Why Beethoven?

Transcendence.  I’ve known a few special people in my life who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of one sort or another–and have come out the other end wiser and, more often than not, with more compassion toward others.


I’m currently smack dab in the middle of an ongoing project with a number of my friends and colleagues–the exploration and performance of all of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin/piano, cello/piano and his piano trios. When I first decided to take on this project in 2014, I wasn’t completely sure why I wanted to–only that I felt a deep compulsion to “know” this music.

Now that I and those undertaking this project with me are fully immersed in it, I’m beginning to understand what led me to this music:  It’s a part of my own personal process of self-reflection. By delving into a specific body of music written by someone who sought (and often struggled mightily) to move beyond perceived limitations, I can perhaps gain a better understanding of the universality of this very human desire to move beyond–to grow.

On the surface, I can enjoy what an incredibly clever (and sometimes wildly frustrating) musician Beethoven was–and how beautifully-crafted so much of his music is. I find myself, however, being drawn more to the musical thought within the notes–and to Beethoven’s obsessive, seemingly never-ending drive to explore an idea fully–to exhaust all possible avenues when dealing with even the smallest motive. For some reason, I find that process–his process–to be comforting–enlightening–and fully engaging.

When I shared news of this Beethoven project recently with a close friend (a very gifted musician and rather deep thinker himself), he understood immediately. “We seek understanding of ourselves at various times often with the aid of those who have gone before us.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ll have more to say about this project, no doubt, as I continue to explore it.

Rick Ferguson