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Was Beethoven a Freemason?

Posted by Philip 
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 24, 2007 05:39AM
Adelaide Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Angel Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > years back in another board.... someone
> found
> > something of beethoven being an Mason in the
> da
> > vinci code book. I don't think he wasn't a
> mason.
>
> In my view, the Da Vinci Code is riddled with all
> sorts of inaccuracies from beginning to end, so I
> didn't give much credence to the claim that
> Beethoven was a Mason.
>
> Adelaide


Hey welcome to the fun house!! :-D thanks for telling me. :-D

Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 24, 2007 09:22AM
Long-faced remonstrances notwithstanding, I remain curious to see what great revelations will come from these investigations. To continue with shocking images, I can't help but think of poor Woyzeck in Büchner's drama pounding the ground in paranoid frenzy and whispering furtively to his friend :"Andres, das waren die Freimaurer... die Freimaurer!" (In diesem Sinne weiter...) Carry on!
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 24, 2007 12:38PM
Frits Wrote:

I can't help but think of poor
> Woyzeck in Büchner's drama pounding the ground in
> paranoid frenzy and whispering furtively to his
> friend :"Andres, das waren die Freimaurer... die
> Freimaurer!" (In diesem Sinne weiter...) Carry
> on!

and I particularly like Berg's setting of this (unfinished) drama, and of this line in the 1st Act.
Berg wasn't a Freimaurer/Freemason by the way.


wir gehen weiter (We'll carry on!)


>


Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 25, 2007 02:00AM
Berg's opera is a fascinating setting of this - in my opinion - remarkably "modern" play. However, in a tragically short life (Büchner dying of an ill-defined illness at age twenty-four), he authored some of the most amazing works of the time (cf. "Dantons Tod"). Of course, as you know, he was hounded out of his part of the country (Hessen) by the police and had to flee to Switzerland where he died. He was, speaking of "fatal" dates, born in the same year (1813) as Hebbel, Wagner, and Verdi. I know Berg's work and have recordings of it, but although I have seen the play on the stage, I have never had the opportunity to see the opera in the theatre. Wirklich Schade!
To clarify a bit my position on the speculations concerning Beethoven and Freemasonry, as you correctly note, JB, Freemasonry was very widespread at the time and not only was George Washington a Mason (and most of his colleagues, as well), but most US presidents have been Masons, with the probable exception of John F. Kennedy.(Cf. the Masonic symbolism on US currency.) We know about Mozart's ties to Freemasonry because of his "Masonic" compositions, "Mauerische Trauermusik" K477, and "Die Zauberflöte" K620, full of much Masonic symbolism. (Since he wrote the text, I assume Schikaneder was probably a Mason.) My point is this: Since the admirable ideals of Freemasonry are such as any intelligent, tolerant individual would espouse (and naturally banned in National-Socialist Germany), in what way would they not also co-incide with Beethoven's known socio-political attitudes? In other words, it might be a curious piece of biographical information, but would it in any way alter our approach to, and understanding of, his works?
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 25, 2007 11:54AM
Well, since we "declared" that Ludwig's works has nothing to do with Freemasonry, I'd say it wouldn't change a thing. Yet, it would make us wonder about his religious beliefs. We all know he believed in God, but wasn't a real practical believer. And than again, there is all this disconnection between Freemasonry and Church. Who knows...
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 25, 2007 07:29PM
Well, Franliszt, the negative attitude of the Catholic Church towards Freemasonry came at a later date. Earlier, even some of the clergy were Freemasons. It is said that the changing of the Church's position was because they felt there would be a competetive conflict in moral authority. As to Beethoven, I don't believe he was much for attending church services, but was certainly profoundly spiritual.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 26, 2007 02:49PM
Indeed Freemasonry's negative attitude of the Church came at later date, but still that date dates before Beethoven himself. He believed in God, that's what we know for sure, he was a spiritual man, and when it comes to his attending church services I think we must consider him being a recluse from the society, caused by both his temper and his deafness. I'd say it's all a bit connected.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 26, 2007 09:24PM
Frits, JB, MC and Sauron : I never expected my posting would ruffle so many feathers. Perhaps I should clarify my position. I (like you and others on this forum) have a passionate interest in Beethoven’s music and other themes related to him. I also jump on anything that may ‘throw light’ onto his music, or at least offer the potential for such. This is why (after reading the Solomon essays – see earlier posting to JB for essay titles) I posted this thread – not that I expect any revelations as such (Frits !), but I’m just looking for ‘new angles’ to his music and thought-processes. For me this Forum offers the possibility to bounce ideas off other informed minds, as well as sharing the passion, so to speak. I’m also happy to note that it is not just the purely formalistic / musical aspects that dominate (I had plenty of that at University, thank you very much).

