Wednesday, December 16, 8770

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

[Beethoven at 13 (1783)]

Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770, Bonn, Electorate of Cologne [Germany] - March 26, 1827) was a crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the most respected and influential composers of all time.

Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20's and settled there, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His hearing gradually deteriorated beginning at this time, yet he continued to compose masterpieces, and to conduct and perform, even after he was completely deaf.

[Beethoven's birthplace, Bonngasse, Boon]

Ludwig's parents were Johann van Beethoven (1740, Bonn - 1792) and Maria Magdalena Keverich (1744, Ehrenbreitstein - 1787). Magdalena's father, Johann Heinrich Keverich, had been Chef at the court of the Archbishopric of Trier at

Festung Ehrenbreitstein fortress opposite Koblenz.


Festung Ehrenbreitstein is a fortress on the same-named mountain on the right side of the Rhine opposite to the town of Koblenz in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

It was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia between 1817 and 1832 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops repeatedly before. The fortress was never attacked.

Early fortifications at the site can be dated back to about 1000 BC. At about 1000 AD Ehrenbert erected a castle. Its initial name "Burg Ehrenbertstein" became:Burg Ehrenbreitstein. The Archbishops of Trier expanded it with a supporting castle Burg Helferstein and guarded the Holy Tunic in it from 1657 to 1794. Successive Archbishops used the castle's strategic importance to barter between contending powers; thus in 1672 at the outset of war between France and Germany the Archbishop refused requests both from the envoys of Louis XIV and from Brandenburg's Ambassador, Christoph Caspar von Blumenthal, to permit the passage of troops across the Rhine. French revolutionary troops, however conquered Koblenz in 1794. After a one-year siege, starvation forced the defenders of Ehrenbreitstein to hand over the fortress to French troops in 1799. When the French departed in 1801, the castle was destroyed.


Beethoven was, like his parent's first -- and soon deceased -- child, Ludwig Maria (baptized April 2, 1769, Bonn - April 6, 1769), named after his grandfather Ludwig (1712–1773), a musician of Roman Catholic Flemish ancestry who was at one time Kapellmeister at the court of Clemens August of Bavaria, the Prince-Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, and who married Beethoven's grandmother Maria Josepha Ball (1714–1775) in 1733.

Of the seven children born to the family of Johann Beethoven, himself the only survivor of three, only second-born Ludwig and two younger brothers survived infancy. Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770.

His family celebrated his birthday on December 16.

Beethoven's first music teacher was his father, who was a tenor in the service of the Electoral court at Bonn. He was reportedly a harsh instructor. Johann later engaged a friend, Tobias Pfeiffer, to preside over his son's musical training, and it is said Johann and his friend would at times come home late from a night of drinking to pull young Ludwig out of bed to practice until morning. Beethoven's talent was recognized at a very early age, and by 1778 he was studying the organ and viola in addition to the piano. His most important teacher in Bonn was

Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was the Court's Organist. Neefe helped Beethoven publish his first composition: a set of keyboard variations.

The young Beethoven's talent was spotted in Bonn by Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein, who became one of his early patrons and, in 1787, enabled him to travel to Vienna for the first time, in hopes of studying with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

[The perhaps-imagined meeting of Beethoven and Mozart]

It is not clear whether he succeeded in meeting Mozart, or, if he did, whether Mozart was willing to accept him as a pupil. In any event, the declining health of Beethoven's mother, dying of tuberculosis, forced him to return home after only about two weeks in Vienna. Beethoven's mother died on July 17, 1787, when Beethoven was 16.

Due to his father's worsening alcohol addiction, Beethoven became responsible for raising his two younger brothers.

The young composer-pianist was often irascible, and may have suffered from bipolar disorder and irritability, brought on by chronic abdominal pain beginning in his 20's which has been attributed to his lead poisoning.

In 1792, Beethoven moved to Vienna, where he studied for a time with Joseph Haydn: his hopes of studying with Mozart had been shattered by Mozart's death the previous year. Beethoven received additional instruction from

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (Nice name! -- Vienna's pre-eminent counterpoint instructor) and

Antonio Salieri. By 1793, Beethoven established a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso.

