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234th Season

Ludwig Van Beethoven


Beethoven, Ludwig van (b Bonn, 1770; d Vienna, 1827). Ger. composer and pianist who radically transformed every mus. form in which he worked. His paternal family were of Flemish stock, his grandfather having emigrated to Bonn where he became Court Singer to the Elector. Beethoven‘s father also became Court Singer, but was a coarse, drunken man, hopeful of exploiting his 2nd child Ludwig‘s mus. talents. Beethoven‘s early mus. education came from his father and several mediocre teachers. In 1779 he became a pupil of Christian Gottlob Neefe and his ass. as court organist in 1784. In 1786 he visited Vienna and may have extemporized for Mozart. On return to Bonn he found an understanding patron in Count Waldstein. For 4 years he was a violist in the court th. orch. in addition to other duties. In 1792 Haydn, visiting Bonn, saw some of Beethoven‘s early comps. and invited him to study with him in Vienna. There, despite his brusque and often uncouth manner, he was patronized by the aristocracy and lived for 2 years (1794-6) in the home of Prince Lichnowsky. His fame was entirely that of a virtuoso improviser at the kbd. Lessons from Haydn proved unsatisfactory and Beethoven went for theory to Schenk and later to Albrechtsberger and Salieri. His Op.1, 3 pf. trios, was pubd. 1795 and had immediate success. Apart from occasional visits to the countryside Beethoven passed the rest of his life in Vienna. For 30 years he prod. mus. of all kinds in a steady flow. His first public appearance in Vienna was as soloist in his Bb major pf. conc. in 1795. His 3rd Symphony (the Eroica), besides being a work of revolutionary import because it greatly extended the possibilities of symphonic form, was significant because it was originally ded. to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven erased the dedication when he heard that Napoleon had proclaimed himself emperor. In 1805 his only opera Fidelio, originally called Leonore, was performed but withdrawn for rev. after 3 perfs. and given the following year in a 2-act version. His 5th and 6th (Pastoral) Syms. were f.p. at the same concert in 1808 and the 7th appeared in 1813, the year before the successful prod. of the further rev. Fidelio. In 1817 and 1818 he began work on his 9th Sym., which departed from all precedent by including a choral finale for solo vv., ch., and orch., and the Missa Solemnis. These were perf. in 1824. From 1824 to 1826 he comp. the last 5 of his 17 str. qts. Beethoven‘s mus. may have sometimes been misunderstood in his lifetime but it was never neglected. However, his personal eccentricities and unpredictability were to grow, principally because of his discovery in 1798 that he was going deaf. It was not until 1819 that conversation with him was possible only by writing in a notebook, but in the intervening 20 years his affliction, though it varied in intensity, steadily worsened. Perhaps this is also why he never married, though he loved several women, and one in particular, the still unidentified ‘Immortal Beloved’ (Maynard Solomon, in his Beethoven, 1977, gives convincing but not incontrovertible reasons for believing that she was Antonie Brentano, wife of a Frankfurt merchant. She lived from 1780 to 1869. Beethoven dedicated the Diabelli Variations to her.) An indication of the esteem in which Beethoven was held is that in 1815 Vienna conferred its honorary freedom on him. When he died, his funeral at Wдhring was a nat. occasion. His grave is now in the Central Friedhof, Vienna. Beethoven‘s significance in the history and development of mus. is immense. He emancipated and democratized the art, composing out of spiritual inner necessity rather than as provider of virtuoso display material. He was not a quick or facile worker—his sketchbooks show how he laboriously developed an idea from sometimes banal beginnings to the final version. His mastery of structure and of key relationships was the basis on which he worked a revolution in the handling of sonata-form. It is to Beethoven that we owe the full emergence of the symphony as a repository for a composer‘s most important ideas. He expanded the coda from a formal conclusion to a climactic splendour; he transformed