As to Freemasonry in general, I have no comment to make – I am completely neutral.

MC : you mentioned how the ‘lodges’ are perhaps badly perceived in [Eire ?] Northern Ireland, and this is a political allusion that I have no intention (or experience or competence) of pursuing.

Frits : you made an allusion to some sort of conspiracy theory (I am aware of how in history Freemasons were persecuted …) regarding ‘freimaurer’. Really, I assure you, I am not making any such suggestion in wishing to develop this thread. I couldn’t care less if LvB had been a Mason, gay, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu or any other category you would care to make. I WOULD be interested, however, if this had any bearing on his music.

JB : you think the thread is not worth following. OK, I’m only responding to what Solomon has written and I think it worthy of debate, that’s all.

I did refer before to a certain ‘hands off our Beethoven’ feeling to the Forum. Ladies and gentlemen, please understand me : I just want to discuss with you the vast potential of the music and its (possibly) even vaster cultural context. Including the ‘food angle’, damn it ! Though I promise you (Frits !) I won’t suggest the fact LvB liked brain soup had any bearing on his choice of keys … though, hang on a second, if you think about it … [Frits takes out large dead pigeon and hits Philip on the head …]

So, to return to the thread and its possible bearing on LvB’s music …

The background to Freemasonry is best described in the essay mentioned above (well worth reading for its historical context). The main thrust of the essay in question is that even though there is no documentary evidence of LvB being a member of any Masonic lodge whatsoever, there are (to quote Solomon) ‘substantial indications that Beethoven was favourably disposed toward Freemasonry, was familiar with its language, shared some of its main intellectual interests, and, on occasion, seemed to have identified himself as a Masonic sympathizer’, this in reference to B’s friends, teachers, patrons and associates being connected with the Masonic movement (see posting above), for example B’s friend Wegeler (a prominent Freemason) who wrote the text of (an apparently well-known) Masonic song and texts for two of B’s lieder (Der freie Mann, WoO 117 and ‘Opferlied, WoO 126) for use in initiation ceremonies.

Letters between Wegeler and B seem to point up shared beliefs, as well as explicit Masonic imagery : ‘I guarantee that the new temple of sacred friendship …’ and so on. Masonic imagery seems to have come quite naturally to B, as ‘there are a variety of remarks and allusions in Beethoven’s letters […] that may have Masonic overtones.’ References to ‘fraternity’, ‘brother’ (Beethoven uses ‘Beloved and worthy brother’ in letters to Hoffmeister, Brunsvik, von Seyfried, von Treitschke …). One letter in particular to the poet von Treitschke shows clear familiarity with Masonic ritual : At the end of the letter B signs off with a standard ‘Lebt wohl’ (JB – translation please). Between these two words B drew an ascending line and a descending one, with dots (or are they dashes ?) under each line. Here’s Solomon again : ‘The sketchiness of the drawing makes a definitive reading impossible, but the figure may represent a try square, a tool used to lay out or test right angles, which is also a universal emblem of Freemasonry, symbolizing morality, truthfulness and honesty. When Masonic brothers part from one another they are said to do so ‘on the square’.

Letters to others such as the Countess Erdödy also have Masonic allusions, and so the essay continues with a host of other such examples.

At this juncture, a pause for some serious humour : I believe I have found the reason why Phoenix Is Rising has chosen her Forum name !!
Again Solomon, Phoenix ! : In a letter to Countess Erdödy of 19 September 1815 LvB refers to the Temple of Isis as the goal of a purifying initiatory process along Masonic lines :

‘…May God grant you greater strength to enable you to reach your Temple of Isis, where the purified fire may swallow up all your troubles and you may awake like a new phoenix’.

Dear Phoenix, perhaps from now on we know your real name is not Lisa but in fact Isis !!!!!

As further evidence of B’s deep awareness of Masonic symbolism, he may even have used this knowledge to mock Schindler’s sexuality (i.e. mocking his supposed ‘gayness’). Again, paraphrasing Solomon, B often referred to Schindler in letters as ‘Samothracian Rascal’ (JB, please confirm : Somotrazischer Lumpenkerl) ; ‘Samothracian’ is Masonic signifying one who is initiated into the ancient mystery cult – Cabirian – whose rituals included phallic worship.