His first works with opus numbers, a set of 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 subscription concerts, concerts, and lessons; and proceeds from sales of his works.

Beethoven's compositional career is usually divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods.

In this scheme, his early period is taken to last until about 1802 (the year he wrote of his increasing deafness), the middle period from about 1803 to about 1814, and the late period from about 1815.

In his Early (Classical) period, while starting out under the influence of his great predecessors Haydn and Mozart, he explored new directions and gradually expanded 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 three piano concertos, and the first 20 piano sonatas, including the famous "Pathétique" and "Moonlight" Sonatas.

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1795)

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1795)


Around 1796, Beethoven, at the ripe old age of 26, began to lose his hearing, probably due to contracting syphilis.

He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, a "ringing" in his ears that made it hard for him to perceive and appreciate music; he also avoided conversation.t.

Beethoven's hearing loss did not prevent his composing music, but it made concerts -- lucrative sources of income -- increasingly difficult.


Piano Sonata No. 8 ("Pathetique"), Op. 13 (1799): I Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio (excerpt from beginning of Allegro)

Six String Quartets, Op. 18 (1800)

Septet for Winds, Op. 20 (1800)

[Beethoven at 31 (1801)]

Symphony No. 1 (1801): I Adagio molto -- Allegro con brio

Piano Sonata No. 14 "quasi una fantasia" ("Moonlight"), Op. 27, No. 2 (1801)

Variations on "God Save the King" (1802)

Symphony No. 2 (1802): III. Scherzo

Beethoven lived for a time in the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna.

Here he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament (1802), which records his resolution to continue living for and through his art.

Beethoven's personal life was troubled. His encroaching deafness led him to contemplate suicide (documented in the Heiligenstadt).

His Middle (Heroic) period began shortly after Beethoven's personal crisis brought on by his recognition of encroaching deafness. It is noted for large-scale works that express heroism and struggle, many of which have become very famous. Middle-period works include six symphonies (No. 3 - 8), Piano Concerto No. 4 and No. 5, the Triple Concerto and Violin Concerto, five string quartets (No. 7 - 11), the next seven piano sonatas (including the "Waldstein" and "Appassionata" Sonatas), the "Kreutzer" Violin Sonata, and Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio.

[Beethoven at 33 (1803)]

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 (1803)

Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") (1803)

I. Allegro con brio

II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai

III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace

IV. Finale: Allegro molto

Beethoven was attracted to 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, believing that the general intended to sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution. But in 1804, when Napoleon's imperial ambitions became clear, Beethoven took hold of the title-page and scratched the name Bonaparte out so violently that he made a hole in the paper. He later changed the work's title to Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un grand'uom (Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man), and he rededicated it to his patron, Prince Joseph Franz von Lobkowitz, at whose palace it was first performed.

[Beethoven at 34 (1804, W.J. Mähler), with an antique lyre and high-five]

Piano Sonata No. 21 ("Waldstein") (1804)

Triple Concerto (1804)

Fidelio (1805)

Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor ("Appassionata") (1805)


The women who interested Beethoven were unattainable because they were either married or aristocratic. His first documented love affair with an identified woman began in 1805 with Josephine von Brunswick, young widow of the Graf von Deym. It is believed the relationship ended by 1807 because of Beethoven's indecisiveness and the disapproval of Josephine's aristocratic family.


Piano Concerto No. 4 (1806)

Three String Quartets ("Razumovsky") (1806)

Symphony No. 4 (1806): IV

Violin Concerto (1806)


Beethoven’s patrons loved his music but were not quick to support him. He eventually came to rely more on patrons such as Count Franz Joseph Kinsky, (d. 1811),

Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz (1772–1816), and Karl Alois Johann-Nepomuk Vinzenz, Fürst Lichnowsky, and as these patrons died or reneged on their pledges, Beethoven fell into debt. In 1807, Prince Lobkowitz advised Beethoven to apply for the position of composer of the Imperial Theatres, but the nobility who had newly been placed in charge of the post did not respond. Beethoven considered leaving Vienna: in the fall of 1808, he was offered a position as chapel maestro at the court of

Jerome Bonaparte, the king of Westphalia (brother of Napoleon), which he accepted.


