“A soft answer turneth away wrath.” The timeless wisdom of this biblical proverb (Proverbs 15:1) has found artistic expression in one of Beethoven’s most divine creations– the slow movement of his Piano Concerto no. 4, a work I have previously written a post about (see post for 14.10.2007)
For some 19th-century commentators, this movement evoked the image of Orpheus taming the wild beasts, even though Beethoven himself is nowhere on record as having claimed any connection with the Greek legend. Yet the music has such compelling power as to make the association quite convincing.
What is unmistakable is the vivid contrast presented at the outset. Using only unison strings playing in angry clipped phrases in an uncompromising martial rhythm, Beethoven has his solo instrument respond in a gently pleading voice. And by the midpoint of the movement it has won over the strings as it grows ever more expansive. For their part, the strings now punctuate the music with subdued pizzicato chords, harmony coming to them at last. And in the exquisite closing moments of the movement, with the piano now in serene control, we hear in the lower strings only a distant echo of the opening anger. In the eloquent words of Edward Downes: “The stern voice of the orchestra relents, the octaves melt into harmony, and at the very end, orchestra unites with solo in a little sigh of acquiescence.”
Lynne suggests: as you listen to this movement, pay particular attention to the musical process Josh has described.
Have there been times in your life when you have felt furious and then, through dialog with a quiet inner voice, been able to bring yourself back to a state of equilibrium? Can you recall times when you have intuitively calmed others’ fury through your quietness?
Savor each memory as you listen to the movement.
If anger has been hard for you to let go of, try imagining that the piano is the voice of your inner wisdom gradually growing strong enough to be heard as you listen with new ears and new awareness.