Still with me, Forum members ? Then I’ll continue : now to the specifically musical side of the question (At last ! gasps Frits). To kick off, again Solomon : ‘Whether specific musical patterns or motifs in B’s instrumental music can be interpreted as characteristic-style topics or tropes drawn from […] Masonic musical symbolism remains an open question’. Thank you Mr Solomon, but open questions can be worth pursuing, as I explain very very briefly below.

JB, pay attention now : ‘It is true, for example, that almost all music written for use in Masonic rituals is in the key of E-flat major, the three flats [or the three sharps that JB refers to above ?] being of especial symbolic import […] But E-flat is not inevitably a Masonic key [stop smirking, JB !] [but …] Context drives interpretation in such instances ; we readily accept that such musical tropes express a Masonic symbolism when they occur in Mozart’s patently Masonic opera …’ Quite so, but given that Freemasonry’s main symbols are derived from architecture, did LvB weave Masonic motifs into the overture ‘The Consecration of the House’ ? (Op 124). The three quaver chords – as Tovey posits – could they be a Masonic symbol ? And no, JB, the tatatataa motif of B’s 5th symphony is not (in this context) remotely Masonic. Or could it be ? I have no comment to make right now about that. Only questions and an open mind.

Other Masonic allusions – the centrality of the idea of brotherhood in Freemasonry in Fidelio ? With lines added in the 1814 revision by both von Treitschke and LvB ?

Now to the Schiller (and therefore the Ninth symphony) part of the equation. I’ll attempt a brief summary : Schiller wrote ‘An die Freude’ during a period when he was in close contact with Masonic circles (though apparently not actually a lodge member). The poem however celebrates ‘Masonic brotherhood [given the] large number of musical settings of it that were composed and published in Masonic collections and widely used in the lodges’. I wonder if these settings were in any particular key ? JB – perhaps you could research this for us ? To continue, the poem can be interpreted then as a Masonic poem used by LvB ‘to represent a quasi-Masonic ceremony […].’ Is not the ‘Ode to Joy’ an affirmation of a central tenet of Freemasonry – brotherhood ? Solomon goes on to make a tasty conjecture – that if so, the whole ‘narrative structure’ of the 9th symphony would be conditioned by that viewpoint, that the finale’s great melody embodies the idea of fraternity and paints the preceding movements as a ‘journey’ to (Masonic) enlightenment, that the first three movements are in fact a series of initiatory experiences before reaching ‘Freemasonry’s highest plane of virtue’ ?

The second essay by Solomon (The Masonic Imagination) throws more light onto the imaginative impulses behind the music. Of particular importance is the Tagebuch that B kept from 1812 to 1821 and that Solomon considers ‘may permit us to expand the range of his Masonic references …’ In two entries B writes the years ‘5816’ and ‘5818’. Previous commentators have taken these dates to be slips of the pen. The dates are in fact the Christian calendar date plus 4000 – clear Masonic datings, for ‘many Masonic groups habitually placed the creation of the world (Anno Lucis) at 4000 B.C. Some Masonic documents employ other dating systems […], but the 4000-year differential is the one almost universally encountered in the lodges of France and Germany and in the records of Habsburg Freemasonry.’

To develop his argument, Solomon considers these Masonic references not ‘merely as curious remnants of B’s earlier contact with the ideas and practices of Freemasonry, but as indications of a Masonic thread …’ Solomon will ‘make a case for reading the Tagebuch as a diary analogous to those that were required to be maintained by candidates in the Order of the Illuminati. He does go on to say that he cannot assert as demonstrable B’s actual association with any fraternal society, but (BUT !) finds it fruitful to examine B’s Tagebuch for the influence of Masonic conceptions and symbols, ‘thereby, perhaps, enabling us better to understand what he believed and how his mind worked’. Thank you, my point entirely – putting aside any received ideas and prejudices about Freemasonry today, the theme is an interesting one, no ?
For example, Wilfrid Mellors (whose analytic writing somewhat turns me off, what I remember of it ) has written an extended Masonic interpretation of the Missa Solemnis (Beethoven and the Voice of God, Faber and Faber, 1983).

