Category Archives: Music

Creative geniuses as selfish — Beethoven version

How did Beethoven become Beethoven? “The ‘personality’ of such a man as Beethoven is a slowly developed synthetic whole. It is formed by the gradual combination of its constituent elements into an organic unity. For the development of a personality … Continue reading

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Beethoven on the metaphysics of music

A fascinating passage, reported by a young woman named Elizabeth Brentano,[1] who was a friend of Goethe and who met Beethoven in 1810. Here are Beethoven’s own words, according to Brentano: “When I open my eyes I must sigh, for … Continue reading

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Beethoven’s romantic fatalism

To start — three sensitive commentators on the meaning of Beethoven’s music. * Hermann Hesse, the Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, in Steppenwolf, contrasting Mozart to Beethoven (and to Kleist, who committed suicide at age 34): “You have lent a deaf ear to … Continue reading

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Music and sense of life: Shostakovich version

The philosophical nature of art, as illustrated by Dmitri Shostakovich’s comments on the purpose of his music, from his autobiographical Testimony. Continue reading

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Rostropovich on love and music education

When Mstislav Rostropovich was already an accomplished cellist at age 19, he began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory: “But it was also obvious to me that the most important priority was to educate my pupils to love music. And parents … Continue reading

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A prodigious practical joke in music

Dmitri Shostakovich tells this story of Alexander Glazunov‘s astounding musical memory. Glazunov was one of Shostakovich’s teachers in St. Petersburg, and by all accounts his ability to retain and recapitulate music was perfect. Here’s the practical joke played upon a … Continue reading

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Rimsky-Korsakov on the “hardship” of the composer’s life

According to Shostakovich: “Rimsky-Korsakov used to say that he refused to acknowledge any complaints from composers about their hard lot in life. He explained his position thus: Talk to a bookkeeper and he’ll start complaining about life and his work. … Continue reading

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Tchaikovsky’s musical magnanimity

A charming anecdote about his commitment to music, as reported by cellist Yulian Poplavsky, who knew Tchaikovsky at the time. The event was a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Spanish Capriccio, which was to be conducted by the composer himself in a … Continue reading

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