Ludwig van Beethoven, a great German composer, was born on 16 December 1770. His birthplace is Bonn, Germany. He is a defining figure in the Western classical music. As far as his family background is concerned, the musical prodigy comes from a musical family. He also had two younger brothers, Caspar and Johann. The siblings were very different from Beethoven. Talking about his mother was a very conservative woman who lived only by moral principles and wanted everyone to adhere to the rules. His father, Johann van Beethoven was a court singer. Due to this fact, being a little child, Beethoven was receiving the first musical lessons mainly from his father.
It should be mentioned that Beethoven’s musical potential was seen from the beginning. From the very childhood, Beethoven was taught to play the organ, harpsichord, violin, and flute. He enjoyed the play and was, probably, the most talented pupil. Being in the early ages, he was already described as a very talented musician with creative imagination. Later, the musical prodigy attended a Latin school named Tirocinium and was there an average student, because of his problems with sums and spelling.
The first who started after the school seriously teach Beethoven how to become a great musician was Christian Gottlob Neefe, a German opera composer. What is more, it was Neefe who introduced Beethoven to Johann Sebastian Bach. He not only made him understand the world of music but also inspired the boy to do great things and make own contribution.
After Beethoven’s mother died in 1787, he took care of his family. His father drunk a lot and was not able to support the family. To be more precise, Beethoven started playing in the orchestra and listening to the lectures in the university. What is more, when he was only twelve years old, he became an organist’s assistant at court. The boy was learning several languages at the same time and was endlessly trying to create musical pieces. Also, Beethoven was keen on reading, and his favorite authors were Homer and Plutarch, and more contemporary writers such as William Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller. Probably, many ideas of his later songs were taken precisely from his favorite authors.
When Ludwig van Beethoven met by chance with Haydn, he decided to take lessons from him. To do so, he moved to Vienna. In some time, Beethoven’s teacher becomes Antonio Salieri. In Vienna, Beethoven was known mainly as a virtuoso pianist. The authorities, despite his radical thoughts, did not punish the musician. Approximately in 1796, Beethoven faced some hearing problems and probably suffered from tinnitus. Even though he did not want to recognize the fact, the disease was inevitable. Later, because of the heightened emotions and psychological struggles, he got the post-hepatitic cirrhosis of the liver. On March 26, 1827, the musician died at the age of 56, becoming one of the most famous piano composers in the history of humanity. His death was the greatest shock in Vienna, and nearly 20 000 citizens gathered together to immortalize such a great musician – Ludwig van Beethoven.
Different scholars divided Ludwig van Beethoven’s musical works into three distinct periods, depending on the musician’s style and chronological order of his musical pieces. Each period can be characterized by peculiar features and unique approach to the music.
The first period of his musical works lasts until 1802. Beethoven published his first composition, namely a set of piano variations, at the age of twelve. Even though it was not as successful as he expected, young the famous piano composer succeeded to prove that, in some time, he will become a great musician. During the first period, the composer followed musical trends and techniques of that time. He practically did not use any innovations. Also, his first two symphonies, three piano concerti, and piano sonatas fall into the first period. Creating his music, Beethoven used the language of Viennese classicism, emphasizing clarity, balance, and restraint. Also, during the first period, Beethoven wrote many smaller pieces such as dances, familiar tunes, and variations. One example of this period is a famous Symphony No. 1. The symphony was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten.
The second period of the composer’s works starts from 1802 and lasts until 1812. These years are very productive for Beethoven. The most prominent songs of this period are the Fifth Symphony, the Violin Concerto, and the opera “Fidelio.” Opera “Fidelio” was performed in Vienna, Plraga, and Berlin.
During these years, Beethoven elaborates own unique style and individual tone. The themes of his compositions concentrate around struggle, celebration, or assertion. Also, in 1802, the musician created Symphony No. 2, fighting to get control over own life.
The last period that begins in 1812 and ends in 1827 is probably the most difficult to describe. The most prominent compositions of this period are the best Symphony No. 9 and “Wellington’s Victory.” The final symphony is probably the musician’s most towering achievement. The last works of Beethoven career as a musician are probably the most challenging and the greatest.
Evaluating the composer’s musical style, we may say that Beethoven popularized transcending language or the music without words. Many of Beethoven’s works became classics not only for adult listeners but also for children.
Was Beethoven Deaf?
By the turn of the 19th century, Ludwig van Beethoven faced a severe problem – he was struggling with making out the words addressed to him in conversations. His deafness has raised a lot of questions and controversies. In particular, there is a significant number of hypothetical causes that explain Beethoven’s deafness. According to various biographers, there are many disorders that could influence the hearing loss.