Back to the diary (Tagebuch) : a candidate for the first degree of the Order (apprentice or novice) was required to keep a monthly written report (apparently called the ‘quibus licet’), and those reaching the second grade required to prepare a diary, wherein should be noted things such as ‘characters and deeds of learned men of repute of ancient and recent times … elevated thoughts, sentiments, moral aphorisms …’. Sound familiar, anyone ? For six years B used the Tagebuch ‘to help him take stock of his situation, to regain his equilibrium […] He filled the diary with personal outcries … and with words of wisdom drawn from a variety of sources …’

Admittedly, Solomon says there is no compelling reason proving that B prepared the Tagebuch with a mind to some sort of initiation, but it does have the hallmarks of such a document. Again, as Solomon goes on to illustrate, the Tagebuch is filled with numerous entries that point up Masonic influences, from concepts of ‘journeys’, journeys or quests for enlightenment, or as metaphors for a rite of passage or quests for transcendent goals : his ‘art’, perhaps ? References to the points of the compass, references to many things ‘eastern’, including Hindu and Brahman religions …and of course, references to many things Greek or Hellenic.

Initiations, purification, renunciation, sacrifice – all things mentioned by B in his Tagebuch, then. Renunciation too of the feminine, the sexual. Solomon again : ‘The withdrawal from women, already hinted at in B’s letter of 6 – 7 July 1812 to the Immortal Beloved, is written large in his Tagebuch. The Order of the Illuminati required that a candidate provide an ‘account of his own conduct’ (in terms of propriety). B’s Tagebuch offers such accounts, showing his determination perhaps to overcome sexual desire :
‘From today on never go into that house - - without shame at craving something from such a person’. Or ‘With regard to T …, never go there where one could do wrong out of weakness’.

And so on and so forth. Of course the Tagebuch is also filled with other details that have no Masonic potential whatsoever : the prices of music paper, household concerns, money problems, plans for various compositions and all sorts of other jottings. The main thrust here in the argument is – and here has bearing on the music – that ‘Freemasonry was an important stimulus to B’s way of thinking. I am not calling for a total overhaul of B’s entire output in an attempt to uncover hidden Masonic messages (a sort of Da Vinci Code endeavour); no, I’m just conjecturing if there are possible Masonic ‘readings’ to certain of his works that may add to the list of other possible interpretations. Phew, that’s that off my chest, then!

Right then, Forum members, I’ll take my leave of you at this point, I’m sure you’ll have more to say about all this. Food for thought and reasoned (and non-hysteric) arguments ? I like the idea of ‘food for thought’, so I’m off to raid the fridge. Over to you !

Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 26, 2007 10:16PM
JB : you think the thread is not worth following. OK, I’m only responding to what Solomon has written and I think it worthy of debate, that’s all.


Sorry Philip: I meant that it is a waste of time to prove that there is a Masonic influence in his music (excluding his texts obviuosly).
But as stated earlier in this thread: I like a nice debate/polemic :-))).

As it is almost 4 pages A4 Arial 12 it will take some time to respond to this contribution of yours, but beware: it will come ;-)
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 26, 2007 10:19PM
I look forward to it, JB. I have no fear that your response will be measured, informed, and fair. As any forum deserving of the name should be. 'Speak' to you soon, then?
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 26, 2007 11:02PM
For the Masonic Wegeler texts,
Unfortunately without English translations, texts as taken from :
Kurt E. Schürmann, Ludwig van Beethoven. Alle vertonten und musikalisch bearbeiteten Texte. Münster, 1980. P.282-285 and 288-289.
See below.

(It doesn't make sense to have such a relatively lengthy text twice in a thread)









Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/27/2007 02:19AM by JB.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 12:19AM
Well JB, not a big help to be frank with you OK, we Forum members should speak German, that would be an advantage. But we don't! Can you help us and give the 'gist' of your argument at this juncture?
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 01:02AM
And what about B's grave and the bee or butterfly) within the circle of snake?
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 02:18AM

Going through Philip's contribution (with Solomon's essay next to it as well), I now remember why I was not very impressed by Solomon's reasoning 7 years ago.
Quote from p.106: "..it is amply clear .. that many of his intimate friends … shared Masonic commitments to virtue, service, and brotherhood, and, beyond these, were passionately opposed to tyranny in every form".

