Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

composing1Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. His great influence in the transition from the Classical to the Romantic era created a legacy.

  • Born in Bonn, Beethoven studied with major composer Joseph Haydn after moving to Vienna in his early twenties.
  • He soon gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist.
  • In his late twenties, his hearing began to deteriorate however he continued to compose, conduct and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.

“Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, “Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.” Ah, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed.” Beethoven

Music

  • Piano Sonatas such as “The Moonlight Sonata” and “Für Elise”
  • 9 Symphonies, notably Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” and Symphony No. 9 in D minor which includes the well known tune “Ode to Joy”. His Fifth Symphony is known for the famous opening (da-da-da-DUM)
  • One opera ‘Fidelio’, a mass, concertos and much chamber music (including innovative string quartets)

Style

  • Large, structured pieces characterised by extensive development of music material, themes and motifs, often using modulation. These pieces were on a greater scale than those before him
  • Beethoven pushed the boundaries of harmony even further than his teacher Haydn and used it to create drama
  • Beethoven extended Mozart and Haydn’s efforts to expand the development section of works, and made it the heart of his sonata form. The complex structures led to great, long masterpieces and set a precedent for composers of symphonies.
  • Known for use of rhythmic patterns in addition to traditionally lyrical melodies

Beethoven’s development and works are typically divided into three periods:

  1. an early period with an especially strong influence of Mozart and Haydn
  2. a middle, mature period where he developed his impressive distinctive style
  3. a late period with a highly evolved, individual, and sometimes fragmented and unorthodox style, where he tried to combine the baroque ideas of Handel and Bach with his icons Mozart and Haydn

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