Monday, July 26, 2010

Beethoven in His Own Words

Ludwig van Beethoven in his own words:
"Thus Fate knocks at the door."
[on the opening bars of the Fifth Symphony]

"He is a base man who does not know how to die; I knew it as a boy of fifteen."

"Emotion suits women only; music ought to strike fire from the soul of a man."

"There have been thousands of princes and will be thousands more; there is only one Beethoven."

"Force, which is a unit, will always prevail against the majority which is divided."

"Pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do the art of music; I should yet conquer Napoleon!"

"I care nothing about your whole system of ethics. Power is the morality of men who stand out from the mass, and it is also mine."

"How humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or if somebody heard a shepherd sing and again I heard nothing -- Such experiences almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life -- The only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works that I felt the urge to compose; and thus I have dragged on this miserable existence . . . "

"You should be stamped out! Belaboured with fists! Harpooned! Shot with a pistol!"

"So be it, then. For you, poor Beethoven, there is no outward happiness. You must create everything within yourself -- only in the world of the imagination will you find friends."

"Did not Dædalus, shut up in the labyrinth, invent the wings which carried him out into the open air? Oh, I shall find them, too, these wings!"

"I am resolved to rise superior to every obstacle. With whom need I be afraid of measuring my strength? . . . I will take Fate by the throat. It shall not overcome me. Oh, how beautiful it is to be alive -- would that I could live a thousand times!"

"I am the Bacchus who presses out the glorious wine for mankind. Whoever truly understands my music is freed thereby from the miseries that others carry about in them."

In the words of others:
"I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, and torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage." (Friedrich Nietzsche)

"How does the matter stand if it is your feeble observation alone that the deep inner continuity of Beethoven's every composition eludes? If it is your fault alone that you do not understand the master's language as the initiated understand it, that the portals of the innermost sanctuary remain closed to you?" (E.T.A. Hoffmann)

"Whoever does not feel the unity of the impulse here, whoever considers it a riddle that . . . Bismarck, the statesman of blood and iron, caused Beethoven's sonatas to be played to him in the decisive moments of his life, understands nothing at all of the nature of the Teuton." (Houston Stewart Chamberlain)

"I believe in God and Beethoven." (Richard Wagner)

(Image shows the Beethoven Monument in Vienna, photographed by the author during his first trip to Europe, in 1993.)

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