Westphalia (German: Westfalen) is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Bielefeld, Bochum, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Münster, and Osnabrück and included in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Three entities known (or partly-known) as Westphalia, superimposed upon the modern state borders of Germany:

Green: Kingdom of Westphalia (1807-1813)

Red: Province of Westphalia (1815-1946)

Dark grey: North Rhine-Westphalia (1946-)

The name "West-phalia" probably means "West-Plain". The second word, "Falen," is related to the Germanic words "Field," "Flat," and "Floor" (all of which are related to the Latin "planus" through a common Proto-Indo-European root, pele, meaning "flat, (to) spread").

Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia" was applied to several different entities in history. For this reason specifications of area and population are greatly differing. They range between 16,000 and 22,000 km² in land area. There is however consent that both Münster and Osnabrück as well as Bielefeld and Dortmund are part of Westphalia.


To persuade him to stay in Vienna, the Archduke Rudolf, Count Kinsky, and Prince Lobkowitz, after receiving representations from the composer’s friends, pledged to pay Beethoven a pension of 4000 florins a year. Only Archduke Rudolf paid his share of the pension on the agreed date. Kinsky, immediately called to duty as an officer, did not contribute and soon died after falling from his horse. Lobkowitz stopped paying in September 1811. No successors came forward to continue the patronage, and Beethoven relied mostly on selling composition rights and a smaller pension after 1815.


His Most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence Rudolf Johannes Joseph Rainier Cardinal von Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduke and Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia (January 8, 1788-24 July 1831) was an Archbishop of Olomouc and member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Born in Pisa, Italy, he was the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II and Maria Louisa of Spain. He was elected archbishop of Olomouc in 1819 and became cardinal in the same year.

He was born in Florence then part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II.

In 1803 or 1804, Rudolf began taking lessons in piano and composition from Ludwig van Beethoven. The two became friends, and Rudolph became a supporter and patron of Beethoven; their meetings continued until 1824. Beethoven dedicated 14 compositions to Rudolph, including the Archduke Trio and his great Missa Solemnis. Rudolph, in turn, dedicated one of his own compositions to Beethoven. The letters Beethoven wrote to Rudolph are today kept at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

At the age of 31 on March 24, 1819 he was appointed Archbishop of Olomouc in the present day Czech Republic, but then part of the Austrian Empire. He was created and proclaimed Cardinal-Priest of the titular church of S. Pietro in Montorio by Pope Pius VI on 4 June 1819.

He chose to be ordained and was done so on August 29, 1819. He was consecrated a bishop on September 26, 1819.

He died on July 23, 1831 in Baden at the age of 43 and was interred in the Imperial Crypt Vaults in Imperial Crypt in Vienna; his heart was buried in the crypt in Saint Wenceslas cathedral in Olomouc.


Bagatelle "Fur Elise" (1808)

Symphony No. 5 (1808)

I. Allegro


II. Andante con moto

III. Scherzo and Trio: Allegro

IV. Allegro

Symphony No. 6 (1808): IV Storm

Choral Fantasy (1808)

Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor") (1809)

Symphony No. 7 (1812): II Allegretto

Symphony No. 8 (1812): IV Allegro vivace


In 1812, Beethoven wrote a long love letter to a woman he identified only as "Immortal Beloved." Several candidates have been suggested, including Antonie von Birkenstock Brentano, (Vienna, April 28, 1780 - April 12, 1869, Frankfurt am Main), but the identity of the woman to whom the letter was written has never been proven.

Beethoven used a special rod attached to the soundboard on a piano that he could bite -- the vibrations would then transfer from the piano to his jaw to increase his perception of the sound. A large collection of his hearing aids such as special ear horns can be viewed at the Beethoven House Museum in Bonn, Germany. Despite his obvious distress, however, Czerny remarked that Beethoven could still hear speech and music normally until 1812.

