Friday, May 22, 2015

4: Ode to Joy - Beethoven

I mentioned for both Bad Day (number forty) and There Must Be An Angel (number 16) that these songs were simply 'happy' and other songs, such as Walking On Sunshine, are the same way but missed out on this list. Here we have the ultimate in happy tunes.

I'm not actually much of a Beethoven fan. The well-known stuff, especially the Fifth, just seems too overblown and full of itself to me (although as hinted elsewhere, Beethoven is no Wagner in that regard). I'd much prefer to listen to Mozart, or Chopin, or Vivaldi. The Pastoral is ok, but even then doesn't quite get to Dvorak or even Mark Knopfler's level (see number 5!). However, Beethoven does have the occasional moment where he transcends his usual dark persona, or his dull persona, or his up-his-own-bottom persona and express something beyond himself and his world. And here it is, the Ode To Joy, the musical expression of one of the core human emotions that will probably never be matched in that regard.

The initial theme, the quiet section, then - BANG - in with the full choir, the melody covering the original theme again. Even just picking out the notes of that theme on a piano or keyboard with no accompaniment sounds uplifting and magical, like you're some kind of musical genius just for playing those notes in that order. That alone means it's an astonishing piece of composing. But the joy expressed through the full orchestral version with choir belting it out takes it somewhere else again. Not the heavenly vision of Handel's Messiah up at number 6, this instead is a clearer, more focused piece.

It is a genius musical expression of that human emotion and spiritual fruit known in English as joy. And nobody ever really needs to try to do that again, because Beethoven nailed it right here.

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