My Gift Is My Song

By 1815 Beethoven had avoided society for many months, yet he agreed to play his 27th Sonata at the behest of Antoine and Therese Apponyi. The Orientalist Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall records the scene in his memoirs. The embassy was filled with eminences of the day: Goethe, Schubert, Mendelssohn and others.

Beethoven was almost completely deaf. Despite an enormous ear trumpet, he could not hear the sounds of his own notes but heard them in his head, and so began the sonata, composed a few months earlier, with deep feeling and expression. But the heating had thrown the sound of the piano off key, and the great composer could not hear the distortions. Unease spread throughout the room at the cacophony, and although there is some applause, Beethoven would never play in public again.

Each of us brings our internal music to the world. At times we discover, sadly, that to others it is unwelcome, even dissonant. Life nonetheless demands that we continue to play and refine our harmonies. Beethoven no longer performed but did not stop composing. There is a palace, the Zohar teaches, that opens only to song. Perhaps in time, like the 27th Sonata, our melodies will be heard, they will unlock gates and they will endure.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.