By 1814 however, Beethoven was almost totally deaf, and when a group of visitors saw him play a loud arpeggio or thundering bass notes at his piano remarking, "Ist es nicht schön?" (Is it not beautiful?), they felt deep sympathy, considering his courage and sense of humor.

As a result of Beethoven's hearing loss, a unique historical record has been preserved: his conversation books. His friends wrote in the book so that he could know what they were saying, and he then responded either verbally or in the book. The books contain discussions about music and other issues, and give insights into his thinking; they are a source for investigation into how he felt his music should be performed, and also his perception of his relationship to art. Unfortunately, 264 out of a total of 400 conversation books were destroyed (and others were altered) after Beethoven's death by Anton Schindler, in his attempt to paint an idealized picture of the composer.

[Beethoven at 45 (1815)]

An Die Ferne Geliebte ("To the Distant Beloved") (1815)

Beethoven's Late (Romantic) period began around 1815. Works from this period are characterized by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal expression. For example, the String Quartet, Op. 131 has seven linked movements, and the Symphony No. 9 adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement.[30] Other compositions from this period include the Missa Solemnis, the last five string quartets (including the massive Grosse Fuge) and the last five piano sonatas, of which the "Hammerklavier" Sonata is the best known.

On November 15, 1815, Beethoven's brother Karl van Beethoven died of tuberculosis leaving a son Karl, Beethoven's nephew. Although Beethoven had shown little interest in the boy up to this point, he now became totally obsessed with the possession of this nine year old child. The fight for custody of his nephew brought out the very worst aspects of Beethoven's character.

In the lengthy court cases Beethoven stopped at nothing to ensure that he achieved this goal. At this time Beethoven stopped composing for long periods.

The Austrian court system had one court for the nobility, The R&I Landrechte, and another for commoners, The Civil Court of the Magistrate. Beethoven disguised the fact that the Dutch "van" in his name did not denote nobility as does the Germanic "von," and his case was tried in the Landrechte. Due to his influence with the court, he felt assured of a favorable outcome.

Beethoven was awarded sole guardianship. Karl's mother, Johanna, a commoner and a widow with little money, was not only refused access to her son, except under exceptional circumstances, but Beethoven insisted that she pay for her son's education out of her inadequate pension. While giving evidence to the Landrechte, however, Beethoven inadvertently admitted that he was not nobly born. The case was transferred to the Magistracy on 18 December 1818, where he lost sole guardianship.

Beethoven appealed, and regained custody of Karl. Johanna's appeal for justice and human rights to the Emperor was not successful: the Emperor "washed his hands of the matter."

[Beethoven at 48 (1818, August Klöber)]

Piano Sonata No. 29 ("Hammerklavier") (1818)

Diabelli Variations (1819)

Mass in D Minor (1819)

Beethoven never married, although he was engaged to Giulietta Guiccardi. Her father was the main obstacle to their marriage. Giulietta's marriage to a nobleman was unhappy, and when it ended in 1822, she attempted unsuccessfully to return to Beethoven.

[Beethoven at 53 (1823), copy of a destroyed portrait by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller]

Symphony No. 9 ("Choral") (1824)

I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso

II. Scherzo: Molto vivace - Presto

III. Adagio molto e cantabile - Andante Moderato - Tempo I - Andante Moderato - Adagio - Lo Stesso Tempo

IV. Recitative: (Presto – Allegro ma non troppo – Vivace – Adagio cantabile – Allegro assai – Presto: O Freunde) – Allegro assai: Freude, schöner Götterfunken – Alla marcia – Allegro assai vivace: Froh, wie seine Sonnen – Andante maestoso: Seid umschlungen, Millionen! – Adagio ma non troppo, ma divoto: Ihr, stürzt nieder – Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato: (Freude, schöner Götterfunken – Seid umschlungen, Millionen!) – Allegro ma non tanto: Freude, Tochter aus Elysium! – Prestissimo: Seid umschlungen, Millionen!

