Sunday, March 30, 2014

Joy Blasts Through

I’ve run this one before – now again, just to show the power of joy as Beethoven catches it in his "Ode to Joy.” The kids on the street in Som Sabadell square, just north of Barcelona, Spain, seem to have got the idea. One tosses some coins in a hat and steps back in expectation; another climes a lamp post. But they all participate in joy – never shy, always boastful. I try to imagine Beethoven tossing on his pillows with this blast of joy trumpeting his blood. Joy, which seeks unity, blows all lesser emotions to smithereens.

When first performed in Vienna, Beethoven, then almost totally deaf, had been beating out measures with his back turned to the audience. Unable to contain itself, the audience exploded prematurely in applause before the piece had ended. His contralto, Caroline Unger, personally recruited by Beethoven, then walked over and turned Beethoven around to face the audience’s cheers. One witness wrote, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." There were five standing ovations, all unheard. The audience knew this. So at the end, they raised their hands and threw handkerchiefs and hats in the air -- so that Beethoven could see the ovations.

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