Ludwig van Beethoven

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Short Bio

What do you want?! I can’t hear you! Either you speak up or write in that book. I’m not fond of people in general, that's just how I am. I was born a peasant to a drunkard father who wanted me to be like Mozart. Actually everyone wanted me to be like Mozart. Well I'm here to tell you I’m not! I’m my own person. Even Haydn, as much as I respect him, can’t make me write his name on my manuscript. I’ve always been deathly sick so don’t expect me to have a constant output of compositions. 

Famous pieces

  • Eroica symphony
  • Moonlight Sonata
  • Fur Elise
  • ‘Pathétique’ Piano Sonata
  • Symphony No. 9
  • Symphony No. 5

People

Beethoven

knows

Fun facts

  • He didn’t set out to be a composer at first, choosing to dedicate himself to music study and performance. 
  • He was a pupil of Haydn, and a teacher to Carl Czerny. 
  • During the performance at a very high profile concert, Beethoven repeatedly shouted at the musicians "badly played, wrong, again!", as they were under-rehearsed. 
  • One of his famous symphonies, Eroica, was initially dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte. However, he was disappointed when Napoleon turned out to be no different than the aristocrats he scorned, leading him to violently scratch out Napoleon’s name on the manuscript. 
  • Beethoven never performed after his hearing loss has worsened to the point of being unable to hear his own performance. 

Musical styles

Beethoven’s musical style changed a lot throughout his lifetime, partly due to his deafness. It’s typically considered to be split into 3 distinctive periods. 

His early works were heavily influenced by Mozart and Haydn, imitating their structural and harmonic styles while adding his flair and expanding the possibilities of what the Classical style is capable of. 

By the middle period, he had developed a much more unique style that was grander and forward looking with the use of larger orchestras. During this period, he experimented with extensive variations on themes and motifs, while expertly mixing a variety of keys or harmonic regions that differs vastly from the home key. 

In the same period, he was gradually losing his hearing, starting from higher frequencies, which led to him composing on the lower ranges, making his compositions sound much darker compared to Mozart and Haydn. 

His late works are defined by a more structural approach, leaning heavily to the use of counterpoints and subtle textures. He was also getting increasingly depressed, which is reflected in his compositions, typically seen to be  much more introverted and reserved. 

During the late period, he has lost his hearing completely, relying only on sounds he can visualise in his head. Compositions in this period also saw the return of notes in the higher range, although his orchestrations are sometimes criticised as overly loud. Probably because he’s unable to hear how loud a certain instrument is in relation to the rest of the orchestra.

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