What’s it about?

Beethoven (2020) analyzes the legendary composer uniquely, immersing himself in nine specific works that provide new insights into the critical moments of his life. Who value friendship, yearn for love, and do not participate in sales.

About the author:

Laura Tunbridge was a researcher of 19th-century German romanticism and music, wrote three monographs, including one on the German composer Robert Schumann, and is now a professor of Music and Ph.D. student Henfrey at St Catherine’s College Oxford.

What can I get? Join a musical journey through the life of one of history’s music giants. 

Even if you rarely listen to classical music, you probably know the name, Beethoven. Maybe you can even hum a few bars from his Ninth Symphony. But Ludwig van Beethoven is not only “Ode to Joy.” Few music artists have changed their environment and expanded its boundaries the way Beethoven did. Still, many do not realize that people did not appreciate his ambitions and achievements in his time. 

Beethoven’s story, told in nine major works, sheds light on his daily concerns and shows that the artist is very different from the ordinary genius of the imagination.

Early Recognition 

2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. His exact date of birth is unknown, as are many people born in the 18th century, but there is a record of his baptism; it happened on December 17, 1770. 

Beethoven was one of the few surviving children of Johann van Beethoven and his wife, Maria. Beethoven’s grandfather (aka Ludwig), who lived in Bonn, Germany, and worked at court, was musical. 

Beethoven’s grandfather and the name was the director of court music. He was also a wine merchant, and Johann, the court singer, was an alcoholic. Since Beethoven’s grandfather died just three years after the birth of his grandson, Beethoven was raised by a demanding and sometimes cruel father. Johann wants his son to become a musical prodigy like Mozart. A sad irony is that the relationship between father and son became even more strained as Beethoven quickly overcame his father’s talent. 

Beethoven’s family was not aristocratic, and confusion often arose during Beethoven’s life. In Germany and Austria, having “von” implies noble origins, and many people believe that “van” in your name means the same thing. But Beethoven’s grandfather was Belgian, and the Flemish van had nothing to do with the nobility. 

However, due to the proximity of his family to the court in Bonn, young Ludwig gained fame among the nobility, who established themselves in his career as influential patrons and benefactors. At the age of thirteen, Beethoven became a court organist. Later he joined the chamber orchestra of Archduke Maximilian Franz, his first benefactor. 

Beethoven quickly realized how important it is to please his patron. His early compositions were intended to highlight the viola, Maximilian’s instrument. In 1786, Maximilian financed Beethoven’s first trip to Vienna, where he impressed Mozart with improvisation, which was not easy. Mozart was not in the habit of being tempted by teenagers to play the piano. 

Beethoven’s second trip to Vienna in 1792 was led by another legendary composer, Joseph Haydn. A year later, Haydn was impressed. He wrote to Maximilian that it was only a matter of time before Beethoven would become one of the most outstanding musical talents in Europe. 

Here, as in many other cases, war will play an essential role in Beethoven’s career. The end of the 18th century was also between the Napoleonic Wars. In 1794, Napoleon’s army captured Vienna and discarded all plans to return to Bonn. Although then no one could have foreseen this, it turned out that Beethoven would remain in Vienna until the day of his death.

The Making of a Name 

We see nine key works reflecting key moments in Beethoven’s life in this wink and the sequel. First early success: Septet, Op. 20, completed in 1800, and the same year performed at the most prestigious theater in Vienna. 

Organizing your concert in Vienna is not an easy task. And getting the Academy’s concert at the Imperial Theater and the Royal Court was even more difficult. It took Beethoven eight years to find the right people, primarily the police and the police. The theater director was supposed to coordinate the Academy’s requests for the concert, but it was worth it. 

The concert took place on April 2, 1800. It includes works by Mozart and Haydn as a way to pay tribute to their ancestors, as well as an impromptu performance of His First Piano Concerto, Op. 15, and the premiere of the First Symphony and Septet, Op. 20. He also considered Beethoven a great talent. 

It may seem surprising, but Beethoven’s works were not always immediately popular with the public. Among music critics, this is also not an instant sensation. 

Today the most famous works of Beethoven are his symphonies and ensembles, but this did not happen during his lifetime. On the whole, Beethoven’s first Academy was a huge success. The Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung called it “the most interesting academy in a long time.” “But the most significant impression on the public of the Academy was made not by the First Symphony or Concert, but by the septet. The performance was interrupted several times by applause, and the work immediately became a regular part of a series of chamber concerts organized by the Austrian violinist Ignaz Schupnzig. 

