Monday, November 03, 2008

Music Monday

In an essay on the influence of Hegel on 19th century philosophy, Hans-Georg Gadamer puts Hegel together with Goethe as exemplars of an age. Their influence on thinkers across a broad spectrum of German thought lasted far beyond the ups and downs of time and political philosophy, with left- and right-Hegelians, and (I would argue) left- and right-Goetheans. They represented Continental Romanticism in literature and philosophy, reacting not only to the various specifics of their particular areas of interest, but to their age. Without a doubt, neither would have achieved so much had they not lived through (and survived) the upheavals of Napoleon. Both of them, in their own ways, were living embodiments of how one takes in the times in which they live and filters it in to their work.

I would add Beethoven to the mix. His Third Symphony, originally dedicated to Napoleon, had that dedication removed when Beethoven realized the little Corsican had no intention of spreading the promise of the French Revolution to the German territories. After surviving the terrible upheavals of his time, he set down his 9th Symphony, including a choral setting for Schiller's "Ode to Joy". What was most remarkable about this particular piece of music was its vastness. Beethoven had already been criticized for writing symphonies longer than the usual ten or fifteen minutes; here he crafted one that was just over an hour long. Yet, it never loses its attraction. It pulls you in from the beginning, where it seems Beethoven left space for the orchestra to tune, but in fact is building from nothing to a bold statement of purpose, the first melodic statement of combined strings and brass. That he gives the listener room to breathe with the quieter moments of woodwinds only shows his genius. He lets the listener breathe for a moment without ever becoming distracted.

The following two videos capture the entirety of the symphony, with a spirit that not only shows the power of this great piece of Romantic orchestral music, but also with the excitement of a heavy metal video. Directed by Herbert von Karajan, the video shows the power of both music and image. von Karajan, by the way, adapted portions of the last movement for the anthem of a united Europe.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More