Monday, September 30, 2013

Fuck You, Verdi

Handsome Lou
What the fuck does Verdi know?  Here's what that Schweinehund of an organ grinder had to say about Beethoven's 9th Symphony upon hearing it for the first time:

...marvelous in its first three movements, very badly set in the last. No one will ever surpass the sublimity of the first movement, but it will be an easy task to write as badly for voices as is done in the last movement.

Badly set?  Some aficionado.  Listen, amico, you may have dashed out a competent opera or two, and Beethoven may not have been the OG of vocal works, but when it comes to the most immortal movement of any symphonic work ever composed, you got it exactly wrong.  The first movement is sublime, true enough, and yes the first 3 movements are certainly marvelous, but I can't but pity you, a man of considerable talent, if you somehow didn't get this part.  Here's hoping the choral bit grew on you with time.

Understand, gentle McBoners, that I didn't intend to begin this post with a rant, but darn if that old bearded vulture didn't get my dander up.  What I wanted to do was point out how much space I've dedicated over the years to exalting Bob Dylan, while plugging 'Beethoven' into our search bar turns up precious little.  That seems odd, because Beethoven occupies at least as high a tier in my estimation.  That is to say, he's my co-favorite.

The fact is, I have been listening to less of LvB in recent years.  I don't know if I'll ever recapture the exuberance of discovering the symphonies with our resident oudist (when we probably should have been trying to meet girls), but do I miss having the melodies running through my system at all hours of the day.

Because that's what it was like back then.  Beethoven's phrases wouldn't just rattle around in my head, to be recalled in idle moments or hummed on a whim; they were pervasive, saturating me down to my very last atom.  How magical that at any hour of any day, waking or sleeping, long and complex recitals would be taking place in my brain.

That gift is long absent, and I miss it.

Furthermore, I think it's crazy that I've loved this man's music for more than 20 years, but there remains so much of it I have never even heard, in fact the majority of it.  I've got a fair grasp on the most important stuff.  In the symphonies, piano concertos, piano sonatas and late string quartets I'm well versed.  But I've never listened to his lone opera.  String quintets, cello sonatas, dozens of songs, airs and bagatelles...there are hundreds of works I don't know.  Who would have thought he composed a sonata for French Horn?  I love the fucking French horn!

It has occurred to me: what if I should live my life having never heard my favorite composer's entire canon?  That would be, on a very personal level, a tragedy.  Kind of like if I had never bothered to spin Dylan's Street Legal album.  Perish the thought!

So I'm starting at the beginning.  I'll hear everything ever published and recorded, every Opus, Hess and WoO on any media I can find them.

The journey has begun.  I can tell you that the String Trio in E-flat major (Opus 3) is a minor masterpiece.  Check it out, if you get a chance.  The 9 Variations on a Theme by Dressler (WoO 63) are utterly forgettable.  Check them out anyway!

And yes, I'll listen to the symphonies again.  The long path leads to the 9th.  And when I get there, I will not dwell on Verdi's shortcomings (I like Verdi); I will look for new reasons to love it.  They are there.  First I'm going to try to understand why my grandfather treasured the 3rd movement, so subtle and restrained, above all else.

This is going to be fun.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YOu need the 3rd to get to the 9th