Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds and A Transcendental Journey.

The Seventh

The Third is heroic.

The Fifth is iconic.

The Ninth is a miracle.

But of all the Nine symphonies, my favorite has always been the Seventh. I don’t know why exactly. It just appealed to me immediately, the rhythms and melodies, the energy pulsing through yet not overwhelming. More subtle than the others, yet somehow truer to itself.

And there is a joy that runs through it, different from the Ode to Joy of the Ninth, more self-contained and pure, especially in the Allegretto, the second movement. You can hear something similar sometimes in Bach and Mozart. I don’t know what it is. But I think of it as the joy of a master engaged only in the work.

Just vague impressions I know.

Hard to explain.

How do you judge a symphony?  Or greatness? Or art?

Mozart and Shakespeare are at the top for me. Old Bach is not far behind. Michelangelo perhaps belongs near. And somewhere not too far down the list is Beethoven.

To some extent, maybe a great extent, it is a personal decision. You could break it down into categories I suppose. Originality. Breadth of expression. Depth of emotion. Uniqueness. Capacity.

But in saying that the Seventh is my favorite, I am not really judging it. I’m just expressing a preference. Though somewhere down deep maybe there is little difference, since judgement has to be based on something, and if you go far enough down there are likely personal choices supporting whatever criteria you elect. 

So I was delighted today, listening to it on the radio, when the announcer noted that the Seventh was Beethoven’s favorite too. When asked why it was not as well-known as the others, Beethoven reportedly said: “Because it’s better.”

Who am I to argue with the master?

(Image: A Beethoven Enthusiast by Moriz Jung. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/649890)

 

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
You're entitled. Bach, Gershwin, Puccini for me. And Monteverdi. And the whole of the Paris Gothic school of plainchant and poly... Read More
Sunday, 27 May 2018 20:43
Stephen Evans
Fine choices. I once sang in a concert of polyphonic pieces in the National Cathedral in Washington, including Monteverdi. They ... Read More
Sunday, 27 May 2018 21:25
Ken Hartke
You inspired me to seek out the Seventh and I enjoyed it -- haven't listened to it in years. I'm a Triple Concerto man, myself. It... Read More
Wednesday, 30 May 2018 18:00
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4 Comments

The Coming of Dusk

"At times I believe that my feet have been set upon a road which I shall go on following, and that slowly the centre of gravity of my being will shift over from the world of day, from the domain of organizing and regulating universal powers, into the world of Imagination. Already now I feel, as when at the age of twenty I was going to a ball in the evening, that day is a space of time without meaning, and that it is with the coming of dusk, with the lighting of the first star and the first candle, that things will become what they really are, and will come forth to meet me."

Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Shadows in the Grass

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
This passage is amazing for its luminosity. It is so perfectly what I sense and believe, in the way that I believe it, and to see ... Read More
Tuesday, 08 May 2018 23:14
Stephen Evans
These extraordinary passages pop up all through both Out of Africa and its successor Shadows in the Grass. The clarity and strengt... Read More
Wednesday, 09 May 2018 02:19
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2 Comments

Happy Birthday, Will Shakespeare

There once was a playwright named Will

Whose spelling was practically Nil.

Whether Shaksper or Shakspere

Or Shakspe or Shakespeare,

Sweet Will paid his bill with a Quill.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
I believe his name originally was spelled without the first E. Ah, the days before the iniquity that is Amazon, when you could pay... Read More
Monday, 23 April 2018 23:48
Stephen Evans
If anyone is curious about the spelling of his name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelling_of_Shakespeare%27s_name ... Read More
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 21:03
Rosy Cole
Thank you for this enlightening link! One of my volumes of the 'Complete Works' is hidebound and marbled with gold die-stamping.... Read More
Thursday, 26 April 2018 13:23
541 Hits
3 Comments

Be Secret and Exult

It is National Poetry Month here in the US, so I thought I would offer one from my favorites:

To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

By William Butler Yeats

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbors' eyes;
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Sadly, for me, it's always a challenge to chime with the gloomy Yeats. This, though more optimistic, doesn't answer either: To a F... Read More
Sunday, 08 April 2018 21:18
Stephen Evans
I think this poem is interesting in so many ways. First, he is writing to a friend. Second, he agrees the friend's work has come t... Read More
Sunday, 08 April 2018 21:50
Rosy Cole
Steve, I'm not sure that either of us has fully understood this badly crafted poem, at least from the point of view of its perspec... Read More
Sunday, 15 April 2018 08:48
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4 Comments

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