Close-up of a great writer Life

Laura Tunbridge teaches 19th and 20th century music history and analysis at St Catherine’s College in Oxford. She is also the author of ‘Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces,’ published by Yale University Press. [Richard Strittmatter]

From 1795 to 1816, inflation was so rampant in Vienna, due to the Napoleonic Wars, that Ludwig van Beethoven ‘s fortunes traveled 40 times. Today, the average European is suffering from depression, insecurity and anger due to the coronavirus crisis, but almost none of us could understand what it would have been like to live in Beethoven ‘s times. .

Clearly, crisis does not prevent the creation of masterpieces (unless they inspire it) and during this turbulent time Beethoven was busy creating a group of works that inspire her. idea of ​​perfection through the sense of hearing (the same sense that he himself, ironically and sadly enough, began to lose after his 30s. We do not know for sure when he was born, but it is certain that he was baptized on 17 December 1770 in Bonn and his biographers assume that he was born the day before.

In December 2020, all events related to the 250th anniversary of the writer ‘s birth were due to peak, but inevitably many of them were postponed due to the pandemic.

Among the recently published books about Beethoven is the stand-out “Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces,” by Laura Tunbridge, professor of music at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. The writer depicts Beethoven ‘s life in nine chapters, each with a title following landmark works by the composer associated with important events in his life. As a result of the anniversary, Tunbridge spoke to Kathimerini about the composer and her book.

As you have shown in “Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces,” the writer did not readily accept higher authority. Do you think his relationship with his father was evident in almost every other relationship in his life – from teacher Haydn to his rich people? Also, do you believe that this issue influenced his musical style, marked by the rift between rival forces?

I’m not sure if it’s a “father’s case” but he was clearly impatient against authority when he thought he should. Beethoven’s willingness to question the advice of teachers and assistants has eroded his image as a rebel. It may sound like music as it is willing to push past norms and the incredible tension in much of what it has done. For the most part, however, any dispute between rival forces is ultimately resolved. Similarly, although Beethoven often argued with people, he usually made up with them afterwards. For example, he may not have agreed with Haydn’s judgment about his Opus 1 piano experiments, but he gave him his Opus 2 piano sonatas.

You say it was said that his mother was his best friend. How did her loss affect him?

His mother’s death in 1787 cut Beethoven’s first short trip to Vienna, which meant he had to take more responsibility for the care of his younger brothers, as his grieving father was unable to watch. after them. Beethoven apparently lost his mother. Interestingly, despite what we thought of as a lonely boy, he had close relationships with women such as Countess Anna Maria von Erdődy and piano maker Nanette Streicher.

What influence did Freemasonry and the Illuminati have on Beethoven ‘s thinking, philosophy, and ideas about the deeper meaning of the world and art?

Some of his teachers and supporters in Bonn and Vienna were members of the Illuminati or Freemasons, as were well-known writers such as Friedrich Schiller (known as “Ode to Joy” as choir end of the ninth Symphony). They adhered to the Enlightenment views on equality similar to those of Beethoven. While he may have embraced some of the principles of Masonry, unlike Mozart and Haydn he was not a member of a lodge. Beethoven read widely and was interested in philosophies and religions from around the world and through the centuries; his art and his understanding of the world reflected that richness.

What can we say about “Missa Solemnis”? Why does it seem like a work beyond words?

“The Missa Solemnis” uses a standard literal text, but Beethoven’s musical setting is so great that it is unsuitable for use in a church service. Perhaps because of the scale and musical complexity of the work, and because of Beethoven’s unique religious beliefs, “The Missa Solemnis” in a way looks abstract. Perhaps that, along with his spiritual aspects, makes him seem beyond words.

Do you think Beethoven transformed his hearing loss into an asset by “freeing” him from the appropriateness of sound and allowing him to come to music intuitively in the abstract, away from instruments that produce direct versions of timeless symmetry and harmony? Deaf, was it more appropriate to “hear” the true mathematics of music and put it down?

It is difficult to see what effect the gradual loss of hearing had on his musical imagination. Some of his contemporaries complained that his late music was for the eye rather than the ear, but it may have inspired him to try more. He still wanted his music to be played and heard rather than left on paper. The stories about sitting between four players at previews, correcting their bow, reveal that the meaning of sound was still important to him.

He was modest, against the norms and prone to anger and quarrels. But living in 60 homes in a relatively short life seems strange. Why was he always on the move as he never had significant financial problems?

I think you responded by pointing out that he tended to be angry and inquisitive, which, along with making music, made him a vocal receiver. Some of his amazing things – like pouring water over himself as he washed into the apartment below – also made him a neutral neighbor. Then again, it was not uncommon for people in Vienna to move an apartment on a regular basis, even if Beethoven would make it bigger than most.

Why didn’t one of Beethoven’s images and self-confidence marry? Also, perhaps, it is only unrequited love that deserves the title of “Immortal Beloved” in one’s inner life. Do you suspect that there is a rejection behind “Immortal Beloved” that shaped his lifestyle as a struggle?

Beethoven often fell in and out of love and sometimes admitted that he wanted to get married. We know that he was not always an easy man to get along with and that he may have been upset that the women he wanted were not available. Musicians mixed in high society, such as teachers, actors and composers, but that did not mean that they could marry members of the nobility. Along with his deafness and other ailments, and the battle over the capture of his nephew Karl, Beethoven’s romantic frustration may have made life a struggle. When the letter was found to the “Immortal Beloved” after his death it seemed that that relationship was particularly important to him but in fact she was not the only one who escaped.

Beethoven wanted to capture his nephew Karl. He then instructed him in piano. Could we say that Beethoven was asked to capture this battlefield because he had a deep desire to carry the flame heir of his own musical ancestry?

He may have hoped to have an heir who would carry the flame but he realized that Karl was not going to do that in music. Their relationship was full: Beethoven was a tough and tough defender and it was only after Karl tried to commit suicide that he realized how hard he had been. Beethoven took care to ensure that his family was cared for, financially, and that his musical reputation lasted beyond his life.

You have written that “Grosse Fuge” and String Quartet No 13 are “music about music.” Can you explain that?

The way the two pieces play with rituals demonstrates Beethoven’s mastery of form and a willingness to experiment with what he was able to express and explore through music. What does it mean for Beethoven to write a cavatina – which usually means a short vocal piece – for four strings, as he does in No. 13? Should we hear the violin first as a singer or does it reveal something about an operatic feeling?

You gave a great account of what a fugue is. So, do you have the book “Nine Pieces” as an exile? Is life a fugue? And which is your favorite of the “Nine Pieces” that fits into the story of Beethoven’s life?

“Tutto nel mondo è burla” – “everything in the world is a mess” – goes fugue at the end of Verdi’s “Falstaff”. Fugue keeps a lot of things spinning in the air at once – like a book and, yes, life. I really like the nine pieces I talk about in my book, of course! They offer so many different aspects of Beethoven ‘s music – perhaps the best capture of that realm is the “Choral Fantasy,” which portrays him as a pianist, composer and impresario.