Great Lives – great Lessons for Life

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Great Lives - great Lessons for LifeGreat Lives – great lessons for life

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life” – Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827).

Great Lives –

– Ludwig Van Beethoven was born and raised in Bonn, Germany. His father was a court musician who was also the town drunk. He recognized the great talent possessed by his son and set out to exploit him as a child prodigy. He was a brutal man and beat his son when he considered he had not practiced well enough or did not please him.

One could have forgiven Ludwig had he turned his back on music as a consequence of the brutal coercion of his father. But he did not. Instead, he allowed the focus of his passion for music to permeate his life and became a brilliant pianist and a great master of improvisation. His first work was published when he was 11 years of age and many followed thereafter.

Fame but not always fortune

At 17 years of age, Beethoven demonstrated his musical genius in Vienna. Even Mozart said, “Keep an eye on that fellow; he will make a great commotion in the world some day!” He later moved to Vienna where he remained and achieved great fame as a pianist and composer.

Although the success of his musical compositions provided him with financial security for most of his life, there were difficult periods of scarcity for him.

On one occasion he lacked enough money to pay his rent. He confided in a friend who expressed dismay that it could be so. “After all, you are Beethoven.” The friend then suggested a theme to Beethoven and prompted him to compose variations on that theme. In a very short time, the requested work was completed. The friend took the transcriptions and left. He returned a short time later with a substantial amount of money and more than enough for Beethoven’s needs. He had sold the theme and variations to a publisher a short distance down the street.

Beethoven’s generosity was also evident when his brother died, he chose to support his brother’s children financially.

Beethoven’s greatest challenge

The greatest challenge of Beethoven’s life came after he had established himself as a pianist and composer. He was losing his hearing. His greatest works were composed when he was almost totally deaf. He could not hear his music performed yet his sense of pitch and his ability to hear music perfectly in his own mind remained. He withdrew from society for the last half of his life but still gave himself to composing music. The infirmity engulfing the composer did seem to make him more philosophical and introspective and that was reflected in his music. As he composed his great 5th Symphony he said, “I will seize fate by the throat…. I will not be defeated”.

Impossible obstacles turned to positives

His greatest works were composed when he was almost totally deaf. Click To Tweet

Just what enabled this man to turn seemingly impossible obstacles of life into positives? It would be difficult to comprehend the frustration and bewilderment that Beethoven must have struggled with in losing the one faculty that gave him free access to the extraordinary gifting and music that had become his life. There are indications that he did (understandably) struggle with the question of why this had happened to him.

But there was something about Beethoven that transcended his natural genius and provided him with the capacity to look life’s obstacles in the eye, embrace them and move beyond to greater things. The indicators of what this was become more evident from an analysis of his 9th Symphony and in particular, the fourth movement or Ode to Joy.

The divine influence

Bonnie Koo in her history and analysis of the 9th symphony points out that Beethoven chose to emphasize two ideals: the universal brotherhood of man through joy, and the love of the heavenly father. Throughout the fourth movement, there is a general trend from the terrestrial to the divine.

Joseph Kerman commenting on this period of Beethoven’s composing says, “…. miraculous, encompassing all the strength of his earlier music together with a new gentleness and spirituality.”

And of the ending, David Wright said, “ …… it ponders the mystery and beauty of divine grace. Then everybody goes out to the joyous and thrilling close”.

Grace to endure

His music expressed something about the man and where his real strength to endure and overcome came from. Even though his physical/sensual capacities were prematurely diminished, he never allowed bitterness to consume his strength and gift. Music continued to be the mediator that led him to rely upon the grace of his heavenly father and express the creativity of the image of his God with joy through his music. Notably, his greatest accomplishments were achieved under the shadow and infirmity of his deafness.

Beethoven revolutionized the symphony as a musical form, ushered in a new era for the piano and completely changed the direction of music in general.

When you are face to face with life’s difficulties or trials, you are also face to face with a new discovery.

Great lives – Great lessons for life can have a positive influence on our own lifestyle.

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