Books discussed in this essay:
- Beethoven: The Music and the Life, by Lewis Lockwood
- Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination, by Maynard Solomon
- Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History, by Esteban Buch
Everyone knows what Beethoven sounds like; even unschooled listeners who can identify only the opening measures of the Fifth Symphony or the melody of the "Ode to Joy" have an idea of his characteristic manner. And everyone knows what Beethoven looks like: his is the mien of the iconic musical genius as Einstein's is that of the iconic scientific genius.
The Beethoven look fits the Beethoven sound perfectly. Indomitable will, relentless energy, virile address are etched in his features as in his familiar music. It is by this noble head and this heroic style that he is known, especially to those who know little else about him.
There is of course a great deal more to be known about him, and both the general reader and the aficionado can find immensely profitable delight in three recent books about the composer. Lewis Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and the Life is a critical biography heavy on musical analysis. Maynard Solomon's Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination is a collection of essays on the music Beethoven wrote during the last 10 years of his life, "a series of powerful masterstrokes [that] forever enlarged the sphere of human experience accessible to the creative imagination." Esteban Buch's Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History details the reception that political enthusiasts of every stripe accorded to Beethoven's setting of Friedrich Schiller's poem An die Freude, the Ode to Joy of the final movement of the nonpareil Ninth Symphony.
Rarely does one come across so many first-rate books on a great artist in a single publishing season. Perhaps superb music continues to attract fine scholars and critics as superb literature or painting seldom does, which may be because writing about music does not lend itself to ideological misprision or fashionable daftness so readily as writing about pictures, poems, novels, histories, and philosophical works.
Along with the formidable pianist and critic Charles Rosen, Maynard Solomon of Juilliard and Lewis Lockwood of Harvard are the most eminent Beethoven experts at large in America, and their latest productions represent lives spent in the service of music they plainly love. At their best, Rosen and Solomon make the luminous connection between the recondite brainwork of composition and the wondrous impact music can have on the listener's soul; at his best, Lockwood does so too, but his best falls somewhat short of theirs, and he rises to it less frequently. Still, it is only when he is measured against the very best that Lockwood seems lacking. And in another essential aspect of the musical biographer's art, Lockwood, like Solomon, is superb: he understands how the work emerges from the life.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in the provincial German city of Bonn; the van is of common Dutch provenance, and has nothing to do with the German von that denotes nobility, although Beethoven led some to believe that it did. His father was a tenor and a violinist in the Hofkapelle, a morose alcoholic given to scrapes with the police from which his son was called on to extricate him. When Beethoven's mother died of consumption in 1787, Ludwig effectively became head of the household. Amid these storms, the young Beethoven cultivated a prodigious musical talent, mastering Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier by the age of 12, composing quartets for piano and strings at 14, becoming court organist and orchestral violinist, earning comparison to Mozart in his precocity. In 1787 he had gone off to Vienna with the hope of becoming Mozart's protégé, but his mother's worsening illness cut the pilgrimage abruptly short. Beethoven returned to Vienna in 1792, and his father died a month later; this time the son did not come back to Bonn even for the funeral. Mozart, the father Beethoven wished he'd had, had died in 1791; Franz Josef Haydn was Vienna's reigning musical eminence, and Beethoven became his student. Haydn was a neglectful teacher, but Beethoven learned a great deal from him nonetheless, only to challenge the master's formally and emotionally decorous manner of composition, little by little at first, then with sweeping boldness. Success was soon his native element: the toast of Prague and Berlin as well as of Vienna, Beethoven attracted noble admirers and patrons, was offered more commissions than he could produce, and found six or seven publishers for virtually every piece he wrote.
In 1798 the world began to exact payment for his triumph, on extortionate terms: his hearing started to go, and by 1802 he would be horribly deaf. Even as he lost the capacity that would seem to be a musician's essential instrument and principal pleasure, he plunged all the more passionately into his work: "I live entirely in my music," he wrote in 1801 to his physician friend, Franz Wegeler, and this was both lament and rejoicing. His musical gift grew richer as his world was reduced to the sounds in his head, for his courage and force of will met and mastered a condition that could have ruined him. In another letter to Wegeler, after complaining of the "empty, sad life" he had endured for the past two years, he announced, "I will seize Fate by the throat; it will certainly not bend and crush me completely—Oh it would be so lovely to live a thousand lives."
