Sunday, May 12, 2013

A composer of unequaled imagination reveals where it falls short

For Mother's Day --  some thoughts Ludwig van Beethoven shared with a friend, the teenage pianist-composer having returned from Vienna to his birthplace after his mother had fallen mortally ill:

"I found my mother still alive, but in the most wretched state: she was ill with consumption and died about seven weeks ago after much pain and suffering. She was such a kind and lovable mother to me -- my best friend. Oh, who was happier than I when I could still utter the sweet name of mother! and it would be heard, and to whom can I say it now? To the dumb images that resemble her, put together by my imagination?"

-- letter to Joseph Wilhelm von Schaden, from Bonn, Autumn 1787

(excerpted from "Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations," translated and edited by Michael Hamburger [Anchor Books, 1960])