“A flower between two chasms.”

“If you’d rather wait, please hold and one of our advisers will be with you shortly.” These are the now all-too-familiar words of misleading comfort designed to reassure us while we wait for our mobile phone company to deign to speak to us.

Before arriving at that point, we have gone through the tortuous process of selecting anything between options 1 and 9 on our keypad, with further, and subsequently further, options – quite often landing us up exactly where we started. But if we should reach the invitation to hold, that is when the trouble starts.

Of two things you can now be certain. The first is that you have at least ten minutes of waiting ahead of you (“we are receiving an exceptionally high level of calls today…”). The second, worse, is that for our entertainment we are now going to be subjected to the loudest, most untuneful modern music known to man, presumably in the expectation that most of us will not be holding the phone to our ear, but placing it in on loudspeaker while we skip through emails and blogs like this.

So why, amongst the never-ending choices we are given, is there not the option “to hold in silence, press 1; to hold with modern music, press 2; to hold with classical music, press 3; to hold with jazz, press 4: to hold with…”? You get my point.

A very close friend of mine is a matrimonial lawyer. Happily I have not yet needed his services on that front, but on the occasions I call and am put on hold, I find myself entirely at ease, listening to the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata no.14 – dubbed the “Moonlight” by Ludwig Rellstab in 1832, five years after its composer had died. Rellstab had likened its very well known 1st movement to moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne.

This passage, anΒ allegretto, which simply means moderately fast, is just a few minutes long and Franz Liszt, one of the most accomplished of all pianists, aptly likened it to a “flower between two chasms”, a reference to the first peaceful movement and the third highly tempestuous one.

No one, not even Beethoven’s wife, if only he’d been lucky enough to find one, is going to pretend this is particularly sophisticated, but few would deny its lighthearted charm and cheerful melody. Beethoven endured a stormy and troubled life in the midst of chaos and bloody upheaval in Europe at the hands of the ambitious Napoleon. Much of his music can sound like a struggle itself, a reflection of his eccentric personality, his peripatetic nature (he moved 33 times in 35 years), his lifelong failings with women, his dreadful personal hygiene.

And worst of all, he was (a composer, remember) losing his hearing from about 1801 and was as well as completely deaf for the last years of his life. Imagine writing the 7th Symphony like that!

Beethoven broke the musical rules. Even the ‘Moonlight‘ sonata, from which today’s choice is taken, begins with a slow movement. His legacy is huge and there is much we can dip into in future posts. For the moment, let your spirits be lifted with this allegretto, here played by Daniel Barenboim, now more well known for his conducting, but one of the very finest Beethoven interpreters.

And mobile telephone companies take note: waiting is bad enough, but having that wait accompanied by an indescribable din only increases the impatience. Give me this option and I’ll be charm itself by the time you get to speak to me.


24 thoughts on ““A flower between two chasms.””

  1. Your thoughts on Beethoven and the chaos of his time reminds me of a question I’ve been asking for years. During the Baroque era, a very chaotic and unpeaceful, we get some of the most peaceful music ever composed. Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann. Which leads me to another thought. Who are the composers today who will bless us with great music?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love hearing that, Rosemary, thank you. I’m flattered about a book idea, and it has been mentioned before, but I’m not all that creative – not sure where I’d get my plot from! Also the great thing about the blog is that I can, and need to, keep it short. But it’s not a no!


  2. I am so glad I found this blog. I always wanted to get to know more about classical music. Will keep following πŸ™‚


  3. Hello!

    I found your blog very recently and have come to love it in an instant. Your passion for classical music clearly shines through and the way you are introducing so many to its great treasures is a treat. Being a recent convert myself, I am thoroughly excited to share in your journey through music and I hope to be introduced to more such gems.

    Please accept this Versatile Blogger Award nomination as a token of my appreciation for the beautiful work that you are putting out.

    Keep writing. Much love and power to you.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very touched by your generous words and the nomination too, thank you. I am new to the blogging world myself, so not yet qualified to recommend others, as I would like, but will when I become more familiar with them.
      In the meantime, I will persevere in the hope others will be as enthused as you are: it’s just meant to be a little fun, but it’s heartening indeed to get this sort of response, thank you very much!


  4. I was in hold for 45 minutes last week Worst music ever! Very clever observation. All customer service managers aught to consider this!


  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this all-too-relatable post (I swear a recent bad experience with ‘hold’ music nearly made me switch telephone company providers…)

    Your style of writing is very engaging, entertaining and informative – the trifecta of great blogging! Very much looking forward to reading more of your work.


  6. Once again, an engaging post, Nick. I share your admiration for Barenboim; and I’m not sure whether I prefer him as a pianist or as a conductor. He brings the same qualities to both forms of the musical art. And one of those qualities is very evident in the piece you’ve chosen. And I’m glad to see that this quality, which was evident in one of his much earlier recordings of this piece, is still there. And that quality is ‘rhythm’. The way he springs it in, for example, those staccato notes in bars 10 and 11 is typical. Good choice!


    1. Thank you, Bernard, and I agree with you about rhythm too. To be absolutely honest I have always preferred the sound of his playing to the sound of his conducting, without in any way taking away what he has achieved, especially with the WEDO; but it’s all a matter of taste isn’t it?


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