TITLE: Roll Over Beethoven 23 Aug 2014
By Beth LaBuff
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I stumbled down an unlit path as the stingy new moon’s slivered smile gloated from its obsidian heights. Candlelight flickered through wavy panes and a rippling melody ebbed and flowed from the house. I knocked on the door, unsure of early 19th century protocol. The strains of the piano sonata ceased. I heard footsteps approach.
“Herr Beethoven?” I inquired, though I recognized him immediately. A painting, a mirror image of the man before me, graced every anthology of his musical works that I owned. He appraised me, his eyebrows narrowed, then, he slammed the door. Well, that didn’t go well! My mind conjured that famous minor third progression from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 – Da, da, da, dum!
From hundreds of contestants I was chosen as the bachelorette for the second season of an avant-garde reality television show called, The Anachronous. This show melded famous bachelors, time-travel, and a contestant willing to wed. In season one of The Anachronous a contestant was sent to encounter the infamous Vincent Van Gogh. In a scintillating grab for ratings, the network convinced the bachelorette to transport to the present the artist’s precursor sketch of Starry Night— that, along with a detached ear.
The show’s second season transported me to Bonn, Germany, 1819, to the hometown of Ludwig van Beethoven. If luck shone brighter than tonight’s moon, I would soon become the bride of the acclaimed Mr. Ludwig van Beethoven. My mind hummed notes from the adagio section of his Sonata Pathétique, a paltry attempt to vanquish that minor third earworm.
Today, I’m dressed to the nines, at least by 19th century German standards, cocooned in fabric from neck to toe. I’m seated with guests, impatiently awaiting the master’s arrival.
Beethoven entered the room. A starched massive white collar loomed above his dark jacket and semi-encircled his head like an open clam shell with his head being the pearl. He approached his instrument with aplomb. His fingers poised above the keys, he began the debut of his soon-to-be-beloved Moonlight Sonata. But, oh woe, be still my deceiving ears. Beethoven performed the song altogether wrong! The piece didn’t flow; it was choppy. Staccato notes exploded all over like corn popping in our old blackened popper back home— in the future. It was torturous to sit through. The song’s double bar finale couldn’t arrive soon enough.
While the guests converged upon the refreshment table, I threaded my way to the piano and serenely, sempre legato,1 began to play Moonlight Sonata—performed it the way it deserved, the way it resonated when I fell in love with it—almost two centuries into the future. While my fingers gently rolled the chords, for a second time today the room hushed. This time moonlit notes wove a mesmerizing sheen over each listening guest.
As the final chord of Moonlight Sonata shimmered about the room, then was extinguished, I glanced up. “Who are you?” he whispered in a pianissimo2 voice.
“I am Elise. I’ve wanted to meet you for a very long time.”
(Author’s note: If I blithely quipped, “The rest is history!” that wouldn’t be fair to you, my reader. So, fast forward—still back in time—one year.)
Our matrimonial duet began in a quaint stone chapel a year to the day of my arrival in Germany. Beethoven entered the sanctuary wearing a scarlet cravat, my wedding gift to my betrothed, tied under his starched white shirt collar. With his intense eyes, ink-stained fingers, and untamed hair, he was a symphony in mortal flesh.
After the husband and wife pronouncement, my groom ambled to the piano and gifted me, Frau Elise van Beethoven, with a wedding gift—a song. His searching eyes held my gaze, his fingers lithely danced as the song commenced using a minor second motif3. The air refused to leave my lungs and my heart refrained from beating as I listened to my song, Für Elise.
Note from Elise: There is an online image of an 1820 painting that Joseph Karl Stieler painted of my husband, Ludwig van Beethoven, wearing his wedding gift, the scarlet cravat. My song, “Für (for) Elise,” can also be found online.
Note from the author: This story is for reading enjoyment only; no attempt was made to adhere to a chronology of events or historic accuracy to the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. The song titles mentioned, however, are Beethoven’s.
1sempre legato – always smoothly
2pianissimo –very soft
3motif-a short rhythmic repeated passage
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