Biography of Classical Composer Ludwig van Beethoven Part 2

About the famous German classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven, biography and history of the musician.


Although Beethoven did much to change the face of music by pushing it away from the formal stylisms of the 18th century, leading it to the freer, more subjective expression of the 19th century, he actually invented no styles or forms. His media were those of Haydn and Mozart--symphonies, concerti, sonatas, string quartets, and the like. Nor did he compose as rapidly as did the 2 classic-era masters. Rather, he worked out musical ideas in his "sketch-books," a process that sometimes took several years before the final compositional result would be produced. Thus, while less prolific than Haydn and Mozart, he eventually produced 9 symphonies, 5 piano concerti, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, an opera, a mass, and a ballet--138 opus numbers in all, plus 70 unnumbered compositions.

The symphonies are collectively the best known of Beethoven's music. The 5th has the famous 4-note motif that has come to have a variety of meanings, including "fate" and "victory." The 3rd was reputedly dedicated to Napoleon until he moved to conquer Europe; Beethoven is supposed to have ripped off the title page in anger and rededicated it to "The memory of a great man." The 6th is called the Pastoral Symphony, and is one of the 1st "program" compositions in which the music suggests an external meaning. The 9th is called the Choral Symphony, because its last movement is a magnificent choral setting for Schiller's "Ode to Joy."

By the time Beethoven composed the 9th Symphony in 1823, his deafness was a way of life. He nonetheless conducted the 1st performance of the work, hearing neither music from the performers nor accolade from the audience afterward. The soprano soloist had to take him by the arm and lead him to the front of the stage so he could see the response to his latest composition. Less than 3 years later, in March, 1827, a pneumonia attack was fatal, and 20,000 people attended the funeral.

Beethoven led an intense, sometimes agonizing, sometimes joyful, but always exciting and controversial life. All of this is reflected in his music. He is buried in a quiet circle in Vienna's Central Cemetery, the final resting place for all of Vienna's famous composers and musicians. As would be expected, his monument dominates all others.

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