White as china, she is, a new polished plate, ready to be broken. She ain’t more than ten-and-fifteen, made very tiny by the master’s heavy, black overcoat what’s thrown about her shoulders. I stand back as the door swings wide, the carriage crunching away over the gravel, her boots tipping and tapping on the step, not wanting in but not keen on staying out, neither. I’d tell her to bolt, to run screaming, but there ain’t no-one what can see me. Her skirts swoosh into the parlour, and there’s that rattle and clank of buckets, as the maids make ready her bath.
* * *
Maud’s her name. The morning sun has her propped up in her nest of feather quilts, her eyes bold and bright. There’s food on a tray aside the bed — poached eggs and bacon and sweet, milky tea. At first. As soon as the master starts his work they quick lose the stomach for it.
“Will it hurt?” she mutters to herself, shaping the burnt rind into the curl of a question. I think of her mother, weighting her empty heart and home to the velvet sack of shillings in her pocket. Think of a sweetheart, perhaps, seeing her face, for a while, in every passing flower-girl; her shape forming in each swirl of steam from the trains what growl across the arches. But they’ll forget.
“I daresay it will,” I whisper. I stare out over the spindly trees and the tall metal gates, run my fingers over the frost what’s gathered on the inside of the glass. I don’t feel nothing, and I’m glad for it.
* * *
“Consumption. To be consumed, to be eaten up, to have all that is superfluous burned away, in one glorious moment.” The master and his men talk in the parlour as I stand outside. I put my face to their long coats on the hat-stand, choke back the smell of January rain and the suffocating smog of the city. “A woman is most beautiful on the brink of death. It is capturing the apple at its ripest, before it starts to decay. There is beauty in death, and in death there is art.”
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A listening aid to the very first recording of Beethoven’s music, the Romance in F major, Op.50, recorded September 13 1889: alongside the original (played by Herr Krahmer and Herr Schmalfuß), are two other performance extracts (played by Louise Chisson, recorded 2010, and Jascha Heifetz, recorded 1951).
Beethoven Hero is a continuing exploration of the man, his music, and his extraordinary reach across time and space. The trilogy takes us on a journey through history and around the world, telling stories of the enduring power of Beethoven’s creations—of the ways they live within us and transcend the boundaries that separate us.
The legacy of Beethoven—in our personal lives and in the public conflicts, tragedies and occasional triumphs that define our times—is complex, and Beethoven | Hero explores this complexity. The first part of the trilogy,Following the Ninth (2013), followed the music to China, Chile, Germany and Japan. The second part, Love & Justice, takes us to Chile once more, using Beethoven’s Fidelio to explore the darkness of political repression and the way Chileans tried to sustain hope in the shadow of Pinochet. The third part, Last Will and Testament, will follow in the footsteps of Beethoven’s powerful Late Quartets.
While I do believe that Beethoven’s music somehow captures universal virtues—the courageous and passionate will to overcome all defeats, spiritual and physical—I am also open to the fact that I am living within the mythos of Beethoven the Hero. His image, both biographical and musical, continues to pull us toward the man and his creations. We puzzle over the man, and we embrace the music in an attempt, always incomplete, to understand who we are as humans, in pain, in love, in joy, in accents both spiritual and sensual at equal turns.
At a time when art and music are disappearing from school curricula, we are designing the Beethoven | Hero trilogy to be used in schools across the country to improve students’ understanding of the arts and of the historical contexts in which they are created and experienced. Beethoven | Hero tells the story of how art—emerging from the collision of history and flawed, brilliant humanity—outlives its creator to challenge, inspire and occasionally transform us.
Jackie Evancho sings Dark Waltz. She was 9 years old when she recorded this!!! How can this be?! She has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard.
A great documentary which explores what inspired Beethoven to create the amazing 5th Symphony. What I especially love is the inclusion a visit to Bonn and Beethoven Haus, and conductor John Eliot Gardner’s period orchestra. Yes folks- the 5th in this documentary is played on period instruments!
This is so beautiful..