I am not a musician nor the son of a musician although I am working on the accordion and have been known to apply myself to the piano in the very distant past. I think part of my problem is that the reading of music is something for which I can form no natural aptitude like I can the more human and congenial task of reading letters. It is like the trouble I have with direction. Up and down are directions I grasp intuitively but left and right I always have to think about, especially the left and sometimes for more than fifteen seconds—which is a long time if you think of it. Personally, I think it is because they are unnatural designations. I have the feeling that musical notation contains some similar perversity and that is why I am obstructed. I leave it to people of grosser proclivities.
I am glad for the gross proclivities of Beethoven—now there was a chap. Back in the early 80′s there was a series of classical music released in Colombia. It came out weekly and was sold in the grocery store; many purchased this series of music. I remember our mormon neighbors purchased the records. By then our record player had been stolen and my dad had settled into only owning the cheapest of electronic devices. So he bought the tapes with increasing selectivity as the composers offered each week were appearing in chronological order. The tapes were of the Deutsche Gramophon label and recorded the Berlin Philharmonic with Von Karajan and others of that ilk. I have many fond memories of that collection of tapes and I like to listen to them when I go visit my parents.
One of my favorites was among the Beethoven stuff, the violin sonatas Kreutzer and Primavera (Spring, you know. Todo estaba escrito en Español). They were done, I believe, by Ingrid Haebler and Jascha Heifetz. Ingrid Haebler did much of the piano recording for that series and those are the only recordings in which I have run across Heifetz. Anyway, I learned to love Beethoven chamber music, especially these two pieces, long before I could stomach much continuous exposure to a string quartet. On a random remark of TS Eliot I read, I explored all the string quartets a while back. I need to return to those soon. Listening to Beethoven is so congenial. If I were to borrow from TS Eliot, I’d say Bach was like Dante: clarity of thought and feeling; and Beethoven is like Donne; lucid feeling, like Schubert. (Perhaps one ought not to borrow too anachronistically, but I do not think old Francis Schaeffer was so far off when he found a sort of lag. It would seem quite natural to me that music should follow after literature by several centuries. It probably ought to be a warning to me that I am doing something really fatuous if I have to use Schaeffer to excuse my explanations.) Recently I discovered some of the piano trios at the library. There is something wonderful about Beethoven chamber music; I do not want to stop listening to it. It is quite on par with Schubert as far as I am concerned.