Friday, 18 November 2016

Transcendence in Bach & Beethoven


As Glenn Gould noted in a television programme, while J.S. Bach regularly achieved transcendence in his music with an apparent air of effortlessness, Beethoven's music occasionally achieves transcendence but not without the sense of an almighty struggle in order to achieve this effect. 

Judging from their works, it would appear that J.S. Bach was very much God's steward, at least musically, whereas Beethoven was man trying to be God or at least attempting to reach him in his own way.

And this despite Beethoven's tremendous virtuosic and compositional gifts which technically had no equal in his own time and possibly outshone Bach's very own considerable talents. 

As Nietzsche once observed, if too much struggle is put in a work of art this will transpire in the energy it gives out, leaving a certain disjunctive effect in the beholder's mind, which is why that philosopher recommended only putting up to 70% of one's Creator-given energy in a production since, in his opinion, this would lead to a more harmonious and less jarring artistic outcome. 

To summarise in tweet form

Bach: man as God's steward - effortless transcendence
Beethoven: man reaches to God - transcendence achieved through struggle

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