Of all the great classical composers, Beethoven is without doubt the best known. Most people have heard at least some of Beethoven's works, such as the "Moonlight Sonata", or "Fur Elise", and or the opening bars of his Fifth Symphony. With his increasing deafness, Beethoven had to overcome huge obstacles when creating his divine music. Let us explore together a little about what makes Beethoven one of the world's master composers.
Beethoven: The Genius Who Composed The Moonlight Sonata
Ludwig van Beethoven is probably the best known composer of classical music. Who has not heard and loved his works such as the Moonlight Sonata?
Life of Beethoven
Born at Bonn in the Rhineland, Ludwig van Beethoven came from a family of court musicians and at the tender age of 12 he became deputy organist at the court of the Elector of Cologne.
The young Beethoven went to Vienna, where he impressed Mozart by his ability to improvise on the keyboard. Beethoven studied under Haydn and possibly also under Mozart.
The world at that time was one of revolution and upheaval. The American and French Revolutions had recently taken place. Napoleon was conquering Europe. Much of the spirit of these tumultuous times is reflected in the music of Beethoven. His Eroica symphony (1803) was originally dedicated to Napoleon, whom Beethoven saw as the champion of republican liberty.
Beethoven would perform his own compositions, playing the piano pieces and conducting the orchestral works. In 1801 he was increasingly afflicted with deafness (becoming completely death by 1824), which forced him to stop performing. He therefore never actually heard some of his final compositions being played. However, he continued to compose until his death.
Beethoven never married. He lost much of his savings in unwise investments and lived the latter part of his life in relative poverty.
Life of Beethoven in Pictures
Moonlight Sonata (by Ludwig van Beethoven)
Pianist: Wilhelm Kempff
Beethoven's works include nine symphonies, including
-- the Eroica (3rd Symphony),
-- the Pastoral (6th Symphony), and
-- the Choral (9th Symphony).
He also composed many piano sonatas (such as the Moonlight Sonata and the Appassionata), string quartets, piano concertos, violin concertos (such as the Kreutzer and the Spring), and one opera (titled Fidelio).
His music encompasses both the late Classical and the early Romantic periods.
Beethoven's 5th Symphony (1st Movement)
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Gothenburg Symphony
The Legacy of Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven did not write for fame or glory. Czerny is reported to have said:
"When his friends ... speak to him of his youthful renown, he replies: 'Ah, nonsense! I have never thought of writing for renown and glory. What I have in my heart must out; that is why I write.' "
However, Beethoven's music was very popular in his own time (20,000 mourners attended his funeral) and remains hugely popular today. His Ninth Symphony (the Choral), which includes an excerpt from the great freedom poet Schiller's Ode to Joy, has been chosen as the anthem of Europe.
Yehudi Menuhin, the great violinist, described Beethoven as follows:
"A colossus beyond the grasp of most mortals, with his totally uncompromising power, his unsensual and uningratiating way with music as with people."
Beethoven on the Internet
Beethoven's story is one of personal triumph over tragedy and supreme musical achievement. A complex and brilliant man, no composer before or since has exerted greater influence.
Beethoven Quotes and Quotations
Beethoven in his own words and what other people have said about Beethoven.