The output of some artists sometimes falls into an arc of Early, Middle, and Late – and nobody exemplifies this more than Beethoven. For others, it’s often just Early and Mature periods, which can be quite satisfying in its own way – think of the continuity in the evolving symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner, in contrast.
As I, too, have grown older, my appreciation for Beethoven’s late works – the string quartets and piano sonatas, especially – has grown, eclipsing the charming classical period influences of the early work or the relentless drive and passion of the stretch that followed and continues his fame. In contrast, the late works are thorny, cerebral, introverted, brooding, even surprisingly contemporary in their affinity. He sometimes seems preoccupied with the intellectual puzzle – immersed in theory – turning his back on the audience. And, for years, these were considered pieces musicians tackled in private. Fortunately, that part has changed, especially for connoisseurs.
It’s not just Beethoven, of course. You can look at your own preferences in reading or music or painting or theater – take the list where you will. How has your focus shifted or your tastes changed?
Think, too, of your life aspirations, especially if the children have left the home or you’ve entered retirement.
I once desired to learn to fly and to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, but never seem to have the time or money. Now that I have the time, those aren’t among my priorities or maybe even my skill sets. And the writing efforts have taken center stage, in addition to gardening and similar projects here at home.
Think, too, of possessions – for me, collections of books and recordings, especially, I’m now thinning, along with the clothing, since I no longer have to dress for the office.
In some ways, it’s all part of the flesh turning bony. A unique approach of simplifying. You can hear that, too, in Beethoven’s late works – an emerging new strength given voice, even as the muscles weaken.