Quote from p.108: "Regardless of their political differences and affiliations, Beethoven's friends, teachers, colleagues, and patrons were unites by their belief in the Aufklärung and particularly in the potentiality of an enlightened aristocracy to advance the goals of fraternity, justice, service, virtue, and freedom of thought. Thus, there was no insuperable ideological barrier between Illuminists ... and Augklärer.., for all ot them were dedicated to working for what [was] called the 'favourite chimere' - the 'Glück der Menschheit' "
In other words: there was hardly a difference in thought and convictions between the "generally enlightened" and the "masonic influenced" persons.
And it is THIS conclusion which makes looking for specific Masonic influences in this era in general, and within Beethoven's circle of friends, B' s thinking, and -more important?- B's composing an almost impossible task: what IS without doubt an enlightened and what IS above any reasonable doubt a Masonic influence/expression ?

On top of that is Solomon -and that's contrary to approximately all his other work- focused on Beethoven and his circle WITHOUT looking for or taking in account other person's circles in Vienna in those years. Or, in statistical terms: a control group lacks.
And without a control group you are unable to define whether the conclusions one can draw from his observations are extraordinary (conclusion: Beethoven was strongly Masonically influenced) or quite normal (Beethoven was a child of his Enlightened time).

Especially focussing on the Illuminati doesn't make the case more convincing: there were numerous other groups, and precisely the Illuminate are pseudo-masons, as Solomon himself writes (p.102).

Solomon writes (p.110): " There seems growing reason to think that Beethoven was initiallywelcomed in Vienna by members of a loose network of individuals who were closely allied with Freemasonry or the Order of the Illuminati".
"Loose network"???
Just look at the family relationships: an hour browsing through Peter Clive, Beethoven and his world. A biographical Dictionary (OUP, 2001) shows how strong and integrated a network all these persons in reality formed either through blood relationships or through marriage.
Therefore: masonry is an "entité négligable" in that respect.
It might help, but is not a necessity to explain B's acceptance in Vienna.

All this however doesn't make an automatic conclusion that B was NOT a mason.
Actually, I think it cannot be proven or disproven.

As you quoted Solomon, Philip: [there are] ‘substantial indications that Beethoven was favourably disposed toward Freemasonry, was familiar with its language, shared some of its main intellectual interests, and, on occasion, seemed to have identified himself as a Masonic sympathizer’, this in reference to B’s friends, teachers, patrons and associates being connected with the Masonic movement , for example B’s friend Wegeler (a prominent Freemason) who wrote the text of (an apparently well-known) Masonic song and texts for two of B’s lieder (Der freie Mann, WoO 117 and ‘Opferlied, WoO 126) for use in initiation ceremonies.

[As these texts are not well-known I reproduce these beneath:

Der Freie Mann WoO 117 = Maurerfragen
1. Was ist des Maurers Ziel? Stets edler sich zu heben, das Höchste zu erstreben frei von des Zufalls Spiel, das ist des Maurers Ziel,
des Maurers schönes Ziel!
2. Was will der Maurer Bund? Durch Beispiel und durch Lehren der Menschheit Wert bewähren auf diesem Erdenrund,
das will der Maurer Bund, der Maurer hed'ger Bund!
3. Wem neigt der Maurer sich? Wer wunde Herzen beilet, stets Trost zu bringen eilet, vergisst sein ganzes lch,
dem neigt der Maurer sich, der Maurer willig sich!
4. Wen kennt der Maurer nie? Wer seinen Lüsten fröhnet, die inn're Stimme höhnet,
herabsinkt bis zum Vieh, den kennt der Maurer nie, ihn kennt der Maurer nie!
5. Was pregt des Maurers Herz? Dag er so manche Zähren
nicht stillen kann, nicht wehren so manchen tiefen Schmerz,
dass presst des Maurers Herz, des Maurers fühlend Herz!

6. Wann schlägt das Herz ihm warm? Wann er nach Maurerweise
ganz unbemerkt und leise vermindert Gram und Harm,
dann schlägt das Herz ihm warm, das Herz ihm fröhlich warm!
7. Wer lohnt des Maurers Tun? Der in der grausten Ferne
die Welten, Sphären, Sterne itzt gehen heisst, itzt ruhn,
der lohnt des Maurers Tun, des Maurers edles Tun!


Opferlied WoO 126 = Bei der Aufnahme eines Maurers

Das Werk beginnet! heil'ge Glut
erbehe froh des Neulings Mut,
dag würdig er's vollbringe;
sie stärke den noch schwachen, schwachen Sinn,
damit er einstens zum Gewinn
die Palme sich erringe.

