A dream from the sixties: a drunken meal around a table, with plentiful wine and many plates of savory food. Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, sits next to me, whispering; in the 1930s the troubled girl had fallen in love, unbidden, with Joyce’s friend Samuel Beckett, who is somewhere there roving about the room of my dream. Friends sit across from me, and at the end of the table is my great late teacher Thomas Flanagan, telling a story – sharp-edged, wry and witty.
At the head of the table sits
Joyce himself, pivoting in his chair towards a piano conveniently placed by him,
and he is playing away right through all the talk and clatter, the vodka
toasts, Flanagan’s story and the laughter of its reception. Joyce plays no opera
or Irish song: he is playing Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata.
Suddenly Lucia turns to me, puts
her hand on my knee, and whispers – almost mouthing the words: “Do you love me?”
I soon awoke into my 1965 life, but not before I felt the full force of her
searching glance, her yearning words, and her delusion.
The dream has continued to
reverberate in my imagination for almost a half century. In 1970, I wrote a
story about a piano virtuoso, and the story continued to grow until 1990 when it
became my novel Hungry Generations. The
painting on its cover (based on Matisse’s “The Music Lesson”) shows the
virtuoso playing the piano with his family sitting about and his new friend, a
young composer, standing and listening. Beethoven is everywhere present – his picture
on the wall, a volume of the sonatas on the piano lid, and the filigreed opening
notes of his Hammerklavier atop the picture.
There exists a wonderful photograph
of Joyce playing the piano with his son Giorgio listening as he leans over the
closed lid. There is a painting on the cover of my study of music and modern
fiction, Fullness of Dissonance
(which was written in the eighties and published in 1994), and it is based on
the photograph. The painting shows Joyce at the piano with not Giorgio, but
Mann, Proust, and Schoenberg standing by the closed lid, listening.
The obsession – with a life
of its own – does not stop. This is my seventeenth post about Beethoven, and of
course several concern the Hammerklavier.
[Both of these cover
paintings – visible in the right column of this blog – are by Jeanette Arax
Melnick, my wife.]
I’d thought of writing about
Tia DeNora’s 1995 study of how Beethoven’s aristocratic Viennese patrons early
on helped to support and, in important ways, to shape the growth of Beethoven’s
genius – its title is “Beethoven and the Construction of Genius.” But somehow I’d
like to use more of these posts to explore why I love Beethoven – and so: my
dream from the 1960s.
FICTION about Armenians, Israel, music, & medicine. NOTES ON LITERATURE, ART, POLITICS, AND MUSIC
About the arts and ideas - on my novels and literature, music, and art
A new book about Beethoven gathers together (and completely rewrites and supplements) my blog posts on Beethoven into a short introduction to the composer, Ways of Hearing Beethoven, which I hope to see published. My novel The Fall of the Berlin Wall, completed a year ago, is about musicians and particularly the intense, irrepressible daughter of the legendary pianist featured in my previous novel Hungry Generations, now fifteen years after those events. Five years ago, my 2015 novel, The Ash Tree, was published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it's about an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family.
There are three other novels of mine, which I would love to see published. One is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962. Another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse, which I think would be of value to a conventional publisher. A Burnt Offering - a fable (a full rewriting and expansion of my earlier Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable) is my political novella about Israel and its reactions to the possibility of a war with Iran (with the fear that it will be a nuclear war).
[My blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]
[My blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Beethoven xviii: more evidence of an obsession with the composer
Posted by Daniel Melnick at 11:33 PM
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