

Quantity 3 – The Emporer Concerto

Years in the past, a since-forgotten buddy, realizing my fondness for Beethoven, gifted me with a duplicate of The Emporer Concerto on cassette tape. At that time, I used to be unaware of what constitutes a concerto. The Emporer, being a piano concerto, conjured ideas of infinite piano solos. I used to be lower than thrilled. So I used to be pleasantly shocked to find that the concerto format options the named instrument (on this case, the piano) supported, in no small measure, by an orchestra.

The Emporer is a chunk of music that you just’ll discover acquainted, even in case you by no means gave it an intentional hear. It’s usually utilized in film soundtracks and the like. To me, its most intriguing characteristic comes within the third and remaining motion the place the piano and orchestra alternate taking the lead, repeating 3 times variations on the identical musical motif, every iteration extra subtle than the final. It’s fascinating.

Quantity 2 – Symphony Quantity 9 – “Choral”

It’s a frightening process to dedicate over an hour to intently listening to at least one piece of music. And I’ll admit to “skipping to the tip” now and again, omitting the primary three (and typically 4) actions. However that’s like skipping the meal to get to the dessert – which is not how the ninth symphony is meant to be heard. The ninth masterfully takes the listener from the chaotic to the chic in 5 steps, with every step constructing on the prior.

The fourth motion opens with a short recap – harkening again to parts from every of the prior three – earlier than shifting on to the acquainted and putting “Ode to Pleasure.” The fifth and remaining motion continues with the Ode, and provides the human voice – the one one in all his symphonies to take action. Thus the title “Choral.” It’s – on the threat of over-usage of the phrase – chic.

#1 – Symphony Quantity 5

I’m undecided when it was that this work ascended to the highest of my checklist. For a few years the Ninth held that spot, and it’s nonetheless a really slim margin. However I turned fascinated by way of the motif repeated all through your entire piece. An irony that this very motif is what saved me from giving the Fifth an unbiased hear for a few years. I’m talking, in fact of the “dit dit dit dah” for which this work is so well-known. It’s familiarity and over-use appeared – to me, a minimum of – of a second-rate piece of music, greatest suited to ads and different such silliness. Finally, the incongruity of my esteem for the composer and my disdain for one in all his best-known works satisfied me that I ought to choose the Fifth by itself deserves.

I discussed earlier Beethoven’s penchant for teasing a coming payoff. Nowhere is that this extra evident than within the transition from the third motion to the fourth. It’s nothing wanting chilling. The fourth and remaining motion brings us residence with continuous awe-inspiring pure power. It’s the promise delivered and it doesn’t disappoint.

So there you may have it: my high 5 favorites from Beethoven. If you happen to haven’t ventured into the world of his music, it’s best to give it a attempt. And what higher time than the 250th birthday.

Blissful Birthday, Ludwig.

Pay attention. Take pleasure in.

Bonus Monitor.

  • I turned conscious of the importance of this date lengthy earlier than I turned a fan of the person and his music. I turned conscious of Beethoven’s birthday as a result of I used to be a fan of one other nice man and his work: Charles M. Schulz and his caricature, Peanuts. Shulz’s character Schroeder idolized Beethoven and I believe Schulz did too.


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