The gift Beethoven gave us all
Baptized on December 17, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven had a difficult life. He grew up with an abusive alcoholic father, a court musician, and a loving mother who was unable to protect him from his father's harsh treatment. He struggled with schooling, finding music easier to understand than the written word. His father drove him relentlessly to make him a musical wunderkind, similar to Mozart, and he began performing and composing at a young age. To support his family, he took work as an assistant court organist at 14, while learning from such powerful musical figures as Haydn, Antonio Salieri and Johann Albrechtsberger.
Beethoven loved deeply, yet often, without answering devotion from those he cherished. Then, just as his musical career was flourishing, he began to lose his hearing, possibly due to a typhus infection. As his most treasured sense diminished, his determination to create music continued, He composed a vast body of works including sonatas, symphonies, ballets, operas and more.
A stark moment during the debut of his breathtaking Symphony No. 9 revealed the enormity of his struggle. Conducting the orchestra and singers with great passion, he was unaware that the music had finished. He continued to conduct despite the audience's thunderous ovation behind him. Only when the soprano soloist Caroline Unger approached him, turning him to see the audience's cheers and applause, did he react in shock. At that moment, the crowd realized the extent of his accomplishment; he had created such beautiful music without the ability to hear even one note. This became a powerful testament to the triumph of the human spirit over impossible circumstances.
Beethoven's gift to us all was far greater than his beautiful music, or even his stirring message of the brotherhood of man and our birthright to live in joy. He showed us that it is possible to triumph over every circumstance, and to love greatly, even when love seems impossible.
No matter what our individual struggles might be, we can gain new hope, new determination, from Beethoven's life story. From his own pain, he envisioned a world of universal love and value, conveyed in the triumphant "Ode to Joy." This symphony has continued to inspire movements of peace, freedom and human value ever since.
This music is the driving force, and the central theme of our film, Dancing Joy. Peoples of many cultures collaborated, expressing Beethoven's vision through their traditional dance. We hope that you, and those you love, will gain new energy every time you watch it. Happy Beethoven's Birthday to all!