The Music of Beethoven
By Alexander Panku
The music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) represents a pinnacle of Western Music. He is the last of the great Classical composers after Haydn and Mozart, who took the great tradition of his predecessors to new heights and prepared the way for the 19th Century Romantic music.
He was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770 and died in Vienna, Austria in 1827, the city where he spent the greater part of his life. He was one of the first great composers who was not in the service of one nobleman, although he had many patrons.
Beethoven was a great composer-pianist and his improvisations were astonishing. His playing, like his music had great power, boldness and dynamism. Unfortunately, in the prime of his life his hearing got weaker and weaker, until he became completely deaf. This fact, together with his difficult character and unfulfilled personal life, made him unhappy and unable to enjoy his rising fame and wide spread production of his compositions.
He composed works in many different genres, such as: sonatas for piano, chamber music (sonatas for violin and piano, for cello and piano, trios, quartets), concertos for piano, and a concerto for violin, nine symphonies, the opera ‘Fidelio’, ‘Missa Solemnis’, etc.
To write in detail about Beethoven’ music requires many books. In a nutshell, we can say that his music, grounded in the Classical tradition, is characterized by great originality, very inspired melodies and themes that can range from heroic, dynamic, lyrical, to noble and dramatic. Unlike his predecessors, he composed more slowly and always aimed for perfection. He was a master of the sonata-form, which is found in sonatas, chamber music pieces, concertos and symphonies. Here, we can discover a wealth of contrasting themes within the movements and also from movement to movement, a masterful sense of proportion and unity. He expanded all of the above genres and infused them with his originality. His music evolved from the happiness boldness, humor and dynamism of youth, to a music of great idealism (inspired by the French Revolution), nobility, drama and lyricism of maturity, to a profoundly religious even mystical music, intertwined with lyricism of his later years.
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