Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ludwig van Beethoven

NAME Ludwig Van Beethoven

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Composer

BIRTH b1770. The bonnie baby Beethoven was born at Bonngasse 20a, Bonn.
There is no actual record of Beethoven's birth. He is traditionally assumed to have been born on December 16, 1770 because his baptism was recorded as taking place on the following day, but the real natal date and hour are unknown. As an adult, Beethoven considered himself to be two years younger than his given age and obstinately evaded the question of his birth date.

FAMILY BACKGROUND If you met a woman who was pregnant, and she had eight children already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion? If you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.
Ludwig's father was Johann Van Beethoven (1740-1792), a tenor singer in the service of the elector of Cologne. His grandfather was also a musician. His father declined into drinking and as a result young Ludwig's family became steadily poorer.
Ludwig's mother Magdalena Kevrich van Beethoven (1740-1792) was the daughter of a cook with massive self-confidence. Beethoven considered his mother to be his best friend.
Ludwig had three brothers, one, an older brother with the same name died in infancy. Ludwig lived in his shadow. Beethoven's mother died when he was 17, and for several years he was responsible for raising his two younger brothers.

CHILDHOOD At the age of five, Ludwig's ambitious father, who was pushier than a snowplough, made him practice the violin for hours and by the age of eight he was playing concerts and three years later he was the Deputy Organist at court of Elector of Cologne at Bonn. Ludwig published his first composition and composed three sonatas aged thirteen. At the age of fourteen he met Mozart in Vienna who said "Watch this young man. He is going to cause a stir in the world.(1) Mozart proceeded (in 1787) to give him a few lessons in composition.

EDUCATION Ludwig had only meagre academic schooling and early on made a poor impression on his music teachers. At home, his father gave him a thorough musical training when young in the hope of exhibiting him as an infant prodigy. He studied the piano, violin and French horn. Beethoven's father removed him at the age of eleven from school to concentrate on a musical career. He was sent to Vienna in 1791 originally to study with his old mentor, Mozart but his death forced a change of plan. Instead he had music lessons from Haydn from whom he learnt composition and harmony, but who failed to recognise young Ludwig’s genius.

CAREER RECORD Beethoven was the first ever full time composer. The broadening market for published music enabled him to succeed as a freelance composer, a path that Mozart a decade earlier had found full of frustration.
Typically, he would get up at dawn and promptly start composing until dinner at 2pm. Beethoven liked to work for long stretches without a break to let his thoughts develop and flow.
1778 Introduced as a prodigy. Became a court organist before he was 12.
1789 Due to his father's alcoholism, he began to support his family as a court musician.
1791 Went to Vienna to study under Haydn and became a freelance composer. He later claimed "he had never learned anything from Haydn."
1795 First public performance in Vienna.

APPEARANCE Beethoven was a short man, 5' 3¾" (1.62 m) with sallow complexion due to jaundice. His brown hair was thick and bushy (afro style). Many people looking at his portrait have assumed he is of African origin. Wore glasses.

FASHION An untidy dresser, Beethoven had strange personal habits such as wearing filthy clothing while washing compulsively. He was unconcerned about his tramp like appearance and had such a disregard for personal cleanliness that his friends had to take away his dirty clothes and wash them whilst he slept. But it would be stretching things to say Beethoven was an influence on grunge musicians.

CHARACTER A typical flawed genius, Van the man had an overbearing and quarrelsome, fiery and gruff nature. Often rude and impatient, he could be impetuous, self willed and boorish. Haydn, when teaching him, was irritated by his overbearing personality and nicknamed him "The Great Mogu." The German poet Goethe was more of a fan, he saw him as "an utterly untamed personality". He went on to say "A more self contained, energetic, sincere artist I never saw."
Beethoven quarrelled, often bitterly, with his relatives and others, and frequently behaved badly to other people

SENSE OF HUMOUR Not a lot. For instance once performing a new Piano concerto at the Theatre Anderwien. Beethoven forgot he was the soloist and began to conduct. He threw his arms with such force he knocked down the lights on the piano. Two choirboys were summoned to hold the lights. A little later he produced another dramatic gesture that hit one of the boys who was so frightened he dropped the light. Mad at the audiences laughter, Beethoven struck the piano with such force that he broke six strings. What a strop.
Beethoven could be sarcastic. When he heard a friend's opera for the first time, he joked "I liked your opera, I think I will put it to music."
Also when walking with Goethe, who was constantly being pestered by greetings from other people, Beethoven remarked, "Do not let that trouble your excellency. Perhaps the greetings are intended for me."

