Music is the Art of Feeling - No 1

And while you were sleeping: I was angry - and when this mood overtakes me I listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This work is lauded rightly for its beauty and humanity, its final singing movement rejoicing at universal fraternity. But in all it's movements, bar its exquisite slow movement, it also fulminates with some Beethoven’s most emphatic, eloquent anger. His deep uneasy lines thrust and parry, throw punches and boil with an unreasonable force and insistence. And his taut musical arguments bully, conspire and harass to leave you battered. 

For example in the first movement the sudden emergence the last few minutes of a benign theme which is kicked into submission by the great tonal and architectural weight of the music around it. It is truly pathetic. The tension in this movement is - in the words of one early reviewer of a Toscanini recording - sufficient to lift you from your chair and have you pacing the room. 

In Karajan’s volcanically aggressive 1977 recording of the symphony, the passionate plea to humanity is underpinned, and occasionally swamped by a crazed, defiant imploring shout from despairing Beethoven angered at our inhumanity. His characterisation of the work's fugues as trenchant belligerent attacks, where themes are slung about in claustrophobic combat is breathtaking and nerve wracking.

In better times, we might think this work a supreme act of logical late Romantic sophistication but like all the best music it reflects: and those in anger, see an anger written larger, more violent than we have ever thought possible in mere music.

So if you think you anger is justified; you think your anger supreme and mighty, and you think your anger unique - listen to this music. A man more powerfully eloquent in sound than words constructs a fury that will belittle your effort, it will make you cowed and reconsider. 

And this is Beethoven’s greatest gift: in the face of his anger, yours subsides.


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