Beethoven And Me

Ludwig van Beethoven's birthday is only 32 days away! Now begins the countdown. Beethoven arguably is the greatest composer who ever lived. There is no actual record of his birthday in 1770, but Ludwig was baptized on December 17 and in that part of the Catholic Rhineland, baptisms were the day after births. Hence December 16.

When I was about nine or ten, my mother decided I should learn how to play the piano. My mother must have dreamed that I would become another Liberace whose Polish heritage I shared. My teacher was a Chicago policeman, moonlighting to supplement his income. His name I can only spell phonetically. Mr.'Harnoise'. Coincidentally, he did bear a rather strong resemblance to Liberace. And had a sophisticated dignity about him too.

I'm afraid I never made it to Carnegie Hall for a command recital. I discovered in those days that I was allergic to practice. And whenever I was forced to showcase my dexterity at the keyboard at the occasional student recital, I was so petrified that I might have anticipated Don Knotts on his worst days.

The Classic Peanuts strip in today's Tribune evokes these memories. I remember struggling with a Beethoven short piece called 'Fur Elise". Over the years I must have played it hundreds of times. I have polished it a bit since those first clumsy attempts under the tutelage of Mr. Harnoise.

Translated, Fur Elise means For Elisa. Many scholars think Beethoven wrote it for a woman he proposed to but who rejected him: Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza. I wonder if Schroeder knows that.

Filed under: music

Tags: Beethoven


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  • Go, Beethoven. My first connection with the master also came with piano lessons: Sister Anita Marie and then Mr. Lemkee (also phonic spelling). The old guy was straight from Germany and could barely speak a word of English, yet he sure could communicate. I'm still playing (if that's what you can call it) and a couple of adagios from the master's sonatas are my favorites (adagios because I could never play the other movements).

  • Dennis, thanks for sharing. We may not play anywhere near Emanuel Ax, but--- I'm sure you would agree---it's still a lot of fun. By the way, we have something the Bears only have half of: Pianoforte.

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