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Beethoven Essay, Research Paper


Ludwig van Beethoven overcame many obstacles throughout his life (1770-1827). By expanding the style of his influences, he accomplished musical tasks before possible. His influences were Neefe, Mozart, and Bach. In comparison to other composers, such as Bach and Mozart, Beethoven produced a relatively small number of symphonies. However, his nine symphonies contained more emotion and ingenuity than all other artists? combined. In fact, the Ninth Symphony Orchestra is Beethoven?s most renowned work, as well as the greatest accomplishment in music history. Beethoven possessed an enormous musical mind, and proved himself to be the most influential composer of all time.

Beethoven?s road to fame was anything but easy. He encountered numerous difficulties along the way. Ludwig Beethoven was born into a dysfunctional family. His father, a successful violinist and tenor singer, was also an abusive alcoholic (Mann 72). Beethoven began learning to play the piano at a very young age, with his father as instructor. His father initiated the informal training through drastic means (Landon 52). “[Beethoven?s] father would wake him up at night to beat the music into his sleepy head” (73). As a result, Beethoven?s musical skills progressed rather slowly in comparison to future times.

At the age of nine, Beethoven began his first formal training with the composer and organist, Christian Gottlob Neefe (Landon 55). Neefe started what became a life long journey into music for the nine-year-old prodigy. In addition to instructing Beethoven on the piano and organ, Neefe also taught him to compose. In 1782, with the help of his mentor, Beethoven published his first works, a set of nine variations for piano (59). Although Beethoven had several different teachers, he did not adopt one style over another. Instead, he took all styles and combined them into a perfect balance.

Neefe introduced Beethoven to Mozart?s strict counterpoint style. Wolfgang Mozart, respected pianist and composer, invited Beethoven to go to Vienna and study under him (Landon 82). Two weeks after arriving in Vienna Beethoven suffered yet another hardship. Beethoven?s mother died. His mother?s death aggravated his father?s drinking problem to the point where he could no longer care for his family. Hence, at the young age of seventeen, Beethoven had no choice but to care for his two younger brothers (Landon 157). Despite these responsibilities, he still managed to expand his skills, both on the piano and as a composer. As a final hardship, Beethoven developed a buzzing noise in his ears. “At the age of 28, Beethoven?s hearing began to deteriorate; first in the left ear, then in the right,” the “cause later determined as severe damage to the acoustic nerves” (Nettl 38). Eventually Beethoven lost all hearing. Regardless, Beethoven?s superior intellect allowed him to compose an entire symphony inside his head before copying a single music note onto paper. Thus, unbroken by his obstacles, Beethoven remained loyal to his music.

In the history of music, Beethoven is unique as a composer and as a person. Three different time periods characterize Ludwig van Beethoven?s career. The first period contained Symphony No.1 and No. 2. Beethoven?s work followed tradition and resembled the style used by Bach and Mozart. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 21, was completed in April of 1800. Two years later, Beethoven completed Symphony No.2 in D major, Opus 36, and was released in Vienna (Grove 22). Beethoven had mastered the Classical Viennese style and he wanted to pursue his own new ideas.

In 1802, the start of the second period, Beethoven realized that his hearing was deteriorating, and he slid into a state of depression (Landon 179). As a result, in 1802, Beethoven?s work broke free from the formal conventions of classical music. He looked inward and liberated his mind as well as his emotions; Beethoven created music with a deeper meaning. He poured his entire mind and soul into his music. “He did this because of a tormented life that demanded continual emotional releases-something he found only in music” (Janaro and Altshuler 228). Beethoven composed the majority of his work in the second period, Symphony No. 3 ? Symphony No. 8. In 1803, he began work on Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Opus 55, “The Eroica” (Grove 45-46). Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, Opus 60, was completed in September of 1806. By mid 1808 Beethoven finished Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67, and Symphony No. 6 in F major, Opus 68, “The Pastora” (Grove 62, 65-68).

Despite Beethoven?s hearing being almost completely gone, he remained completely dedicated to his music. Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92, was released in December of 1813 (Grove 96). Completed in 1812, Symphony No. 8 in F major, Opus 93, was released in February of 1814 (Grove 121). Shortly after, Beethoven?s brother Casper, whom he was very close to, died. Beethoven did not cope with his brother?s death very well; “he almost gave up composing altogether” (Landon 235). Beethoven however managed to recover and compose his best symphony ever, which became the greatest accomplishment in music history.

In 1823 Beethoven composed his last symphony. Beethoven had been completely deaf for nearly six years when he solely composed every note of Symphony No. 9.

It is this ability to give every thought a symphonic aspect which distinguishes Beethoven from other symphonists before and after him and which even today makes his symphonies a constant source of pleasure and a storehouse for student and composer alike. (Nettl 259)

His final statement, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125, “The Choral” (Grove 156), is said to take “us as close to the gates of heaven as we can get in this earthly lifetime” (Janaro and Altshuler 231). Symphonies had remained purely instrumental until now. Beethoven was following his dream not tradition, though. He was the first to incorporate voices into symphonies, establishing a tradition still followed today. Symphony No. 9 is a clear example of Beethoven?s unrivalled mental superiority.

When people thought symphony had reached its full potential with composers such as Bach and Mozart, Beethoven showed the world that only the surface had been scratched. It is impossible to determine the extent to which his influences have spread. “He wrote nine symphonies; five piano concertos; sixteen string quartets; ten sonatas for violin and five for cello; thirty piano sonatas; and two masses” (Barbers 81). These accomplishments are undoubtedly required study materials for any serious art student around the world. Every significant composer since Beethoven?s time, has been influenced by his work. Despite all his hardships, “Beethoven became and remained the most influential of all composers” (Wolf 111).


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