The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2017. The Ear gives thanks for music with Beethoven’s own unforgettable hymn of thanksgiving | November 23, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2017.

That means it is a good time to recognize and be grateful for — music.

As Franz Schubert once said, “Anyone who loves music cannot be quite unhappy.”

That’s not a surprising sentiment, of course, coming from a composer with so much humanity and empathy who wrote the song “An die Musik” (To Music).

The Ear finds what Schubert said to be true and has many things to be thankful for, including you, his readers.

He also gives thanks for all the people who make music possible from the composer to the audiences, from the performers to the presenters, from the stagehands to the tuners and so many more.

Presenting music is a lot more complex and collective or cooperative than many realize, and those who make it happen should not be taken for granted.

So what is the best way to express one’s gratitude and thanks for music?

In one of the often perplexing late string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven (below), a tuneful and accessible and unforgettable sacred or holy song of thanksgiving, written in the Lydian mode, suddenly bursts forth.

Beethoven composed it after he had survived a serious health crisis that he feared would prove fatal. The irony is that he recovered and composed the quartet, then died only two years later.

Still, it seems a perfect way to mark this day.

So in the YouTube video at the bottom is the “Heiliger Dankgesang” from Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, with a colorful bar graph that helps the listeners to visualize the structure of this special piece of music:

What piece of music would you name to express being thankful?


1 Comment »

  1. Schubert and Beethoven are beloved and terrific picks.

    I find the American composer, Alan Hovhaness, always puts me in a thoughtful, relaxed and thankful mood. Here is one of my favorites of his, “Spirit of the Trees”, Sonata for Harp and Guitar, op 374, performed by Yolanda Kondonassis, harp, and David Leisner, guitar.

    And yes, that high opus number is correct, he wrote a lot of good music, lots of it is available free on YouTube. Much of it, unfortunately, is seldom played on the radio or elsewhere, including piano works, choral music, chamber music, etc. I think his small group music is the best but he wrote dozens of good symphonies too. His long, productive life is something to be thankful for.

    Comment by fflambeau — November 23, 2017 @ 12:52 am


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