Have I ever mentioned how much I adore my brother and love hanging out with him? Yes, I believe I have Last week Chris and I attended the NY Philharmonic concert at Avery Fisher Hall. The evening’s program was Beethoven’s sublime and transcendent Ninth Symphony. The moment conductor Alan Gilbert strode onto the stage and took his place at the podium you could feel the anticipation filling the air of the sold out hall. New York City native and child of the Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert conducted the hour long Ninth Symphony from memory, with no score in front of him. That’s not uncommon among conductors these days but still it was fabulous to watch.
Chris and I before the concert, outside an illuminated Lincoln Center:
My brother and I share the widely held view that Beethoven’s Ninth (and last) symphony is as close to the musical pinnacle of Western Civilization as it gets. In other words, it is sacred. And scared things often run the risk of being desecrated by the more prosaic arena of popular culture. Case in point: the background of my Twitter page is the Mona Lisa blowing bubblegum. Sorry Leonardo! I’m guilty as charged
When Beethoven is involved, however, I become a bit protective. For me he’s the untouchable exception, as I am in reverent awe of the man and his music. My protective instincts kick into even higher gear when a Beethoven work is co-opted for undignified purposes. The Ninth Symphony, intended by Beethoven as a paean to humanity and universal love, provides the musical backdrop for the 1988 smash hit action movie “Die Hard”. It also figures prominently in the violent futuristic dystopia of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, in which the music is contrasted with disturbing images of Nazis. Loudmouthed TV personality Keith Olbermann used the first few bars of the symphony’s 2nd movement as the opening theme for his now defunct MSNBC program. And since we apparently can’t leave Beethoven’s unparalleled genius alone there’s now ” an app for that”. Yes, a Ninth Symphony iPhone app! Okay, so the app doesn’t really bother me and actually seems pretty cool, but Bruce Willis fighting terrorists to “Ode to Joy” is tacky. That’s some degrading bullshit.
I wonder what Beethoven, or any of the giants of artistic creation, would think of their works being treated in such ways. Mona Lisa parodies depicting her as a biker chick, Beethoven symphonies in action movie soundtracks, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring taking a “selfie”. Heck maybe the artists wouldn’t be offended much at all. Or maybe they would find such things travesties. We’ll never know.
To conclude this Music Monday, Here are The Beatles performing – what else? - Roll Over Beethoven. Kisses for John xxx