Appropriately enough, it is composers’ birthdays that we remember and honour—27th January, 31st January, 21st March, 16th December. But once a year comes a death anniversary that I, for one, never fail to acknowledge, and it has come again today, on the 26th of March, 185 years after Ludwig van Beethoven died in his bed in Vienna.
Perhaps Beethoven’s death, of all deaths, should matter the least: did he not overcome extraordinary tribulation in his own life? did not his spirit overcome death itself? does not his music reign supreme in our ears, impervious to the poisonous decay of time itself?
Yes, it is so. Yet the very succour that we draw from Beethoven’s art, the very sustenance that flows to us from his resolve and defiance, is outraged by the demise of so cherished an ally, and thus the passing of this most human of all composers translates into a personal loss. Throughout my adolescent years, I wore all-black on this day; and, though I’ve long since abandoned this tradition, today my heart is blackened and the sun seems dimmed. Ludwig—father, brother, mentor, friend—requiescat in pace.