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					Ludwig van Beethoven
       "Beethoven" redirects here. For other uses, see Beethoven (disambiguation).
 Ludwig van Beethoven




   Portrait by Carl Jäger (date
            unknown).
         Born
    December 17, 1770
     Bonn, Germany
         Died
     March 26, 1827
     Vienna, Austria

Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced [ˈbe.to.vɘn]) (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


audiences.
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


16.


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.

[edit]

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.

[edit]

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.

[edit]

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.

				
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