Am I a Bach, Brahms, or Beethoven Girl?

Although I grew up on a steady diet of classical music thanks to a (rather enforced) schedule of studies in piano, I am not a devotee of any of the 3Bs above — not in an exclusive sense, anyway (influential 17th, 18th, and 19th century composers who had, despite the lack of Twitter or FaceBook followers, their fanbases). Hundreds of years ago, like higher education, classical musical as an auditory artform and experience was reserved for the well-heeled members, royals, and aristocratic elites of high society; it could hardly be considered popular entertainment.

It wasn’t until many years later that I developed an appreciation and ear for classical music. Call it a personal musical renaissance, if you will. I guess that makes me a fan of the ‘Old School’ … the very Old School. 🙂 Classical music can be both soothing and moving; it is full of highs and lows, tempos that transition from fast to slow in the space of a few heartbeats: a distinctive styling that has persevered for hundreds of years.

Classical music can be composed as suites, or symphonies with several (four) movements. These pieces tell a detailed story, especially in the absence of lyrics or visual elements like an onstage play. These “musical stories” must inspire listeners, and foreshadow or convey and nuance the appropriate emotion or situation, whether it’s the death of a major character, or a turn of the seasons.

I listen to an eclectic range of classical music. Favourites include Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Handel’s MessiahBeethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Saint-Saens’ The Swan, Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Where musicians today are recognized on the basis of their first names, composers of centuries past have last name appeal and cachet. There is only one Bach, one Brahms, one Beethoven.

The life stories of these composers could be as compelling as their musical compositions (although perhaps not as lurid as the headlines made by today’s artists). Gifted composer/pianist Beethoven continued to create amazing music (including a few romantic pieces to ladies he wished to court, but heartbreakingly, were above his social station) even through his (eventual) profound deafness. Virtuoso Mozart wrote his first musical composition at the age of 5, and created over 600 works before dying at the age of 35. Bach was prolific in the concert hall (being an accomplished player of several music instruments including organ, harpsichord, viola and violin as well as a composer) and outside of it, fathering 20 children.

Although considered a noble profession (especially if your works were commissioned by the reigning royalty or nobility of the day) that virtually guaranteed recognition, it did not necessary reap requisite financial rewards and stipends for the composer (Beethoven was made virtually penniless through the costs of medical care of his relatives). But if your works continued to be played after your death and garnered you posthumous recognition, you were effectively immortalized.

And you thought classical music was stately, staid, and boring.


7 thoughts on “Am I a Bach, Brahms, or Beethoven Girl?

  1. Such a wonderful gift to the world their music has been! I took piano lessons too. My personal favorite has always been Chopin. I think because I tend to be a bit melancholy. But I am a fan of them all.


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