“We mortals with immortal minds are only born for sufferings and joys, and one could almost say that the most excellent receive joy through sufferings.” Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770 – March 26, 1827)

If you tuned in to WRCJ’s Dave Wagner and Peter Whorf this past week, you learned a few things.

“Dr. Dave” said Beethoven’s December natal date remains contested. Therefore, they broadcasted the station’s tribute to Ludwig Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, December 15 and 16.

Brilliant idea – a double portion of my favorite classical composer.

In honor of his contributions to the symphonic orchestra, Wagner and Whorf included WRCJ’s year-end fundraiser in their programming. In the spirit of good humor, they offered a Beethoven bobble-head and socks. For a small monthly donation, they covered the patron “from head to toe,” as Wagner jested.

Wednesday, I parked my car behind Romeo Printing as Wagner introduced what I consider the most tender and merciful of the composer’s works. Forgetting its title, the slow piano score nonetheless called me into a hallowed place of rest and reconciliation; comforted me much like King David’s Psalm 23.

“You can feel and hear Beethoven’s tenderness in this slow sonata,” Wagner confirmed at the conclusion. Whorf agreed.

I paid the printer for my order and drove up to Dryden for tea with friends, both excellent vocalists. “Did you know Beethoven was born December 15 or 16?” I asked.

“No,” they replied.

Later, while dabbling in curiosity, I discovered Jane Austen shared Beethoven’s commonly accepted birthdate.

Remarkable. My favorite female novelist took her first breath December 16, 1775. Did Miss Austen hear her contemporary perform his sonata of tender mercies? Was it Beethoven’s sublime piano that provoked Austen to write, “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart?”

More fiddling on the web answered “probably not.” Ludwig and Jane walked in different spheres five hundred miles apart.

Austen left this world on July 18, 1817, ten years before the maestro. At age forty-one, she bequeathed future, world-wide readers a collection of six novels, still best sellers today. A model for every aspiring novelist.

I find it fascinating that Beethoven described the opening four notes of his Fifth symphony as “death knocking upon the door.” Although deaf, the musician’s heart heard clearly the human condition surrounding him.

Accordingly, soldiers directed more than 20,000 grieving fans the day the Austrian’s funeral bier passed through the streets of Vienna. I imagine those infamous death notes also knocked upon the hearts of those who mourned.

Most remarkably, documentation confirms the four beats of the Fifth symphony, unintentionally Morse Code for the letter “V” for Victory, played a significant role during Allied broadcasts during WWII.

Ever relevant to our human predicaments, I see in part Beethoven’s journey from suffering to his “Ode to Joy.”

Lastly, dear Reader, this brilliant, often tormented man left all who would hear these wise words: “Do not only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets.”

Ah, to know those mysteries within sublime fury and tender mercies.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.