Tag Archives: beethoven

Some Reflections and Observations

“Monday Musings” for Monday October 13, 2013

Volume III.  No. 39/133

excesses_

By Assad Meymandi, MD PhD, DLFAPA*

Reflections

Three things I do not understand:

1)  CEOs of big businesses like Merrill Lynch who send their companies to near bankruptcy and exit with a quarter billion dollar retirement package.

2)  Coaches who compile a less that a mediocre record, yet get contract extension and a whopping raise in their salaries sending their annual compensation into millions while our teachers barely make ends meet.

3)  Student athletes who can barely read and write. They work like slaves to generate a product with sales in the billions of dollars yet they get punished for accepting any gift from fans. This is a repetition of 17th adn18th century slavery, and the epitome of hypocrisy and unfairness. The entire system is unethical. It should be illegal and ought to be banned. One reasonable solution is to pay the student athlete a salary and pay teachers to tutor them and bring up academically, while they play their sport.

 World Chess Championship in Raleigh

Masters from all over the world will be convening for 2014 chess championship. The 2013 champion is a 22 year old Norwegian, Magnus Carlsen who became a grandmaster at age 13.  It would be exciting if our Raleigh Visitor’s Bureau would attempt to bring the match to Raleigh.

I was privileged to be in Reykjavick in 1972 and see the late Bobby Fisher playing chess with his Russian opponent Boris Spassky, about whom I have written in the past. What impressed me about the young Bobby, besides his bad behavior and total paranoia and mistrust for everyone, was his total mastery of the game, and his brilliance. His kind of brilliance was unfortunately blinding and not illuminating. It was more damaging than benefiting.

To me, Bobby Fischer was a good reminder of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the most brilliant opera composer, writer and thinker of the 19th century. Wagner’s biological father was a Jew. Like Wagner, Fischer was also born to Jewish parents, yet like Wagner, in his life time, he piled an incredible amount of derogation and insult on Jews.  Like Wagner, Fischer was an unrepentant and zealous anti-Semite.

There are plenty of reasons to bury the memories of Bobby Fischer and let him fade into dustbin of oblivion. But his brilliance in chess may be selectively used as a role model for teaching focus, determination and devotion to learning to our young people. He provides a good example of how to train the brains of our children and grandchildren.  Let us celebrate him, and his contributions to the honored and honorable game of chess.

 David Edwards/Le Laboratoire

David Edwards, a professor of Biomechanics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has started a gallery at the Louvre Museum in Paris that truly combines science and art, dealing with how a primitive, nondescript stem cell is transformed into a neuron. David is so good at what he does, and I am so impressed by his brilliant mind and abundant practical imagination, that I think any one going to Paris ought to plan to go see this exhibit. He is so much in touch with how science and humanities overlap that we might invite him to become a Meymandi Fellow at the National Humanities Center in RTP.

 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The ravages to two wars US has been involved for the past dozen of years is directly related to ever higher incidence of PTSD. More human lives (both male and female) are lost to domestic violence. 2011 recorded the highest number since we have been keeping records. The victims, especially children, are severely scarred and emotionally abused. Domestic violence is of epidemic proportion in certain segment of our society. Iraq war has worsened the rot on families of military returnees who experience post- traumatic stress disorder.

Fortunately, we have Interact of Wake County, a worthy organization that is taking the matter of domestic violence seriously. Interact is providing safety, shelter and emotional support for the victims and their families. Interact is shining light on the murky and unpleasant landscape of this unwelcome epidemic. Interact deserves the support of everyone.

 Repulsive Public Events

It is unconscionable for print and electronic media to devote so much space and time to absolutely repulsive stories dealing with people consuming huge amounts of food (hot dogs and doughnuts) for a cause or a prize. We have seen these races where people gorge 12 doughnuts or 2400 calories to run four miles which burns about 400 calories, to raise money for a worthy cause. The goal of raising funds for a worthy cause is holy, but the method is most repulsive. With the epidemic of obesity causing diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, I believe your story to encourage gluttony, profligacy and self indulgence was most unwise. I believe people ought to be encouraged to fast, lower caloric intake, and lose weight, while they run and engage in fund raising.

