Beethoven’s Menacing Bust

From First Impressions to the Beethoven Bagatelles

Beethoven by Eric E Castro via Creative Commons.
A year ago, I found myself captivated by a friend’s spirited performance of seven Beethoven Bagatelles. I had never imagined that anything written by Beethoven could sound so charming as my friend made the music seem. Yet, in spite of this, I still couldn’t shake an unpleasant childhood memory having to do with the composer.

I could still hear the buzz of the intercom echoing throughout our small Queens apartment, interrupting my Saturday morning television when I was 10 years old.

“Who’s there?” I heard my mother ask through the tinny speaker in the entryway. “Come on up,” she replied, her finger pushing the black button granting entry downstairs. “Elliot,” she called, “Robin, they’re here. The men are on their way up with the piano,” she said to my father and me.

Within minutes, two deliverymen wheeled in a walnut encased vertical piano. “Look, Robin, we were able to get a Steinway,” my mother said. I had a vague recollection of conversations pertaining to the cost of a Steinway versus lesser brands, but I had never asked for nor had I been consulted about learning to play piano. No other member of my family played a musical instrument. Ours was a sports family—my older brothers played baseball, and I yearned to join them, but girls were not yet allowed into Little League. The monthly rental program made a Steinway feasible for my parents. If the piano were eventually to be purchased, the rental payments would then be subtracted from the total cost.

My mother brought forth an ivory colored plastic statue of a man with a threatening gaze.

I held the door open while the deliverymen wheeled the piano in, and watched as they placed it flush against the wall between living room and the narrow kitchen.

As a finishing touch, and what was, I suppose, intended to be a source of inspiration for these pianistic endeavors, my mother brought forth an ivory colored plastic statue of a man with a threatening gaze.

“Here, Robin, look at this, isn’t it wonderful? It’s a bust of Beethoven!”

“Who? What?” I asked.

“Ludwig van Beethoven,” she said, “one of the most famous composers of classical music. A bust means it is a sculpture of the head only.” She placed the unpleasant bust on the top right of the piano.

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Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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