The ‘Pathétique’ Story

I had a friend once that I was close to, and as a token of friendship shared with her a link to the second movement of Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ piano sonata — which is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world, and generally considered one of the most breathtakingly beautiful. Truly a compliment to one’s heart. Because she could speak French, however, she couldn’t get over that it was called the ‘Pathétique’. To her it was as if I were unknowingly accusing her of being pathetic. What I still think about was that it was probably meant more in the spirit of “pathos”. It’s a gentle, romantic masterpiece. Karl Haas used to open his nightly NPR show with it. That’s how I originally knew it — as a fixture on the classical station. (I’ve discovered that part of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, also titled ‘Pathétique’, was used as the theme to the late-70s version of “Romeo And Juliet”.)

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