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Beethoven's Opus 109 - Stanford Essay - Intellectual Development

digestadonut 3 / 10  
Dec 29, 2016   #1
The prompt given was: Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.

Opus 109

When I decided to play Beethoven's Opus 109 Sonata, my teacher was dismayed. One of the Sacred Five (as I like to dub Beethoven's last five piano sonatas), Opus 109 was written in the last few years of Beethoven's life, full of his pain and frustration with the world. Playing it at a youth competition would almost certainly earn a "you are not simply not ready yet" from the jury. My teacher suggested that I try the delightfully youthful Opus 2 instead. But I had made up my mind. I genuinely loved Opus 109, and some inner determination in me dictated that I would play it, conventional or not.

Reluctantly, my teacher agreed. But learning the piece was completely different from I had imagined. It took time for me to realize that Opus 109 was a piece that was not so much about the fingers, but rather about the mind, heart, and soul. I would hours sitting silently in front of the keyboard, staring at the notes Beethoven left behind, and wondering what he was thinking. For the first time, it wasn't the piece developing under my hands; I was the one growing as I studied the piece. Opus 109 inspired me to view the world in a new way. It had been a risk to learn it, but I couldn't have regretted my decision less. Today, I still play Opus 109, as well as other music that I love, not limited by the fear of breaking tradition.

I'm worried that my essay doesn't correspond with the prompt enough. Please let me know what you think. Any other help/comments would be greatly appreciated

barry 4 / 15 3  
Dec 29, 2016   #2
I liked reading your essay but there are some minor corrections like I would spend hours sitting silently ...
I think it would be perfect if you mention how it is important for your intellectual development.

I hope it helps.
Best of luck!
rnsnz18 10 / 33 4  
Dec 29, 2016   #3
I really loved your essay!!, perhaps you're worried because it also seems that it can fit with the prompt " desrcribe a challenge you have overcome and how it shaped you", but your topic fits in this prompt too, maybe if you try to elaborate a little but more your conclusion about how it changed your intellevtual development you'll feel less worried and it will make a more memorable essay for the reviewer, but you already have an excellent work here.

I'm applying to Stanford too, Good Luck! And hope we both get admitted!
OP digestadonut 3 / 10  
Dec 29, 2016   #4

Oh! Thanks for catching that! I will fix that. Thanks!!


Yeah, I was also hoping to expand the conclusion more, but the word count is really limiting me. Maybe I'll try cutting out some of the intro. Thanks and good luck to you too!!
rnsnz18 10 / 33 4  
Dec 29, 2016   #5
I know how hard it is to deal with the word limit, i think some words of your second essay can be cut, one must be ready to sacrifice some sentences for others that would be better.Conclude with the idea that the decision of playing Opus 109 helped you to gain confidence on taking more challenging plays, just a sentence to make that conclusion, I believe you can cut words to make that conclusion fit.
kc1099 6 / 21 2  
Dec 30, 2016   #6
I really liked this essay! However, I can understand your concerns with it not answering the prompt perfectly. I think Stanford is looking for an experience (which you wrote about) and how you grew from it/how it made your passion to music clear. The latter part, what you gained from your experience, isn't as strong as the actual experience and story itself. I do really like how you explained that the piece made you look at music from a different perspective (it's not all about skill, but it's about the emotion you evoke while you perform.) Go with that and see if you like that idea - how your experience led you to take a risk that clarified your perception on music, and how it's more about passion than simply fast fingers attacking piano keys. Hope this was helpful!
Holt [Contributor] - / 9,017 2713  
Dec 30, 2016   #7
Donut, when the essay speaks of intellectual vitality, you have an opportunity to represent a unique learning experience on your part. Something that is not related so much to the things that you love to do or the major that you have chosen. While I can see your love for music coming through and the inspiration that you take from the activity, the development of the intellectual vitality part is lacking. The activity is what is hindering the essay in my opinion. While the violin playing can represent an abstract intellectual growth, unless you can fully explain a specific intellectual development in reference to the music. You cannot be extremely abstract as you are now with this topic. We need to see an activity that really promotes unrealized intellectual development on your part. A sense of maturity, a deeper understanding of the world, and an active continuing intellectual development are important to this essay. So limiting it to the single action of constantly playing Opus 109 is probably not the way to go this time around.
OP digestadonut 3 / 10  
Dec 31, 2016   #8

Thank you; that is very helpful!! Yes, that's the idea I was trying to get across! I am trying to revise my essay right now.


Thanks so much! I think I will be adding those points to my essay. I feel like that will make it fit the prompt better too.

I tried to revise my essay and add your suggestions in. Do you think this is any better? (the changes are at the end) Thanks so much!!
Holt [Contributor] - / 9,017 2713  
Dec 31, 2016   #9
Donut, I believe that you need just one more paragraph to complete this essay. The concluding statement must reflect the kind of intellectual maturity that you developed as an artist while learning to play Opus 109. Earlier in the essay you claimed that you came to understand that in order to play this piece properly, you needed to have a deeper sense of pain, of intellectual maturity. So, your failure to properly play this piece, and your eventual understanding of what it takes to play this piece must have led to a type of intellectual maturity that has come to be reflected in the way that you play your pieces now. I believe that indicating this in the essay will help it to close on a highly revealing and intriguing note.

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