The year is 1824 and it is a beautiful morning in Vienna. As you walk down
the street on your way to the corner market, you see ahead a somewhat undersized and awkwardly built man with broad shoulders walking toward you, head down, carrying a writing journal under his arm. He is a bit disheveled, his clothes rather shabby and his general appearance a little scary. Just as you take a step to cross the street to avoid this character, he lifts his head and you see his face. With his dark complexion, bushy eyebrows, pockmarked skin, misshapen facial features, and frowning countenance, he looks unhappy and distant. Instantly you recognize this man and continue past him, nodding and smiling as you pass. You say not a word because you know he cannot hear. It is, in fact, a great thrill to just be near such a famous person, a person known and honored throughout the world for his musical genius. It’s Ludwig van Beethoven, an artist of the highest caliber, recognized during his lifetime as a true musical giant.
You also have heard the stories and rumors about him. Stories that he is short on social manners, being rude and crude, sometimes very egotistical; and, unfortunately for those who choose to be close to him, that his personal hygiene leaves much to be desired. He’s no Mr. Chuckles! So, how did he make it with those women he supposedly had affairs with? And what about his not-so-admirable family history? His grandmother was institutionalized for alcoholism; his father, also an alcoholic, irresponsible, shiftless person, eventually became completely derelict. You have heard that his kind and devoted mother died when Ludwig was sixteen. He was left holding the bag to take care of the family. And yet, throughout these struggles and many others, he was able to compile a large body of great musical work.
Imagine! Today, and everyday, somebody somewhere is playing and listening to
music Beethoven composed two hundred years ago. All around the world, musical sounds created and developed in his mind are being replayed over and over by some, and being heard for the very first time by others. You may be one of those people: listening again to some of his exquisite pieces or
hearing for the first time sounds that have thrilled people for so many years. What makes his music so resilient, durable, so universally studied and valued? Could it be that his work touches a point deep within us all, recognized by all Enneagram types, that we know to be fundamentally true?
Elizabeth Wagele has listened to the music of Beethoven, studied and played his works, and has found some very interesting and exciting features there. (Yes, she is also the co-author of “The Enneagram Made Easy” and “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?” and author of “The Enneagram of Parenting.”) We find in her a unique combination of musical knowledge, talent and skill, and a depth of understanding and knowledge of the Enneagram. You may not know that Elizabeth has a solid musical background, attended under-grad and grad school in music composition at UC Berkeley, has studied piano with the finest concert pianists in the San Francisco Bay area, and has been a performer and teacher of piano for many years.
Elizabeth has played Beethoven’s sonatas for years, and as she played through his 32 piano sonatas, she says, “[Enneagram] types would sort of fall out.” An idea was born in her mind to create a program that would depict the Enneagram types using selections from the rich collection of Beethoven’s sonatas. She would call it “The Beethoven Enneagram: The 9 Enneagram Personality Types as Heard in the Beethoven Piano Sonatas.”
For her preparation, she played through all the sonatas at least 4 times looking for sections that were just right, just what she wanted. Slowly, with a great deal of work and concentration, she trimmed her choices down to a manageable size. It took a year, she says, with “just me and the piano and Beethoven.” (Can you imagine spending a year with that man?) With the addition of her explanatory dialog, her presentation was ready. Elizabeth performed it to a full house in Berkeley, California, then again at the Baltimore IEA conference in 1997, and again at the IEA Conference at Denver in 1998. Not content with that, she has now put the entire performance on a high quality CD with the hope that many others will be exposed to the Enneagram types through the splendid sounds of Beethoven.
Okay, but what’s a sonata? Today the term applies generally to instrumental compositions for piano, violin, cello, etc., and usually consists of four separate parts, or movements, each with a different character. (Each of the four movements of a sonata also has a structure that some composers adhere to more closely than others.) On a larger scale, think of a sonata as a musical “form” (containing approximately the same four movements) that may be applied to everything from chamber music to symphonies. That’s right, a Brahms symphony could be considered a sonata for orchestra. The four movements usually follow a pattern of Fast, Slow, Dance-like, Fast, and are usually labeled Allegro, Adagio (or Largo, Lento), Scherzo, Allegro (or Presto). Now, when asked how you enjoyed the sonata, you can turn to the questioner with great pride and say, “I particularly enjoyed the Adagio movement,” then act like you know what you’re talking about.
“The Beethoven Enneagram” CD is fun to listen to. It is never ponderous to the ear and you won’t find any raucous or bombastic music that will physically knock your socks off or blow a hole in your stereo equipment. Instead, there is a gentle quality that invites the listener “into” the music to hear more than just the sounds. Each musical selection, or excerpt, is prefaced with explanatory dialog, in the mild and pleasant voice of Ms. Wagele, which focuses attention on an Enneagram type or a specific characteristic of the type that is to be represented.
The serious Beethoven student may be disappointed to learn that no piano sonata is played through from beginning to end, although a couple of complete movements are presented. Of course, that was not the intent of this work. The same student will be happy to note (get it!) the clarity of the instrument in this recording. The bottom notes are clear and distinct, no muddiness or mushiness, as are the upper registers. After checking, sure enough, a quality Steinway grand (located on the stage of a local college) was selected for use for this performance. And it shows!
If you are interested in the Enneagram, if you like quality sounds and music, you will most assuredly enjoy this CD. Equally interesting are Elizabeth Wagele’s explanations and insights. After spending so much time with Beethoven and his music, does she have an estimate of his Enneagram type? Yes, indeed! She believes he was a type ____. Well, you are just going to
have to listen to the CD to find out. You might be surprised. (By the way, this CD would make a great gift, too!) Fun, interesting, enjoyable listening! Da-da-da-daaaaaah!