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 . 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 , 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.
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