the minuet into the tempestuous, exultant scherzo; he was the first to use ‘motto-themes’ as a consistent formal device. In his slow movements, mus. expressed a mystical exaltation which even Mozart had never approached. In the str. qt. and the pf. sonata also, Beethoven extended the medium to a vastly increased technical and expressive degree (though in the case of the pf. it was not until his last sonatas that his technical use of the instr. went beyond that of his predecessors). It is probably true to say that today his mus. is the most frequently performed of any composer‘s. Among the most important of his many comps. are: OPERA: Fidelio, Op.72 (1805, rev. 1806 and 1814). SYMPHONIES: No.1 in C, Op.21, comp. 1799-1800, f.p. Vienna, 2 April 1800, cond. P. Wranitzky; pubd. 1801. No.2 in D, Op.36, comp. 1801-2, f.p. Vienna, 5 Apr. 1803, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1804. No.3 in Eb (Eroica), Op.55, comp. 1803-4, Vienna, 7 Apr. 1805; pubd. 1806. No.4 in Bb, Op.60, comp. 1806, Vienna, 15 Nov. 1807, cond. Clement; pubd. 1808. No.5 in C minor, Op. 67, comp. 1804-8, f.p. Vienna, 22 Dec. 1808, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1809. No.6 in F (Pastoral), Op.68, comp. 1807-8, f.p. Vienna, 22 Dec. 1808, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1809. No.7 in A, Op.92, comp. 1811-12, f.p. Vienna, 8 Dec. 1813, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1816. No.8 in F, Op.93, comp. 1812, f.p. Vienna, 27 Feb. 1814, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1816. No.9 in D minor (Choral), Op.125, comp. 1817-23, f.p. Vienna, 7 May 1824, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1826. Battle Symphony, Op.91, comp. 1813, f.p. Vienna, 8 Dec. 1813, cond. Beethoven; pubd. 1816. CONCERTOS: Piano: Eb (1783); No.1 in C, Op.15 (really No.2 in order of comp.), comp. 1795-8, f.p. (presumed) Vienna, 2 April 1800, soloist Beethoven, cond. Wranitzky; pubd. March 1801. No.2 in Bb, Op.19 (really No.1 in order of comp.), comp. 1794-5, f.p. Vienna, 29 Mar. 1795, soloist Beethoven; pubd. Dec. 1801. No.3 in C minor, Op.37, comp. 1800-1, f.p. Vienna, 5 Apr. 1803, soloist Beethoven; pubd. 1804. No.4 in G, Op. 58, comp. 1805-6, f.p. Vienna, 22 Dec. 1808, soloist Beethoven; pubd. 1808. No.5 in Eb (nicknamed ‘Emperor’ but not by Beethoven), Op.73, comp. 1809, f.p. Leipzig, Dec. 1810, soloist F. Schneider, f. Vienna p. 12 Feb. 1812, soloist Czerny; pubd. 1811. Vn. conc., Op.61, arr. for pf. by Beethoven in 1807 and pubd. 1808. Violin: vn. conc. in D, Op.61, comp. 1806, f.p. Vienna, 23 Dec. 1806, soloist Franz Clement; pub. 1809. Piano, violin, and cello: triple conc. in C, Op.56, comp. 1804, f.p. 1808; pubd. 1807. ORCHESTRAL (excl. Syms. & Concs.): Overtures: Coriolan, Op.62 (1807); Die Weihe des Hauses (Consecration of the House), Op.124 (1822); Leonora No.1, Op.138 (1805), Leonora No.2 (1805), Leonora No.3 (1806); Fidelio (1814). For details see under Fidelio; Overture and 9 items of incidental mus. for Egmont (Goethe), Op.84 (1809-10); Overture and 8 items of incidental mus. for Die Ruinen von Athen (Kotzebue), Op.113 (1811); Overture and 9 items of incidental mus. for Kцnig Stephan (Kotzebue), Op.117 (1811); Ov. in C (Namensfeier), Op.115 (1814-15); Ov., introduction, and 16 Nos. for ballet Die Geschцpfe des Prometheus, Op.43 (1800-1). PIANO SONATAS (32 in number): Nos. 1, 2 and 3, Op.2, No.1 in F minor, No.2 in A major, No.3 in C major (1794-5); No.4, Op.7, in Eb, (1796); Nos. 5, 6 and 7, Op.10, No.1 in C minor, No.2 in F major, No.3 in D major (1798); No.8, Op.13, Pathйtique in C minor (1799); Nos. 9 and 10, Op.14, No.1 in E major, No.2 in G major (1799); No.11, Op.22, in Bb (1800); No.12, Op.26, in Ab (1800-1); Nos. 13 and 14, Op.27, No.1 in Eb, No.2 in C# minor (Moonlight), both described as quasi una fantasia (1800-1); No.15, Op.28, in D major (Pastoral) (1801); Nos. 16, 17 and 18, Op.31, No.1 in G major, No.2 in D minor, No.3 in Eb (1801-2); Nos. 19 and 20, Op.49, No.1 in G minor, No.2 in G major (1802); No.21, Op.53, in C major (Waldstein) (1804); No.22, Op.54, in F major (1804); No.23, Op.57, in F minor (Appassionata) (1804-5); No.24, Op.78, in F# major (1809); No. 25, Op.79, Sonatina in G major (1809); No.26, Op.81a, in Eb (Lebewohl, usually known as Les