In times like these, we turn to the things that comfort and reassure us. You know, mac and cheese, "The Great British Baking Show." Maybe mac and cheese while watching "The Great British Baking Show." Music is also a solace. My class on Beethoven, March 29, has been postponed -- as has my last class this season, April 26, on Schubert -- because of the coronavirus, but I wanted to share three Beethoven videos we would have heard. They are wonderful, of course, but they also make me smile, calm me down and give me hope for humanity.
Here is the last movement of the first piece Beethoven ever published, the Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1. The legendary Beaux Arts Trio performs. Listen to that cheeky, jumping theme.
Here is the sublime vocal quartet from his only opera, "Fidelio." This is one of the first times a composer has four characters express four different emotions using identical music. Marzelline speaks of her new feelings for a stranger, Fidelio; Leonore is anxious about the danger she finds herself in; Rocco, the loving father, sees Fidelio as the perfect match for his daughter; and Jacquino despairs that Marzelline will ever love him. The tune is 32 bars long and each singer enters after the first eight bars have been sung by the previous singer.
The singers in this Metropolitan Opera production from 2000 are Karita Mattila (Leonore), Jennifer Welch-Babidge (Marzelline), Matthew Polenzani (Jaquino), René Pape (Rocco). James Levine conducts.
Lastly, I hesitated to include this because the novelty of flash mobs has worn off, but this one is different. I had tears in my eyes, as I believe Beethoven would have had, knowing the effect his music continues to have on new generations, now going on 300 years. The video is from Sabadell, Spain, near Barcelona. The 100 performers are from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.
Stay well, dear friends.
David Stabler is a teacher, writer, dad and cyclist. He's working on a novel based on his childhood years living in Africa and rode across America with his brother in 2017.