Ludwig van Beethoven - DOC

Document Sample
Ludwig van Beethoven - DOC Powered By Docstoc
					Ludwig van Beethoven
       "Beethoven" redirects here. For other uses, see Beethoven (disambiguation).
 Ludwig van Beethoven

   Portrait by Carl Jäger (date
    December 17, 1770
     Bonn, Germany
     March 26, 1827
     Vienna, Austria

Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced [ˈɘn]) (baptized December 17,

1770 – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist. He is widely

regarded as one of history's greatest composers, and was the predominant

figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in

Western classical music. His reputation and genius have inspired—and in

many cases intimidated—ensuing generations of composers, musicians, and

Born in Bonn, Germany, he moved to Vienna, Austria, in his early twenties,

and settled there, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a

reputation as a virtuoso pianist. In his late twenties he began to lose his

hearing, and yet continued to produce notable masterpieces throughout his

life in the face of this personal disaster, even after his deafness became

absolute. Unusually among his contemporaries, he worked as a freelance

composer, arranging subscription concerts and being supported by a number

of wealthy patrons who considered his gifts extraordinary.

Life and work
       For more details on this topic, see Life and work of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Beethoven was born at 515 Bongasse, Bonn, Germany, to Johann van

Beethoven (1740– 1792) and Magdalena Keverich van Beethoven

(1744– 1787). Beethoven was baptized on December 17, but his family and

later teacher Johann Albrechtsberger celebrated his birthday on December


Beethoven's first music teacher was his father, a musician in the Electoral

court at Bonn who was apparently a harsh and unpredictable instructor.

Johann would often come home from a bar in the middle of the night and pull

young Ludwig out of bed to play for him and his friend. Beethoven's talent was
recognized at a very early age. His first important teacher was Christian

Gottlob Neefe. In 1787 young Beethoven traveled to Vienna for the first time,

where he may have met and played for Mozart. He was forced to return home

because his mother was dying of tuberculosis. Beethoven's mother died when

he was 16, and for several years he was responsible for raising his two

younger brothers because of his father's worsening alcoholism.

Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792, where he studied for a time with Joseph

Haydn in lieu of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who had died the previous year.

Beethoven received additional instruction from Albrechtsburger and Salieri.

Beethoven immediately established a reputation as a piano virtuoso. His first

works with opus numbers, the three piano trios, appeared in 1795. He settled

into the career pattern he would follow for the remainder of his life: rather than

working for the church or a noble court (as most composers before him had

done), he supported himself through a combination of annual stipends or

single gifts from members of the aristocracy, income from public

performances, concerts, and lessons, and sales of his works.
Beethoven 1820 portrait

Beethoven's career as a composer is usually divided into Early, Middle, and

Late periods.

In the Early period, he is seen as emulating his great predecessors Haydn

and Mozart while concurrently exploring new directions and gradually

expanding the scope and ambition of his work. Some important pieces from

the Early period are the first and second symphonies, the first six string

quartets, the first two piano concertos, and the first twenty piano sonatas,

including the famous Pathétique and Moonlight.

The Middle period began shortly after Beethoven's personal crisis centering

around deafness. The period is noted for large-scale works expressing

heroism and struggle; these include many of the most famous works of
classical music. Middle period works include six symphonies (Nos. 3– 8), the

last three piano concertos, triple concerto and his only violin concerto, five

string quartets (Nos. 7– 11), the next seven piano sonatas including the

Waldstein, and Appassionata, and his only opera, Fidelio.

Beethoven's Late period began around 1816 and lasted until Beethoven's

death in 1827. The Late works are greatly admired for and characterized by

their intellectual depth, intense and highly personal expression, and

experimentation with forms (for example, the Quartet in C Sharp Minor has

seven movements, while most famously his Ninth Symphony adds choral

forces to the orchestra in the last movement). This period includes the Missa

Solemnis, the last five string quartets and the last five piano sonatas.

Considering the depth and extent of Beethoven's artistic explorations, as well

as the composer's success in making himself comprehensible to the widest

possible audience, the Austrian-born British musician and writer Hans Keller

pronounced Beethoven "humanity's greatest mind altogether".