 Beethoven, The Mysterious Metaphysical Force of Deity

In 1824, Ludwig Van Beethoven was deaf. He was ill, temperamental, grouchy and uncooperative. He was 53 years old and ready to die.Yet he composed the majestic Ninth Symphony. I have heard the Ninth in many venues in Europe, Australia, America and even Africa, to audiences of tens of thousands. NC Symphony’s performance under the baton of Maestro Grant Llewellyn belongs right up there with the National Anthem of Europe conducted by the late Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic…Bravo!

 An Opera House for Raleigh

Gaetano Donizetti was one of the three bell canto opera composers (the others were Giacomo Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini) who made brutal demands on the vocal cords of his lady singers. We need to bring more of their operas to Raleigh. Also, the idea of Raleigh having its own opera House is most intriguing.

Raleigh is inching closer to becoming a late 16th century Florence where the arts, music, poetry and dance flourish; where brisk intellectual conversation and children’s laughter fill the air of its vast parks; where fountains flow with life and energy and where academia and business meet their maximum potentials. Raleigh is the essence of the NC State’s Motto, “Esse Quam Videri”, to be rather than to seem. Perhaps we can fit the new opera house in soon to be born Dix Park.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 23, 2013

Volume III, No. 36/130

Beethoven’s 9th
Raleigh Meymandi Concert Hall 
Maestro Grant Llewellyn, Conductor

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

(Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770.  This edition of Monday Musings is dedicated to him.)

Liszt

The next time you go to Musee D’orsay in Paris, that unpleasant piece of Rail Road station, the former Minister of Culture of France, the late Andres Malraux, transformed into  a magnificent museum, go all the way down the hall to the last gallery on the left. There, you will see several paintings of various groups. One of them that stands out is a painting by the 18th century French painter Dan Hauser.  It is the picture of a Parisian salon in the 1830s.  It shows Franz Liszt at the piano, and at his knee with her face covered is Countess Marie D’agoult, a socially prominent Catholic lady who left her husband and children to be one of many Liszt’s mistresses-scandal galore.  Next to Marie is Alexander Dumas, next Chopin and his inseparable girlfriend Aurore Dudevant (George Sand) smoking her fat cigar; next to her, the violinist magician contortionist Nicholas Paganini; next, Rossini, the  bell canto opera composer (he composed Barber of Seville in 1816), and Victor Hugo. They are all gathered to hear Liszt play Beethoven, and way on top above everybody’s head is a bust of Beethoven in the background of clouds roiling into infinity. Yes, the painting shows Beethoven high above with the Gods…This is how Beethoven was worshipped after his death.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born December 16, 1770, fourteen years younger than Mozart.  His childhood was dreadful.  Almost every night, he and his brothers, Kasper (Karl) and Nickkolaus had to go on the streets and cajole their drunken father to come home.  The gentleman was a severe alcoholic and on a church pension.  The family was one step ahead of welfare.  Beethoven fought suicidality most of his life and at one point after becoming deaf he actually planned suicide.  He wrote a long letter, Heiligenstadt, complaining bitterly about his miserable life and reasons for ending it.  But thankfully, he did not go through with his plans.  It was after 1799 that he began composing his famous nine symphonies culminating in the incomparable ninth.  Beethoven’s music is not classic, it is not romantic, it is just Beethoven, expressive, full of power, full of life and full of promise and possibilities, something like the writings of Paul and Pauline theology.

