A note on the “Allegretto”

My father had come back from a conference in Kuala Lumpur with a copy of a classical music magazine he bought in the airport on the flight back, some time over the summer. When he arrived home, he showed me an essay on Beethoven’s Allegretto—the second movement from Symphony No. 7—and the music critic made the case that the Allegretto was the greatest piece of music ever composed. And it was like my father gushed over the writing—he even asked me if I could write just as well like that. I had never listened to the piece before, and shortly after he mentioned it to me, my father bought a CD of some of the Beethoven symphonies. He said the critic was right. It was the most beautiful piece of music he ever heard. And I tend to agree—throughout the movement, consonance and dissonance, major and minor seem somehow interwoven, so as to unfold in a dialogue between what enlivens the spirit and what gropes from place of melancholy, like soft light that kept filling a prison. They don’t even happen simultaneously, but the transitions between them seem to fuse those two senses together, and it makes me believe that I can feel happiness and joy, sadness and haunting all at the same time. What makes music like that possible? Why does that effect make me feel like Beethoven is telling me about hope? I listened to the piece over and over for a long time, just like my father did.


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