Oct 4, 2007

Heiligenstadt Testament

In my last violin lesson, I was discussing the Beethoven concerto, which I'm working on, with my teacher. We had been working for quite some time on technical things, like the angle of my right thumb, the placement of my left wrist, and moving my bow from my shoulder to get a softer, more cushiony sound, and after all that work, conversation turned to Beethoven's life. My teacher asked me what I thought the concerto was about, and I stood there thinking, imagining all that I knew about Beethoven's life. The concerto is incredibly intimate and profound. It lacks the flashy technical passages present in so many of the great violin concertos, but many say it contains more soul than any other violin concerto ever written. The notes are soaked in meaning, that's easy to see - but what meaning?

I knew that Beethoven was a loner. I knew he was unhappy with Vienna, even though it was considered a musical mecca during his day. Beethoven had strange habits, few friends, and none of the social graces of, say, Mozart. He loved the outdoors. I knew he struggled with his deafness, especially in his later years, when he would play pianos that had metal bars attached to them so he could bite the bars and feel the vibrations in his skull. He tried everything that was available back in the early 1800s to hear better.

But what I didn't know about was the Heiligenstadt Testament.

Read it here.

And I am playing Beethoven's concerto, written shortly after that tortured document.

It's a big responsibility.

1 comment:

J said...

Ah, I never knew that, but it makes sense ...

The second theme of the first movement always makes me feel the most profound human sorrow and wistfulness, and just humming it now has brought me to tears ...