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Tai Tung Shan and Beethoven

Tai Tung Shan (also called the Sunset Peak) is the third highest peak in Hong Kong and it was quite a strenuous hike for me, but the picturesque view during sunset was breathtaking. Sometimes I find it hard to express how I feel through words. What I like about music is that through listening to music, we know our emotions and feelings are understood and shared by the composer and performer. Maybe that is why we appreciate Classical music more when we get older, when we have more depths and shades of emotions?

Photos I took in Tai Tung Shan in December 2020

When I first started learning the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in D major, Op.28, I was imagining a sea of grass turning gold under the sun—the broad and expansive but calm and idyllic atmosphere. Interestingly enough, I had never seen anything like that. When I saw Tai Tung Shan, I saw what had always been in my imagination, except that it’s even better. The whole mountain was glistening!

The title “Pastoral” of the Sonata was coined by the first publisher because of its rustic character. The drone bass and simple harmonies warm up the lyrical melody like the sunset does with the sea of silver grass in Tai Tung Shan. The elements of pastoral music, namely its triple metre, pedal notes and fifths that seem to imitate bagpipes, are reminiscent of the Symphony No.6 in F major, Op.68, where the pastoral theme was explicitly referred to by Beethoven. The work is written in 1801, the “Middle Period” of Beethoven. I am in awe that Beethoven painted this incredibly serene scene at a time when he was alarmed by his worsening hearing conditions.

The sonata is not as famous as its predecessor (the Moonlight sonata), but I love the piece and I find it very relatable, probably because it touches the part in us that yearns for simplicity, harmony, happiness and inner peace.

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