Pathétique
Moving Music

I have written a number of articles regarding being right-brained. While that explains my creativity, it also clarifies why my right-brained thinking will wander off into many different directions. One of the issues, which allows me to wander off, is Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, Adagio cantabile, or as most of us who are not musical aficionados know it, as Pathétique.

Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Ludwig van Beethoven

I love Pathátique. Late in the evening last month, I was finishing posting grades for a couple of classes that I was teaching. I was tired but determined to get them all posted. Nonetheless, I put in a cd, which contained Pathétique by Beethoven. For several reasons, that was not the best choice. The adagio cantabile is both beautiful but very dreamy. However, I forced myself to stay focused, which I did until the cd holder started to talk to me. Several weeks prior, Schumann's Träumerei cd holder did the same thing. For nearly the next hour, the cd holder and I talked about Beethoven and especially Pathétique.

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"You really seem interested in a lot of classical music. Why do you like Pathétique so much?"

I told the cd holder that I don't know very much about classical music. Nonetheless, Pathétique has been one of my favorites for decades. Then I added; do you want to talk about Pathétique?

"Well, you know that Pathétique was composed early in Beethoven's career. He was only in his late 20s. Nevertheless, while Beethoven was composing in the Classical era, Pathétique foreshadowed some of the stylistic changes that Beethoven would include in much of his music in the three decades of his life."

I replied that I knew that it was popular right away. Additionally, it was one of few pieces of Beethoven's music that was dedicated to someone. Other than Pathétique, I mentioned that I could only think of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, which he dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte. However, he realized that Napoleon was not as great as he once thought he was. Therefore, he erased Napoleon's name and replaced it with Sinfhonia Eroica (or Heroic Symphony).

The cd holder asked, "Then to whom is Pathétique dedicated?"

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Prince_Carl_Lichnowsky.jpg

Prince Lichnowsky

I replied that Pathétique was dedicated to Prince Lichnowsky. Beethoven seemed really to have liked Lichnowsky. He paid Beethoven an annual stipend for several years. However, I told the cd holder that I did not quite understand why their relationship ended abruptly.

The cd holder replied, "Beethoven had dedicated at least a half dozen of his compositions to Lichnowsky. Beethoven had a strange relationship with his patron. Lichnowsky provided money and even allowed him to stay in his home in Prague, which he did for some time. Beethoven regarded Lichnowsky's wife as his second mother. There is some debate about the reason for the riff between Lichnowsky and Beethoven. The consensus being that Beethoven might have over-stayed his welcome."

I asked the cd holder about the actual name of Pathétique. The cd holder responded by giving me a French lesson. "The French word pathátique could be translated pathetic, but a better translation would be moving, which is especially true back in Beethoven's day. You like Pathétique because it emotionally moves you.

I replied that Pathétique moved millions also including Billy Joel. This is Billy Joel's theme and variation of Pathétique.

Several weeks prior, Schumann's Träumerei cd holder did the same thing. For nearly the next hour, the cd holder and I talked about Beethoven and especially Pathétique.



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12/16/15