Ludwig van Beethoven was a German pianist and composer in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic ages of Western music. Ludwig was born in the city of Bonn, Germany on December 16th, 1770 and died March 26th, 1827 in Vienna Austria. He has been one of the most influential musicians of all times. He was a very talented person and he was and still is recognized worldwide
Beethoven had two younger brothers, Caspar and Johann, who survived into adulthood. His mother was Maria Magdalena van Beethoven and his father was Johann van Beethoven, a not very good court singer known for his alcoholism more than his career. Ludwig grandfather and godfather was one of the most eminent musicians in the city of Bonn.
Beethoven started his carrier sometime before he was six years old. His alcoholic father would teach him music in a very rigorous and abusive way. According to Knapp, Raymond L., the family went through hard time since his grandfather died in 1773 and his father became alcoholic. His father would beat him if he didn’t practice or if his practice was not up to part, he would also lock him up in the cellar and deprive him from sleep. His first recital was for Empress Maria Theresa and he was only seven years old at the time. Although he was impressive, he was overlooked by the press as a prodigy child.
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At the age of 11, Ludwig had to withdraw from school as he struggled with learning disabilities. It is suspected that he might have had suffered from mild dyslexia. He would say that “Music comes to me more readily than words.” His father also wanted him to study music full time. In 1780 the nominated as a court organist of Christian Gottlob Neefe, became Beethoven’s teacher and two years later, June 1782 Beethoven became Neefe’s assistant as a court organist, making a small salary. Neefe was the one that introduced Beethoven to Johann Sebastian Bach’s music and at the age of 12, Beethoven had “his first extant composition (Nine Variation on a March Dressler) published at Mannheim.” In the same year, he was appointed continuo player to the Bonn opera. Four years later, in1787, he was making a big progress and Maximilian Francis, archbishop, was persuaded to send Ludwig to Vienna, the European capital of culture and music, with the hopes that he would study with an eminence, Mozart. He stayed there for a couple of weeks but he had to go back as his mother got ill. He stayed at his home town, Bonn, building up his reputation as a promising court musician.
In 1790, the 19-year-old young man, was asked to compose a musical memorial in the honor of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, who had passed away. His piece was never performed for reasons that remain unveiled, but a hundred years later, this piece was discovered by Johannes Brahms. Its title was Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II and Brahms describes it as “beautiful and noble”. It is considered Beethoven’s earliest masterpiece.
In 1792 due to the French revolution turmoil, Beethoven decided to go back to Vienna to keep studying music. As Mozart had passed away that year making Joseph Haydn the greatest composer alive, Beethoven sought his tutoring. Ludwig immersed himself in the music studies; he learnt piano lessons from Haydn, vocal composition from Antonio Salieri and counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger. He was recognized as a virtuoso pianist who excelled at improvising. He soon gained recognition from the Viennese aristocracy, who offered him funding and lodging so he wouldn’t be monetary tied to the Electorate of Cologne. He made his much expected public debut on March 29, 1795.
In 1796, Beethoven commenced his first tour simultaneously with other music publications. Solo and chamber music was mainly the kind of music that he would work on during this time. Some examples of his rising work were Two Cello Sonatas; the Piano Sonata in E-flat; the Three String Trios, and the Three Piano Sonatas. Only after having composed those pieces, he decided to work on the string quartet. One of the main pieces composed during 1798-1800 period was The Six String Quartets, which would mean Beethoven was moving up as a music prominence and he was also showing his similarities with Haydn and Mozart. His quartets continue to be today the foundation of the kind of literature.
Beethoven never got married or had children. Some letters were found, indicating that he was very much in love with a married woman called Antonie Brentano. He used to call her the “Immortal Beloved”. He would write to her not only poems but also every day complaints. After his brother Caspar died, he went into a custody battle with his sister in-law. After several years, he got the custody of his nephew Karl van Beethoven, but he never had a good relationship with him. Beethoven has been often described as lonely, short-tempered, absent minded. Family feuds were a constant in his life and he was always fighting with his publishers, pupils, patrons.