One of the keys to the septet’s popularity is that it is not too loud and complex, unlike some of Beethoven’s most famous works today, which means other musicians can play it. Local musicians are what music publishers do. And for Beethoven, who was not rich in himself, publishing music was a big regular concern. 

Another reason the septet is admired by both the public and other musicians is that it reflects the artistic spirit of the time. In particular, it is similar to the modern German type of music known as Empfindsamer Stil. Or “Sensitive style.”… From the very beginning, there are gentle dissonances in the partition that evoke a sense of nostalgia. This musical direction goes hand in hand with the prevalent work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose work focuses on sensuality and emotion in his romantic manner. 

For this reason, the septet of all the music presented at the Academy gained recognition and became Beethoven’s first undisputed success.

The Connected Person 

If you have a mental image of Beethoven, chances are he is not smiling. One of the most famous images of a man is a bust of Franz Klein made from a rescue mask. Making a mask of life isn’t exactly fun. Beethoven had to sit patiently while his head was in the plaster, and he breathed through a tube into his nostrils. It took two tries before the process was completed, which may explain why the famous Klein bust frowned. 

But, judging by his letters and the stories of those who knew him, Beethoven did not always frown. And he was not that isolated and melancholic genius that many might have imagined; He is a social person and figure in Vienna’s bustling cafes; He is also capable of teasing and teasing others, and he knows the value of friendship and support. Connection. 

Our second work – Violin Sonata no. 9, op. 47, commonly known as “The Kreutzer,” and shows how Beethoven can collaborate. 

Beethoven wrote music with several performers in mind. For example, Ignaz Schuppanzig was the inspiration for eight sonatas, both because he was an accomplished violinist and an influential friend and concert programmer. Beethoven even gave the nickname for Schuppzig: “Falstaff,” a mocking nickname inspired by Schupnzig’s imposing waistline. The two probably met at one of the unofficial concerts held at Prince Lichnovsky, one of Beethoven’s first patrons, along with other nobles such as Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy and Baron van Swieten. 

But his ninth Sonata turned out to be an introduction to another violinist, the virtuoso of Astro-Germany and the West Indies, named George Polgreen Bridgewater. Beethoven probably got to know Bridgewater through Schuppanzig and, of course, began work on the Sonata even before this meeting. However, only after Beethoven met Bridgewater and heard him play Violin Sonata No. 9, op. 47, came true. If it hadn’t been for the Master of Bridgewater to explain this, it is unlikely that Beethoven would have made it so complex and technically challenging. 

The Sonata, released in 1803, can be considered the culmination of Beethoven’s friendship and relationship since his arrival in Vienna. It also shows how these connections influenced his work; even the alternative title of the Kreutzer sonata reflects this. 

Beethoven and other composers made their patrons happy in part by dedicating compositions to them. Violin Sonata No. 9, op. 47, dedicated to Rodolphe Kreutzer, another violinist whom Beethoven admired, hence his nickname. I wonder if this isn’t exclusive to Bridgewater? Well, it looks like Beethoven failed Bridgewater somewhere between the performance of his debut sonata and its publication. 

It is not an entirely unusual event in Beethoven’s life. Only the most devoted friends will be able to resist the complex nature of the creator. Ironically, Rodolphe Kreutzer did not like this work at all. He refused dedication and never played a Beethoven sonata. However, the nickname was retained.

The Challenge of Convention 

By 1804, Beethoven was on his way to becoming famous for composing complex, challenging, and unconventional pieces of music. One reviewer described the Kreutzer sonata as “flying, pretentious and ostentatious.” But ambition and courage are not always appreciated in this music. 

Remember that people listened to new music at concerts such as academic, where different compositions were performed together as part of the program. Nervous audience if this is not what they are used to. Beethoven, of course, understands this well, but he does not want to stop challenging his listeners. 

The Prologue to Beethoven’s Third Symphony, commonly known as the Heroic, is a lesson in breaking the rules of the symphony. It begins with two flashes of the same chord. Then the cellos quietly appeared, outlining the major E flat chord, only to plunge sharply in Celsius as the violins entered a displaced rhythm. Also, the first move is triple instead of the usual double. 