Beethoven’s immortal 9th Symphony composed in 1824 is a summation of his life, a summation of all he had learned and had lived for. Almost anywhere in the world, reference to the 9th is without doubt or question Beethoven’s 9th. It is NOT any of the other symphonists such as Schubert, Bruckner, Mahler, etc. It is always Beethoven’s ninth. No matter where on earth from Ethiopia, Sub Saharan Africa, to countries of Eastern and Western Europe, and to the countries of South America and down under, Australia, in the circles where there is the slightest familiarity with classical music, when you mention the 9th symphony, the listener will reflexively say Beethoven. They might not know his full name, they might not know how to spell his name, they might not know anything about his birth date, birth place, the miserable childhood he had with a drunken father, a long suffering violated and abused mother and several younger brothers, but they know it is Beethoven! The 9th Symphony became immortal when it was chosen/adopted to be the National Anthem of the United Europe in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Later, because of the national pride and momentum of the newly adopted National Anthem, the currency of Euro was created which is now being used by 320 million people, Beethoven’s nine symphonies are eponymous with might, excellence and inimitability of Beethoven style. In word association games, tissues are associated with Kleenex, cars with Chrysler, psychoanalysis with Freud, chewing gum with Wrigley and yes the 9th with Beethoven. The dean of music critics, Joseph T. Kerman, ordinarily parsimonious in praise and use of adjectives, refers to Beethoven “as belonging to the same salon with Gods, and merging with Gods.”

In the annals of human history, the power of Beethoven’s music, especially his symphonies, most of them curiously composed in minor key, is unparalleled. His 9th is indeed the apotheosis of vigor, vitality, hope, redemption, and possibility, yet it is imbued in sublimity, transcendence and beauty. Reviewing other notables’ remarks about Beethoven’s 9th is equally interesting. Hector Berlioz, a failed medical student, yet brilliant composer and writer, admitted that in some ways the 9th “remained unfathomable to me.” He continued “In composing the 9th, Beethoven broke some musical laws, and frankly it is so much worse for the law!” Stuart Isocoff, a contemporary NY music critic suggests that “Beethoven’s new forms, new visions, explored new ways in what music could do and what music could say. Beethoven had begun early in his career to construct his compositions out of small cells, which are organically, as if governed by a kind of musical DNA, matured. The 9th unfolds a psychological drama in which themes are declared only to become subsumed in the flame of heavenly bliss.”

The NC Symphony recently performed the 9th under the baton of its talented and energetic music director, Maestro Grant Llewellyn. Beethoven’s 9th, with its final movement for chorus, four vocal soloists and orchestra set to Fredrick’s Shiller’s poem “Ode to Joy,” left the audience ecstatic with extended spontaneous ovations. The RTP audience was blessed by the hundreds of voices of the NC Master Chorale, directed by Dr. Alfred Sturgis, with the four soloists, soprano Barbara Shervis; mezzo-soprano, Paula Murriphy; tenor Benjamin Butterfield; and bass Kevin Deas. When the celestial voices of the Chorales were singing “Freude, Tochter of Elyzium, deine Zauber binden weider was die Mode stren geteilt; alle mencchen werden Bruder who dein sanfter weilt.” “Joy, daughter of Elysium, your magic again units all that custom harshly torn apart, all men become brothers beneath your gentle hovering wing.” I felt like I was floating among myriads of angels of hope, comfort, promise and beauty. The magic of the 9th approaches Biblical mystery of how miracles occur.

The extensive literature compiled by theologians of repute, among them Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the German theologian imprisoned and executed by Hitler in Flessenburg Concentration Camp at age 39) and the late Paul Tillich of Harvard University, refer to Beethoven’s music as an essential intellectual tool to understand how “magic” turns into “miracle.” The miracle is described as a man, Beethoven, in 1824, at age 53, in spite of his deafness, cantankerous and increasingly world weary and clinically depressed, living in an apartment with leaky roof and minimal toilet facilities, “he bared his soul in a work so stunning in originality, scale and emotional power that virtually every great composer who followed has lived under its shadow.” And in my view, the miracle continues the shadow cast by the 9th is protective and not destructive. It is nurturing and not condescending, it is life giving and not burdensome. That is the miracle of Beethoven’s music. Some theologians compare Beethoven’s personal life to the life of Job, the violated, abused and tortured soul in the old Testament. Yes, Beethoven’s music, especially his 9th, is a miracle.