Beethoven's personal life was troubled. Around age 28, he started to become

deaf, which led him to contemplate suicide (see the 1802 Heiligenstadt

Testament). He was attracted to unattainable (married or aristocratic) women;

he never married. His only uncontested love affair with a known woman
began in 1805 with Josephine von Brunswick; most scholars think it ended by

1807 because she could not marry a commoner without losing her children. In

1812 he wrote a long love letter to a woman only identified therein as the

"Immortal Beloved." Several candidates have been suggested, but none has

won universal support. Some scholars believe his period of low productivity

from about 1812 to 1816 was caused by depression resulting from

Beethoven's realization that he would never marry. He didn't publish anything

during this period, but he released an enormous amount of material in 1816.

Beethoven quarrelled, often bitterly, with his relatives and others (including a

painful and public custody battle over his nephew Karl); he frequently treated

other people badly. He moved often and had strange personal habits, such as

wearing dirty clothing even as he washed compulsively. Nonetheless, he had

a close and devoted circle of friends his entire life.

Many listeners perceive an echo of Beethoven's life in his music, which often

depicts struggle followed by triumph. This description is often applied to

Beethoven's creation of masterpieces in the face of his severe personal

difficulties. His last musical sketches belong to the composition of a string

quintet in C Major [1].
Beethoven was often in poor health. According to one of his letters, his

abdominal problems began while he was still in Bonn and thus can be dated

to before 1792. In 1826 his health took a drastic turn for the worse. The

autopsy report indicates serious problems with his liver, gall bladder, spleen,

and pancreas. There is no general agreement on the exact cause of death.

Modern research on a lock of Beethoven's hair cut from his head the day after

he died and a piece of his skull taken from his grave in 1863, both now at the

Beethoven Center in San Jose, California [2], show that lead poisoning could

well have contributed to his ill-health and ultimately to his death. The source

(or sources) of the lead poisoning is unknown, but may have been fish, lead

compounds used to sweeten wines, or pewter drinking vessels. It is unlikely

that lead poisoning was the cause of his deafness, which several researchers

think was caused by an autoimmune disorder such as systemic lupus

erythematosus. The hair analyses did not detect mercury, which is consistent

with the view that Beethoven did not have syphilis (syphilis was treated with

mercury compounds at the time). The absence of drug metabolites suggests

Beethoven avoided opiate painkillers.

Beethoven died on 26 March 1827, after a long illness, in the midst of a fierce

thunderstorm, and legend has it that the dying man shook his fists in defiance
of the heavens. He was buried in the Währinger cemetery. Twenty months

later, the body of Franz Schubert was buried next to Beethoven's. In 1888,

both Schubert's and Beethoven's graves were moved to the Zentralfriedhof

(Central Cemetery), where they can now be found next to those of Johann

Strauss I and Johannes Brahms.


Musical style and innovations
         Main article: Beethoven's musical style and innovations

Beethoven is viewed as one of the most important transitional figures between

the Classical and Romantic eras of musical history. As far as musical form is

concerned, he built on the principles of sonata form and motivic development

that he had inherited from Haydn and Mozart, but greatly extended them,

writing longer and more ambitious movements. But Beethoven also radically

redefined the symphony, transforming it from the rigidly structured

four-ordered-movements form of Haydn's era to a fairly open ended form that

could sustain as many movements as necessary, and of whatever form as

necessary to give the work cohesion.

During his lifetime, Beethoven also radically influenced the evolution of the

piano. There had previously existed two common schools of piano making: In

Vienna the instruments were made light and easy to play for purposes of
precision with less dynamic range whereas those in London had a fuller

sound with heavier keyboard action. Beethoven, though living in Vienna, had

adopted a much heavier style of playing than most of his contemporaries, and

although he was not the only pianist of the time to lobby for a heavier

instrument, he was the only one whose musical genius had become

synonymous with the artistic culture of Vienna. More specifically, Beethoven

had connections to the prominent piano manufacturer Andreas Streicher and

as Beethoven's esteem increased, the pianos in Vienna evolved to fit his

specific taste.

See also History of sonata form and Romantic music.


