Sunday, December 28, 2008

“One moonlight evening in winter,” writes the biographer of Beethoven, “we were walking through a narrow street of Bonn. ‘Hush!’ exclaimed the great composer, suddenly pausing before a little, mean dwelling, ‘what sound is that? It is from my Sonata in F. Hark! How well it is played!’
“In the midst of the finale there was a break, and a sobbing voice cried: ‘I cannot play any more. It is so beautiful; it is utterly beyond my power to do it justice. Oh, what would I not give to go to the concert at Cologne!’ ‘Ah! My sister,’ said a second voice; ‘why create regrets when there is no remedy? We can scarcely pay our rent.’ ‘You are right,’ said the first speaker, ‘and yet I wish for once in my life to hear some really good music. But it is of no use.’
“’Let us go in,’ said Beethoven. ‘Go in!’ I remonstrated; ‘what should we go in for?’ ‘I will play to her,’ replied Beethoven in an excited tone; ‘here is feeling, - genius, - understanding! I will play to her, and she will understand it. Pardon me,’ he continued, as he opened the door and saw a young man sitting by a table, mending shoes, and a young girl leaning sorrowfully upon an old-fashioned piano; ‘I heard music and was tempted to enter. I am a musician. I – I also overheard something of what you said. You wish to hear – that is, you would like – that is – shall I play for you?’
“’Thank you,’ said the shoemaker, ‘but our piano is so wretched, and we have no music.’
“’No music!’ exclaimed the composer; ‘how then, does the young lady – I – I entreat your pardon,’ he added, stammering as he saw that the girl was blind; ‘I had not perceived before. Then you play by ear? But where do you hear the music, since you frequent no concerts?’
“’We lived at Bruhl for two years; and, while there, I used to hear a lady practicing near us. During the summer evenings her windows were generally open, and I walked to and fro outside to listen to her.’
“Beethoven seated himself at the piano. Never, during all the years I knew him, did I hear him play better than to that blind girl and her brother. Even the old instrument seemed inspired. The young man and woman sat as if entranced by the magical, sweet sounds that flowed out upon the air in rhythmical swell and cadence, until, suddenly, the flame of the single candle wavered, sank, flickered, and went out. The shutters were thrown open, admitting a flood of brilliant moonlight, but the player paused, as if lost in thought.
“’Wonderful man!’ said the shoemaker in a low tone; ‘who and what are you?’
“’Listen!’ replied the master, and he played the opening bars of the Sonata in F. ‘Then you are Beethoven!’ burst from the young people in delighted recognition.
‘Oh, play to us once more,’ they added, as he rose to go, - ‘only once more!’
“’ I will improvise a sonata to the moonlight,’ said he, gazing thoughtfully upon the liquid stars shining so softly out of the depths of a cloudless winter sky. Then he played a sad and infinitely lovely movement, which crept gently over the instrument, like the calm flow of moonlight over the earth. This was followed by a wild, elfin passage in triple time – a sort of grotesque interlude, like the dance of fairies upon the lawn. Then came a swift agitated ending – a breathless, hurrying, trembling movement, descriptive of flight, and uncertainty, and vague impulsive terror, which carried us away on its rustling wings, and left us all in emotion and wonder. ‘Farewell to you.’ He said, as he rose and turned toward the door. ‘You will come again?’ asked the host and hostess in a breath. ‘Yes, yes,’ said Beethoven hurriedly, ‘I will come again, and give the young lady some lessons.
Farewell!’ Then to me he added: ‘Let us make haste back, that I may write out that sonata while I can yet remember it.’ We did return in haste, and not until long past the dawn of day did he rise from his table with the full score of the “Moonlight Sonata” in his hand.”

This story comes from Orison Swett Marden's book "Pushing to the front". When I first read this account I put it down inspired to hear this music. I went and bought a copy and it began my interest in classical piano music. Hard to read an account like that and not want to hear it.

Painting from the Internet


Cheyne said...

Hello FBC,
I am Candice's husband, I listen regularly to our local public radio station, this is a terrific story about this song that I have heard many times before...Thank you for that...truly inspiring.


fcb4 said...

I've used that story and the song in a number of sermons over the years, its one of my favorite stories in his book. That book is a gold should be in every home.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Fred :)

Very interesting post. I enjoyed it.

The master is such a simple and kind hearted man. Wonderful.

Best wishes :)

FCB said...

Hi Cheyne,
Welcome aboard! Thanks for your comments, and I agree, it is inspiring, in both his ability and compassion.
God bless,

Hi Eric,
I think that story has such broad appeal, and I so agree that this book is a must read for all. Such a treasure house of inspirational stories and American history.
Love Dad

Hi Joseph,
Yes, there are some that after having gained fame would not trouble themselves, I have to admire him for his concern. I would like to know if he came back to teach her, and what became of her.
God bless,