Adieux) (1809-10); No.27, Op.90, in E minor (1814); No.28, Op.101, in A major (1816); No.29, Op.106, in Bb (Hammerklavier) (1817-18); No.30, Op.109, in E major (1820); No.31, Op.110, in Ab (1821); No.32, Op.111, in C minor (1821-2). OTHER PIANO WORKS: sonata in D for 4 hands, Op.6 (1797); 7 Bagatelles, Op.33 (1782-1802); 6 variations in F major on orig. theme, Op.34 (1802); 15 variations in Eb and fugue on theme from Prometheus (known as Eroica Variations) Op.35 (1802); 32 variations in C minor (1806-7); 6 variations in D, Op.76 (1810); fantaisie in G minor, Op.77 (1810); 11 Bagatelles, Op.119 (1821); 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op.120 (1819-23); 6 Bagatelles, Op.126 (1823-4); Grosse Fuge in Bb, Op.133 (arr. Beethoven for pf. duet, Op.134) (1826); Rondo a capriccio in G (‘Rage over a lost Groschen’), Op.129 (1825-6). CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts: Op.18, Nos. 1-6 in F major, G major, D major, C minor, A major, Bb (1798-1800); Nos. 7, 8 and 9, Op.59, Nos. 1-3 in F major, E minor, C major (the Rasoumovsky qts., ded. to Count Rasoumovsky, Russian ambassador in Vienna, a keen qt. player) (comp. 1806); No.10, Op.74, in Eb (known as Harp; 1809); No.11, Op.95, in F minor (1810); No.12, Op.127, in Eb (1822-5); No.13, Op.130, in Bb (1825-6; present finale replaces Grosse Fuge, Op.133); No.14, Op.131, in C# minor (1825-6); No.15, Op.132, in A minor (1825); No.16, Op.135, in F major (1826); Op.133, in Bb (Grosse Fuge), orig. finale of Op.130 (1825). Str. quintets: Op.4, in Eb (1795-6), arr. of Octet for wind instr. (comp. 1792-3, pubd. 1830 as Op.103); Op.29 in C major (1800-1); Op.104, in C minor, arr. by Beethoven in 1817 of his pf. trio, Op.1, No.3 (1792-4). Pf. trios: Op.1, Nos. 1-3, in Eb, G major, and C minor (1792-4); Op.38, in Eb (with vn. or cl.), arr. by Beethoven of his Septet, Op.20 (1820-3); 14 Variations in Eb, Op.44 (1802-3); Op.70, Nos. 1-2, in D major and Eb (1808); Op.97, in Bb (Archduke) (1810-11); Variations on ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’, Op.121a (Kakadu) (c.1798). String Trios: Op.3 in Eb (pre-1794) transcribed for vc. and pf., Op.64; Op.8, Serenade in D major (1796-7); Op.9, Nos. 1-3, in G major, D major, and C minor (1797-8); Pf. quintet (pf., ob., cl., hn., bn.), Op.16, in Eb (1796), arr. for pf. qt. (1796, pubd. 1801); Septet (vn., va., vc., cl., hn., bn., and db.), Op.20 in Eb (1799-1800). Vn. sonatas (but note that Beethoven described them as sonatas for pf. and vn.): Op.12, Nos. 1-3, in D major, A major and Eb (1797-8); Op.23, in A minor (1800); Op.24, in F major (Spring) (1800-1); Op.30, Nos. 1-3, in A major, C minor, and G major (1801-2); Op.47, in A major (Kreutzer) (1802-3); Op.96, in G major (1812, rev. 1815). Vc. sonatas: Op.5, Nos. 1-2, in F major and G minor (1796); Op.69, in A major (1807-8); Op.102, Nos. 1-2, in C major and D major (1815). Miscellaneous: Serenade in D major, Op.25, fl., vn., va. (1801); Sextet in Eb, Op.81b, 2 hn., str. (?1795); Trio in Bb, Op.11, pf., cl. or vn., vc. (1797); Sonata in F major, Op.17, hn., pf. (1800); Variations for vc. and pf.: in G major, WoO 45, on ‘See the conqu‘ring hero comes’ from Judas Maccabaeus (1796), in F major, Op.66, on ‘Ein Mдdchen oder Weibchen’ from Die Zauberflцte (1796), and in Eb, WoO 46, on ‘Bei Mдnnern, welche Liebe fьhlen’ from Die Zauberflцte (1801). CHORAL: Cantata on the death of the Emperor Joseph II (1790); Cantata on the accession of Emperor Leopold II (1790); Christus am Цlberge, oratorio, Op.85 (1803); Mass in C major, Op.86 (1807); Mass in D major (Missa Solemnis), Op.123 (1819-22); Choral Fantasia (pf., ch., and orch.), Op.80 (1808); Meeresstille und glьckliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), Op.112 (1814-15); Der glorreiche Augenblick (The Glorious Moment), cantata, Op.136 (1814). SOLO VOICE (Songs, etc.): scena and aria ‘Ah! Perfido!’, sop. and orch., Op.65 (comp. 1796); Adelaide, Op.46 (1795); An die Hoffnung, Op.32 (1805); An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), song-cyle for ten. and pf. (words by A. Jeitteles), Op.98 (1816); 25 Scot. songs, with acc. for pf. trio, Op.108 (1815-16); 12 Scot. songs, with acc. for pf. trio, Op.108 (1815-16); 12 Scottish songs (pubd. 1841).

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