Was Ludwig Joking?
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
- German composer, whom many consider the greatest composer in the Western tradition. Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770, in Bonn, He was reared in stimulating, although unhappy, surroundings. His early
signs of musical talent were subjected to the capricious discipline of his father, a singer in the court chapel. In 1789,
because of his father's alcoholism, the young Beethoven began supporting his family as a court musician. His early
compositions under the tutelage of the German composer Christian Gottlob Neefe, particularly the funeral cantata on
the death (1790) of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II—signaled an important talent, and it was planned that Beethoven
study in Vienna with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although Mozart's death (1791) prevented this, Beethoven went to
Vienna in 1792 and became a pupil of the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.
In Vienna, Beethoven dazzled the aristocracy with his piano improvisations; meanwhile, he entered into increasingly
favorable arrangements with Viennese music publishers. In composition he steered a middle course between the
stylistic extravagance of the German composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and what the public had perceived as the
overrefinement of Mozart. The broadening market for published music enabled him to succeed as a free-lance
composer, a path that Mozart a decade earlier had found full of frustration.
In the first decade of the 19th century Beethoven renounced the sectional, loosely constructed style of works such as
the popular Septet op. 20, for strings and winds, and turned to a fresh expansion of the musical language bequeathed
by Haydn and Mozart. Despite his exaggerated claim that “he had never learned anything from Haydn”—he had gone so
far as to seek additional instruction from the German composer Johann Georg Albrechtsberger—Beethoven soon
revealed his complete assimilation of the Viennese classical style in every major instrumental genre: symphony,
concerto, string quartet, and sonata. The majority of the works for which he is most readily remembered today were
composed during the decade bounded by the Symphony no. 3 (Eroica, begun 1803; first performed, 1805) and the
Symphony no. 8 (1812), a period known as his “heroic decade.
Beethoven's fame reached its zenith during these years, but the steadily worsening hearing impairment that he had
first noted in 1798 led to an increasing sense of social isolation. Gradually Beethoven settled into a pattern of shifting
residences, spending the summer in the Viennese suburbs—Heiligenstadt was a favorite choice—and moving back to
the central city in the fall. In 1802, in his celebrated “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a quasi-legal letter to his two brothers,
he expressed his agony over his growing deafness. After 1805 accounts of Beethoven's eccentricities multiply. He
performed in public only rarely and made his last appearance in 1814.
Although reports circulated among Beethoven's friends that he was constantly in love, he tended to choose
unattainable women, aristocratic or married or both. In his letter to the “Immortal Beloved” (presumably never sent and
now dated at 1812), he expressed his conflicting feelings for the woman who may have been the sole person ever to
reciprocate his declarations. The long-debated riddle of her identity was solved beyond reasonable doubt in 1977 by
the American musicologist Maynard Solomon. She was Antonie Brentano, the wife of a Frankfurt merchant and a
mother of four. Conceivably, Beethoven's sense of virtue and fear of marriage contributed to his flight from this
relationship, with its deeply shattering conflicts.
In 1815, on the death of his older brother, Casper Carl, Beethoven devoted his emotional energies to a costly
legal struggle with his sister-in-law for custody of her nine-year-old son Karl. The mother received a temporarily
favorable ruling, and only the intervention in 1820 of Beethoven's most powerful patron, the Archduke Rudolph, won
the composer custody of his nephew. Beethoven was not an ideal parent and enormous friction developed between the two, contributing to Karl's attempted suicide in 1826.
By 1818 Beethoven had become virtually deaf and relied on small “conversation books,” in which visitors wrote their
remarks to him. He withdrew from all but a steadily shrinking circle of friends. Except for the premieres of his
Symphony no. 9 and parts of the Missa solemnis in 1824, his music remained fashionable only among a small group
of connoisseurs. His prestige was still such, however, that during his last illness he received huge outpourings of
sympathy. He died in Vienna on March 26, 1827; tens of thousands witnessed his funeral procession.
- Beethoven's major output consists of 9 symphonies, 7 concertos (5 for piano), 17 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas,
10 sonatas for violin and piano, 5 sonatas for cello and piano, an opera, 2 masses, several overtures, and numerous
sets of piano variations. He has traditionally been referred to as the “bridge to romanticism,” and his output is
simplistically divided into three roughly equal periods. Today most scholars view him as the last great representative
of the Viennese classical style, a composer who at two important junctures in his life turned away from the aesthetic
of the emerging romantic period in favor of renewed exploration of the legacy of Haydn and Mozart. After arriving in
Vienna Beethoven alternated between compositions based openly on classical models, such as the String Quartet in
A Major op. 18 no. 5 (1800; patterned on Mozart's String Quartet K. 464) and those based on looser Italianate
structures, such as the song “Adelaide” (1795).
The “new manner” that Beethoven referred to in 1802 marks his first return to the Viennese classical tradition.
