Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es muss sein! (Must it be? It must be! It must be!)
— Ludwig van Beethoven, comment written on the finale of his String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135
Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est. (Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over.)
— Ludwig van Beethoven, on his deathbed, 1827
I’m a revolutionary, money means nothing to me.
— Frédéric Chopin, quoted in Arthur Headley, Chopin (1947)
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.
— Oscar Wilde, 1891
Le concert, c’est moi.
— Franz Liszt, writing to the Princess Belgiojoso on his launch of a new kind of public concert: the solo recital; quoted by Alfred Brendel in The New York Review of Books (22 Nov 1990)
A smasher of pianos.
— Clara Schumann on Liszt, quoted in Alan Walker, Robert Schumann: the Man and his Music (1972)
O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life have you left in our souls!
— Franz Schubert, Diary, 1816
Mozart should have composed Faust.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (1827)
He roused my admiration when I was young; he caused me to despair when I reached maturity; he is now the comfort of my old age.
— Gioachino Rossini on Mozart
Mozart is sunshine.
Antonin Dvorak, quoted in Otakar Sourek (ed.), Antonin Dvorak: Letters and Reminiscences (1954)
The sonatas of Mozart are unique; they are too easy for children, and too difficult for artists.
— Arthur Schnabel
Mozart in his music was probably the most reasonable of the world’s great composers. It is the happy balance between flight and control, between sensibility and self-discipline, simplicity and sophistication of style that is his particular province… Mozart tapped once again the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breath-taking rightness that has never since been duplicated.
— Aaron Copland, Copland on Music (1960)
It is sobering to think that when Mozart was my age he had already been dead a year
— Tom Lehrer (speaking of Mozart’s early death at the age of just 35 years)
His character was a mixture of tenderness and coarseness, sensuality and candour, sociability and melancholy.
— Johann Mayrhofer on Schubert; quoted in Westrup, Schubert Music (1969)
I occasionally play works by contemporary composers and for two reasons. First to discourage the composer from writing any more and secondly to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven.
“Everything will pass, and the world will perish but the Ninth Symphony will remain.”
Michael Bakunin, describing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
“You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.”
Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket
The Fourth Symphony is the underrated one. Trapped between the two behemoths of the “Eroica” and the Fifth – “a slender Grecian maiden (Freyja) between two Nordic giants (the two giants being the Third “Eroica” and the Fifth),” said Schumann – it will always be underrated. Something had to go between them, though, so it might as well have been this flawless jewel.
“And so I have changed. I am no longer the person who walked in this morning. I’m something new because I experienced something new with you. This is why learning is such an exciting thing, why it shouldn’t be a drag. Every book leads you to new books. Every time you hear a piece of music, there are ten thousand new pieces it introduces you to—you listen to one Beethoven sonata, and you’re lost! You read one book of poetry, really hear it, and you’re lost! And then there are thousands of things to read, to see, to do, to touch, to feel. And each one of them makes you a different human being. So are you really what you are or are you what you are learning and what people have told you through time that you are?” Leo Buscaglia.
“And now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven’s death, I would like to play “Clear the Saloon,” er, “Clair de Lune,” by Debussy. I don’t play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) =
“I shall seize Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not bend and crush me completely.”
“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.”
“Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken.”
“Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup.”
“A great poet is the most precious jewel of a nation.”
“My misfortune is doubly painful to me because it will result in my being misunderstood. For me there can be no recreation in the company of others, no intelligent conversation, no exchange of information with peers; only the most pressing needs can make me venture into society. I am obliged to live like an outcast.”
“To play without passion is inexcusable!”
“From the heart it has sprung, and
to the heart it shall penetrate…”
dir – mein Leben – mein alles – leb wohl – o liebe mich fort –
verken nie das treuste Herz deines Geliebten
And this is the English translation
you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me –
never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved
Unlike Parmenides, Beethoven apparently viewed weight as something positive. Since the German word “schwer” means both “difficult” and “heavy,” Beethoven’s “difficult resolution” (Der schwer gefasste Entschluss) may also be construed as a “heavy” or “weighty resolution.” The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate (“Es muss sein!” [it must be!]); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.
This is a conviction born of Beethoven’s music… we all more or less share it: we believe that the greatness of man stems from the fact that he bears his fate as Atlas bore the heavens on his shoulders. Beethoven’s hero is a lifter of metaphysical weights.
“We all reject out of hand the idea that the love of our life may be something light or weightless; we presume our love is what must be, that without it our life would no longer be the same; we feel that Beethoven himself, gloomy and awe-inspir-ing, is playing the Es muss sein! to our own great love.”