Human Landscape – Sketches of Beethoven

 

Beethoven at Zum Roten Igel

Beethoven at Zum Roten Igel

Last week, I got very excited about this link:

https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/beethoven-guest-blogger/

Here, Elene explores a musician friend’s contact with Beethoven, comparing it to her own subtle relation with him and with Chopin.

It inspired me to dig out my old sketches of Ludwig Beethoven, and to see what happens: to try perhaps a new one.   I am reminded of a dream I had in 2011, of my hands like a child, and Beethoven touching them and looking onward … or mine resting on his:

My dream with Beethoven, 29 May 2011. He had Pluto and Venus in Capricorn - a musician's Hades-Persephone marriage.  Pluto is again in Capricorn - 2008-2024 - completing a cycle since Beethoven's day.    Pluto is the depth dredger in human affairs, but also represents - particularly in Capricorn - a depth and enduringness of human values, such as those which Beethoven  sang and wrote - as fresh these days, as ever.

My dream with Beethoven, 29 May 2011. He had Pluto and Venus in Capricorn – a musician’s Hades-Persephone marriage. Pluto is again in Capricorn – 2008-2024 – completing a cycle since Beethoven’s day. Pluto is the depth dredger in human affairs, but also represents – particularly in Capricorn – a depth and enduringness of human values, such as those which Beethoven heard, sang as he walked, and wrote. These values seemingly hidden by today’s turbulence, are perenially fresh for those who touch and find.

The Pluto Venus Capricorn glyph in this drawing speaks to me of the master’s depth and tenderness.

Journal 29 May 2011
“I dreamed – An eager young man, with some arrangement with Beethoven, built an Ascension vehicle which lifted us high to behold his vision and his project, for which he was gathering souls like mine, for faith and ballast.  The landscape was stupendously beautiful – a great smooth sunset sea surrounded by distant mountains, their crazy, graceful outlines rimmed with supernal light.  It was heart-catching: awe.  The sea – the LENS – was like a very large bay or inlet, because ‘inland’ or harbour seemed to be to the right, below.  It is my perennial vision of the human coastline and hinterland.  Have faith!

“The man spoke of it all, and somewhere I touched the back of Beethoven’s hand.  The vision was – as in the Eroica – of Beethoven’s divine pride and purpose.  Beethoven was immediately to hand, the writing all joined up.  It was time to go with the man and put it all into action …  the young man’s voice had an Australian twang … …

“… I listened to Beethoven’s Adieux, Therese, the Goblins and the Fourth piano concerto, all played by Arrau … Artists and musicians are forgiven much.  Grumpy old Beethoven – chunks of humanity off the old block – are put there for us to listen to their musical integrity, not to be wise or polite.

“I draw very slowly the line – and it was really hard to get a Beethoven likeness – eventually found photo of his sculpted head, taken from the life mask.  I think this is the one he didn’t like, as the weight of the plaster dragged down his face – so we ALL think he went around with mouth down turned at the corners, and maybe he didn’t.  He is said to have pursed his lips when concentrating, and certainly he stuck the lower one out.  His chin was cleft like a great shell.  His nose was ‘three cornered, like a lion’, his eyes rather small and exceptionally alive – changing colour, dark greenish hazel perhaps.  He tended to roll them upwards.  He was swarthy, pock marked, with leonine black hair ‘like a Spaniard’, and much hair over his body and hands.  He dressed elegantly when he was young.  When a fine lady complemented the nobility of his brow, he said ‘Salute it then, Madam’ and offered it to kiss.”

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Here is one of my efforts to sketch him yesterday – the young Beethoven, from the Hornemann portrait 1802:  before his deafness and at the height of his performing powers.

Young Beethoven, after Hornemann

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This drawing was done perhaps in the 1970s:  the older man bends close to the keys in his struggle to hear.

Beethoven plays

Beethoven plays

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The above portrait was inspired by this painting by an unknown artist – my father has the sepia photo.  I always assumed it was Ludwig Beethoven playing the violin, but if you look closely, you can see his life mask hanging on the wall … like a secret mirror.

beethoven violin

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When I was a child we lived in a farmhouse with a large attic.  Exploring up there, I found this cobwebbed photo of a painting by Franz Stvk.  I have it still.

Beethoven by Franz Stvk

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When I was young, I played a lot of Beethoven on the piano, and identified – often painfully – with his darkness.  In the 1980s I teamed with a violinist, Fred Barschak, and together we climbed the mountains of the Spring, Kreuzer and Seventh Violin Sonatas.

Beginning to play the Spring Sonata

 

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Here are my earlier sketches of Beethoven, and their sources:

beethoven on a walk

beethoven on a walk

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Beethoven at work

Beethoven at work

This portrait was inspired by Batt’s drawing (below) in the Oxford Companion to Music.

