Today would have been Ludwig van Beethoven’s 238th birthday. Even though he only lived to the age of 56, a lifetime of 238 years would have been fine with me, if he could have kept writing music.
The piece and excerpt above are from his Fifth Piano Concerto, sometimes called the ‘Emperor’ Concerto, which he wrote between 1808 and 1809 for the Archduke Rudolph of Austria. This opening, no matter how many times I hear it, is always fascinating. To begin the piece with these big, loud chords, with the strands of what sounds like a free improvisation strung from column to column until it finally takes off, like a car shifting into drive, is such a fantastic idea, and so arresting, that I’d be hard-pressed to come up with many other pieces of music that are both as startling and ultimately satisfying…and not written by the same guy.
Here’s to one of the greatest, 238 years later, still shouting beauty.