Butchering Beethoven


Daily Foglifter:   Beethoven never married but had an unnamed “Immortal Beloved” to whom he wrote a series of romantic letters.

Super Cool!

Yesterday, I had one of those moments when I wish I could go back in time and say to my younger,dumber self, “You are an IDIOT!”  There are several points in time I could have chosen–when I bleached my hair blonde, when I thought piercing the cartilage in my ear was a super cool idea, the day I quit college.  But yesterday, it was the stupid, short-sighted girl who decided that piano lessons were far less desirable than talking on the phone all day or being a cheerleader that I wanted to visit.  I mean, seriously.  A cheerleader?  I wasn’t even any good at it.  What a ditz!

I did take piano lessons for a few years.  First, my mom taught me.  She got over my eye-rolling and general disregard for anything she tried to teach me pretty quickly.  I remember the day she said something along the lines of  “If you want to do this I’m going to send you to Mrs. Hanz.  She won’t take any of your crap, you know.”  Mrs. Hanz was my mom’s teacher and she is one of the few truly great people I’ve known.  But that’s a subject for another day.  That dear lady deserves a tribute I’m probably not capable of writing yet.  She always expected my best and she’s going to get it.

So, I went off to “real” piano lessons.  (Not that my mom’s lessons weren’t real. She taught piano and voice for a living.  But she was my mom.  If you’re a daughter, you understand.  If not, ask your wife, girlfriend, or your mom.  They’ll totally get it.) Back to my piano lessons.  The instruction was excellent but my dedication was not.  I didn’t care one iota for the fundamentals of music or the piano.  Chords and scales? BOR-ING!  Time Signatures? Say what? (I can still hear my mom yelling, “COUNT!” from the kitchen as I practiced.  Come to think of it, she said it the last time I played something for her. A few months ago.)  Correct Fingering? Why does THAT matter?  Correct positioning of the hands? Pointless.  Besides, I like the way my pinky fingers stick straight up in the air.  It’s very dainty when drinking a hot cuppa Earl Grey, why not when playing the piano?

Dainty Digit

What I retained of my brief foray into piano lessons is the ability to read music and play it, badly at first and then okay after A LOT of practice. I have to work at it, diligently, with no natural talent to spur me along.  It’s tough going, especially considering the standards set by the people in my life.

I am surrounded by people with insane natural musical talent.  My mom, with the perfect pitch.  My husband and mother-in-law , with the awesome singing voices. My brothers-in-law, who write music, play music, live and breathe music. My father-in-law, who plays the piano so well, it’s enough to make me never want to sit at the piano again because, really, what’s the point?

The point, of course, is that I love it.  What I lack in skill I make up for in passion.  My personal preference is the Classical and Romantic Periods–Mozart, Debussy, Liszt, and of course, Beethoven.  It was Beethoven that brought all this on.  I was sitting at the piano, laboring my way through Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Transcription by Franz Liszt–double bonus!), and cursing my uncooperative fingers when I thought back to that clueless little girl who gave up the piano before she had the chance to appreciate it.  She stuck around long enough to learn the basics and just quit.  Of course, she was only 11.  But she was still an idiot.

I’m grateful I took any lessons.  At least I can play. So I’ll continue to sit down to the piano, butcher me some Beethoven, and enjoy the sweet sounds along with the sour.

Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men – At my age I need a steady, quiet life – can that be so in our connection? My angel… Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine

ever mine

ever ours

~An excerpt from one of Beethoven’s letters to his “Immortal Beloved.”


14 thoughts on “Butchering Beethoven

  1. Remember Ferris Bueller “playing” the clarinet before bragging, “Never had one lesson”? This is me with my guitar. OK, I can strum a passable tune, but I still haven’t had any lessons, and still fumble around quite a bit. But I still love it.

  2. I too took piano at an early age & didn’t stick with it. I wish now that I had. I could play now (with A LOT of practice), but I have this thing about my nails . . . I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THEM OFF! : )

  3. I’m glad you posted the pic of the ear first, had I seen it at the end I would have lost my train of thought. My ear hurts just looking at it!

    When I was a kid I desperately wanted to be a pianist. I kept thinking I’d be one of those prodigies who would sit at the piano and suddenly just KNOW how to play.

    When it took me three months to learn “Three Blind Mice”, I realized it wasn’t meant to be.

    • I still think I will sit down at the piano and will magically be AWESOME. Like something’s just going to click and my brain will remember all the instruction that passed through it as it was going in one ear and out the other. It could happen.

    • For some reason, your comment went to spam. Glad I checked before I deleted it! I haven’t seen Immortal Beloved yet but you are the second one to ask. I know what my next NetFlix selection will be! (if they have it, of course.)

    • Thank you. I’ve never met anyone who had piano (or other instrument) lessons that said, “What a colossal waste of time that was. I’m glad I quit and never learned to play well.” Ah, the stupidity of youth.

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