Saturday, September 13, 2014

What I've Learned: Ludwig van Beethoven

Classical composer, 55, Vienna

Some say that classical music is dead, but you know what? I don't think so. To me classical music is just music--the best you can do--and it will be around forever.

I guess everybody knows that I've got a hearing problem, but it hasn't slowed me down any. This year my good friend and patron, Prince Nicholas Galitzin, has asked me to write him some string quartets and I think that they will be the best thing I have ever done.

No, I never married, though I fell in love a couple of times. I came close with one young lady, a piano student of mine, but she ended up marrying a minor noble. Women, eh?

Do I take any drugs? Does coffee and Rhine wine count?

I first got famous for my piano-playing. I used to go round to the noble salons and floor everyone with my own music, with improvisations and with some preludes and fugues by old Bach. I've had the manuscript of those for years. It's not true that I used to amuse people by doing variations on "Happy Birthday", but I did do some variations on "God Save the King". I wrote some killer piano concertos too. Not as many as that brat Mozart, but mine are longer!

Because of my hearing loss I can't play the piano any more, and have to do everything in my head. But that was mostly what I was doing anyway, so I'm still going strong.

I love nature. I love taking walks in the countryside around Vienna and I even got a pretty good symphony out of it. I don't need a lot of fancy things: a decent apartment, some good food and wine, a good piano. You know that I was always pestering the piano builders to add more keys, right? My earlier sonatas don't go down as far in the bass as my later ones.

I don't have a favorite piece that I have written. Definitely not the Moonlight Sonata! God, after I wrote that I thought people would never listen to anything else! I guess I like most the piece I just finished, whatever it is. Actually, I just wrote a string quartet in E flat major that I think is pretty good and I've got ideas for a couple of others. One is going to be the Fugue to End All Fugues!

Am I happy? With my music more than my life, I guess. Like I say, I never married, though I wanted to. No kids. Bad relationship with my nephew and his horrible mother. Fought with everybody over something. Damned publishers always stealing my music! Never managed to get out of Vienna, even though I was invited. At least Papa Haydn got to go to England a couple of times.

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have gone into some other profession than music, but I didn't have a lot of choice. After everything that Mozart did under his father's tutelage, every single musician father with children with any talent drove them into a musical career. I don't think most people should try to be musicians. The pay is poor, the hours long and the respect minimal. Don't do it unless you really feel that you live in the world of music.

Did I waste my life? I wrote some pretty good music, but if people all end up listening to Pharrell Williams instead of my string quartets, then I gotta ask myself, what was it all for?

You want to hear some music? How about that fugue I mentioned?

[This is a satire, inspired by the Esquire series, that I mentioned in my Friday Miscellanea.]


Susan Pagenkopf said...

I quite enjoyed this, Mr. Beethoven!

Bryan Townsend said...

The "satire" turned out quite differently than I planned. I was going to just do a funny piece, but it ended up something else...

Shantanu said...

Never knew you had a thing for eloquent writing beside music, Herr Ludwig! Never mind the Pharrell Williamses and the Katy Perrys, you can be pretty sure only those who get the greatest joy out of your music listen to it - nobody dances to it while being full of beer.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Shantanu!