Beethoven’s third symphony, the Eroica, used to be my favorite Beethoven symphony. It was my favorite piece of music when I was about twelve. But I’ve rarely listened to it since my dad died, twenty-four years ago.
When I was young my father sometimes went away from home on business trips. He might be away one or two nights. We missed him. I missed him, my brother missed him, and we both knew that our mom especially missed him. One time he was on his way home from an overnight trip. He was coming in to LaGuardia by plane, and then he would somehow get to the Long Island Railroad, and take a taxi for the last short leg of his trip, from Lynbrook RR station to home. We didn’t know if his plane was on time or where exactly he was. There were no cell phones, and no inexpensive way to check flight times. Distance phone calls were expensive, my father would economize by not calling, he would just come home.
We knew he was on his way, and we worried our mother asking when he would arrive. Of course she had no idea. So I said, “I’ll play Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, maybe he’ll be home before it ends.” I had borrowed a recording of this symphony from the public library, a great fat album of about eight fragile 78 records. I played almost the whole symphony. The last movement is a wondrous set of variations, culminating in the great “augmentation,” where the theme is played, very grandly, at half speed. Dad walked into the house during the augmentation, the climax of the symphony.
About eight months later, dad was coming home from an overnight trip again, and we had no idea when he would arrive. I wanted him to be home soon, so I put on my new 33 1/3rd recording of Beethoven’s Eroica. Dad walked into the house during the augmentation, again!
I still have that fine recording of the Eroica, I could play it any time I want, but, well, you know …