Beethoven Essay, Research Paper
Beethoven BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van (1770-1827) The composer of some of the most influential pieces of music everwritten, Ludwig van Beethoven created a bridge between the 18th-centuryclassical period and the new beginnings of Romanticism. His greatestbreakthroughs in composition came in his instrumental work, includinghis symphonies. Unlike his predecessor Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for whomwriting music seemed to come easily, Beethoven always struggled toperfect his work. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, and was baptized onDec. 17, 1770. (There is no record of his birth date.) His father andgrandfather worked as court musicians in Bonn. Ludwig’s father, asinger, gave him his early musical training. Although he had only meageracademic schooling, he studied piano, violin, and French horn, andbefore he was 12 years old he became a court organist. Ludwig’s firstimportant teacher of composition was Christian Gottlob Neefe. In 1787 hestudied briefly with Mozart, and five years later he left Bonnpermanently and went to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn and later withAntonio Salieri. Beethoven’s first public appearance in Vienna was on March 29, 1795,as a soloist in one of his piano concerti. Even before he left Bonn, hehad developed a reputation for fine improvisatory performances. InVienna young Beethoven soon had a long list of aristocratic patrons wholoved music and were eager to help him. Onset of Deafness In the late 1700s Beethoven began to suffer from early symptoms ofdeafness. The cause of his disability is still uncertain. By 1802Beethoven was convinced that the condition not only was permanent, butwas getting progressively worse. He spent that summer in the country andwrote what has become known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament.” In thedocument, apparently intended for his two brothers, Beethoven expressedhis humiliation and despair. For the rest of his life he searched for acure, but by 1819 his deafness had become total. Afterward, in order tohave conversations with his friends, Beethoven had them write down theirquestions and replied orally. Beethoven never married. Though he had many friends, he seemed to bea lonely man. He continued to appear in public but spent more and moreof his time working on his compositions. He lived in various villages
near Vienna and took long walks carrying sketchbooks in which he wouldwrite down his musical ideas. Scholars who have studied thesesketchbooks have discovered the agonizingly long process that thecomposer went through in order to perfect his melodies, harmonies, andinstrumentations. Three Periods of Work Most critics divide Beethoven’s work into three general periods,omitting the earliest years of his apprenticeship in Bonn. Although somepieces do not fit exactly into the scheme, these divisions can be usedto categorize the composer’s work. The first period, from 1794 to about 1800, consists of music whosemost salient features are typical of the classical era. The influence ofsuch musicians as Mozart and Haydn is evident in Beethoven’s earlychamber music, as well as in his first two piano concerti and his firstsymphony. Beethoven added his own subtleties, including sudden changesof dynamics, but in general the music was well constructed and not farfrom the sensibilities of the classical period. The second period, from 1801 to 1814, includes much of Beethoven’simprovisatory work. His Symphony No. 3, known as the “Eroica,” and the’Fourth Piano Concerto’ are fine examples of this period. The final period, from 1814 to the end of his life, is characterizedby even wider ranges of harmony and counterpoint. The last stringquartets contain some of the composer’s most vivid new ideas. Beethovencreated longer and more complicated forms of music. In his symphoniesand string quartets, he often replaced the minuet movement with alivelier scherzo. He also used improvisatory techniques, with surpriserhythmic accents and other unexpected elements. Many critics and listeners regard Beethoven as the finest composerwho ever lived. His music was unique and emotional. Never before hadinstrumental music been brought to such heights. He also made greatstrides with chamber music for piano, as well as for string quartets,trios, and sonatas. His works include nine symphonies, 32 piano sonatas,five piano concerti, 17 string quartets, ten sonatas for violin andpiano, one opera (’Fidelio’), the ‘Mass in C Major’, ‘Missa Solemnis’,and other chamber music. Beethoven died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. His funeral was attendedby hundreds of mourners. The bicentennial of his birth and thesesquicentennial of his death were celebrated with new performances andrecordings of all of the master’s works.