Tilg', grosser Schöpfer, allen Wahn
in seiner Seel', dass er die Bahn des Guten mutig wandle:
0 gib, dass er, wie es Dir wohlgefällt,
den bessern Menschen zugesellt,
stets wie ein Maurer handle. ]



Philip writes: "Letters … seem to point up shared beliefs, as well as explicit Masonic imagery …. One letter in particular to the poet von Treitschke shows clear familiarity with Masonic ritual : At the end of the letter B signs off with a standard ‘Lebt Wohl'. Between these two words B drew an ascending line and a descending one, with dots (or are they dashes ?) under each line"
" Here’s Solomon again : ‘The sketchiness of the drawing makes a definitive reading impossible, but the figure may represent a try square, a tool used to lay out or test right angles, which is also a universal emblem of Freemasonry, symbolizing morality, truthfulness and honesty. When Masonic brothers part from one another they are said to do so ‘on the square’. " (end Philip's quotation)

First: a "try square, a tool used to lay out or test right angles" only denotes morality. It is the combination with the compasses which makes it a symbol universally used by Brotherhoods.
Then: "Lebt Wohl" is not specifially a Masonic greeting. And I very doubt whether it is one here too: I'd like to point here to a Beethovenian work, the Pianosonata in E flat major (sic!) opus 81a "Les Adieux". Dedicatee is Archduke Rudolph. Note the opening bars: B writes there: Lebe Wohl. The three chords are NOT showing any specifically "Masonic Rhythm" (à la Zauberflöte-overture) whatsoever.
The "Mason" Beethoven dedicating a "Masonic" piece to a colleague Mason WITHOUT using the Masonic closing chords which are used when a Lodge is closed and the Brethern depart ("in harmony and piece") ??????

The Zauberflöte- Overture contains a couple of Masonic symbols. One can be found in the adagio in the middle of the piece, bars 97-102. Note that although these notes resemble the very opening bars 1-3, it is the context within the piece which makes the Adagio "intrusion" a masonic symbol, whereas the opening is just a plain opening, although of course pointing ahead….
Any such context lacks the "Consecration of the House" overture op.124, despite Tovey's remark about the three quaver notes (Tovey was obviously not a Mason, perhap[s an entered Apprentice or a Fellowcraft, but at least not a Master mason)

Of course there are passages in B's Music which do show a potential Masonic influence.
Two examples:
first from the Missa solemnis (Philip, some 10 years ago I have had Mellors in my hands, but just as you write: Mellors selfimportance {my interpretation] did not make his book on opus 123 very readible or convincing, and I haven't bought it as a consequence.)
The very (orchestra only) opening of the Kyrie.
The chords can be interpreted as a masonic rhythm to promote an apprentice to fellowcraft. But is it? Doubtful, as the piece (in D major) just resembles, or foreshadows, the opening chorus Ky-ri-e.

Second: The ninth symphony. Schiller's text mentions Brüder (Brethern), and creator who is living in Heavens, planets in their course, etc.
Now listen to the beginning of the Benedictus of the Missa solemnis. Text: Benedictus qui venit in Nomine Domini (Blessed him who comes in the Name of the Lord).
At first we only hear a solo violin play: a representation of "who comes…" descending from heaven. Then the voices enter.
Beethoven shows here an almost naïve picture of Jesus coming to earth from heaven in the name of the Lord. IMHO shows this music B's religious beliefs (as I've written elsewhere in this Forum, "the most stunning work" I think it is), and the Schöpfer (Creator)) as mentioned in the Ninth therefore coincides with God, and not with a more generally (masonically) operating one.
But of course other opinions are just a valid (I like polemics ;-)))

========================================

Philip writes: "The second essay by Solomon (The Masonic Imagination) throws more light onto the imaginative impulses behind the music. Of particular importance is the Tagebuch that B kept from 1812 to 1821 and that Solomon considers ‘may permit us to expand the range of his Masonic references …’ (…)
Solomon will ‘make a case for reading the Tagebuch as a diary analogous to those that were required to be maintained by candidates in the Order of the Illuminati."
(…)
" a candidate for the first degree of the Order (apprentice or novice) was required to keep a monthly written report (…), and those reaching the second grade required to prepare a diary, wherein should be noted things such as ‘characters and deeds of learned men of repute of ancient and recent times … elevated thoughts, sentiments, moral aphorisms …’. Sound familiar, anyone ? " (end of Philip's text)

And here Solomon makes a fatal error.

