Beethoven (2)

So Beethoven’s first sin, according to the Glenn book of musical ethics, was his shift away from the intellectual toward the emotional. His second sin was lack of concision. In his early works, Beethoven was succinct and direct, but as he aged, he became more and more self-centered, prone to repetition and elaboration. The Ninth Symphony is so long primarily because Beethoven indulges himself, endlessly varying themes he has already stated and repeated. The last movement is exemplary: Beethoven offers the recitative that will precede the main sung melody first played only by the orchestra followed by the main melody of the movement, then offers both sung by a soloist, then another soloist, a quartet of soloists, then a full chorus.

In all fairness, I have to admit that the rest of the world does not share my preferences or my criticism of Beethoven. Many listeners grade Beethoven as the greatest composer who ever lived and judge his Ninth Symphony to be one of the greatest masterpieces ever composed. To the degree that majority defines correctness, I’m wrong. That’s okay. I’ll just go on playing and listening to Bach and Mozart to my heart’s content. I’ll be curious to see if hearing the ninth live will make any difference.

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