Beethoven's last movement
I'm reminded of an old joke that starts with "What's brown and sits on a piano stool?"
Ever since I spotted Beethoven's 9th Symphony on today's BBC Proms concert programme, I've been silently humming the Ode to Joy tune to myself. I got together four bachelors that have never met each other to meet me at the Royal Albert Hall in the queue for the Arena day tickets.
Little did I know that the wait would be the longest ever. Most people stood to Shostakovich's Symphony Number 2 in B Major, a piece I've never heard before. My friends, being tall and male, insisted on standing also for the entire Beethoven piece.
I, being not so tall and female, decided to sit until the final movement. What agony it was to sit in the shadow of the standing. It was a sold-out concert, and I was sure everyone came to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the same reason: to hear Beethoven's last movement.
When it finally, finally arrived, we all stood up in exhaltation. Beethoven was right - he didn't think musical instruments were enough for this final symphony of his. He needed the sound of human voices. And without them, I doubt it would have had the same impact. The people in the choir outnumbered the orchestra. Their voices brought the piece to its climatic end.
Afterwards, I escorted two of my friends to Hyde Park, to indulge in my final bottle of Bordeaux Superiore 1996 and the smoked Lincolnshire cheddar cheese that I had purchased from the local farmer's market earlier in the day. Facing the Serpentine (lake) in the dark, we toasted to Beethoven and the worthwhile wait.
31 August 2002 Saturday
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