From the one life he had been allotted, he still hoped to obtain the pleasures not only of art but also of love—of the family happiness his dreadful youth had denied him. He had his share of sexual conquests; but the women he won he did not especially want, and the women he really wanted he did not win. He became a pitiable serial wooer, falling fecklessly in love with one young woman after another—ethereal pianists, aristocratic roses. Fate crushed again and again his confidence that he was marked for romantic happiness. By his early 40s he realized that art was all he was going to get, and, with a heroic resignation that made the decision appear entirely his choosing, he declared art to be everything. Beethoven knew that to write the best music required not merely a superb inborn gift but nobility of soul, which only unremitting intellectual and moral effort could conceive and forge and burnish.
The defiant pugnacity with which Beethoven faced his physical and emotional afflictions translated into music of ardent excellence—music that explored what it meant to be noble. From pain he wrested sublime beauty, beauty that acknowledges it could never have come to be without that pain. To become the most splendid of democratic artists, the most inspired celebrant of the new human type emerging from millennia of injustice and subjugation, he had not only to overcome his personal torments but also to lift from his own breast the millstone of an artistic tradition laden with uncongenial aristocratic presuppositions. His is the grandest triumph of the newborn democratic soul. He knew what men were and what they could become, and, with Verdi, he was the subtlest and most heartening political thinker in music there ever was.
It is perhaps in the chamber music that one most clearly hears Beethoven flexing his democratic muscle and bursting the corset of classical, which is to say aristocratic, propriety. If one listens to the string quartets Opus 76 that Beethoven's preceptor Haydn wrote in 1797, they evoke a character almost insufferably good-natured, remorselessly debonair: the work of an artist careful not to allow himself any feeling his audience might consider unseemly. Good sense, order, serenity reign here, albeit somewhat tiresomely.
Already Mozart had strained bravely against this confining aristocratic propriety: he dedicated his Dissonance Quartet to Haydn, who had conniptions at having his name on such an atrocity. Beethoven committed a similar transgression with the six quartets of his Opus 18, which his dedicatee hotly disavowed. Modern listeners might wonder what the fuss was about. Much of this early Beethoven sounds like late Haydn, designed to please gracious patrons graciously, with sentiments they are only too delighted to possess. Hints of subversive passion fleck the crystalline surface of these quartets, but for the most part any such subversion is contained. The young Beethoven's headstrong audacity grapples with the settled wisdom of the great world, which is part of his own nature, and the great world takes two out of three falls.
By 1806, when he wrote the three Razumovsky quartets (Opus 59), the changes are unmistakable and startling. Although the first two movements of Opus 59, number one, show a cool urbanity enduring a slight emotional indisposition, in the third movement the polite chamber-music chat yields to the most deeply searching intimacy, as voices interweave in lament and consolation. In mournful phrases echoed in sequence or reiterated in a lower register—violin followed by cello, high-pitched outcry by somber reflection—an entirely novel understanding of social intercourse is defined, founded on the compassion that senses exactly what another feels. The idea of nobility will never be the same. Gentlemanliness, in the sense of lordly indifference to suffering, is no longer nobility's essence; the penetration of another's sorrow, the recognition of one's solidarity with his fellows, now gives the noble a characteristically democratic inflection. Beethoven's music proves the old modes of feeling and expression inadequate to the new political order, which is producing a radically different sort of man. And Beethoven himself is becoming an exemplary man of that sort—an icon of democratic nobility.
With the opening of this passage to the heart of others, inducing a sympathetic tenderness almost too sharp to be borne, comes the release of energies long suppressed in one's own heart. The piano sonatas of Beethoven's middle period show how this energy, which threatens to become uncontainable, proves, not submissive exactly, but amenable to moral will. In the Waldstein Sonata, Opus 53, written in 1804, the essential drama is apparent from the opening measures: an avalanche of 1/16 notes in the left hand tears along with a thundering rumble, while a frantic racing in the right suggests both submission to the bass line and an attempt to elude its threatening might.