I have been fortunate to have heard the 9th since my childhood conducted by greats of the music world, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, George Schulte, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein (he conducted the 9th in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down), Loren Maazel, just to name a few. I believe what Llewellyn and the NC Symphony musicians and the combined Raleigh and Durham chorales produced in Raleigh’s Concert Hall with its superior acoustics, was a memorable and transcendent experience, comparable if not superior to other programs.

dad_sig_pic

*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On Rosh Hashanah and Music

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 2, 2013

Volume III. No. 33/126

BackBackHealing_

Back Bay Dedication Post-Boston Marathon Bombing

Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Year 5774

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

In the space of fewer than 11 days two holy occasions that ennoble the calendar are upon us. The first one is Rosh Hashanah which begins at sundown day after tomorrow, Wednesday September 4, 2013.The etymology of the word Rosh Hashanah is RAAS (HEAD OR BEGINNING) AL (OF) SENNEH (YEAR or DATE), THUS ROSH HASHANAH, the beginning of calendar. Wednesday marks the Jewish year 5774. Some reflections:

Moses was born 1590 BC, and reportedly lived 120 years until 1470 BC. Scholarship about birth of Moses, 3590 years ago and Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish calendar 5774 years ago is very interesting. The relationship between the two dates has gone through many twists and turns. The struggles very much remind me of the struggle of C-major and C-minor in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, battling back and forth for attention and primacy. The final note is the celebratory C-major coming through triumphantly. The currently perceived resolution of these two competing dates is simply that it was approximately 6,000 years ago when the world’s oldest religions simultaneously began to emerge. Abram of Ur renamed Abraham by the Lord (Genesis 17) had much to do with this remarkable emergence. We could say that this year marks 5774th year of the dawning of the human awareness of God…and the dawn of monotheism. It sends a chill down one’s spine to get in touch with human connectedness and history. Occasions like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Islam’s Eid-Al Fetr, celebrating completion of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, worship, and purgation of the soul (was observed on August 15), Easter Sunday and Purim, the Jewish Holiday that marks liberation of the Jews by Cyrus the Great (Book of Esther), collectively elevate our awareness that we are children of God and regardless of labels that separate us, we are inextricably inter-connected.  We wish everyone a joyful 5774 and life. Next week’s “MM” will be devoted to Yom Kippur and a book review on Moses Maimonides of Cordoba, the Rabbi, the formidable physician/clinician, the awe-inspiring medical researcher and discoverer, the superb medical ethicist, and the remarkable writer. Shana tova.

Music: Mankind’s Saviour

The recent New York Metropolitan Opera performance of Mozart’s masterpiece, Idomeneo, was a good reminder that Mozart was an ordinary man with all the flaws and scars of alcoholism, syphilis (from Pamena of Magic Flute), kidney failure and periodic bankruptcy, with an extraordinary and truly God-like mind to produce and write music of such complexity, architectural soundness of structure, yet immense sublimity and transcendence that is beyond any mortal’s comprehension. The gift of Mozart is available to all lovers of music. This particular performance was super special, because the international cast involved countries of Australia, England, Canada, South Africa, India, New Zeeland, and France. Our own Maestro James Levine, veteran Met Opera Music Director, and now conductor of the Boston Symphony, born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio,  who conducted the feast, was America’s contribution. The virtuous performance of the star-studded cast and Levine’s skillful directing once again proved that music is the universal language of peace, understanding and love bringing the message of brotherhood and connectedness to mankind.

