Monday, June 4, 2012

The truth about Beethoven

I have been thinking about Mozart ever since yesterday when I wrote about the "Alleluia" from "Exsultate Jubilate" and also since I answered an impassioned comment on this post on Mozart some time ago.

I was thinking about Mozart and Beethoven.

You know what kills me, how experts are always telling us that Beethoven worshiped Handel, but make no mention of Mozart. Or how -- they love this -- Beethoven said that he considered Cherubini the greatest composer of the age.

Yeah, well, whatever.

I will tell you whom Beethoven considered the greatest composer of the age, beyond a doubt.


"But Mary, how do you know?"

Did he write about it? Not that I know of.

Did he come to me in a dream and whisper it to me as I lay sleeping?


But here is how I know.

Beethoven considered Mozart the greatest composer of his age because how could he not.

Beethoven was not stupid.

There was nobody who could half measure up to Mozart. Mozart's music must have haunted Beethoven every step of the way. It must have felt like chains on his ankles, this genius who had come before him. If he did not talk about it that could have been why. If you are a proud person, which Beethoven was, it is hard to talk about something that haunts you, that frightens you, that intimidates you and humbles you.

Imagine coming after Mozart. Someone who set the bar so incredibly high. And with no apparent effort. Someone who, your reason tells you, must come along only once in a million years. That piece my anonymous correspondent mentioned...

Or the 24th piano concerto, in C minor? We do have Beethoven's reaction to this piece on record. He said to a friend, "We will never be able to do anything like this."

Such a long shadow this little man cast. It can not have been easy for Beethoven.

But surely it was true.


  1. It's all over the Wikipedia article on Beethoven.

  2. How funny, I have never read the Wikipedia article on Beethoven! I will have to check it out. Thanks, anonymous Beethoven fan!