Gradually this untamed propulsive energy is reined in, though not without a struggle; the domestication of headlong impulse might be the hardest work required of the democratic order. The slow movement measures the cost of civilizing oneself in accordance with the new dispensation; but the abrupt transition to the third movement rejoices in the overcoming of both the perilous refractoriness in one's nature and the regret at forsaking a part of oneself. From the depths of grief, ardent will is resurrected; the man who has thus mastered himself, on democratic rather than the old aristocratic terms, becomes a charter member of an unprecedented nobility based on strength of mind and character. While the old aristocracy's virtue was the product of artifice honed to an extreme and sometimes preposterous nicety, democratic nobility is the triumph of nature set free, within limits. Though no democratic society can exist without certain boundaries to freedom, the democratic virility that will uphold the new order requires a touch of the feral. That tension pervades this music.
The Appassionata sonata, Opus 57, complicates Beethoven's essential undertaking, suggesting that the danger to democratic nobility might be even graver than earlier indicated. The opening measures introduce music of dramatic collisions, in which phrases clash, fragment, and reconstitute themselves with the wounds still showing. With the second movement, in some of the most ravishing music he wrote, tenderness-cum-serenity might seem to be the ultimate attainment of the new civilization. But far more will be demanded of it than that; and Beethoven ends this sonata not with a shout of triumph but with a solemn challenge. Storms rage in the final movement, and though this ferocity may be rendered somewhat tractable for a while, in the end it remains fundamentally unbroken. The lesson is a hard one: democratic morality may prove unable to harness defiant nature to human purposes; yet the attempt must be made all the same, for to stand aside and let inhuman nature—meaning above all the untamed in human nature—have its way is unthinkable.
There are some among the spiritual founders of democracy who think men could do with a stern and invigorating application of the inhuman to their all too human—all too tame and Christian—selves. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, written in 1793, William Blake declared, "Energy is Eternal Delight." Yet the cult of energy that Blake founded has broadcast at least as much desolation as delight. To promote inhuman energy as the driving force of human life, so that reason and virtue bend before the imperative from the unconscious depths, is the diabolical error into which modern art and thought and mores have fallen. Beethoven felt the allure of Blake's summons to venture beyond good and evil, to revel in his own energy, divine or demonic. Yet where Blake yielded ecstatically to the call of nature, Beethoven became the voice of culture.
To meet inhuman nature—and there is a terrible core of inhumanity in every human soul—with humane energy is the great trial, perhaps the endless trial, of democratic culture. For democracy is especially susceptible to a reckless indifference to—some would call it sublime heedlessness of—good and evil: the democratic assumption that one is as good as another leads logically enough to an utter lack of moral distinction, and when Heaven and Hell are wed the result is preponderantly hellish. In the Appassionata Beethoven defends the moral principle—in part a vestige of aristocracy, in part a shadow of Christianity—at the heart of his understanding of democratic virtue: good and evil, better and best inhere in the nature of things; and democracy must overcome its own tendency to deny that truth and thereby to surrender to the caprices of demonic energy. The Appassionata presents the tragic possibility that one seductive democratic idea of human nature, conceived in careless joy and infused with inhuman amorality, might prevail over the moral truth. Beethoven remains defiant toward both the aristocratic old guard and the ignoble hyper-democratic savages shorn of moral sense, and he never swerves from his devotion to true democratic greatness.
This does not please some who idealize the bygone aristocracy and fail to appreciate the subtlety of Beethoven's ennobling art. To them, Beethoven's sort of democratic nobility is a mooncalf fantasy that would exalt the presumptuous, resentful, and uncouth. The most vehement such critic is Nietzsche, who sprays jumped-up democratic art, thought, and manners with his acidulous loathing every chance he gets. In The Gay Science (1882) he laments the condition of German music, which he considers the defining music of Europe, for "it alone has given expression to the transformation of Europe through the [French] Revolution." In revolutionary German music "Ã la Beethoven," one hears "a profound bourgeois envy of nobility, especially of esprit and Ã©lÃ©gance as expressions of a courtly, knightly, old, self-assured society." Against the brazen, bumptious Beethoven, Nietzsche invokes the masterful, self-possessed Goethe, alluding to a once-celebrated story about the pair of supreme artists. At the aristocratic watering-hole of Teplitz, Beethoven and Goethe were walking together when they encountered the Empress and her court. Beethoven told Goethe to follow his lead and to plow straight through the nobles. Ignoring Beethoven's instructions, Goethe deferred to the grandees, standing out of their way and removing his hat; Beethoven strode right down the middle of the promenading nobility, who parted like the waters of the Red Sea to let him pass. For Nietzsche, Beethoven's flagrant discourtesy marks him as the representative of the ill-bred populace, while Goethe's gracious refusal to assert his superiority to the merely well-born—a superiority he did not doubt for a moment—proves his nobility. And Goethe, Nietzsche points out with gleeful malice, called Beethoven "the untamed human being."