RELATIONSHIPS As a young man Beethoven was a bit of a rake, quite a flirt, but girls tended to turn down his overtures. Most of his romantic evenings had the sensuous promise of a date at the sewage works. Though often in love, he never got married. Although reports circulated among Beethoven's friends that he was constantly in love, he tended to choose unattainable women, who were aristocratic or married or both. The one person to reciprocate his declarations, the "Immortal Beloved" was one Antonie Brentano who was married to a Frankfurt merchant and a mother of four. In his letter to the "Immortal Beloved" (presumably never sent and now dated at 1812), he expressed his conflicting feelings for Antonie Beethoven's conscience prevented him pursuing the relationship. In his letter to Antonie (presumably never sent and now dated at 1812), he expressed his conflicting feelings for her.
A period of low productivity from about 1812 to 1816 is thought by some scholars to have been the result of depression, resulting from Beethoven's realisation that he would never marry.
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 9-year-old son Karl. The mother received a temporarily favourable 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 Karl, grew up to be unstable and graceless rejecting the love (but not the money) that his uncle gave him. The enormous friction that developed between the two, contributed to Karl's attempted suicide in 1826.
Though he had many friends, especially after his deafness came on, Beethoven seemed to be a lonely man. See video clip of the sad story of Beethoven (played by Gary Oldman and his Immortal Beloved.

MONEY AND FAME Originally Beethoven was most famous for tinkling the ivories as a pianist, especially for his improvising skills. Only later in his life was he hailed as a great composer as well. The German composer was a big spender and gave away lots of money. Despite being a big note in Vienna his last years were blighted by financial problems and he died in poverty. The London Philharmonic Society sent £100 to Beethoven when he was on his deathbed.

INTERESTS FOOD AND DRINK Fond of coffee, the fastidious composer once disclosed he requires precisely 60 beans to make a cup of his favorite hot drink.
Beethoven liked good wine, consuming a bottle with every meal, often in the Greek Tavern in Vienna. A near alcoholic in his later years, on his deathbed he spluttered "Wine is
both necessary and good for me."

MUSIC AND ARTS Da da da daa. Beethoven played the harpsichord and violin from a young age. However his own principle instrument was the pianoforte, which he was known to play the piano with such force that the strings would snap. After 1805 he performed in public rarely because of his increasing deafness and he made his last performance in 1814.
The German composer was an admirer of Handel, he said "Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb."
The first ever full time composer, Beethoven usually worked on several compositions at once. a perfectionist, he always struggled to achieve the rightness present in his music; sometimes altered a passage as many as 20 times.
Beethoven was perhaps the first composer to use brass instruments as part of the orchestral texture of a composition; they had previously been used only at special moments where they would stand out, or as solo instruments.
Here's a bit of trivia: Beethoven often poured ice water over his head when he sat down to compose , believing it stimulated his brain.
Here's some of his major works with links to Songfacts when applicable

1802 Moonlight Sonata Written whilst suffering from unrequited love, it was called "Moonlight" as a publisher described it like "a boat passing the wild scenery of Lake Lucerne in the moonlight", otherwise it would be called the slightly less romantic "Piano Sonata in C Minor op 27 no 2."
Beethoven always considered his "Moonlight" sonata to be inferior to many of his other works for piano, even though it became enormously popular.

1804 3rd Symphony (Eroica) Originally called Bonaparte as tribute to Napoleon, the First Consul. However, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor in 1804 the disillusioned Beethoven tore up the pages of his score in a rage, stamped on it and changed it to Eroica (meaning heroic). Innovative in length and size of orchestra, the symphony was a radical departure from anything written up until that time. However, it was difficult for the audience to understand and many critics criticised the first movement for its dissonant chords

1808 5th Symphony The one with the Da da da daa bit -those famous opening bars are Morse for "V" for victory. Beethoven described the start of this symphony as "death knocking upon the door". Its premiere in Vienna featured the first ever known use of trombone in an orchestra. The work was dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz and Count Raswnovsky and it’s theme was of an individual overcoming all the trials that fate can bring.

1808 Pastoral (6th) Symphony Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. Unusually cast in five movements, the last three of which flow freely into one another, this symphony represents Beethoven's ultimate response to nature. He was, however, not the first composer of his time to depict nature symphonically uses evocative sounds to tell a particular journey.
The Shepherd Song from this was voted # 5 in the 100 Best Tunes on Radio 2 - back in 1993.

1810 Für Elise This piano piece was dedicated by Beethoven to Therese Malfatti (1792–1851), with whom he was in love. But the publisher misread Beethoven’s untidy scrawl of "Fur Teresa" and to this day it's known as "Für Elise."

1814 Fidelio Beethoven's only opera, it was actually first produced in a three-act version at Vienna's Theater an Der Wien, on November 20, 1805. The composer kept fiddling with Fidelio until the performance at the Kärntnertortheater on May 23, 1814. Incidentally a 17-year-old Franz Schubert was in the audience, having sold his school books to obtain a ticket. The opera tells the story of a wife who dressed as a female jailer so she could join her husband in prison.

