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Music History Essay, Research Paper

Beethoven, Berlioz and Chopin

*Beethoven. Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770 to Johann van Beethoven and his wife, Maria Magdalena. He took his first music lessons from his father, who was tenor in the choir of the archbishop-elector of Cologne. His father was an unstable, yet ambitious man whose excessive drinking, rough temper and anxiety surprisingly did not diminish Beethoven’s love for music. He studied and performed with great success, despite becoming the breadwinner of his household by the time he was 18 years old. His father’s increasingly serious alcohol problem and the earlier death of his grandfather in 1773 sent his family into deepening poverty. At first, Beethoven made little impact on the musical society, despite his father’s hopes. When he turned 11, he left school and became an assistant organist to Christian Gottlob Neefe at the court of Bonn, learning from him and other musicians. In 1783 he became the continuo player for the Bonn opera and accompanied their rehearsals on keyboard. In 1787, he was sent to Vienna to take further lessons from Mozart. Two months later, however, he was called back to Bonn by the death of his mother. He started to play the viola in the Opera Orchestra in 1789, while also teaching in composing. He met Haydn in 1790, who agreed to teach him in Vienna, and Beethoven then moved to Vienna permanently. He received financial support from Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to whom he dedicated his Piano Sonata in C minor, better known as The Path?tique ♪. He performed publicly in Vienna in 1795 for the first time, and published his Op. 1 and Op. 2 piano sonatas. His works are traditionally divided into three periods. The first is called the Viennese Classical, the second is the Heroic, and the third is Late Beethoven. In the first period, his individuality and style gradually developed, as he used many methods from Haydn, including the use of silence. He composed mainly for the piano during this period. These works include Symphony no. 1 in C (1800), his first six string quartets, and the Path?tique (1799). His Moonlight Sonata in C# minor (1801) is known as the first of Heroic Beethoven. Beethoven learned that he would become deaf in 1802 and suffered sever depression. His composing skills were not affected by his deafness, but his ability to teach and perform was inhibited. It is said that he became deaf from his habit of pouring cold water over his head while composing, to refresh himself, and then not drying his massive amounts of hair afterwards. He wrote his only opera, Fidelio in 1805. The main theme of the opera revolves around fidelity, which reflects his personal desire to marry. Other works in the Heroic period include the Kreuzer Sonata (1803), symphonies 3 – 7, the Violin Concerto in D major (1806), the Razumovsky Quartets (1806), the Emperor Concerto (1809) and the Archduke Trio, Op. 97 (1811). After 1813, during his Late period, Beethoven composed inwardly. He was totally deaf, as this is sometimes known as the “silent period.” Some say that Beethoven was composing music for a different age. His life became more chaotic and he composed less and less. In his works, he used more miniaturization and expansion. The music began to become “odd” as he began to experiment with the number of movements, contrast in volume and dynamics, harmonic predictability, sonata movements and trills in his works. Beethoven became increasingly argumentative as he was further tormented by his deafness. Goethe described his attitude as aggressive, and perhaps understandable, but not easy to live with. He gave his last performance in 1814, on the piano, but continued to be a respected composer in Viennese society. Some of his late achievements include the Diabelli Variations (1820-1823), the last piano sonatas and six string quartets, the Mass in D major, Missa Solemnis (1823), the Choral Symphony, no. 9 (1824), in which he set Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” in the final movement. At Beethoven’s death in 1827, Franz Grillparzer best described him during his funeral address when he said: “despite all these absurdities, there was something so touching and ennobling about him that one could not help admiring him and feeling drawn to him.”

