Thursday, July 09, 2009

Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse

Beethoven strip at the King Library in San JoseSchulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse

Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
San José State University

May 1 through July 31, 2009

Yesterday I journeyed down to San Jose to see Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse, a rather cute exhibit of Peanuts strips matched up with historical items related to Beethoven. I guess you could justify the show by saying it's a humorous look at the modern cult of Beethoven, but for me it's just a chance to relive my childhood affection for the Peanuts.

Though he could not read music, Schulz carefully copied real scores into the cartoon, so we can actually figure out what Schroeder is playing. Someone had the bright idea to put excerpts of this music on the audio tour, so we can listen to the music referenced in the strips. Schroeder seems to like the Hammerklavier & Pathétique sonatas.

Besides the strips about Beethoven, the show includes an odd miscellany of objects: music scores, Peanuts dolls, modern interpretative drawings of Beethoven, a life mask, a comic book containing a story about Beethoven, a Frederich Gulda LP from Schulz's personal library, a tourist's scrapbook of a visit to Bonn. One never knows what one will see next. My favorite item is a sweat shirt on which Schulz drew a pudgy-faced Beethoven. But almost alarmingly absurd is a life-size diorama with a dummy Beethoven barely staying propped up in chair, a violin & sheet music strewn at his feet. He sits at a table crowded with objects, among them an ear trumpet & a small dish of macaroni & a spoon.

The friendly staff at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies know how to amuse themselves. When I pulled open a drawer to discover a swirled lock of Beethoven's hair, one of them told me to look carefully for Beethoven's dandruff as well. Besides its curious collection of keepsakes made of hair, the Center owns some historical keyboard instruments, which I heard being tuned during my visit. The pianoforte is being played in 2 recitals this weekend. They have a salon-sized space for the concerts.

My visit made me realize that I really must get a bust of Beethoven.


John Marcher said...

Hammerklavier??? I love that. Every music lover should have a bust of Beethoven (see my profile picture).

Axel Feldheim said...

Schulz may have been only a dedicated amateur, but he did know his classical music. Several strips clearly show the 1st few chords of the Hammerklavier, just enough to identify it. It's also easy to spot the characteristic triplets of the Moonlight Sonata.

I am sadly deficient in the bust department.