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 *The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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Humanism and the Gift of Giving- a Brief Biography

Monday Musings for Monday December 31, 2012

Volume II, No. 52/104

 

Dear Readers: 

ATTACHED IS THE LAST “MONDAY MUSINGS“ OF 2012.  AS WE TOUCH THE EPISTEMIC THRESHOLD OF THE NEW YEAR, HERE IS A WISH THAT THE CONSTANT RUNNING BROOK OF JOY ENVELOP YOUR LIVES IN 2013 AND ALWAYS.

 AM

Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA

Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association 
Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry
 
UNC School of Medicine at Chapel Hill
3320 Wake Forest Rd., Suite 460
 
Raleigh, NC, 27609
 

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The Night of Yalda, A few words about Christianity, and King James Bible

Monday Musings for Monday December 17, 2012

Volume II, 41/93

img_interfaith_world_symbols

The Night of Yalda, A few words about Christianity, and King James Bible

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

 

The month of December portends four events carefully choreographed by aligning stars to produce a cosmic feast. The first event, of course, is Christmas on December 25. The other events are winter solstice, December 21, the longest night of the year and shortest day of the year; and Hanukkah, the festival of lights which this year began on December 8.  The fourth event, to some of us equally important, is the birth of Ludwig Van (not Von) Beethoven on December 16.

Although not a religious holiday like Yom Kippur, Hanukkah is about rededication to the will of Yahweh. Reading religious holy books including Zoroaster’s Avesta; Hindu’s sacred and magnificent book, Bhagavad Gita; Moses’ Torah, Christians’ Bible, especially Paul’s letters in the New Testament; and Islam’s Qur’an, one becomes acutely aware of commonality of the message of these books: love, duty, responsibility, redemption, promise and possibilities for all humans, for all children of God. Here are some thoughts on some of these matters:
I-SHAB-E YALDA

December 21 is the longest night of the year.  In Mede and Persian history and Zoroastrian tradition, it is a holy night, “Night of Birth”, the birth of Mithra, the God of illumination and salvation. The birth of Ahura Mazda.

Persian poets have written extensively about the night of Yalda (Shab-e-Yalda).  Here is a stanza from Baba Taher Oryan (950-1019), the mystical Persian poet who roamed the mountains of Hamadan naked

Shab-e-Yalda is the longest night of they year,

To have more time to read and learn…

To have more time to worship….

To have more time to reflect…

To have more time to connect with the beloved and

To have more time to nurture one’s soul…”

We know that Plato wrote extensively about the soul, Zoroastrianism, and the night of Yalda

May you have a fruitful and joyous Yalda night.

II-A Few Words about Christianity:  Commercial vs. Spiritual

Christmas as a religious observance and Christmas a secular event may co-exist, woe unto the cynics and to the intolerants. In ancient days of Egyptians, Persians and Romans, they celebrated the winter solstice called the Saturnalia which ran December 17 to 24. They closed offices and exchanged gifts. This is the time when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb, once more, in the sky. In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it. Instead, Easter was the most important day in the Christian year. In 325, when the Church fathers convened in Nicea, they focused on this issue and decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of the spring, making it a moveable feast. In 354, the year Saint Augustine of Hippo was born, Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the Church calendar. So, it was he who decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on the fixed day of December 25. It was not until the 1800s that commerce got a hold of Christmas and resurrected the ancient gift giving of the Roman Saturnalia. In 1828, for example, the American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, brought the plant poinsettia to the US. It has been associated with Christmas ever since. We have room to celebrate the secular feast of Saturnalia, winter solstice, on the 25th of December. To get us closer to God, eternity and spirituality, observe the mystical and holy phenomenon of the birth of Christ religiously both at the same time. It is unhealthy to engage in extremes of either or and to be cynical and intolerant of others. After all, Christmas and Saturnalia are to enhance love and understanding.
III-Reflections on the end of the year:

