Ludwig van Beethoven (Dec. 16, 1770 – March 26, 1827)
- Composer & Pianist
- Born in Bonn, Germany
- Named after his grandfather
- One of 7 children but only he and 2 younger brothers survived
- After his mother died, he was forced to take care of his younger brothers and he became very poor
- His first music teacher was his father and was known as a harsh instructor. It was believed that the child Beethoven, “made to stand at the keyboard, was often in tears.”
- Beethoven’s first public performance was in March 1778 when he was seven years old.
- Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20’s and became extremely popular as a pianist.
- His mannerisms and appearance were known as rough and clumsy but he made no attempt to impress them or change his uncultured ways.
- Beethoven’s life was characterized by loneliness and misunderstanding. He remained a bachelor, though not by choice; he proposed to several different women.
Early Period Compositions
- Beethoven’s compositional career is usually divided into Early, Middle and Late periods.
- Early period was strongly influenced by Hayden and Mozart.
- The first and second Symphonies
- A set of 6 string quartets Op. 18
- The first 2 piano concertos
- The first dozen or so piano sonatas, including the famous Pathetique sonata, Op. 13
Middle Period Compositions
- Middle period began after he recognized he was going deaf. He wrote large-scale works that express heroism and struggle.
- Symphonies 3-8
- The last 3 piano concertos
- 5 string quartets
- Several piano sonatas (Moonlight, Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas)
- Kreutzer violin sonata
- The opera, Fidelio
Late Period Compositions
- The Late period works are characterized by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations and their intense, highly personal expression.
- The String Quartet Op. 131 has seven linked movements
- The Ninth Symphony adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement
- Missa Solemnis
- The last five string quartets
- The last five piano sonatas
- Beethoven used “conversation books” - his friends would write in these books so that he could know what they were saying.
- At the end of the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, he had to be turned around to see the audience applause; hearing nothing, he wept.
- On his deathbed he reassured his brother of his “great readiness” to make peace with God.
- One of the last acts of his life was to receive Communion.
- He died on Monday, March 26, 1827 during a thunderstorm. 20,000 Viennese citizens lined the streets for Beethoven’s funeral.