*Berlioz Louis Hector Berlioz was born on December 11, 1803, in La Cote-Saint-Andre, a very small town in the east of France, fairly close to Grenoble, and a little further from Lyon. His father was a very respected doctor, an openly declared atheist and also a music lover. His mother was a Catholic. He was brought up under strict Catholicism as a boy, but soon left the Church and claimed agnosticism for the rest of his life. He started musical education when he was 13. He took flute (flageolet), vocal and guitar lessons. He did not study the piano as a child. In fact, his first compositions were for piano, flute and guitar. For his first 20 years or so, his father was the main influence in his life. In 1821, his father enrolled him in a medical school in Paris. After about a year of study there, he became very excited with the study of music. He attended operas in Paris, which fueled his love for music, and he soon abandoned medical school and enrolled in the Conservatoire under Jean- Francois le Suer. He wrote his Missa Solemnis, but at the time, he did not have enough money for it to be performed, so it was performed a year later. His father agreed to keep his allowance unless he failed in music, at which time he would need to choose another field. But a year later, he cut it off anyway. His mother cursed him for choosing the evil life of an artist. In 1827, Berlioz became a chorus singer at a vaudeville theater, as he was a very good sight singer. He did not publicize this, as it was mostly to make ends meet. He saw a production of Romeo and Juliet in September of 1827 and fell in love with the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, but she thought he was a mad man. She became an important part of his life and music. That same year his father restored his allowance because he admired his son’s determination and worried about him. In 1828 he took English lesson so he could read Shakespeare. He wrote a few articles on music but soon lost interest because of the restrictions of journalism, and he found it to be boring. Finally in 1830, Berlioz won the Prix de Rome. During 1829-1830 he wrote his Symphonie Fantastique, which he finished during the revolution of 1830. He got his symphony performed on December 5, 1830. It was subtitled “Episode in the Life of an Artist” and was performed in the Paris Conservatoire under the direction of Francois Antoine Habenack. To the score, he attached his program notes, with descriptions of every part of the song, which helped to get a better idea of how the song should sound. It was, indeed, a wonder performance. After the concert, Franz Liszt, who he met the day before, was very excited about Berlioz’s music and took him out to dinner. They soon became good friends. He soon met Camille Mokke, who was out to prove her current admirer wrong by winning Berlioz over. She did, but he should have regretted it. The next year, he was to go to Rome for his obligation of winning the Prix de Rome. He stopped in Italy for a month to visit home. Now, of course, both of his parents were proud of his successful son. He soon left Rome to find Camille, who he had not heard from in a month as she was strutting around Paris. On his way, he got a letter in Florence from Camille’s mom that informed him that Camille would be marrying someone else. Camille had fallen in love with a rich, older piano player, and Berlioz was still a young musician. He left for Paris with plans of a murder/suicide, but during the long trip, he cooled off a little and returned back to Rome. He returned back to Paris in November 1832 and moved into an apartment that had just recently been occupied by Harriet Smithson. When Berlioz learned of this, his feelings immediately came flowing back to him. He gave a concert of Symphonie Fantastique and its sequel, Lelio in December. He invited Harriet to sit in a box and she attended. Her career wasn’t going so well and she was in financial hardship so she decided to meet Berlioz. She saw him as a way out of debt, so on October 3, 1833, they were married. In December, he gave a performance of King Lear, after which Paganini gave him great praise, and they developed a friendship. Berlioz wrote a piece for him and turned it into Harold in Italy. In 1834, they had a son, Louis. Harriet’s acting career failed, and her beauty and health were fading fast. She soon began drinking and was turning into a shrew. Berlioz could not deal with her anymore, and moved out and took a mistress named Marie Recio, and opera singer. The next few years after that, he traveled a lot with success in Germany, Russia and London. He began his memoirs in 1848 and a year after that his father died. Between 1848 and 1855, he traveled more with mixed results. In 1854, Harriet died. In 1855, Berlioz was appreciated and recognized as a great composer. His great works were affecting other composers and his Treatise on Instrumentation was becoming a standard textbook. In 1862, however, Marie died of a heart attack, and in 1867, his son died of yellow fever. In January of 1869, Berlioz became very sick and was bedridden. He died two months later. He is buried in Paris today, with a square bearing his name with an overlooking statue.