To the thousands who read us and hundreds who write us from across the globe, we offer our thanks.  We will, from time to time, publish some of the issue-centered letters that deepen our understanding and elevate the level of discourse.  After all, that is the primary purpose and the etymological meaning of education, from Latin educata: to uplift and elevate knowledge and understanding…

Our faithful readers remember at the end of 2011, we wrote an essay about the King James Bible.  In 2011, the Holy Book became 400 years old.  There were quadricentennial observances of the birth of the Bible throughout Europe.  In my view, the King James Bible translated and written by “Secretaries of God” (see my review of the book by the same title in Wake County Physician magazine , Volume IX, July 2004) is a work that ennobles your soul.  The accuracy, elegance, and lapidary Elizabethan English and the Shakespearian stylistic influence on the translators are unparalleled.  We will write more on the subject in 2013.

*The writer is a Distinguished Life Fellow American Psychiatric Association, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill.  He is the Founding Editor and Editor in chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012)

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Beethoven’s 9th

Volume II. No. 32/84

Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770.  This edition of Monday Musings is dedicated to him.

The next time you go to Musee D’orsay in Paris, that unpleasant piece of Rail Road station, the former Minister of Culture of France, the late Andres Malraux, transformed into  a magnificent museum, go all the way down the hall to the last gallery on the left. There, you will see several paintings of various groups. One of them that stands out is a painting by the 18th century French painter Dan Hauser.  It is the picture of a Parisian salon in the1830s.  It shows Franz Liszt at the piano, and at his knee with her face covered is Countess Marie D’agoult, a socially prominent Catholic lady who left her husband and children to be one of many Liszt’s mistresses-scandal galore–  Next to Marie is Alexander Dumas, next Chopin and his inseparable girlfriend Aurore Dudevant (George Sand) smoking her fat cigar; next to her, the violinist magician contortionist Nicholas Paganini; next, Rossini, the  bell canto opera composer (he composed Barber of Sevillein 1816), and Victor Hugo. They are all gathered to hear Liszt play Beethoven, and way on top above everybody’s head is a bust of Beethoven in the background of clouds roiling into infinity. Yes, the painting shows Beethoven high above with the Gods…This is how Beethoven was worshipped after his death.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born December 16, 1770, fourteen years younger than Mozart.  His childhood was dreadful.  Almost every night, he and his brothers, Kasper (Karl) and Nickkolaus had to go on the streets and cajole their drunken father to come home.  The gentleman was a severe alcoholic and on a church pension.  The family was one step ahead of welfare.  Beethoven fought suicidality most of his life and at one point after becoming deaf he actually planned suicide.  He wrote a long letter, Heiligenstadt, complaining bitterly about his miserable life and reasons for ending it.  But thankfully, he did not go through with his plans.  It was after 1799 that he began composing his famous nine symphonies culminating in the incomparable ninth.  Beethoven’s music is not classic, it is not romantic, it is just Beethoven, expressive, full of power, full of life and full of promise and possibilities, something like the writings of Paul and Pauline theology.

Beethoven’s immortal 9th Symphony composed in 1824 is a summation of his life, a summation of all he had learned and had lived for. Almost anywhere in the world, reference to the 9th is without doubt or question Beethoven’s 9th. It is NOT any of the other symphonists such as Schubert, Bruckner, Mahler, etc. It is always Beethoven’s ninth. No matter where on earth from Ethiopia, Sub Saharan Africa, to countries of Eastern and Western Europe, and to the countries of South America and down under, Australia, in the circles where there is the slightest familiarity with classical music, when you mention the 9th symphony, the listener will reflexively say Beethoven. They might not know his full name, they might not know how to spell his name, they might not know anything about his birth date, birth place, the miserable childhood he had with a drunken father, a long suffering violated and abused mother and several younger brothers, but they know it is Beethoven! The 9th Symphony became immortal when it was chosen/adopted to be the National Anthem of the United Europe in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Later, because of the national pride and momentum of the newly adopted National Anthem, the currency of Euro was created which is now being used by 320 million people, Beethoven’s nine symphonies are eponymous with might, excellence and inimitability of Beethoven style. In word association games, tissues are associated with Kleenex, cars with Chrysler, psychoanalysis with Freud, chewing gum with Wrigley and yes the 9th with Beethoven. The dean of music critics, Joseph T. Kerman, ordinarily parsimonious in praise and use of adjectives, refers to Beethoven “as belonging to the same salon with Gods, and merging with Gods.”

