It is said that Beethoven's 2nd movement of his 7th Symphony (at the time of its debut, he considered the 7th his best work) was such a success that an immediate encore was called for by the audience. The 2nd movement of the 7th has been performed independent of the rest of the Symphony ever since.
It is one of my favorite pieces of music and I have used it often in constructing the mood necessary for me to write stories.
Sometimes, however, when I'm alone and undistracted, I like to listen to the 7th - and other great music - with my eyes closed, imagining I'm in the audience of the first performance of the piece.
I imagine myself on a cold night in Vienna, December 8, 1813, sitting among the wounded soldiers for whom the charitable concert was being given.
Beethoven debuted his best for free.
I hear the first minor chord drift out over the audience and then the strings begin the rhythmic underpinnings of the 2nd movement. None of us have ever heard this before. It is new. It is mystery. It is reaching into my soul. The second violins come in over the top with a high, lighter repetition of the theme, and I am taken up in the arms of the song, carried along with its grace and simple beauty. I feel a lump in my throat but the music builds toward a crescendo and strikes me in the heart and my eyes tear and I feel all the sorrow my compatriots have felt in battle, comrades left on the field. In my mind I see the smokey fog of battles' aftermath, but the music continues, without pause or fail and I cannot rest my mind where I am, I must hear more, I must feel more, I must understand more, I feel the drums in my chest, I feel the spirit rise in me to engage, to protect, to caution all against the slaughter.
The music takes a new direction, calmer, more peaceful, I feel lightened but the crescendo comes again, building, and building and fades away again, teasing, but then comes rushing at me again and then darts away again, leaving me to look around, assessing the damage done and the sorrow felt and the sorrow yet to come.
This is one incredibly lovely, stirring, emotional piece of music, drawing images in my mind I wish I'd never seen - yet they are born of the beauty of the music - they illustrate me and man and I am lost to control the things I see in my mind until the music slows its paces and lets me wander a bit before picking me up, again, in its lovely song.
Over the years I have heard several renditions of the 2nd Movement - sometimes played rather lightly - almost as a dance, and others as a sad and insistent dirge. I like the slower paced recordings, like that of Herbert Von Karajan. I think it's truer to Beethoven's vision of the piece.
Go. Listen. Enjoy. Close your eyes and pretend you're in the opening night audience and you, and they, are hearing it for the first time EVER.
There are several YouTube vids of the 7th's 2nd, choose the Karajan.