*Chopin! Frederic Francois Chopin, one of the greatest composers of all time, was born in Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw on February 22, 1810. His father was a Frenchman who had lived in Poland for many years and his mother was Polish and of noble birth. He loved to play music, even as a small child. Before he even knew how to write down his ideas, he started to compose music. He took piano lessons when he was 6 years old from a Czech teacher named Wojceich Zywny, who used to base his teaching on Bach and Mozart. When he was 7, his first composition, the Pollonaise in B flat major, was written down by his father, as well as some other dances, marches and variations now lost. At the age of 8, he performed at a public charity concert. During his early years in Warsaw, he loved to hear the premier artists of the time perform. His first published work, a rondo, appeared when he was only 15 years old. He graduated from the lyceum at age 17, and he was recognized as the leading pianist of Warsaw and a very talented composer. After Chopin gave two successful concerts in Vienna when he was 19, he began writing works designed for his original piano style. In 1822, he finishes his studies with Zywny and begins private composition lessons with Josef Elsner. He enters classes at the Warsaw Lyceum the next year to further study classical literature, singing, drawing, music theory and harmony. By the late 1820s, he had already won the reputation as a piano virtuoso and composer. He toured throughout Europe to the acclaim of audiences and critics, alike. He made his first visit to Vienna in 1829, where he played concerts and received critical acclaim. The audience’s response was very favorable and Chopin was impressed with the warm acceptance of his music and pianistic abilities. The following year, he performed the Concerto in F minor with a small orchestra for family and friends, then has its premier in Warsaw’s National Theater on March 17. In Vienna in 1831, he continues to compose some Mazurkas and Etudes, and attends the local opera and becomes very involved in the local musical life. According to some, the first sketches of the 1st Scherzo and Ballade originated in Vienna. Poland then decided to revolt against its Russian rulers. As a result, the Russian czar put Warsaw under strict military rule, and Chopin decided to go to Paris, which was the center of the romantic movement in the arts. He fell deeply in love with the city in 1831, and never again returned to Warsaw. He soon became a favorite of the Parisian salons, and the society elite. He gave lessons and concerts, and publishers paid well for his compositions. The French loved his genius and charm, and he was always in great demand as both a pianist and a teacher. 1833 and 1834 were very productive years for Chopin. His works greatly increased. Among them are the Variations Brillantes, the Rondo op. 16, and the Waltz op. 18. He completed the Andante Spianato, Grande Polonaise Brillante, and the Scherzo no. 1 in 1835. He traveled to meet his parents and continues on to Dresden and Leipzig where he has a series of meetings with Robert Schumann and Mendelssohn. He became very ill during the winter months of 1835, and writes his will and testament. In 1836, some of his greatest works appear in print for the first time, such as Concerto in F minor, Polonaise op. 22, Ballade op. 23, Mazurkas op. 24, Polonaise op. 26, and Nocturnes op. 27. In late October of 1836, Chopin met the novelist, Baroness Aurore Dudevant, who used the pen name George Sand. He did not at first like Sand, but upon his return from London in 1837, their relationship intensified. They began a relationship that would prove to be the most influential and devastating events of his life. He published his Etudes op. 25 and dedicated them to Countess Marie d’Agoult . In November he wrote the Trio from the Funeral March Sonata on the anniversary evening of the uprising in Poland. Chopin’s fame continuing in Paris, he gives a concert in the Tuileries at the court of Louis Philippe I, then at a concert given by Valentin Alkan at the Pape salons. In 1840, as his illness progresses, he continues to give piano lessons to members of the aristocracy. It was the fashion among the ladies and girls of Paris society to be known as a pupil of Chopin. He published Sonata op. 35, Impromptu op. 36, Nocturne op. 37, Ballade op. 38, Scherzo op. 39, Polonaises op. 40, Mazurkas op. 41 and the Waltz op. 42 during the summer of 1840. His reputation only increased as his health worsened. In 1843, he and Sand go to Nohant in the summer where he works on the Nocturnes op. 55 and the Mazurkas op. 56. There he composed the Sonata op. 58 and the Berceuse in the summer and autumn. He composes and corresponds with friends and family as his health continued to deteriorate in 1845. He attended concerts in Paris and receives visits from Delacroix and Mickiewicz. He composed the Mazurkas op. 59 and completed the Sonata for cello, the Barcarolle and the Polonaise-Fantasie. By 1847, Chopin’s highly-charged relationship with Sand had ended, leaving Chopin heartbroken. On February of 1848, Chopin played his last concert in Paris at the Pleyel salon. He performed some of the preludes, mazurkas, waltzes, the Berceuse, the Barcarolle, and with Auguste Franchomme his own cello sonata. A few days after, the February revolution broke out in Paris, reducing the number of lessons and affecting Chopin’s livelihood. He then traveled to England and stayed there for 7 months, giving concerts in salons and public halls. He continued to give lessons to the aristocracy there, and also met Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens and Lady Byron. He then goes to Scotland and composes the Waltz in B minor. In November of 1848, he returns to London, very ill. In 1949, Chopin stops teaching and visits the sick Mickiewicz. He receives numerous visits from friends, pupils and ladies, and Delacroix is a regular visitor. The Mazurka in F minor, his last work dates from the summer of 1849. He is visited by his sister Ludwika with her daughter and husband. He orders them to throw all of his unpublished and uncompleted works into the fire. “You will find many works, more or less worth of me; in the name of the affection which you hold for me, please burn them all apart from the beginning of my method for piano. The rest, without any exception, must be consumed by fire, for I have too much respect for my public and I do not want all the pieces unworthy of my public to be distributed on my responsibility under my name.” Soon after 2:00 AM on October 17, 1849, Chopin dies. On the 30th of October, Preludes in E minor and B minor, and also his Requiem were performed at his funeral by his wishes. His heart was taken to Warsaw and placed in the Holy Cross Church according to his wishes.


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