But Nietzsche neglects to point out how much Goethe admired Beethoven's genius, energy, and dedication to his calling. Nor does Nietzsche mention the two men's collaboration on Goethe's play Egmont, for which Beethoven wrote the incidental music. Egmont reveals Goethe in his most Schiller-like mode—indeed far more hopeful than Schiller usually is that political good will triumph eventually—talking up the virtues of liberty and equality in his portrayal of a 16th-century Dutch aristocrat who resists the tyranny of the imperialist Spanish King. "Whether necks are bowed to this yoke or whether they are bowed beneath the ax is the same thing to noble souls," Egmont declares; and his intransigence ensures that his neck shall feel the ax. The play ends with the condemned prisoner Egmont vouchsafed a vision of Liberty, who looks just like his bourgeois beloved, KlÃ¤rchen, who reveals that Egmont's death will inaugurate an era of liberation. Beethoven's finale is very much in his heroic style, as hope bores through heavy mourning to emerge all the stronger for its acquaintance with dungeon blackness. Goethe and Beethoven offer here a secularized version of Christian salvation in which the nobility of fraternal self-sacrifice redeems both the man who dies and those he dies for.
Even if Goethe does not exactly fit Nietzsche's purposes, it is true enough that Nietzsche poses a profound opposition between the two sorts of nobility available to modern men: the Christian-democratic nobility open to all who accept the universal brotherhood, and the neo-pagan nobility exclusive to those few who appreciate the vast spiritual distance between great men and small, and who know they were born for mastery. In the Nietzschean hierarchy, even the magnificent Goethe ranks well below the supremely masterful Napoleon.
Beethoven, too, fell under the Napoleonic spell for a time, though for very different reasons from Nietzsche's, and though events were to disabuse him of his infatuation. To Beethoven, Napoleon at first represented the fulfillment of the promise that the French Revolution made to mankind: that one day it would know the sweetness of democratic liberty and universal concord. Besotted with Plutarch, Beethoven was given to likening the First Consul of France to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome—until Napoleon's ambitions revealed themselves less like Cato's than like Alexander's or Julius Caesar's. In October l803, Beethoven declared to a prospective publisher that he wished either to dedicate his new symphony—his greatest work so far—to Napoleon, or to entitle it "Bonaparte." In December 1804 Napoleon crowned himself hereditary emperor, then with sublime disingenuousness pledged his humble service to liberty and equality. This usurpation and the pious handmaid routine simply appalled Beethoven: he scratched out the words "titled Bonaparte" on his copy of the score, but preserved the explanation "written on Bonaparte" on the title page. The published version in 1806 bore the title "Sinfonia eroica," and the subtitle declared the work to have been "composed to celebrate the memory of a great man."
The Eroica symphony honors the man who Napoleon could have been had the love of liberty and equality truly guided his course. Beethoven's meditation would not have been possible without the particular democratic hope that Napoleon once embodied. The Eroica is a masterpiece of democratic rhetoric that explores the relation between political hero and reverent populace. The opening movement evokes the complex, even paradoxical, character of the hero, who possesses a sensibility not out of Plutarch but distinctively modern. Sudden dynamic and rhythmic contrasts propel the drama, as an insistent will, butting against anything that gets in its way, melts into a gentleness amazing in a supreme martial nature: there is a premonition here of Nietzsche's imaginary hero of the future, Caesar with the heart of Christ—by no means what Napoleon was, but certainly what many wanted him to be.
Like Caesar and Christ, Beethoven's hero is sacrificed; the famous funeral march of the second movement shows what that sacrifice means to his devotees. The music joins the severe aristocratic loftiness of Tennyson's "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" ("Bury the Great Duke/ With an empire's lamentation") to the plainspoken democratic tenderness of Whitman's elegy for Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" ("And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I loved?"). Beethoven establishes the richest model for the democratic man's sentiments toward his political gods, who for all their terrible splendor are men like the rest. In the third movement, which opens with a burst of joy at a ripping tempo, the hero's life continues to shine even after death; this movement's blend of gravity and levity implies a certain intimacy between the hero and the admirer that overcomes the distinction of rank. And the finale spreads heroic radiance over all who worship at the shrine: he died for them, and shall continue to live in them.