All this takes place in the first moments of the symphony, which challenges convention after musical convention. It is revolutionary material, undoubtedly inspired by revolutionary times. The evidence of this connection is not just the composition; In fact, Beethoven was about to give his Third Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, the most famous figure to emerge after the French Revolution. 

Beethoven’s relationship with Napoleon is a hotly debated topic, and as with many disputes about these two giant gods throughout history, there will probably never be a definite solution. 

On the one hand, we know that Beethoven sought to win the favor of France; His dedication of the Sonata to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer is a prime example of this. On the cover of a copy of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the words “Intitolata Bonaparte” are so severely erased that a hole is left in the paper. 

According to Ferdinand Rees, a former student of Beethoven who became an independent composer, Beethoven felt betrayed. Having proclaimed himself emperor, Napoleon showed himself to be another tyrant who “tramples on all human rights and feeds only his ambitions.” 

When the symphony was presented to the public on April 7, 1805, the reaction was mixed. One reviewer highlighted three responses: those who considered it a masterpiece, those who believed its rarity belittled its beauty, and those who thought it a masterpiece. Too long and challenging. It is not the first time Beethoven’s efforts have challenged listeners. The audience, not the last.

A Man Ahead of His Time 

It may seem unexpected, but in 1808 the musicians of the Vienna Orchestra were not as good as we think today. In those days, there was no professional musician who made a living by playing in an orchestra. Instead, some people have a lot of daily activities which sometimes gather to listen to music. Usually, there is only one rehearsal before a big show. During performances, mistakes are not uncommon. 

As you can imagine, the more ambitious Beethoven, the more demanding the performer’s music becomes. Sometimes he could write knowing that an experienced artist would perform, but not always. At his third exhibition at the Academy, Beethoven presented his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies and five other selected works. There may be too many good things. 

Note that this is a cold December day in Vienna. At the same time, the duration of his performances is not unusual for that time. What’s notable is that he focuses on his symphonies and music. Symphonies are not for sale. People expect to hear chamber music, dance music, or romantic piano playing rather than orchestral music. 

Beethoven knew all this, but he was still challenging. He wanted to challenge the audience to see if they liked it. He even ended the show with Choral Fantasy that had it all: vocal solo, orchestral, and piano.  

But that night, due to the length of the show, the cold temperatures, lack of rehearsal time, and limited performers, everything fell apart in Choral Fantasy. The singer is described as shaking rather than singing. Beethoven verbally scolded the clarinetists for their mistakes, and everyone immediately fell silent after hearing at least one roar. 

Some of the more avid reviewers can still determine the quality of what is presented. As the reporter for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung explains: “As you know, a final opinion on Beethoven’s work can rarely be formed from the first hearing. “The role of the music critic is not only new development, the idea of ​​intellectual analysis of the composer’s work and writing about different interpretations, but at this stage, Beethoven’s ambitious works demanded it. 

Today we can see that the Experimental nature of Choral Fantasy was a stepping stone to the heights which Beethoven would later reach in Publishing. Symphony No. 9. In particular, there are moments in Choral Fantasy that foretell the climax of the Ninth Ode of Joy. Concert and oratorio. Beethoven himself ultimately considers the Ninth a more beautiful version of the style he played in Choral Fantasy.

Unrequited Love 

A typical Beethoven day goes something like this: he gets up early, makes coffee, and works until about noon, after which he dines and goes for a walk. It will last all day. Before dinner, I would go to a cafe or pub and read the newspaper. He will go to bed at ten o’clock. 

The composer was also an avid reader. Like many of his contemporaries, he loved Goethe and even met the author at least once. For his part, Goethe was impressed by Beethoven’s talent but less surprised by his character, which he considered “incurable.” Goethe gave him some benefit from his doubts, suggesting that the composer’s lack of hearing could be blamed; if Beethoven was by nature an imperfect person, then Goethe thinks he did it even more. 

Goethe is not alone in this assessment. Beethoven’s hearing loss is often cited to explain what many consider Beethoven’s lonely and gruesome behavior. 1814, this does not mean that hearing loss caused people to turn inward completely. 

Although Beethoven was not known for his songs, he composed and arranged many works during his lifetime, one of which was “A die Geliebte.” Perhaps accompanied by a letter, this song was published in 1812 and reflects the love in his heart. Beethoven is no longer a sentimental and tired man. He still experiences a romantic longing for the one he loves. 