Around 1800 Ludwig started having health problems. He was losing his hearing and by 1816, he was completely deaf. He was very private about his hearing loss. He started only confiding to those he trusted most but were furthest from him, the people that lived in Bonn. In a letter to his friend Franz Wegeler, he confessed that he had been attending for almost two years social functions because he could not admit that he was deaf. He hearing was lost over time so he would ask his visitors to write down what they wanted to tell him in notebooks. These were called “Conversation Books”.
Despite losing his hearing he never stopped working, and in 1802, he concluded his Second Symphony. This symphony would be described as “noble, energetic, and proud”.
Personal problems would start to interfere with Beethoven’s mind. He declared in a letter to Wenzel Krumpholz that he was not satisfied with what he had composed up till then and he intended to embark on a new path. After that he got into what it was called the “Heroic” Period. His music was vocal and dramatic. One of the pieces of this period was Sturm und Drang with his signature key of C minor.
According to Castillo, Beethoven in 1803 wrote the Third Symphony that was the best of the whole Western music. This piece was originally entitled the “Bonaparte Symphony”, as Beethoven showed great admiration for Napoleon as the main representative of the French Revolution ideals but later it was renamed due to his disappointment with Napoleon.
Beethoven wrote 9 symphonies throughout his life. According to Wildridge, Justin the three best are: Symphony No.3 in E flat major; Op.55 (The Eroica) – 1803. “The sketches show a minimum of false starts and detours. The most radical ideas were present from the start…” As a musical form, the Third Symphony broke the mold and became the longest work Beethoven had composed until this time. The two symphonies that had come before really gave no clue that the next would be such a departure. It is a highly original work and represents a quantum leap forward for Beethoven as a composer.2. Symphony No.5 in C minor; Op.67 (1807-8), it is the opening motif that sounds now in the human conscious. Four notes played on the off-beat begin the entire work in such a simple fashion but to tremendous effect. 3. Symphony No.9 in D minor; Op.125 (The Choral) (1823-4), Like the Eroica, the Ninth Symphony is an enormous, four movement work for large orchestral and choral forces. It is these choral forces that bring the best-known element to this symphony in the form of Beethoven’s setting of the Schiller poem titled “Ode to Joy” (1785), in the finale. Similar to the Fifth Symphony, the Ninth Symphony uses the Romantic concepts of struggle, destiny, love and rejoicing as the spirit prevails against the odds.”( Wildridge, Justin). He was completely deaf at the time.
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Beethoven is one of the greatest music eminences in this period of musical history and also of all times. He learnt the musical Classical traditions from the best, Mozart and Joseph Haydn. His shyness caused that he could only express himself through music, creating some of the most beautiful pieces of music there are in the world. The fact that he was deaf while he was composing shows the brilliance of his mind and resilience, that only a human being of his caliber could achieve. During Beethoven’s short life span, he was an active person that loved what he did and never quit till his death. His creations still today being study not only as a simple piece of written of music, they are study as literature content.
Beethoven died on March 26th, 1827, he was 56 years old and the cause was post-hepatic cirrhosis of the liver. His last words were: “Plaudite, amici, commedia finita est” – “Friends applaud, the Comedy is over”. His death was actually a tragedy to the world.
- Beethoven’s Deafness – Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Website, www.lvbeethoven.com/Bio/BiographyDeafness.html.
- Castillo, Patrick. “Ludwig Van Bethoven.”The Saint Paul Chamber Orchesta, 14 May 2015, www.thespco.org/listening-library/composer-guides/ludwig-van-beethoven/.
- Knapp, Raymond L. and Julian Medforth Budden. “Ludwig Van Bethoven.”
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 22 Mar. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Ludwig-van-Beethoven.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven, pages.cs.wisc.edu/~boris/maha/music/beethoven.html.
- “Ludwig Van Beethoven.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 19 Apr. 2019, www.biography.com/musician/ludwig-van-beethoven.
- Wildridge, Justin. “Dr Justin Wildridge.”CMUSE, 1July 2018, www.cmuse.org/best- beethoven-symphonies/.
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