die freude schöner
Random thoughts in the afternoon, and my first haiku in german, brought on by the presenter on the radio saying that he was giving listeners a minute to get ready and then to get settled as the next piece he was going to play was over one hour long.
Before he said what it was I knew what it would be.
On Friday evening, remember I listen to radio station from London so they are 5 hours ahead (this way, I like to say, I know that someone has made it through the next 5 hours) if a radio station is going to play a single piece of classical music over an hour long, it has to be the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 by Beethoven.
According to one source, It was longer and more complex than any symphony to date and required a larger orchestra. But the most unique feature of “The Ninth” was that Beethoven included chorus and vocal soloists in the final movement. He was the first major composer to do this in a symphony.
According to Wikipedia, it was first performed in Vienna on 7 May 1824. The symphony is regarded by many critics and musicologists as Beethoven’s greatest work and one of the supreme achievements in the history of music. One of the best-known works in common practice music, it stands as one of the most frequently performed symphonies in the world.
I was a little kid when I started listening to classical music.
I am sure there was a lot of ‘look at me, I am so smart I listen to classical music’ and I am sure that Schroeder in the Charlie Brown comic strip also played a part.
But like many other things in my life, I can remember being around the age of 10 or 11 and on TV, my Mom was watching that new public TV station.
Understand this was back in the day when we got three TV channels in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up and when public TV from Grand Valley State College went on air, it increased the amount of available TV 33%.
I sat down to watch with her and it was a documentary narrated by Leonard Bernstein about putting on a concert in Vienna featuring Beethoven’s 9th symphony.
It wasn’t the type of show my Mom usually watched but she kept it on and we both got drawn into the story and the music.
The documentary told three stories.
One was the performance itself.
One was the story behind the performance, the rehearsals, the technical aspects of preparing the hall, the technical aspects of getting the orchestra itself to Vienna.
One was Mr. Bernstein describing the life of times of one Ludwig van Beethoven.
The documentary wove the three stories together and ended with the performance of the 4th movement.
Something about the life of Mr. Beethoven and his struggles to express the sounds inside his head got into me.
I distinctly remember Mr. Bernstein describing how the members of’ the the chorus arrived early enough for ‘one more goulash and beer’ before the performance.
Growing up my house was filled with books.
I talk about that a lot.
But along with the books our house was also filled with music.
My Dad was into the HiFi era and bought a lot of records and a lot of record players.
Along one wall of our living room was a flat countertop cupboard and there were 5 or 6 stacks of LP’s.
My Dad also had his favorite shows and music that he listened to on the radio and he spent a lot time working with a reel to reel tape recorder that could record off the radio at a flip of the switch.
My brothers and sisters of course contributed a lot of music of the era but I can say it was easily one of the most eclectic collections of records music in West Michigan.
After seeing this show about Beethoven, I started looking through the record collection to find other classical music and once I found it, I would listen to it.
For the most part my brothers and sisters put up with it.
It became part of my schtick.
I read a lot.
I listened to classic music.
I weighed about 55 lbs and wore glasses.
I mean, what did anyone else expect.
But there were bonuses.
My brother Bob and his wife were living in Kalamazoo while he went to WMU.
They noticed that WMU had just completed the Miller Auditorium and to dedicate it, the college offered free tickets to a performance to Beethoven’s 9th symphony.
They got in touch with us up in Grand Rapids as they thought I would be interested.
My Dad made or maybe my brother Bobby made some calls and got tickets for all of us and one Sunday afternoon, we loaded up and my Dad, Mom and 7 or 8 of my brothers and sisters went to hear the show.
Now this is where history gets interesting as according to the internet Miller Auditorium opened on Jan. 12, 1968.
That would have made me 7.
Ah, well, precocious wasn’t I.
It was the first time I heard classical music live.
I could see it.
I could hear it.
And I could imagine it.
I have attended maybe 6 or 7 live performances of this symphony since then.
It is different every time.
It is the same every time.
A couple of years after that at Christmas I unwrapped a heavy flat box.
It was a present my Mom picked out for me.
It was a set of records of the all 9 Beethoven symphonies.
I kept those records for the next 50 years.
I am typing this as I listen to the radio so this could go on for a bit.
Another story that always comes to mind.
According to legend when Sony was developing the music CD, the President of Sony demanded that the size of a CD should be big enough to be able to hold a minimum of 88 minutes of music.
He felt that any music medium worth its salt should be able to contain the complete performance of the 9th Symphoney.
I know this story doesn’t hold up against most fact but as they say, when in doubt, print the legend.
That Mr. Beethoven, almost 200 years after his death, had such an impact on modern music was too perfect to not be true.
If it isn’t the way it happened, is the way it should have happened.
And with the that, the music is drawing to a close.
Nice way to end the day.
die freude schöner
Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity
Daughter of Elysium,