13 December 2009


It's interesting that composer Maurice Ravel claimed that he could not bear to listen to the repetitious Bolero, considered his masterwork. The same is true, I've heard, of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker Suite; Pyotr Illich said he "really detested" it. We know for sure that Beethoven never said he could not stand to hear his Ninth Symphony, because he never heard it, at least aurally. He was totally deaf by the time he composed it, his last symphony, and must have possessed some inner "listening" device. Could its "Ode to Joy" transport him to an empyrean place the same way it does me?

Does musical genius abhor its opus?

Incidentally, my northern California brother, he of biblical name (Joseph), telephoned a few days back to say he was going to a full-orchestral performance of the Ninth, with a 150-member chorus! Every person, I should think, has got to experience the Ninth in that embodied fashion. I have not; I look forward to completing the quest for a full life. Then I'll thank Ludwig for his inner listening device tuned to the empyrean.

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