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Gallery: Beethoven by Batt, Klein, Stvk and von Kloeber

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Beethoen in later life

Beethoen in later life

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More early studies – I made his forehead much higher than it really was.  Beethoven’s brow had a noble, rounded breadth.

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Beethoven after the painting by F.Schimon

Beethoven after the painting by F.Schimon

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These two pages are from a journal in 1969, quoting Schindler’s visit to the master when he was composing the Missa Solemnis Credo.

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And … within the cosmos of the late Quartets –

Beethoven in last quartets mode

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Glancing at Elene’s other posts touching on Beethoven, here is a teaching of his to a pianist-composer friend – he sat in the car and said to Elene’s friend, “How do you get the perfect cut of meat? – you trim away all the fat.”   While reading the earlier post, ‘More on Lou van B’, these words came to me:  “before sitting down to play Beethoven, open and fill your heart with love.”

It is a struggle for me to find him sometimes – like climbing over fences.  Perhaps it is the spiritual battle of the “heroic” with love;  the personal ego with the truth;  the ‘I-can-and-I-will’ with ‘listen’ … inheriting Beethoven’s philosophical dilemma in the Quartet opus 135 – must it be? It must be.

piano action

piano action

I am at present “exercising” Emily’s baby grandpiano in Southgate. It has a beautiful faded case;  her father used to play popular classics on it, but he died nearly 30 years ago, and no one  touched it since.  The poor thing had sagged to honky tonk with three stuck notes, and yet I found a good, light action.  I persuaded them to have it tuned.  The sleeping beauty is in shock!  – and now between tunings to stabilise – all her strings woke up and stretched and some of them already slipped.   I put a vase of water underneath and a small dish of water inside, to counteract the heating in the house.

Yet her voice came out, singing and mellow, in the quieter places, quite sensual.  It was wonderful to play and hear it in the restful, faded drawing-room which opens onto the long wisteria garden.  I enjoyed a strange sense of flow and freedom of tone across the ‘vertical’ hammer system, in terms of touch and tenderness:  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and other slow movements spoke with love, and so did Bach preludes.  Some of the bass notes growl. My fingers were – magically – not in the way.  I thought of the Liszt method in Paul Roes’ book Music – the Mystery and the Reality.   Magic happens in an individual variety of tone – part of the charm which older pianos have – which challenges me to find and adapt to its way of singing.  The new or electronic instruments don’t have that playful intimacy.

Instrument.  This is actually my father's Petrof piano, as I have not yet photographed Emily's.

Instrument. This is actually my father’s Petrof piano, as I have not yet photographed Emily’s.

Interestingly, in Elene’s post on conversations with Beethoven, he says new agey views of higher plane diaphanous white robes are nonsense – we wear what we wore in history and sometimes dress up in contemporary style for fun – like he did in a 1940s brown suit.  “He still loves rain, baths, showers and the woods.  His house is in the woods.”  Because generation after generation discover and interpret his music, his commitment to humanity is timeless, covering a very wide landscape, and continually refreshed … “A German word in the ear, meaning energy flowing:  projection:  Vorsprung – projects like rock.

Have we a Beethoven forum?  Visit also https://edwardianpiano.wordpress.com/my-poetry/ for some evocative verse, haiku and pictures of Beethoven I never saw before.  This fascinating site turned up last week in synchrony with Elene’s Beethoven, Guest Blogger;  I had to jump in.

TO BE CONTINUED – my new attempts to draw Beethoven, and some more impressions.

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My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2015. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

19 thoughts on “Human Landscape – Sketches of Beethoven

  1. Wow..just wow..these sketches are stunning Jane! Thank you so much for sharing these. My favourites are the first one with the pipe and the Hornemann one. You have captured him so well.

    I was very touched by your comment: “And here’s another: before sitting down to play Beethoven, open and fill your heart with love. ” As a beginner and trying to play (easy beginner versions ) some of his compositions I get caught up with trying to sight read ( which I struggle with) and the technical things like correct finger positions that I perhaps lose sight of the purpose of wanting to play some of his music.

    As you wrote:
    “It is a struggle for me to find him sometimes – like climbing over fences. Perhaps it is the spiritual battle of the “heroic” with love; the personal ego with the truth; the ‘I-can-and-I-will’ with ‘listen’ … inheriting Beethoven’s philosophical dilemma in the Quartet opus 135 – must it be? It must be.”

    I get caught up with feeling inadequate to the task, being a beginner ( thoughts like “should I play beginner’s stuff in my piano books..why do I dare try to play the Ecossaise in E flat major WoO 86, the theme of the 7th 2nd movement..” etc…)- maybe letting go of those egoistic thoughts and having this approach is the better way …

    I have reblogged your post on my blog so more people will be able to see your beautiful portraits of him. You are very talented.

