Ludwig van Beethoven was thirty-eight years old, hiding in his brother’s basement, terrified by the bombardment of Vienna under siege by the French: “‘The whole course of events has affected my body and soul. What a disturbing, wild life around me; nothing but drums, cannons, men, misery of all sorts.'”*
It was early 1809. Beethoven had been losing his hearing since 1796. He was beginning to sketch his Piano Concerto #5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73, his last published concerto, created against the backdrop chaos of shelling, explosions louder than deafness–Beethoven’s music affirming the human spirit, beauty over brawn, piano over bully orchestra, its brassy horns, cloudburst of strings, concussion of drums.
A young woman stately strides on stage, crossing before the imperious musicians arrested by her flowing red performance dress, her blonde hair, her arms bare, athletic, graceful as two swans comfortable together. She takes her place at the piano, readies in her lap her wrists and fingers. The conductor smiles, seeming to apologize for the orchestra about to rush ahead, Allegro! Allegro!, war horses loosed, charging headlong into the fray only to be stilled by the gracious soloist reigning in their martial exuberance, her cadenza bringing them all, attentive, to their knees. Oh, she has them now, inviting each as a partner, following, not leading. Her generous permission.
In honor of Ms. Halle Puckett, concert pianist, daughter of concert pianists Lauren and Mark Puckett, and in praise of all the past and present musicians of the Hardin-Simmons University School of Music.
Peter Gutmann, http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics6/emperor.html