Between entering a lodge as Apprentice, and his passing to the rank of Fellowcraft, it is and was highly unusual that more than approximately 9 to 12 months times lapsed.
Beethoven Tagebuch covers a mere six years.
On top of this, there are to many entries in this Tagebuch which under no circumstance can be explained from a masonic point of view.
Therefore I think Solomon is trying to construct evidence.

Or, as Philips writes rightly: "Admittedly, Solomon says there is no compelling reason proving that B prepared the Tagebuch with a mind to some sort of initiation, but it does have the hallmarks of such a document. Again, as Solomon goes on to illustrate, the Tagebuch is filled with numerous entries that point up Masonic influences…"
Of course the Tagebuch is also filled with other details that have no Masonic potential whatsoever : the prices of music paper, household concerns, money problems, plans for various compositions and all sorts of other jottings."

I repeat again: B was influenced by Masonic thinking, as it was the Age of Enlightenment in which he grew up, and the enlightenment was soaked with Masonic symbolism: symbols, virtues, brotherly love etc.
But it cannot be proven that his was a Brother himself (by lack of direct evidence; this makes it rather impossible to completely disprove it as well).

So far my first, rather superficial reaction.

And now it's time to visit my Valkyries (or rather: the disturb/season my dreams).


Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 09:19PM
Thank you JB for your posting. OK, whatever. And how does this impact on the music (a question which I have not really answered)? Well, I'm not in a position to say right now, and probably not a lot anyway ... BUT there is something to bring to bear on our interpretations of his music IF WE ACCEPT Solomon's premises, eg as mentioned above, if we accept (or condone to allow) the Masonic implications in Schiller's poem, it could "flavour" our approach to listening to the Ninth. Evidently, it won't change an iota our formalistic approach, it won't change our perceptions per se of the harmonic progressions, instrumentation and so on, but it could - conceivably - alter how we perceive (as Solomon has posited) the "narrative structure" of a given work. This is why I was (am) interested in this 'angle'.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 10:13PM
We not even have to accept Solomon's premises, as as there is not much of a difference between the general conception of Masonry and the general way of thinking and convictions within the Enlightenment. Elements of either of them can be found within B's work, we only are unable to decide whether it is the general Enlightenment movement (which I think it is, as it was generally known and widely spread) or Masonic influence (which Solomon at least tries to defend, but cannot be proven).
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 27, 2007 10:59PM
To be developed ... But, so far, thank you for reasoned (and non-hysteric) response.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 28, 2007 12:28AM
Philip's (too) lengthy exposé and JB's almost equally verbose response : so no real insight into the music it seems. Interesting historical detail (I thank you for the references - I will see to them myself), but no revelations that satisfy any purely musical criteria. One (just one) interesting idea, that our perception (or listening experience in Classic FM terms) of the 'narrative structure' of Beethoven's Ninth symphony could be influenced by Masonic conceptions. Worth developing, but as a wider thread.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 28, 2007 01:05AM
I believe it was necessarily lengthy given the ideas being 'exposed' (your terminology). OK, there was no overtly 'formalist' approach, but this is a theme that could be explored. As I posted before, I'm not asking for a full overview / re-examination of LvB's works in light of possible Masonic connections, but to simply open up the debate into new 'angles'. As said, if we accept (not that I do or don't) Solomon's point that a Masonic reading of the Schiller poem, in the finale of LvB's Ninth is a possible interpretaton, this would profoundly impact our perception of its 'narrative structure' (see posting above). Of course, hearing this work in its purely (Schenkerian?) formalistic guise would not be altered by such a 'reading'. But our experience of the music is not just formalistic, it has 'meaning' beyond the score / the notes played.
Re: Was Beethoven a Freemason?
July 28, 2007 11:29PM
Sauron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
...but no revelations that satisfy any
> purely musical criteria.

I think that (perhaps apart from vocal or vocally orientated music) there is hardly a case for a search for masonic influences, as these cannot be seperated convincingly from the ideas inspired by the Enlightenment.

Therefore as I wrote at the very begiining of this thread: a kind of waste of time.


Nevertheless these influences are worth to be investigated, indeed as a wider thread.


See for Beetoven's possible relationship with Freemasonry also the thread "Shiller" on this site (one of the oldest!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/2007 06:55PM by JB.
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