In the annals of human history, the power of Beethoven’s music, especially his symphonies, most of them curiously composed in minor key, is unparalleled. His 9th is indeed the apotheosis of vigor, vitality, hope, redemption, and possibility, yet it is imbued in sublimity, transcendence and beauty. Reviewing other notables’ remarks about Beethoven’s 9th is equally interesting. Hector Berlioz, a failed medical student, yet brilliant composer and writer, admitted that in some ways the 9th “remained unfathomable to me.” He continued “In composing the 9th, Beethoven broke some musical laws, and frankly it is so much worse for the law!” Stuart Isocoff, a contemporary NY music critic suggests that “Beethoven’s new forms, new visions, explored new ways in what music could do and what music could say. Beethoven had begun early in his career to construct his compositions out of small cells, which are organically, as if governed by a kind of musical DNA, matured. The 9th unfolds a psychological drama in which themes are declared only to become subsumed in the flame of heavenly bliss.”

The NC Symphony recently performed the 9th under the baton of its talented and energetic music director, Maestro Grant Llewellyn. Beethoven’s 9th, with its final movement for chorus, four vocal soloists and orchestra set to Fredrick’s Shiller’s poem “Ode to Joy,” left the audience ecstatic with extended spontaneous ovations. The RTP audience was blessed by the hundreds of voices of the NC Master Chorale, directed by Dr. Alfred Sturgis, and the Choral Society of Durham Chamber Choir, Directed by Rodney Wynkoop, and the four soloists, soprano Jane Jennings, mezzo-soprano Stacey Rishoi, tenor Richard Clement and bass Raymond Aceto. When the celestial voices of the Chorales were singing “Freude, Tochter of Elyzium, deine Zauber binden weider was die Mode stren geteilt; alle mencchen werden Bruder who dein sanfter weilt.” “Joy, daughter of Elysium, your magic again units all that custom harshly torn apart, all men become brothers beneath your gentle hovering wing.” I felt like I was floating among myriads of angels of hope, comfort, promise and beauty. The magic of the 9th approaches Biblical mystery of how miracles occur.

The extensive literature compiled by theologians of repute, among them Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the German theologian imprisoned and executed by Hitler in Flessenburg Concentration Camp at age 39) and the late Paul Tillich of Harvard University, refer to Beethoven’s music as an essential intellectual tool to understand how “magic” turns into “miracle.” The miracle is described as a man, Beethoven, in 1824, at age 53, in spite of his deafness, cantankerous and increasingly world weary and clinically depressed, living in an apartment with leaky roof and minimal toilet facilities, “he bared his soul in a work so stunning in originality, scale and emotional power that virtually every great composer who followed has lived under its shadow.” And in my view, the miracle continues the shadow cast by the 9th is protective and not destructive. It is nurturing and not condescending, it is life giving and not burdensome. That is the miracle of Beethoven’s music. Some theologians compare Beethoven’s personal life to the life of Job, the violated, abused and tortured soul in the old Testament. Yes, Beethoven’s music, especially his 9th, is a miracle.

I have been fortunate to have heard the 9th since my childhood conducted by greats of the music world, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, George Schulte, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein (he conducted the 9th in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down), Loren Maazel, just to name a few. I believe what Llewellyn and the NC Symphony musicians and the combined Raleigh and Durham chorales produced in Raleigh’s Concert Hall with its superior acoustics, was a memorable and transcendent experience, comparable if not superior to other programs.

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