While enjoying the 27th edition of the Al Bustan International Festival (Feb. 18-March 22, 2020), which features a series of concerts and performances celebrating the music and life of composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, we could not help but notice some similarities between Beethoven’s tumultuous, challenging life and our beloved Lebanon.
It is no secret Beethoven faced many obstacles that shaped his identity. Remarkably, with so many challenges. he went onto create nine world famous iconic symphonies and is much revered today for his music genius. Sometimes, out of adversity comes many good things shall we say. In this spirit, we compare Lebanon’s struggles with Beethoven’s and mention why it is relevant to compare the two today.
A difficult childhood
As the story goes, Beethoven suffered at the hands of his early mentor—his father. Johann van Beethoven would force Ludwig to practice the piano all the time, and if the young Ludwig made a mistake, he would slam the piano cover on his knuckles and make him play the piece all over again until it was flawless. The people of Lebanon too, suffered at the hands of many invaders—the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, followed by the French mandate, before Lebanon gained its independence, and detrimental outrageous corruption in recent history.
At the age of 26. Beethoven began to hear ringing in his ears, which marked the start of his deteriorating hearing. By the age of 44, he was almost entirely deaf and could no longer hear his own work. He even introduced his most famous composition – the Ninth Symphony – after deafness took over! Whatever coping strategies he adopted to continue practicing music, no doubt, his resilience and perseverance is awe-inspiring. Lebanese people’s demands may be falling on deaf ears when it comes to their desire for real reform. Assuming Lebanon was Beethoven, HE too has continued to fight and go against the odds to shine and be recognized. Lebanon has unlimited potential thanks to beautiful, resourceful and talented people. Need we say more?
Beethoven and Lebanese protestors
One evening in late October 2019, during the early weeks of Lebanon’s on-going revolution, a group of protestors came together to sing in Arabic a moving rendition of Beethoven’s famous choral passage Ode of Joy from Symphony No. 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32WLn_-8Deo This beautiful performance by the Lebanese people is very moving, not to mention it is a remarkable show of unity, peace and love!
Challenges and setbacks
Going deaf was debilitating for Beethoven, who relied on his hearing as a musician. He was expected to live with this disability and conquer it in order to keep making and performing music. Lebanon’s “deafness” can be described as the woes the country has faced since the start of the Civil War and continues to face in 2020. The current economic crisis is a tremendous challenge, but after hitting the bottom, there is no way but to go up and this time Lebanon will rise in unity.
Music composers from Lebanon
Our fifth and last example is not a comparison of struggles, but a celebration of talent from the two countries: Beethoven’s Germany and Lebanon.
As you may know, Germany has spawned many famous music composers. In addition to Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Handel, Wagner and Mendelssohn are also from Germany.
We can proudly say that our land of cedars is HOME to many talented music composers. Here are 10 notable Lebanese composers who have gifted Lebanon and the world with their remarkable melodies: the Fleifel Brothers, Melhem Barakat, Ahmad Ka’boor, Marcel Khalifeh, Toufiq El Basha, Philemon Wehbi, Elie Choueiry, Ziad El Rahbani, Zaki Nassif and Al Rahbani Brothers. Thank you to these amazing composers and the countless other music luminaries from Lebanon that are not mentioned here
Be sure to catch the Al Bustan Festival this year and enjoy Beethoven’s timeless music performed by stellar artists from around the world. To know more, go to: www.albustanfestival.com