Although his works of the decade 1802-12 project a heroic aura, musically they represent an expansion of the
tighter forms of Haydn and Mozart. This is apparent both in works of unprecedented scope, such as the Eroica
Symphony and the Piano Concerto no. 5 (Emperor, 1809), and in stylistically compressed works such as the
Symphony no. 5 (1808) and the Piano Sonata op. 57 (Appassionata, 1805). In these works he proved that a style
founded on unprecedented thematic integration and on the harmonic polarization achieved by manipulating opposing
keys could produce works of remarkable expressive power.
The completion of the Symphony no. 8 and the fading of hopes for a successful relationship with the “Immortal
Beloved” left Beethoven in a sea of compositional uncertainty. The prodigious output of the previous decade ceased.
The few works of the years after 1812—such as the op. 98 song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved,
1816) and the Piano Sonata in A Major op. 101 (1817)—took on an experimental hue, reviving and expanding on the
more relaxed musical structures Beethoven had employed in the 1790s. This handful of open-ended, cyclic works of
this period exercised the most direct musical influence on the succeeding generation of romantic composers (apparent, for example, in the song cycles of the German composer Robert Schumann).
In 1818 Beethoven inaugurated a second return to the tightly structured “heroic” style. The move was marked by the Piano Sonata in B-flat Major op. 106 (Hammerklavier), a work of unprecedented length and difficulty that left behind
the accomplished amateur performer once and for all.
The works of Beethoven's last period, rather than being composed in sets or even in pairs, are each marked by an
individuality that later composers could admire but scarcely emulate. In the Ninth Symphony and the Missa solemnis
he gave expression to an all-embracing view of idealized humanity more rooted in the Enlightenment than in Roman
Catholic doctrine, and more compelling than the equally lofty ideals portrayed a decade earlier in his only opera,
The dominant private dimension of Beethoven's late style gave rise to the five string quartets of 1824-26, the last
two of which were written without commissions. In these works Beethoven achieved an ideal synthesis between
popular and learned styles, between the humorous and the sublime. Judged inaccessible in their time, the string
quartets have become—as has so much of his music—yardsticks against which all other musical achievements are
measured.Beethoven's lifelong habit of sketching musical compositions as he worked them out became even
more important as he grew older. The more than 7000 pages of drafts entered outdoors on scraps of paper or in
small notebooks, as well as the more extensive notebooks he filled up indoors, form one of Western music's
most enduring monuments to musical creativity.
- Beethoven towered over the 19th century, embodying the heroic ideal and the
romantic image of the artist; yet his
explicit musical influence was limited. For some composers—such as Johannes Brahms, who produced no symphony
until his 40s—Beethoven's presence was paralyzing. The German composer Richard Wagner invoked Beethoven's
Ninth Symphony, particularly its choral finale, as support for his own vision of the music drama. Not until the late
romantic symphonies of the German composer Anton Bruckner and, especially, those of the Austrian composer
Gustav Mahler was Beethoven's symphonic ideal carried to what many regard as its final stage of development.
Today Beethoven's works form the backbone of orchestral and chamber music repertoires the world
"Beethoven, Ludwig van," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk &
When Beethoven passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple days
later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery and heard some
strange noise coming from the area where Beethoven was buried.
Terrified, the drunk ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest
bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming
from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and got the town magistrate.
When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave, listened fora
moment, and said,
"Ah, yes, that's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, being
He listened a while longer, and said,
"There's the Eighth
Symphony, and it's backwards, too. Most puzzling."
So the magistrate
"There's the Seventh... the Sixth... the Fifth..."
Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate;
he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the
"My fellow citizens, there's nothing to worry about.
It's just Beethoven decomposing."
On January 9, 1801, Ludwig finds his first Immortal beloved in bed with his old teacher Joseph.
That was the end of the friendship between Beethoven and Haydn.
Ludwig never heard from Joseph anymore...
Did Beethoven really know the name of his second Immortal Beloved?
Hamburg, April 19, 1810, a few minutes before midnight.....
Ludwig enters the bar at the corner of San Paoli and Grandstrass. He is soaked with a Spring shower.
Sailors are loud, but Ludwig is at peace.
He tries to talk.
Nobody knows sign language.
Franz, the 13 year old piano player introduces Mr. Beethoven to a very pretty lady called ....
Who killed Ludwig and Franz?
Franz Schubert , the Little boy of Hamburg meets the Lady .... at Ludwig's funeral.
They spent an emotional night together.
One year later, Franz dies.
Franz had his illness before the funeral. Ludwig died of the same illness.
Was Immortal Beloved, the only immortal in this triangle?
Who was the third Immortal Beloved? ? ?
To became part of "the three B's" group, Johannes Brahms had to write
Beethoven's tenth symphony.
What is the going price for Beethoven's hair?
Note: Franz Schubert was torch bearer at the funeral, but the little boy in the bar was Johannes Brahms who was born in 1833. Haydn briefly taught Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna. Their different personalities made this
meeting unrewarding, but Beethoven was a great admirer of Haydn's works.