Personal beliefs and their musical influence

Beethoven was much taken by the ideals of the Enlightenment and by the

growing Romanticism in Europe. He initially dedicated his third symphony, the

Eroica (Italian for "heroic"), to Napoleon in the belief that the general would

sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution, but in

1804 tore out the title page upon which he had written a dedication to

Napoleon, as Napoleon's imperial ambitions became clear, renamed the

symphony as the "Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di
un grand Uomo", or in English, "composed to celebrate the memory of a great

man". The fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony features an elaborate

choral setting of Schiller's Ode An die Freude ("Ode To Joy"), an optimistic

hymn championing the brotherhood of humanity.

Scholars disagree on Beethoven's religious beliefs and the role they played in

his work. For discussion, see Ludwig van Beethoven's religious beliefs.


Beethoven the Romantic?

A continuing controversy surrounding Beethoven is whether he was a

Romantic or a Classical composer. As documented elsewhere, since the

meanings of the word "Romantic" and the definition of the period

"Romanticism" both vary by discipline, Beethoven's inclusion as a member of

that movement or period must be looked at in context.

If we consider the Romantic movement as an aesthetic epoch in literature and

the arts generally, Beethoven sits squarely in the first half along with literary

Romantics such as the German poets Goethe and Schiller (whose texts both

he and Franz Schubert drew on for songs) and the English poet Percy Shelley.

He was also called a Romantic by contemporaries such as Spohr and E.T.A.

Hoffman. He is often considered the composer of the first Song Cycle and
was influenced by Romantic folk idioms, for example in his use of the work of

Robert Burns. He set dozens of such poems (and arranged folk melodies) for

voice, piano, violin and cello.

If on the other hand we consider the context of musicology, where Romantic

music is dated later; the matter is one of considerably greater debate. For

some experts, Beethoven is not a Romantic, and his being one is a myth; for

others he stands as a transitional figure, or an immediate precursor to

Romanticism, the "inventor" of the Romantic period; for others he is the

prototypical, or even archetypal, Romantic composer, complete with myth of

heroic genius and individuality. The marker buoy of Romanticism has been

pushed back and forth several times by scholarship, and it remains a subject

of intense debate, in no small part because Beethoven is seen as a seminal

figure. To those for whom the Enlightenment represents the basis of

Modernity, he must therefore be unequivocally a Classicist, while for those

who see the Romantic sensibility as a key to later aesthetics (including the

aesthetics of our own time), he must be a Romantic. Between these two

extremes there are, of course, innumerable gradations.
Beethoven's grave in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna.

Listening to Beethoven's music yields another possible scholarly analysis:

there is definitely an evolution in style from Beethoven's earliest compositions

to his later works. The young Beethoven can be seen toiling to conform to the

aesthetic models of his contemporaries: he wants to write music that is

acceptable in the society of his days. Later, there is much more iconoclasm in

his approach, like adding a chorus to a symphony, where a symphony had

until then only been a purely instrumental genre. This means that the question

changes from whether Beethoven was a classicist or a romantic, to: where is

the pivotal moment that Beethoven tilted from dominant classicism to

dominant romanticism?. Most scholars seem to concur: the presentation of

the 5th and 6th symphonies in a single concert in 1808 is probably closest to

that pivotal point. In the 5th symphony, he let a short pounding motto theme

run through all movements of the composition (unheard of until then). Then

the 6th symphony was the first example of a symphony composed as

"program music" (what in Romanticism became standard practice), and it
broke up the traditional arrangement of a symphony in four movements. Yet,

after that, Beethoven still wrote his gentle 8th symphony and some

innocent-sounding chamber music for the English market. However, by the

end of the first decade of the 19th century, Beethoven the romantic was

without a doubt primary.

In contrast, Carl Dahlhaus argues that the evolution of Beethoven's style

actually takes him past Romanticism to a place where he was separate from

the music of his contemporaries. Dahlhaus points out that our understanding

of Beethoven as a Romantic composer derives largely from Beethoven's early

middle period, which contains the Symphony No. 3 and Symphony No. 5.

Beethoven's impact on other Romantic composers, however, is taken largely

from works between Opp. 74 and 97, of the second half of the so-called

middle period. Dahlhaus argues that the tradition of Romantic music is

essentially a tradition of Schubertian music, and that Beethoven's influence on

Schubert is largely taken from Opp. 74 to 97. By the time Beethoven reaches

the late period, he is such an individual as to be best understood as no longer

belonging to the same genre as his Romantic contemporaries.

Shared By: