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Classical 101

"Ghostly" Music of Beethoven for Halloween

"The weyward Sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the Sea and Land..." from Orson Welles' film adaptation of 'Macbeth'

Is that a wandering spirit we hear in the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Trio in D, "The Ghost"?  Is it the ghost of Hamlet's father "doomed for a certain term to walk the night," or can it be the three witches  that incite ungodly ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth with the logic of "Foul is fair, and fair is foul"?

The slow movement in this otherwise more upbeat work from 1809 has intrigued listeners ever since.  The story goes that the composer Carl Czerny, Beethoven's most famous piano student, felt that the second movement reminded him of the ghost of Hamlet's father.  


There is also evidence from Beethoven's notebook that he may have been contemplating writing an opera based on Shakespeare's tragedy of unscrupulous ambition for power, and that music from the largo may have been intended for a scene with the three witches in Macbeth.

The eerie feeling in this music casts an unusual spell, especially for this time of year as we approach All Hallows Eve.  So, whether its "Double double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble." Or, the spirit of Hamlet's father seeking revenge, here's some haunting music of Beethoven: