As I am sure many of you did, I spent a few years of my childhood at the piano. I took lessons from several teachers over the course of about twelve years. After a little time off – about forty years – I have decided to play again.
The piano, it seems, has other ideas.
Like riding a bike, right? Well, yes, if you last rode a bike when you were young and nimble and strong and, now that a few decades have passed, you’ve decided you can just hop right back on that racer and do fifty miles . . . not quite that easy.
I could get the exercise book and run scales and arpeggios for an hour a day. I could turn to Für Elise for a quickly passable tune.
No, if you know me at all, you know I could not. I made a beeline for the piece that unseated me all those years ago; I had no choice. It is a piece is so appropriately named that I must tip my hat to the mighty composer, as much for his prescience as for his musical brilliance.
What is it?
What is my Everest?
What is the Unreachable Star?
Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 13, Pathétique.
I am quite pathétique, as I limp through this virtuoso work, at about quarter speed and striking about half the notes, but I am enthralled by the pursuit of its grandeur. If I never master even a bit of it, it is worth the effort just to play a measure, here and there, better than the day before. This towering challenge reminds me that there is joy in reaching for something beautiful, even when the odds of ever grasping it are overwhelmingly against me.
I think 13 is going to be my new lucky number.