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We have witnessed and had the chance to hear many pieces from both classical and modern composers . Numerous composers have tried to match the style of one of the most prominent composers of the nineteenth century, but few have come close. We are speaking of the ever-famous Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven is one of the most famous composers of all times and always will be considered to be among the best. The rise of Beethoven into the ranks? of history?s greatest composers was paralleled and in some ways a consequence of his own tragedy and despair.
Ludwig Van Beethoven, born in Bonn, Germany, was considered generally one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. His father was a singer in a court chapel. Beethoven followed in his father?s footsteps and became a court musician as well, because of his fathers mental absence. His father was an alcoholic, so Beethoven needed to somehow support himself and the rest of his family. Under the tutelage of German composer, Christian Gottlobe Neefe , his early compositions signal an important talent. It was planned for Beethoven to study in Vienna with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart died in 1791, preventing Beethoven to ever join him. Beethoven ended up going to Vienna in 1792, and became one of Joseph Hayden?s, an Austrian composer, pupils.
Beethoven?s piano improvisations dazzled aristocracy in Vienna. He entered into favorable arrangements with Viennese music publishers. Beethoven succeeded as a free lance composers due to the broadening of published music. Mozart took the same path, except for he found it full of frustration.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Beethoven loosely constructed a style of works such as the Septet Opera 20. Beethoven claimed that he had never learned anything from Hayden. He then revealed this complete assimilation of the Viennese classical style in every major instrumental genre: symphony, concerto, string quartet, and sonata. 1798 led to an increase of social isolation, due to Beethoven?s hearing impairment. His hearing began to deteriorate until eventually he became totally deaf. He went into a period of despair and even considered suicide, but then found the strength to devote his life to the music, which he could know only feel within himself. He reached his peak during these years. He gradually settled into patterns of shifting residences, spending a few summers in the Viennese suburbs. During these times of relocation, Beethoven found himself to be falling in love, in love with the wrong women. He tended to fall for the unattainable women, either they were aristocratic or married or both. These women inspired him to write many pieces, yet it is still unknown who these works were written for.
In 1815, Beethoven?s brother, Casper Carl, had died. Beethoven devoted himself to a costly legal struggle with his sister-in-law for custody of her nine year old son, and Beethoven?s nephew. Beethoven won custody of his nephew, after a lengthy hearing. Yet this whole arrangement did not work out for either Beethoven or his Nephew, Karl. In the years these two spent together, they were engaged in many fights and disagreements. This contributed to Karl?s attempted suicide in 1826.
Beethoven relied on small “conversation books” due to him becoming virtually deaf in 1818. The conversation books contained visitor remarks so he could at least read them, since his hearing ceased to exist. He stayed with a steadily shrinking group of friends, and withdrew himself from all others. His music remained fashionable during these times, but only among a small group of educated people. During Beethoven?s last illness, he received out pouring of sympathy from the surrounding communities. On March 26, 1827, Beethoven died in Vienna. Tens of thousands witnessed his funeral procession.
In Beethoven?s 57 years of living, his major outputs consist of seven concerto?s, nine symphonies, seventeen string quartets, ten sonatas for violin and piano, thirty two piano sonata?s, an opera, five sonatas for cello and piano, several overtures, two masses, and numerous sets of piano variations. People considered Beethoven a bridge to Romanticism. After Beethoven arrived in Vienna, he alternated between compositions based openly on classical models, such as the String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5. From 1802 to 1812 he projected a heroic aura, although his works of this decade musically represented an expansion of the tighter forms of Hayden and Mozart. This is apparent in both, Eroica Symphony and his Piano Concerto No.5. His piece entitled, Eroica was dedicated to Napoleon, who seemed to symbolize liberty and fraternity. Beethoven later ripped up the dedication when Napoleon betrayed the cause of freedom and was crowned emperor. Ludwig also represented formerly compressed works, such as his Symphony No. 5 and the Piano Sonata, Op.57.
The fading hopes for a successful relationship with the “Immortal Beloved” and the completion of the Symphony # 8 left Beethoven with composition uncertainty. A couple of his works prior to 1812, experimented with reviving and expanding on the more relaxed musical structure he had employed in the 1790?s. A couple example are, the Piano Sonata in A Major Op. 101 in 1817, and the Op. 98 song cycle An die feme Gelibte in1816. His cyclic works of this period exercised the most direct musical influence on the succeeding generation of romantic composers. Beethoven made a second return to the tightly structured heroic style in 1818. The return was marked by his Piano Sonata in B Flat Major Op. 106. This piece was a work of length and difficulty.
Rather than have been composing in sets or even pairs, the works of Beethoven in his last period are each marked by individuality. Later on, composers would admire his work, and strive to equal his perfection. Beethoven gave expression to an all embracing view which idealized humanity with the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis. Beethoven?s style gave rise to the five string quartets in 1824-1826. Although these pieces were viewed as inaccessible in their time, we in modern times have come to use these string quartets as a comparable standard.
The Romantic generation that followed Beethoven pictured him as a heroic artist, who fought against social injustice and hypocrisy. Beethoven was far more than that and his greatness was not recognized completely until after his death. His later works were so advanced, that they were considered unplayable for fifty years. Beethoven?s brilliant compositions continued to develop and signaled the beginning of a new era in all fields of human creativity and experience.
1.) Hogwood, Christopher. Beethoven Remembered. Great Ocean Publishers, Inc., ?1987
2.) Fischer, Edwin. Beethoven?s Pianoforte Sonatas. Faber and Faber Limited, ? 1959
3.) Ventura, Piero. Great Composers. G.P. Putnam?s Sons, ?1989
4.) Internet. www.Beethoven.com., 1998
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