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Friday, May 24, 2013

Billy Joel Like...Beethoven?

Never been a Billy Joel fan at all, but here I will note lengthy Q & A with him at NYT today in which he discusses my hero, Beethoven.   Note:  Most of Mozart's 40 symphonies were NOT "phenomenol."   Still, we will take the point.  New edition of my Beethoven book here.  Billy:
Some writers can write reams of great books and then J. D. Salinger wrote just a few. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies. They were all phenomenal. Mozart wrote some 40 symphonies, and they were all phenomenal. That doesn’t mean Beethoven was a lesser writer, it’s just some guys are capable of more productivity, some guys take more time. Mozart pisses me off because he’s like a naturally gifted athlete, you listen to Mozart and you go: “Of course. It all came easy to him.” Beethoven you hear the struggle in it. Look at his manuscripts, and there’s reams of scratched-out music that he hated. He stops and he starts. I love that about Beethoven, his humanity shows in his music. Mozart was almost inhuman, unhuman. 
Yeah, I relate to Beethoven. I write backward — I write the music first and then I write the words.

1 comment:

Laurence Glavin said...

It appears that Mr. Joel is a victim of the received wisdom syndrome. Beethoven's music is "great" just because it's by Beethoven; Mozart's music is "great" just because it's by Mozart und so weiter. Several years ago, National Public Radio asked a quizzical question: what is the WORST classical piece that one might encounter? (I assume they are not including totally failed pieces like the Reger Piano Concerto that Peter Serkin used to champion). The "winner" was Beethoven's "Wellington's Victory, or the Battle Symphony". I've never heard it, but a piece by Beethoven called "Germania" is supposed to be pretty awful. I don't think it's available at Amazon, that's hiow awful it is. With regard to Mozart, he churned out so many works in his youthful period, they had to include some turkets. He seemed to hit his stride with the symphony #35, and the ones after that (there's no Symphony #37) are as great as mature symphonies by Haydn, and lesser symphonies by Beethoven (2, 4, 8). I don't get the observation about the order of words and music by Beethoven. His opera was set to a pre-exisitng play; the Ninth is a setting of a Schiller poem; and his two Masses use the Ordinary of the Roman Cathiolic Mass.