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On the occasion of Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birthday, I would like to offer the following remembrance: In the fall of 1988, the group that would eventually be named the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy had its 4th annual conference at Fallingwater, to celebrate the opening of their brand new visitor's center, where we had dinner the final night. I found myself seated next to a tall white haired gentleman, who introduced himself as Ben Dombar (Taliesin Fellow, 1934 to 1941) from Cincinnati. We began talking about music and he told me of the time that Mr. Wright was holding forth before a small group of apprentices on the subject of music and art. Mr. Wright (in all his modesty) offered the observation that, as an artist, he considered himself the equal of Bach or Mozart, but Beethoven in his Late Quartets, that was another matter. To Wright those quartets were the very pinnacle of Western art, in any form. Food for thought...
Beethoven seems to be the composer most frequently mentioned in connection with Mr Wright; perhaps the name came most often to his lips ? (A radio announcer on the local classical station today asserted that the Third Symphony is "the greatest symphony ever written," according to a consensus of conductors.) As a Bach man myself, I naturally favor the anecdote Wright included in his autobiography when reminiscing about the design of Unity Temple:
" 'Boy! Go tell Black Kelly to make a blaze there in the work-room fireplace! Ask Brown Sadie if it's too late to have Baked Bermudas for supper! Then go ask your Mother---I shall hear her in here---to play something---Bach preferred, or Beethoven if she prefers.' "
"Now comes to brood---to suffer doubt, hesitate yet burn with eagerness. To test bearings---and prove ground already assumed by putting all together in definite scale on paper. Preferably small scale study at first. Then larger. Finally still larger scale detail studies of parts."
(That last, it might be said, could be the most concrete explication in the entire book of his---and any architect's---working method. "Ground already assumed" might well refer to the image of a building he is said to have constructed mentally, before even "small scale studies" were committed to paper ?)
Bach is the module, the infinite variation within a grid.., Beethoven, the lyrical, the poetic, absolute freedom and the romantic, but always under control with the right amount of restraint, never kitschy.
Maybe I just don’t understand Mozart. I’ve tried since I had to play the A Major violin concerto as a high school student. Maybe that ruined him for me.
One expert on the subject posed the idea that Bach was thoroughly grounded, while Beethoven soared. An Der Freude would tend to support the latter description. There is a moment when the orchestra plays softly as the sopranos and altos sing equally softly, and suddenly all heaven breaks out, and it's "Freude, schoner Gotterfunken" fortissimo! all over the place. (Sorry, I cannot print umlauts.)It is hard to keep from floating whenever I sing or hear that bit of genius.