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Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. He studied in Vienna under Mozart and Hayden. In Vienna he first made his reputation as a pianist and teacher, and he became famous quickly.

At this time he composed many of his most popular works such as the Fifth symphony, the Emperor Concerto, the Eroica and Pastoral symphonies, and his only opera Fidelio.

Beethoven developed a completely original style of music, reflecting his sufferings and joys. His work forms a peak in the development of tonal music and is one of the most important developments in the history of music. Before his time, composers wrote works for religious services, and to entertain people. But people listened to Beethoven’s music for its own sake.

About 1800, he discovered that he was slowly becoming deaf. I find it hard to imagine being able to compose music as wonderful as the Choral symphony while being unable to hear the music except in one’s head. It wasn’t surprising that many people thought that Beethoven and his career were over.

Beethoven, too, at times was close to total despair. After short time he withdrew from most of the social contacts. Once he even tried to commit suicide. However, he overcame his feelings and fears and continued to compose music. By 1820, when he was almost totally deaf, Beethoven composed his greatest works. These include the last five piano sonatas, the Missa solemnis, the Ninth Symphony, with its choral finale, and the last five string quartets.

In the fall of 1826 Beethoven caught a serious cold, which developed into pneumonia. He died on March 26, 1827.

At the time of his death and even now Beethoven is considered one of the top classical composers of all times, maybe even the best. To achieve such recognition, the person without hearing has to be of unbelievable talent, and determination, and this is exactly the kind of person Beethoven – the most remarkable composer of all times.

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Home » Biography » Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Born to a drunkard father and an unhappy mother, the young Beethoven was subjected to a brutal training in music at the hands of his father, who hoped that the boy would prove to be another prodigy like Mozart. Failing in this, the young Beethoven nevertheless embraced music and studied for a short time in 1792 with Franz Joseph Haydn in Vienna. Hailed as a genius and a master of improvisation at the piano, Beethoven soon made a name for himself, and by 1794 was known throughout Europe. He faithfully learned the Classical Viennese styles and traditions in music, and then proceeded throughout his career to completely revolutionize them.

His earliest compositions reflect the classical restraint of Haydn and Mozart, yet there were always flashes of what was to come. The emotion he displayed while playing his own music was unheard of in his day, and the fiery intensity of his early Piano Sonata in C minor, known as the “Pathetique” is one of the first works in which Beethoven gives vent to his own dramatic musical voice. By 1800, Beethoven had become aware of his advancing deafness — surely a most horrible fate for a musician and unendurable to a composer.

Agonizing over his fate, Beethoven contemplated suicide, but in the end embraced life, determined to go on composing, if no longer performing. Unhappy with his compositions up to that time and stating that he would now be “making a fresh start,” Beethoven began composing music such as had never before been heard. His Symphony no. 3 in E-flat major, subtitle the “Eroica”, was completed in 1804, and was almost twice as long as any symphony written up to that time. Taking the classical symphony as a starting point, it introduces more themes, more contrasts, more instruments, more weight and more drama than previously heard in the symphonic form.

His sixteen string quartets span his creative life and developed from the classical restraint of the six “Early” quartets to the sublime late quartets which contain music of such personal pain and suffering, that one wonders if an audience was intended to hear them at all. The power of Beethoven’s voice can be heard in the String Quartet no. 11 in F minor. Beethoven’s musical ideas, the “themes” he used and from which he painstakingly constructed his works, were revolutionary for his day. The well-known opening motto theme of the famous Symphony no. in C minor was considered by many to be evidence of madness on Beethoven’s part. At the same time, his love of nature and frequent walks in the countryside led to his composing one of the earliest of program symphonies, the “Pastoral” Symphony no. 6 in F major, complete with musical images of flowing brooks, thunderstorms, and bird calls. This work would later come to influence the symphonic works of later Romantic composers Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt.

With the heaven-storming opening of the Piano Concerto no. in E-flat, Beethoven boldly broke with the tradition of the orchestral presentation of the theme before the entrance of the piano, and introduced the notion of the nineteenth century virtuoso concert-pianist. The idea of universal freedom, equality, and the brotherhood of man was one the composer cherished. Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, is on this very subject, and the theme is nowhere expressed more powerfully or beautifully than in the final movement of the monumental Symphony no. 9 in D minor, composed in 1824 when Beethoven was completely deaf.

With the introduction of four vocalists and mixed chorus, Beethoven sets the words of Ferdinand Schiller’s Ode “To Joy” in the last movement of the symphony. To a tune so simple that half the world knows it and sings it, the genius of Beethoven seeks to embrace all humanity with his vision of equality, democracy, and love. With plans for the future and sketches of a tenth symphony begun, Beethoven contracted a chill which led to a long illness. In and out of consciousness for weeks, Beethoven died on March 26, 1827.

Some 10,000 people lined the streets of Vienna at his funeral to pay homage to the composer who had forever changed the musical climate of Western Europe. With Beethoven’s passing, the stage was set for the onslaught of Romanticism in western music. He is universally recognized as one of the greatest composers of the Western European music tradition. Beethoven’s work crowned the classical period and also effectively initiated the romantic era in music. He is one of the few artists who genuinely may be considered revolutionary.

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