Generally, it can be assumed that Beethoven began to notice the first signs of deafness in the period from 1795 to 1800 when he was 24-29 years old. The musician did not agree to admit for a long time that he has hearing problems. For sure, every composer with the rising popularity will be frustrated with the health issue that may prevent him from continuing his musical career. Also, it should be mentioned that Beethoven could not tell about this even to the closest friends. The first who became aware of the problem was his good friend violinist. Beethoven wrote the letter to him saying that the most valuable thing he possesses is his hearing, and he almost has lost it.
Indeed, the musician’s health was poor from many points of view. Throughout his life, he suffered a lot of diseases: gallstone disease, stomach disorders, lung diseases and so on. In most cases, these diseases are the ones the doctors consider the causes of hearing impairment. Although Beethoven himself believed that his deafness was a consequence of the disorders of the internal organs, he was still very skeptical about the medical treatment doctors proposed. From time to time, he was sending letters to Professor Vegeler, asking him for advice. However, he has never believed the professional medical specialists. Finally, Beethoven realized that the deafness could stay with him ill the last days of his life, and he had no variants but only to put up with it.
Career as a Composer
The first step in Beethoven’s career as a composer was made in 1790 when the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II passed away. Ludwig van Beethoven is in his nineties, got a chance to compose a musical memorial for the Emperor. However, it is difficult to identify the reason why the musical memorial Beethoven created was never performed. Probably, it was the too difficult mission for the young musician. Nevertheless, it is now considered one of his earliest masterpieces.
Later, living in Vienna, Beethoven dedicated himself to musical study. To be more precise, he practiced piano with Haydn and Antonio Salieri. Hence, he quickly established the reputation of a virtuoso pianist that affected his later career as a composer.
On April 2, 1800, Beethoven made a debut as a composer with his “Symphony No. 1 in C major” at the theater in Vienna. This event established him as one of the greatest European composers.
From that moment, he was composing piece after piece and has rich his musical maturity. Beethoven’s “Six String Quartets” (1801) demonstrated the master’s complete knowledge of the most difficult forms developed by Mozart and Haydn. Also, a significant step in Beethoven’s career as a composer became The Creatures of Prometheus (1801) that received a lot of performances at the Imperial Court Theater.
Talking about the character of Ludwig van Beethoven, one can quickly recognize his personality, full of contrasts. Generally, Beethoven had a very harsh character from the very childhood. The boy was very serious in comparison to his peers. Indeed, he was sharp, aggressive, and short-tempered. The evidence shows that once, during a concert, one gentleman spoke to Beethoven’s lady. As an answer, the composer suddenly stopped playing and said sharply that he “will not play for such pigs.” Even though the authorities and the audience tried to persuade the musician, nothing has helped to make him play again. Also, it should be mentioned that Beethoven’s deafness gives the keys to understanding the character of the composer. The disease made him more introverted from the world around. It made him feel melancholy, painful distrust, irritability and brought the thoughts about suicide.
It should be noted that the tendency to seclusion, to loneliness, was the innate quality of Beethoven’s character. His biographers draw him a silent, thoughtful child who prefers loneliness to peer society. According to different studies, the composer was able to sit for one whole hour looking at one point, being completely immersed in his thoughts. Looking at Beethoven photos, one may see furrowed brow and pursed lips that underline the man’s seriousness.
Nevertheless, as it was already mentioned, Beethoven’s personality is full of contrasts. Hence, despite his introverted character, he was a very talkative person with a good sense of humor. In fact, he loved puns, rough jokes, and was never afraid to make a joke in public. Besides, he was very open-minded to his closest friends. He retained his propensity for cheerful comments even talking with the princes.
It goes without saying that Ludwig van Beethoven is the greatest classical piano composers throughout the history. His accomplishments in Music can be compared to Shakespeare’s contribution to Literature. Every person who likes classical music will not be indifferent to listening to the musician’s songs. First of all, Beethoven is the greatest composer who has created the most magnificent musical works, which still impress people. It was Beethoven who revealed to humanity the great possibilities of such a simple instrument as a piano. Thanks to Beethoven, many revolutionary innovations were made in the world of music – for example, it was Beethoven who increased the length of the symphony, its scale. And it is precisely Beethoven who is considered to be a key person as far as the transition from the classical style of music to the romantic style is concerned. The fact that makes his biography even more unbelievable and exciting is that Beethoven composed most of his beautiful songs while being deaf. He was arguably the greatest musician who ever lived, and many of his famous works are still the greatest works of music that have been ever created.
Nothing could break this great composer- not the time that Beethoven left much behind, the misunderstanding of critics, or even deafness. Beethoven managed to overcome all obstacles in his path and leave behind the best treasure for mankind – his musical works. Indeed, only a few people could really appreciate the contribution of Beethoven. The composer was much ahead of his time. As Ludwig van, Beethoven once said to musical critics: “This is not for you, but for the future generation.” Today, the date of his birthday is considered all over the world as the day to honor the most talented musician. Hence, humanity can be proud of Ludwig van Beethoven – one of his best sons who is not in vain called the greatest composer in the world and who is by no means accidentally one of the greatest people of all time and nation.