''IF music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it.........'' The opening lines of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night might have entered the thoughts of the uniquely privileged Viennese audience that witnessed Ludwig van Beethoven premiering his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies in the Austrian capital on Dec 22, 1808.

For good measure, the artistic showcase also featured the first performances of his Piano Concerto No 4 and Choral Fantasy. A 20th - century equivalent would have entailed the Beatles, say, unveiling 'Sgt Pepper' and 'Abbey Road' simultaneously in a live performance.

Incidentally, the later album's Because is based on reversing the chords of the Moonlight Sonata. It wasn't the only time turned up in the pop pantheon.

By 1808, Beethoven was already viewed as the most fascinating composer of his age. He was born in Bonn, probably precisely 250 years ago today. He first Vienna as a teenage prodigy, and may have been tutored by Mozart.

He was obliged to return to Bonn to attend to his dying mother, but went back to Vienna at Hayden's invitation five years later and remained there for the rest of his life.

I cannot claim to be an aficionado of Western classical music - the temporal investment it requires has always been a hard slog. Yet there are compositions that insinuates themselves into the subconscious, from Mozart's Eine Kliene Nachtmusik to Strauss's Blue Danube, Tscaikovsky's Swan Lake, Ravel's Bolero and Chopin's etudes.

I would make a particular exception, though, for Beethoven. It dates back perhaps, to a presentation on the weekly Disney show featured on Pakistan TeleVision in the early early 1970s, where a dramatised biography of Beethoven showed the opening chords of the Fifth Symphony being inspired by a debtor banging on the door of the composer's rented accommodation.

Those dramatic notes are more often described as the knocking of Fate.

The show was probably more accurate in its depiction of a deaf Beethoven being swung around by a soloist after inaugurating his Ninth Symphony to witness the rapturous response.

The Ninth came almost a decade after the Eighth, which had been unveiled before an audience of international leaders at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.

That particular segment, now the official anthem of the European Union, has stood the test of time in more ways than one.

Beethoven's death centenary in 1927 was widely commemorated across Europe, from Britain to the Soviet Union. As a German, though, he was also appropriated by the Nazi regime, which continued to honor him despite determining that he was 'mixed race'.

Based on Beethoven's looks, the suspicion of African ancestry has persisted, albeit without any firm foundation.

His politics have served as the basis of much conjecture. Beethoven famously rescinded the dedication of his Third Symphony, Eroica, to Napoleon after the latter emerged as a potential tyrant.

And there is a tale, possibly apocryphal, about how he, while out for a walk in a park with Goethe, encountered a royal party and strolled right through it, even as Goethe stepped aside to bow and scrape.

The honor and serving of this brilliant historic ode to excellence, continues to part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Mahir Ali.


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