In the midst of a persistent Pandemic, there is still joy! Last Saturday night, Gary and I went to the Des Moines Symphony, which is in its 84th season. We both love music and attend the symphony fairly regularly. In the midst of strict requirements for entrance, the Des Moines Symphony has discovered ways in which to create a new normal. Everyone with a ticket is required to wear a mask and show their ID and vaccine card before entering the concert hall. The precautions are non-negotiable in order for everyone to be safe. And there are no longer smiling people handing out the programs. You’ve got to pick them up from a table yourself!
The program, called “Immortal Beloved,” was conducted by Maestro Joseph Giunta, who is in his 33rd year as music director of the Des Moines Symphony. It was inspired by a series of love letters that Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a life-long bachelor, wrote to a woman whose identity is one of the great mysteries of classical music. The letters, addressed to “my angel” and “immortal beloved,” were written in pencil in rough draft form and were never sent. They were discovered not long after Beethoven’s death in 1827 in a secret drawer in his Vienna apartment, interspersed with his music.
In July of 1812, Beethoven wrote a letter to his unknown “immortal beloved.”
Good morning, on 7 July
Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. Yes, I have determined to wander about for so long far away, until I can fly into your arms and call myself quite at home with you, can send my soul enveloped by yours into the realm of spirits – yes, I regret, it must be. You will get over it all the more as you know my faithfulness to you; never another one can own my heart, never – never! O God, why must one go away from what one loves so, and yet my life in W. as it is now is a miserable life. Your love made me the happiest and unhappiest at the same time. At my actual age I should need some continuity, sameness of life – can that exist under our circumstances? Angel, I just hear that the post goes out every day – and must close therefore, so that you get the L. at once. Be calm – love me – today – yesterday. What longing in tears for you – You – my Life – my All – farewell. Oh, go on loving me – never doubt the faithfullest heart Of your beloved.
As I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (from Piano Sonata #14 in C-sharp, Op. 27, No. 2 – 1801), played by 18-year-old Campbell Helton, I couldn’t help but imagine Beethoven’s yearning to love and be loved.
The second half of Saturday night’s Des Moines Symphony was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a Russian virtuoso pianist, composer, and conductor of the Romantic era. The Piano Concerto No. 3 premiered in 1909, with Rachmaninoff playing it himself.
According to the Des Moines Symphony program notes, a thirty-concert tour of the U.S. was planned for 1909-1910 by promoter Henry Wolfson. Rachmaninoff would play as well as conduct in many cities around the country, and his Third Piano Concerto was composed for this tour. Rachmaninoff undertook this tour in order to be able to purchase the new American invention: an automobile. (He bought his first car in 1912.)
The concerto, which has been called the Mount Everest of all concertos, was performed by Natasha Paremski, an incredibly gifted, fiery, and passionate musician. Paremski began studying piano in Moscow when she was just four years old. She moved to the US at age eight and debuted at age nine with the El Camino Youth Symphony in California. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3 is extremely challenging technically, and Ms. Paremski had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Rachmaninoff is my favorite composer, and I could only wonder at his genius as well as the amazing skill of Ms. Paremski, as she played without a score in front of her. What kind of world could we create if we allowed God to use us to be instruments of:
- Overcoming Obstacles
What might our world look like if we treat all human beings as immortal beloveds? Not for the purpose of buying a car, but for our immortal souls.
P.S. Gary and I will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from February 1 to February 11. The next Leading from the Heart will be published on Monday, February 14.