    • Re being a beginner, so am I, and a rusty one at that! I once worked very hard at the piano, but couldn’t get a reliable technique – I found my limit. My mother is 91 next month, and every day she plays her favourite pieces, from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and baroque, fingering through them slowly – it keeps her young. We agreed that we get probably more joy out of treading the path that leads towards the mountains of this music than we might if we were skilled musicians. Going slow, we can look around! I was taught a long time ago to practice very slowly, make it sound “choral”.

      • Thank you for this reply Jane. How wonderful for your dear Mother to be playing Piano at 91. I can’t imagine you being a beginner by what you have been playing lol…I am absolute beginner- still writing the letters of the notes above them on the sheet music! Isn’t it wonderful how Beethoven inspires your art! Your post aout the Sea dream resonates with me very much as each August for many years I used to dream about a mystical Sea. It was very vivid.

    • Yes, I had ups and downs with piano playing… But if you spell out the notes and write them above the score, you must get wonderful surprises when a Beethovenish phrase happens?

      • I haven’t noticed anything Jane, you have me intrigued there! I am not that good with music theory, though I have done online courses and have books etc. For me it is more the spiritual, emotional connection- I notice things that way. As you may have seen from my blog I prefer his music played on the instruments of his time, especially the fortepianos- there is something very special about their sound. I hope to write some more Haikus, poetry and some short fiction inspired by Ludwig and his music. I also have some art ideas. I am not at your level of skill..but I shall see what comes through…

  2. Hi, Jane–
    I am completely blown away by your portraits of Beethoven! I’ve been showing them to people since yesterday, and posted a link to your blog on Facebook. In particular, the new drawing of him as he appeared in 1802 is extraordinary.

    The sketch of the “cosmos of the late Quartets” reminds me of something Chopin showed me about a piece of music being an environment in which one may move about and explore.

    It is also impressive that you used to play a great deal of Beethoven and that you are bringing that poor neglected piano back to life! It’s painful to think of someone leaving a good instrument unplayed for 30 years.

    I need to make a few corrections in what you reported about my own blog, though. You have implied that some of the ideas in my recent post came from Beethoven himself, but that is not necessarily the case, except where I specifically indicated that they were quotes, or as close to quotes as we can get with the channeling process. Some came from his friend and reflect her own understanding of the issues. Also, I never said anything like “before sitting down to play Beethoven, open and fill your heart with love.” What I wrote was this: “I asked him if he could suggest how I might play his music more effectively and be truer to his vision. In reply, he lit up my heart chakra like a small sun and blasted energy out from it through my arms!” There is nothing there about love (though someone might decide to interpret it that way) and I think the distinction is quite important.

    I hope you will not take these comments as an unpleasant criticism. It is difficult to be clear in channeling, and I want to be as accurate about what messages are and are not received as I possibly can.

  3. Hi Elene, thank you so much for pointing these things out. I shall make a few small amendments accordingly, that this post is based on my impressions when reading yours and your friend’s experiences with B.

    For instance, the ‘open and fill your heart with love’ was indeed my own response to your paragraph in ‘More on Lou van B’ – you describe “a being of tremendous warmth, like a huge bear hug which could wrap the whole world.” I remember him expressing this in his letters or elsewhere, and suddenly felt what it is, for a moment – connection – and I felt it for that rare moment on the old piano, the notes were soft and dusky. For me, ‘love’ in the deepest sense means and is commitment; love is giving time and space – one needs to clarify this. And to open the heart chakra and to love, before practice, is easier said than done!!

    Channeling is a fascinating topic. I don’t think I ‘channel’ specifically, but I recognise its authenticity in the trial-and-error creative process, and in what I learn. It is important to be precise in where it comes from and to whom, and with what we hear and see – as we lift just a corner of the robe. I enjoy the honesty with this, in your blog.

  4. PS – the new sketch of Beethoven from the Hornemann in 1802 is actually when he was 32 and writing the Heiligenstadt Testament – the deafness had already set in, so it was not during his peak performing period as I had thought. One has to check. I am glad you like it – I had a struggle with this drawing !

    • Thank you so much. Claudio Arrau is my favourite of all the noble pianists, and I have not had the opportunity before to watch him play … (and the Waldstein!) . My drawing of him playing Opus 111 is in the post after this one, ‘More Sketches of Beethoven’.

      • Thanks Jane … I’d missed you drawing of Arrau (or perhaps registered it unconsciously), so nice to see it now. He’s always been ‘my’ interpreter of Beethoven for some reason. I’m exploring his complete Beethoven sonatas at the moment at least in part because of your posts. Here’s a little of my own journey into Highland Space which I hope might interest you: https://murdomacdonald.wordpress.com all best wishes

  5. Pingback: One Lovely Blogger Award, tell us about you! | EdwardianPiano

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