Confessions of a (former) Beethoven Hater

I have a secret that I never told anyone, growing up as a classical musician- I hated Beethoven! My rather formal and strict piano teacher had very precise ideas about what constituted great music and Beethoven was her ne plus ultra. I therefore imagined that I had some dreadful flaw which no one must ever discover.
In more recent years, I have ‘come out’ to others and have experienced all kinds of reactions- from shock and incredulity, through neutrality to a secret complicity… yet I always felt that to be a true musician I really should like Beethoven… or, ideally, worship him. At university we even had to study a book which rated Beethoven more or less on a level with God!

So it was a revelation to me the other day when I sat down with a book of Beethoven sonatas and began to play, so that a student could choose which one to study. I really enjoyed myself! I experienced the deep and compact bass chords as colorful and fun to play, rather than coarse or ugly. The sudden shifts in mood, key, dynamic and tempo were exhilarating rather than unsettling. The palpable sense of aggression was immensely satisfying….. and there, I believe, was the key to my change of perspective.

Growing up, I came from a family where certain emotions were taboo- particularly anger, aggression and its soft underbelly, depression. We were encouraged to remain cheerful, polite and to ‘make the best of things’at all times. I was a sensitive child and soon began to find anger in others threatening, not to say frightening. It is not a surprise therefore that I would mistrust Beethoven!

Over the years, I have done a lot of ‘inner work’ and now discover that I have aggression and anger, like everyone else, and that finding ways to release it and express it in responsible ways does me good. My inner tiger has been unleashed… so now… bring it on, Beethoven, I’m ready for you!

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