The Eroica Symphony recognizes that this posthumous life serves as the foundation for any grand project the democratic soul shall set itself. If Napoleon ultimately failed to personify the required nobility, then Beethoven himself would make it available to all who listen. This is political music of considered subtlety: its ambition rises to the level of what Nietzsche called great politics.
The sort of noble future that Beethoven hoped to beget, however, is precisely the one that inspired Nietzsche's most savage grimacing. And the Ninth Symphony embodies with more thrilling extravagance than any other work of art the moral and metaphysical aspirations of democracy at its fullest spiritual extension.
On the Ninth, Lockwood, Solomon, and Buch all have something of sonorous importance to say. Lockwood sees the Ninth Symphony as compensation paid the democratic multitudes for the failure of the French Revolution to realize its Enlightenment ideals, which were scourged in succession by "first the Terror and its adversaries, then Napoleon and his adversaries, then the newly victorious autocratic governments." In Lockwood's reading, to reinstate the heroic principles that the founding democrats once imagined all men would live by is Beethoven's animating purpose; the Ninth Symphony revives past hopes in order to herald the radiant future.
Solomon is in fundamental agreement, though his Beethoven is more sanguine than Lockwood's. "For the Beethoven of 1824, the sense of the failure of an idealistic project was no longer an issue; rather it had given way to a determination to recapture these well-remembered felicities in which utopia—past, not future, had been actualized." The Revolution in all its glory, by Solomon's lights, never ends.
Buch conducts a magisterial tour of the political reception given the Ninth Symphony—or more specifically, the "Ode to Joy"—over the decades by Romantics, nationalist zealots of all denominations, Nazis and Communists, promoters of One Europe and, indeed, of One World. Upon Beethoven's death in 1827, "every political tendency joined in hailing him as the greatest musician of modern times"; but it is bourgeois democracy that most truly calls him its own. Buch's study is an impressive work of historical scholarship that leaves untouched the most important critical questions: How does the "Ode to Joy" cohere with the Ninth Symphony as a whole? What is Beethoven's understanding of bourgeois democracy in its most extravagant ambition?
Lockwood, Solomon, and Buch are all helpful and even fascinating, each after his own fashion, but none of them quite gets to the heart of the matter. The scholars do not listen attentively enough to the music, which would tell them that Beethoven was confident that democracy had already established itself, however severe its setbacks, as the commanding regime of a new epoch, and that on the basis of this political order spiritual wonder would be heaped on wonder.
The Ninth Symphony is something more than the most famously and unabashedly political of symphonic works; it is Beethoven's theological-political treatise. It begins, as all three commentators point out, with open fifths; that is, the third of the potential chord is missing, and that third determines whether the chord is to be major or minor. For a moment, the music's very elements are in doubt. However, from that initial uncertainty the first movement swells rapidly to an ecstatic confidence, as though to say, here is as much of the truth as one needs to live, and the thrill of sublime political sentiment appears to be the end of this earthly life.
But there is more to come. The second movement introduces a dialectic between thunderous exorbitant feeling and delicate serenity, as though to evoke both the founding and the fulfillment of democratic life, the violent revolutionary spasm and the contented bourgeois order. The former has the last word in this movement, but the subsequent slow movement breathes an air of perfect equanimity, without even a ripple of discontent. The tempo commonly associated with sadness or languor or yearning here renders a state of earthly satisfaction that has no place for desperate metaphysical importunity. The writer and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann, who is generally thought to have been Beethoven's wisest contemporary critic, declared that the Fifth Symphony created "one single and lasting impression—that of desire, infinite, unappeasable—stretching to the very last chord." Evidently, by the time Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony, he understood how Romantic desire was to be appeased, in magnificent and yet homely fashion.
