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A Room With a View


 

       

Literary Music

 
 

Pleading the Fifth!

   

 

We’ve recently been listening to Beethoven and reading a lot, and started to meditate on music in literature....In Howard's End, Beethoven (a composer E.M. Forster turns to again and again) is seen as universal, overcoming all barriers... 'It may generally be admitted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man.  All sorts and conditions are satisfied by it.'

 

And then, one inevitably thinks of Lawrence Durrell’s sweeping and lyrical The Alexandria Quartet.  Apparently Durrell was very much taken with Beethoven’s Quartets, and had even traveled with them to Corfu.  He wrote to T.S. Eliot that his Four Quartets '...remind me of that gruesome last quartet of Beethoven.  So arid, so abstract, and so dry, and yet so rich in every other way.'  And then there is Tolstoy’s short story, The Kreutzer Sonata, named for Beethoven’s sonata of the same name and here irrevocably associated with passion.  To Forster, Beethoven was also, always, about passion.  In A Room With a View, when Lucy Honeychurch is determined to go out into Florence by herself, Mr. Beebe puts it down to “...too much Beethoven.” And then...'Mr. Beebe was right.  Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as after music.'

 

And so we put on the sublime, contained passion of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, properly known as Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, so familiar and yet so divine.  dah-dah-dah-DAH!  The notes which the Allied Forces associated with the V for Victory ..._ in Morse code.  Fiery and intense, thunderous passages alternating with the poetic. 

 

Beethoven said of the Fifth while composing it: “Since I am aware of what I want, the fundamental idea never leaves me. It mounts, it grows. I see before my mind the picture in its whole extent, as if in a single grasp."  The four movements—a dramatic allegro con brio with its famous 4 opening notes, what is often referred to as the ‘fate motif’-- and of which Beethoven is supposed to have exclaimed: "Thus fate knocks at the door," is repeated throughout the symphony, followed by the andante con moto, where two themes, the lyrical and the heroic, contrast; then a rapid allegro with soft strings and a horn motive, and finally an allegro in sonata form as in the first movement, martial, victorious.  The movements work together, woven through with the motif, triumphant over destiny.  Beethoven wrote in a letter, “I will take Fate by the throat; it shall not wholly overcome me.”  Forster, again in Howard's End, says of the Fifth: “Beethoven chose to make all right in the end...the gusts of splendor...and amid vast roarings of superhuman joy, he led his Fifth Symphony to its conclusion.”

 

We’ve just been reading Colum McCann’s marvelous fictionalized life of Nureyev, Dancer, where a character "...lines up Beethoven on the stereo, to be followed by James Brown – a little musical anarchy please!”  And so we complied, always influenced by the books we read, and put on I Got You (I Feel Good)!

 

 

Read: A Room With a View, E. M. Forster

 

See: A Room With a View, a Merchant Ivory production

 

Read: Dancer, Colum McCann

 

Listen: The Fifth Symphony, Carlos Kleiber & The Vienna Philharmonic, considered by many to be the essential interpretation

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770 - 1827)

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