Beethoven once composed songs called Lieder or Gesänge. Lies often look like arrangements of famous songs, but Gesänge is monumental enough to fit into classical music tradition. “A die Geliebte,” which means “Beloved,” is a perfect example. 

Like typical songs of the time, these were poetic lines set to music. The lyrics of the song have a lot in common with the works of Goethe, especially with “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” in the sense that they are full of romantic longing, full of emotions and hope. One line reads, “. … … I can drink the tears from your cheeks before the earth drinks them. 

There is evidence that Poems about unrequited love may have predetermined Beethoven. Beethoven’s most famous letter was a love letter called “Immortal Beloved,” which he called the person it was sent in writing.

A Banner Year

In 1814, there were many reasons for celebration: Napoleon was defeated and driven out, and the promise of peace spread throughout Europe. The festivals continue, with dignitaries coming to Vienna for various events. Dances and events. 

Amid fanfare, Beethoven positions himself as the city’s most respected composer. Musicians performed more music that year than in any other year of his life.  

In 1814, Beethoven published a purely patriotic zeal, a position that many categorically rejected as patriotic.It was called “Wellingtons Sieg, oder Die Schlacht bei Vittoria”. It translates to “Victory at Wellington or Battle of Vittoria.” 

Before this work, Beethoven was in constant negotiations with publishers, trying to publish his symphonies and other less traditional jobs. Still, this time there was no need for such a maneuver. Wellingtons Sieg has been released in eight formats, including solo piano, string quartet, and orchestral pieces. Some critics criticized the new work, but its general popularity gave Beethoven some creative freedom to show new symphonies and his old opera Fidelio.  

Fidelio tells the story of a woman disguised as a jailer to save her captive husband. The libretto is by French writer Jean-Nicolas Bouilly and is said to be based on actual events. However, this made the opera ambiguous among the Austrian censors, but after several corrections and alterations, it finally premiered on May 23, 1814. And it was a success with the public, although Beethoven was so tired after so much rewriting and rework that it remained his only opera. 

Fidelio’s works, especially the “Mir ist so Wunderbar” quartet, have taken on a life of their own. And opera helped to open up a new trend towards real operas focused on more mundane themes. 1814 will soon recede. Fidelio is considered by many to be a turning point in Beethoven’s career. It not only marked the beginning of its so-called late period; After publication, despite recognition and a new world in Europe, Beethoven’s personal life began to deteriorate. 

His health is deteriorating, his benefactors are exhausted, and family life becomes more difficult. After the death of his younger brother, Kaspar, Beethoven received custody of his nephew Karl, but perhaps to reflect his harsh upbringing, his relationship with Karl became bitter and tense. 

Another biographer, David Vin Jones, finds it more ironic that soon after his most tremendous success and the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Beethoven would enter a period of “brightness.” It is better to suffer than to be liberated. “

Use the Tools at Your Disposal 

In 1818, Beethoven’s fame spread even more. The Royal Symphony Society of London invited him to visit. Although he did not accept the offer, he received a meaningful gift: a new piano from the venerable band of London Broadwood. 

The fact that the technology and craftsmanship of musical instruments changed rapidly during Beethoven’s time had a profound influence on his work. Twenty literally would have been impossible to write just a few years earlier. The Kreutzer Sonata was also influenced by the recent development of the violin bow, allowing musicians such as George Paulgreen Bridgewater to play in an entirely new style. 

The arrival of Broadwood opened up new possibilities for the piano sonatas that Beethoven was working on. Due to heavier cables and more profound keys, the instrument was louder and able to hit lower notes than any Viennese keyboard I have used up to that point. It is what does not distinguish the piano sonata. 29, op. 106, commonly known as the “Hammerklavier,” possibly. 

Interestingly, before the average Central European keyboard player can play the Hammerklavier sonata, it will take some time. Beethoven has used every note at his disposal for his new piano sonatas, and Broadwood has low and high keys not found on other pianos. 

There is a misconception that the name “Hammerklavier” comes from the sonata style. Yes, it is loud and fast at times, and playing a track can require skillful typing from the player. The name comes from the German description of the piano type that Beethoven initially used to write both compositions. 101 and op. 106 sonatas for piano. 

When the time came for his Sonata to be published, Beethoven’s return to bargaining showed that he was again in dire straits, possibly due to an increase in Karl’s tuition fees. Beethoven was unusually kind; this allows editors to skip some parts of the Sonata and include others. Some publishers even confused the order in which the movements were presented. In contrast, others paid tribute to Antoine Brentano, a friend who gave Beethoven much-needed advice in his work, his custody case for Karl. 

