Ludwig Van Beethoven


Ludwig Van Beethoven Essay, Research Paper


For many people, Ludwig Van Beethoven is considered the greatest composer who ever lived and is the highest level of musical geniuses. His compositions are the expression of one of the most powerful musical personalities of all time which he exceeded above average in both areas of Classical and Romantic labeling. Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, December 16, 1770, and was baptized on December 17. His father, Johann, was a singer employed by the Elector of Cologne in Bonn. Johann married Maria Magdalena Laym, a cook’s daughter. Together they had seven children of which three sons survived, Beethoven was the oldest (Collier’s Encyclopedia, Beethoven). When Johanns’ career was threatened by alcoholism, he saw his chance to get rich by exploiting his son Beethoven as a child prodigy. He claimed Beethoven was years younger than he actually was, neglected his formal education, and made him practice his music endlessly. His attempt to get rich was a disaster and probably encouraged the brusque and withdrawing personality Beethoven developed. Beethoven was a solo pianist and piano teacher when he was in his twenties. He was well known for his temperamental nature. He had to abandon his performing career of deafness. By this time, he was well known as a composer and was able to live by the profits of concerts and sale of his works to publishers. He was the most revered composer in all of Europe and regarded as the greatest living example of Romantic, artistic genius (McLeish, pg. 18-19). Sonate Pathetique, Opus 13 was written in 1798 and named by the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. This Sonate was extremely romantic because of the charged first movement, while the Adagio Movement is sad, yet comforting. The third movement of the “Pathetique” was considered Rondo. The key of the Adagio Movement is A Flat, the submediant Key of the opening Grave section. The form is a cross between Rondo and Theme and Variations because the A or Main Theme sections have the same melody, but the accompanying parts are varied. Although Beethoven still uses the tonic-dominant relationships to start and end his first section, mm. 1-16, even ending his first theme with a perfect authentic cadence the composer begins to use keys with third relationships. The main theme is in the key of A flat, however the second theme is in the relative minor key of F minor. MM 17-23 are very pivotal in nature and by mm. 23 Beethoven has modulated to the dominant key of E flat major. The remainder of the piece gives the feeling of A flat major, although section c, mm. 36-50. contain many modulations. The coda begins in mm 66-4 through the end and contains a series of V – I cadences. The Adagio of Sonate Pathetique has been compared having a similar melodic structure and affinity of theme to the Adagio of the Ninth Symphony written during the last period almost twenty-five years later. This Adagio movement is in the singing style and demands great emotion from the performer. Although this particular movement was written during Beethoven’s first period, the great emotion and contemplation, the peace and introspection that characterized his third period seem to be present (McLeish pg. 58-76). Beethoven had a powerful personality that awed everyone. His high-voltage personality coupled with his high-voltage genius, Beethoven was able to live his life on his own terms in everything except his deafness. He was only 5 feet, 4 inches, broad, with a large head, lots of hair, protruding-teeth, a small nose and a bad habit of spitting. He was clumsy, sullen and suspicious, touchy, forgetful, and prone to rages of temper. As a bachelor, he was incredibly messy and had no servants because they would not put up with him (Schonberg, pg. 110-111). In 1802 Beethoven was told his deafness was incurable. This knowledge caused a violent change in his character which brought about a big change in his music. The boisterousness of his youth turned into a mature artist pondering and placing each effect. Many of Beethoven’s most popular works date from this time. The ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the Third to Seventh Symphonies, the ‘Razumovsky’ were composed at this time (McLeish, pg. 19). In 1805 Beethoven premiered the Eroica Symphony which was a turning point in musical history. A succession of masterpieces came in the next eight years. Around 1811, Beethoven’s productivity slowed down. His deafness became total and he retired into his inner world. His health deteriorated and the relationship he had with his nephew, Karl, might have robbed the World of some masterpieces. He became the guardian of Karl when Beethoven’s brother Casper died. Beethoven was alternately strict and easy going and Karl was driven out of his mind. In 1826, Karl attempted suicide and told police Beethoven tormented him. Beethoven took it badly and friends say he aged twenty years in those weeks (McLeish, pg. 20). He died on March 27, 1827 after a long illness. It is reported 20,000 people attended the funeral. Beethoven’s music falls into three periods. His first twenty works hinted at the explosive power to come. After the Eroica, the second period sets in. He was confident, a master of form, and made his own rules. His music was governed by the logic of a great technician and musical genius. The last works period was the music of a man who has seen all and experienced all, a man in a silent, suffering world. He wrote only to justify his artistic existence, not to please anyone. Some find the works of this time bleak, cold and incomprehensible. Beethoven was a musical intellect who was driven by illness and mental suffering to retreat into his own world. His music is the most powerful body of music ever brought together by one composer (Schonberg, pgs. 115, 117, 119, 123).



1. “Beethoven, Ludwig Van” Collier’s Encyclopedia. 1991 ed. 2. McLeish, Kenneth & Valerie. Listeners’ Guide to Classical Music. Great Britain: Butler & Tanner Ltd., 1986. 3. Schonberg, C. Harold. The Lives of the Great Composers. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1981.

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