Welcome to author, Howard Jay Smith as he promotes his book, Beethoven in love; Opus 139. Make sure to check out his guest post as well as an excerpt from the book.
At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with
to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he
must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and
exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life
led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who
died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical
Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to
confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.
Beethoven & the Quest for his Immortal Beloved
“Your love makes me at once both the happiest and the unhappiest of men. . . Love me today, yesterday . . . . What tearful longings for you, you, you. My life, my all. Farewell. Never cease to love me. Never misjudge this most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever yours . . . Ever mine . . . Ever ours. . . .”
Thus concludes one of the most famous love notes in history; Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” letter written to a mysterious and as yet unknown woman. Not only did he fail address her by name, he further baffled music historians by simply dating the letter, July 7th, leaving off the year. Outside of Beethoven’s actual music, there is more speculation about the women in his life than anything else.
So who was this woman, this Immortal Beloved, that has been the focus of such fevered study in the nearly 190 years since his death in 1827, when a copy of the letter was found in his apartment by accident alone?
Will we ever know her true identity and give this woman her due? Was she a married aristocrat with whom he had an affair? Or a childhood sweetheart he longed to see once again? Or was she even the mother of a child he never knew?
Speculation is rife, even today, when the descendants of over a dozen women, including the dedicatee of the “Moonlight Sonata,” claim him as their own.
At the moment of his death, in his last seconds of conscious, Beethoven raised his fist and shook it at his Creator. Did he demand to know why it is, that he, whose hearing once surpassed all others in sensitivity and degree had been cast out as history’s cruel joke, a deaf composer who was also denied the comforts of family and the affections of his Immortal Beloved?
For all his creative genius, Beethoven was a flawed man who led a troubled life. In my novel we explore the depths of that love and pain. In that last tick of the clock, our Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him one final wish… One day, just one day of pure joy in her arms. Thus begins a spiritual journey to the borders of Elysium, where Beethoven re-experience each of those precious moments. He struggles to come to peace not only with all the failings of his life but to also to find solace in the embrace of his Immortal Beloved.
Will he succeed? As one of the characters Beethoven encounters so on the road to paradise proudly proclaims, “What is a novel but a collection of lies we tell to reveal greater truths?”
Enjoy this excerpt:
The Death of Beethoven
Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.
Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf Uhr. .
Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.
Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at
Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.
Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.
His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone ...
About the author:
Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from
BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Santa
Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he
taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured
nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the
Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America,
the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an
executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he
worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves
on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony - "The Best Small
City Symphony in Washington, D.C. America"
- and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.