Over time, Beethoven's hearing loss became profound: there is a well-attested story that, at the end of the premiere of his Symphony No. 9, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience; hearing nothing, he began to weep.

The fourth movement of this symphony features an elaborate choral setting of Schiller's Ode An die Freude ("Ode to Joy"), an optimistic hymn championing the brotherhood of humanity.

Since 1972, an orchestral version of this part of the fourth movement, arranged by the conductor Herbert von Karajan, has been the European anthem as announced by the Council of Europe. In 1985, it was adopted as the anthem of the European Community / European Union.

String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131 (1826) : V Presto

When Karl Beethoven could stand his tyrannical uncle no longer, he attempted suicide on July 31, 1826, by shooting himself in the head. He survived, and later asked to be taken to his mother's house. This desperate action finally freed Karl from the bonds of Ludwig.

After Beethoven lost custody of his nephew, he went into a decline that led to his death on Monday. March 26, 1827, during a thunderstorm.

This was Romain Rolland's description of Beethoven’s final day:

"That day was tragic. There were heavy clouds in the sky… around 4 or 5 in the afternoon the murky clouds cast darkness in the entire room. Suddenly a terrible storm started, with blizzard and snow… thunder made the room shudder, illuminating it with the cursed reflection of lightning on snow. Beethoven opened his eyes and with a threatening gesture raised his right arm towards the sky with his fist clenched. The expression of his face was horrifying. His hand fell to the ground. His eyes closed. Beethoven was no more."

[Death mask of Beethoven]

[Beethoven's grave, Vienna Zentralfriedhof]

Beethoven had a close and devoted circle of friends all his life, thought to have been attracted by his reputed strength of personality. Towards the end of his life, Beethoven's friends competed in their efforts to help him cope with his incapacities.

Sources show Beethoven's disdain for authority, and for social rank. He stopped performing at the piano if the audience chatted among themselves, or afforded him less than their full attention. At soirées, he refused to perform if suddenly called upon to do so. Eventually, after many confrontations, the Archduke Rudolph decreed that the usual rules of court etiquette did not apply to Beethoven.

Scholars disagree about Beethoven's religious beliefs, and about the role they played in his work. It has been asserted, but not proven, that Beethoven was a Freemason.

Like the earlier composer Handel, Beethoven worked freelance -- arranging subscription concerts, selling his compositions to publishers, and gaining financial support from a number of wealthy patrons -- rather than seeking out permanent employment by the church or by an aristocratic court.

Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of Western classical music; occasionally he is referred to as one of the "three Bs" (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomize that tradition.

He was also a pivotal figure in the transition from 18th-century musical classicism to 19th-century romanticism, and his influence on subsequent generations of composers was profound.

He was one of the first composers of the post-Renaissance era to use, systematically, interlocking thematic devices, or "germ-motives," to achieve inter-movement unity in long compositions.

He brought innovations to most of the genres in which he worked; for example, he introduced an elasticity to the previously well-crystallized form of the rondo, drawing it closer to sonata form.

Beethoven composed in various genres, including symphonies, concerti, piano sonatas, other sonatas (including for violin), string quartets and other chamber music, masses, an opera, and Lieder. He is viewed as one of the most important transitional figures between the Classical and Romantic eras of musical history.

Working with the traditions of the classical sonata forms, he continued the work of Haydn and Mozart in expanding and loosening the structures and becoming increasingly reliant on motivic development.

Beethoven's music has been used in the soundtracks of over 250 films and television programs.

Further Reading:

Piero Weiss and Richard Taruskin
Music in the Western World: A History in Documents

Vienna, 1800 (Pages 321-325)

Beethoven's Heiligenstadt Testament (Pages 326-328)

The First Reactions to Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony (Pages 328-329)

A Contemporary Portrait of Beethoven (Pages 329-331)

The First Performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (Pages 332-333)

[Some typical forms in the common practice era]

[8774 Flamenco / 8770 Beethoven / 8767 Johnson - Polly]