The highest God-seeking flights, Beethoven teaches, take off from an orderly and moderate course of life: gentle, peaceable democracy enables humanity at large to attain spiritual heights that only the rare few during the epoch of aristocracy could hope to reach. The setting of Schiller's An die Freude for chorus and four soloists is of course the most famous section of the Ninth Symphony: there are two main strands in the text and in the music, the first on the theme Alle menschen werden BrÃ¼der (All men become brothers), the second on BrÃ¼der! Ãœber'm Sternenzelt/ Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen (Brothers! Above the vault of stars a loving Father has to dwell). Righteous political sentiment necessarily precedes genuine religious insight. All men must live as brothers before they can comprehend the loving fatherliness of the One True God, Who always intended this fraternal earthly happiness for his creatures. The Schreckensfanfare, the terror fanfare, as Richard Wagner called the grim trumpet blasts and subsequent eerie growling at the beginning of the final movement, intrudes and recalls the divine fearsomeness that used to cow the multitudes; but the tremulous prostration of the bad old days has evolved into the modern liberal faith, so that even on his knees a man remains upright. As Lockwood points out, the secular and the sacred aspects of the choral finale, separate at first, are inextricably bound to each other in a double fugue. The music demonstrates the providential conjunction of political teleology and religious fulfillment.
That does seem rather a tall order for democracy to fill; but such was the hope of democracy's youth, at least as one great man conceived it. The unrealized possibilities that Beethoven exhorts the millions to realize rest upon a political order already achieved; from the settled life of bourgeois liberalism untold glories shall flower. So Beethoven believed, and urged his listeners to believe, and even today when one is in the thrall of this music such extraordinary nobility still seems possible—though, sadly, perhaps only then.
The rest of the time, the noble democratic "vision thing" doesn't get much encouragement. Beethoven's basic conception of the Ninth, at once political and religious, is vitiated by wishful thinking, which is to say false prophecy. Beethoven failed to recognize that egalitarianism taken to its extreme would establish not generous fraternal understanding but universal self-regard and contempt for all distinctions of quality. And those afford no basis for the soul's ecstatic wanderings in the direction of heaven. Perhaps Beethoven misconstrued the necessary order of theological and political understanding: it might just be that men have to know the divine love before they can appreciate in what sense they are all brothers. And if that is the case, we might all be better off listening to Bach.
Or to Beethoven's own late string quartets and piano sonatas. In the Hammerklavier sonata, Opus 106, he demonstrates the metaphysical daring to which he exhorts the millions. Music that would not have sounded like music to Haydn or Mozart, or for that matter to most of Beethoven's listeners in 1818, presses against the bounds of the known world. This aesthetic novelty serves his democratic project: the extreme states of soul this music evokes compel the listener to ask whether there is not indeed something human that is alien to most men, and whether it is not then the task of democratic civilization to extend the limits of the human accordingly. The new discoveries will not be all comprehensible any time soon, but shall be made clearer in time, by virtue of compassion.
How this is to be accomplished the Hammerklavier leaves a mystery; Opus 109, written in 1821, takes one nearer the center of that mystery. Having traveled in mind where only the rarest of men have gone, at least so far, Beethoven returns to the world familiar to all. This sonata shows what it is to be broken by the world and decide to go on nonetheless, with the gentlest soul. The most heroic fortitude is not the steel-edged relentlessness of the man who vows to take Fate by the throat; it is rather the infinite tenderness of the indomitable sufferer who realizes that there were times when all might have been lost, and who somehow made it through all the same. Beethoven here offers himself as the man of sorrows—strictly lower case, stripped of any godly aspirations—who wants all to touch his inmost heart and to draw needed strength from that knowledge. The third movement exposes his very soul, one man addressing all men, in the simplest utterance of simplest feeling: when an extraordinary man has passed through the fires, this stark radiance is what remains.
Three years later, when he unveiled the Ninth symphony, Beethoven would attempt to clasp the millions in his arms and carry them off to what is really a quite conventional heaven. He clearly felt the need to produce a masterwork to exceed all others in heroic exultation for the democratic future, which would become present any moment now, indeed as the music was being played. Modern audiences clearly feel the need to revel in that exultation, even though democracy has failed to deliver on the promised earthly and intergalactic glories. Yet the celebrated exhilaration of the Ninth, which professes to take in all Creation, is sadly missing something. That towering monument does not surpass in moral beauty the humble chapel that is Opus 109, constructed on a human scale. That sonata shows the highest rank of democratic nobility to be unassuming and unabashed, defenseless and pure in the sight of all men and their Creator. The fullest, the noblest humanity we have known so far sounds exactly like this.