Monday, December 25, 2017

Silent Music

By the time Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, perhaps his most famous work, was first performed, in 1808, he was increasingly becoming deaf. According to a popular version of the story, the first time the Fifth was performed, with Beethoven himself conducting, he was facing the orchestra and did not hear the applause of the audience. Being temperamental, he is said to have been very upset, until some of the people on the stage turned him toward the audience, whose continued standing ovation was one of history's longest. So, interestingly, Beethoven saw the applause, but did not hear it himself. The picture depicts the silence which he heard.

A popular book fictionalizing Beethoven's life was Romain Rolland's Jean-Christophe, which won him a Nobel prize for literature in 1915. 

It would be relevant to mention here that when Mahatma Gandhi visited Europe to attend the Round Table in 1931, among the few people that he met in France, the most prominent was Romain Rolland. Also, it was at that same Round Table Conference where Winston Churchill disdainfully referred to Gandhi as the half-naked, seditious fakir from india.

My picture, though, was not taken either in Vienna or Berlin, but at the plain old Music Academy on Cathedral Road in Madras, in the mid-1970s.

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