I've always loved the sound of the piano; in second grade after it was first announced that there'd be lessons after school, I skipped back home with the signup form, playing air keyboard. The class was taught by a sprightly old gent named Fekko von Ompteda, and I enjoyed it, unlike school in general: it was just hard enough to be interesting, and there we were making actual music with our hands on heavy hulking mysterious machines -- plus an old Moog once -- and learning bits of mathy theory and an esoteric visual code. I liked the teacher too: he was an immigrant and charmingly eccentric in his own right, though after mumbledy years I've quite forgotten why I thought so. It seems he was "a very gifted and amazingly progressive musician", and, sadly, is no more; I wish I'd come back to Toronto for a visit before he died.
Moving to California ended all that. But my parents gave me for Christmas, at some point, a multi-record set of Beethoven played by Ivan Moravec, who as far as I'm concerned defines Beethoven -- see, I imprinted on it. The cycle of piano sonatas is my ultimate comfort music now.
This time, as I happened to come back to The Fellowship of the Ring at the same time, I was struck by how much sonata #20 sounds like the Shire. It could be dance music at Bilbo's birthday party. You might plump for the 'Pastoral' sonata instead, but I say no, that one's too Elvish. :)
But that wasn't the really striking discovery. I'd like you to play this clip, the theme of the last movement of sonata #4, and read the opening of Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs:
That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
I doubt the young Beethoven could have captured the feeling of the passage this foreshadows at the end of The Return of the King, though; that would be a job for late Beethoven, who, alas, never came back to LotR for inspiration.
Sorry for the lousy fade to end the clip; it's the first time I've tried to use a sound editor. I'm afraid I didn't note down who performed this.