The Hammerklavier’s only move, perhaps the most remarkable, is the final blow. For a time, Beethoven expanded and changed the conventions of musical composition; he now turns his attention to the fugu, traditionally following a predictable pattern. : A melody is entered and then repeated with another song, which starts the opposite piece, starting the process over. 

Unsurprisingly, Beethoven pushed the boundaries of the fugue and presented a three-part fugue bouncing in an unexpected and highly dynamic way. In the end, it became another complex composition that the most talented performers can only play.


If Hammerklavier was Beethoven’s chance to play with a fugue, his 1823 composition Missa importantnis, op. 123, which will further test the official launch capabilities. 

Missa secureness translates to “Solemn Mass” and was designed to accompany a ceremony honoring Archduke Rodolfo, appointed Bishop of Olmütz, in 1820. On the contrary, the Archduke was one of Beethoven’s most loyal patrons. Due to the ambitions of the composer and his vision of a great and beautiful piece of music, the premiere was postponed. 

Missa is too grand anyway; By the time it was completed, it had become so long and complex that it no longer suited the occasion for which it was written. Constitute two parts of the service: private and ordinary. They have many subsections, including Kyrie, when they praise the grace of God, and Gloria, when they praise the omnipotence and greatness of God. 

Beethoven methodically deals with all these parts of the Mass, but this also goes beyond the usual scope of this service. 

Missa solemnly asks the question of Beethoven’s spirituality but does not give a definite answer. He grew up a Catholic and attended church services as a child. However, as an adult, he was not an interested man in the street. They seem to be somewhere between the humanism of the Enlightenment and the mysticism of romanticism. He was also one of the most famous members of the Illuminati branch of Freemasonry, a fraternity passionate about Egyptian history and symbolism. 

It seems that the religious theme of the festival mass became less attractive to Beethoven than its official quality, as he used it to further his experiments with the fugue. The convention dictates that the Mass will leak, but the Mass in the celebration will overwhelm them. In this Mass, they are all over the place, and they are very complex and long-lasting. 

In addition, Beethoven unexpectedly assigns instrumental developments to various elements of the Mass, such as playing the flute to symbolize the wings of the dove of the Holy Spirit. There is unprecedented drama in the mass festivals until the final match brings it all back. Unlike some of Beethoven’s other large-scale experiments, the immediate reaction to this piece was complete approval. Everyone was amazed at his beauty. 

The composer may take an unprecedented amount of time to complete this special Mass for his dear friend, the Archduke, but the final part shows how much effort he put into it. He also finishes the finishing touches of The Ninth Symphony at the same time. This work, considered by many today to be his masterpiece, premiered on May 7, 1824, with performances by Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei de Missa solemnly. Please note that, at this point, Beethoven’s health has deteriorated every year.

The Grand Finale

By 1826, Beethoven was considered by most to be a miserable and unhealthy man. There are reports of people who met the composer on his daily walks, in which Beethoven looked abandoned, exhausted, and able to chat if he could. By the end of that year, he would have been bedridden, with liver failure, swollen legs, pneumonia, and jaundice raging through his body. 

Some describe him as missing in 1826, but he remained utterly devoted to his music, family, and friends who were always with him for most of the year. 

That year, things got worse for Karl, his nephew. Tired of his uncle’s overbearing nature, Karl tried to commit suicide and shot himself in the head at the nearest mountain top. Of the two sonatas adhering to the usual four-part structure, the movements are so grand and experimental that they can be constituent parts. 

Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 130, there are six movements. It seems that everyone is playing with the idea of ​​the ending from the very beginning; The opening bars are not so much the beginning as the end of events, all leading to a massive escape, which in his actual performance is considered incomprehensible. 

Beethoven was indifferent to the original answer. Gerhard von Breuning told the composer that Op. 130, “They’re not doing very well,” Beethoven replied. “They’ll like it someday.” 

It took decades, but in the end, Beethoven’s prediction came true. Over time, the recognition of his later quartet grew beyond the confines of some like-minded people. Today he is recognized as a musical visionary ahead of his time. 

On March 26, 1827, at the age of 56, Beethoven died after two days in a coma. Before his death, he said to the assembled friends: “Plaudite, amici, Edyta Finita est,” which means: “Clap your hands, friends, the comedy is over.”