1824 Ode to Joy This is the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth and last Symphony, when written it was a novel idea to use a chorus and solo voices in the finale. Increasingly aware of his declining health, the by now deaf composer spent seven years working on this Symphony. Its tragic that Beethoven never heard a single note of this masterpiece except in his head. When first performed, there was rapturous applause at the end. The deaf composer had to be physically turned round to face the audience to face the acclaim as he couldn't hear it.
The words, which are sung by four vocal soloists and a chorus, emanate a strong belief in mankind. They were taken from a poem written by German writer Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by Beethoven.


LITERATURE Beethoven was keen on Homer and Indian theology for reading matter. Not a particularly avid reader he wrote in an 1820 letter, "I would rather write 10,000 notes than one letter of the alphabet"
In 1802, Beethoven wrote Heiligenstadt and Testament, which was intended for two brothers. In it he rages in despair about his growing deafness. See Health for more

NATURE When Beethoven's dog, Grigons vanished Beethoven complained "I miss him in my loneliness."

HOBBIES AND SPORTS The Pastoral Symphony composer walking in countryside round Vienna. He carried a notebook with him to jot down ideas for his compositions.
David Broome won the 1970 show jumping world title on a horse named Beethoven.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Despite writing some spiritually uplifting music such as
his Mass in D Minor (Missa Solemnis)Beethoven was not a conventional Christian himself. However, he considered his compositions inspired by God.

SCANDAL In the Winter of 1822-23, the Philharmonic Society of London advanced Beethoven £50 for a new symphony. However it was not until its first performance in Vienna on May 7, 1824 that the score reached London when to the society's surprise they found that Beethoven's 9th Symphony was dedicated not to them back to the King of Prussia. However the forgiving Philharmonic Society did later send £100 for Beethoven's relief during the last months of his life.

MILITARY RECORD The opening of Beethoven's Fifth symphony was later used as a signature piece for the Allies during World War 2 since the notes unintentionally were Morse Code for the letter "V" (for "Victory").

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS Beethoven suffered from jaundice, but his main affliction is deafness. Originally in his late twenties it was an occasional loss of hearing, which developed into a constant ringing in his ears. Signs of his growing lack of sense of hearing threw him into a dire depression and made him contemplate suicide. In 1802, in Beethoven's celebrated Heiligenstadt Testament, a quasi-legal letter to his two brothers, he expressed his agony over his growing loss of hearing. His deafness was rendered more severe by cold baths, blister treatments and sharp ear trumpets strapped to his head. By 1814 however, Beethoven was almost totally deaf with a constant ringing in his ears. For the last ten years of his life he could only communicate with guests by means of conversation books in which visitors write their remarks to him. Despite being aurally disadvantaged many of his greatest works were written in his last 10 years when he was completely deaf. (You'd have thought a deaf composer would have been as much use as a steeplejack with vertigo). He was aided by placing a stick on the top of his piano and biting on it, which helped him to "hear" a little.

HOMES Beethoven was born at the 16th century building, Bonngasse 20a in Bonn. It is now a Beethoven museum. (see below) In March 1787 Beethoven traveled to Vienna, apparently in the hope of studying with Wolfgang Mozart. It is not known whether or not they actually met.[ After just two weeks there Beethoven learned that his mother was severely ill, and he was forced to return home. His mother died shortly thereafter, and the father lapsed deeper into alcoholism. As a result, Beethoven became responsible for the care of his two younger brothers, and he spent the next five years in Bonn. He finally left Bonn for Vienna in November 1792, amid rumors of the war spilling out of France.
By 1800 Beethoven settled into a pattern of shifting residences. He habitually spent the summer in the Viennese suburbs to get away from the adoring masses and his creditors —Heiligenstadt was a favourite choice—and moved back to the central city in the autumn. He moved 79 times occupying 44 dwellings in 35 years in Vienna. The state in which he generally kept his rooms gave this landlords good cause for grievance. They were littered with partly eaten meals and unemptied chamber pots.

TRAVEL If Beethoven was ever in Venice in his last 15 years, then he would have been deaf in Venice (joke).,.

DEATH Beethoven died in 1827 aged 57, a slow agonising death. during a thunderstorm, having been bedridden for several months. His last words were "I shall hear in Heaven." It is said on his deathbed said "Applaud my friends the comedy is over." quoting the dying Augustus as he shook his fist at a thunderstorm. An autopsy revealed significant liver damage, which may have been due to heavy alcohol consumption. There is dispute about the cause of Beethoven's death;
alcoholic cirrhosis, syphilis, infectious hepatitis, lead poisoning have all been proposed.
Over 10,000 turned out for his funeral. Schubert was one of the pallbearers. Buried in Vienna's Zentral Friedhof General Cemetery.
An estimated 20,000 people stood in reverence as his funeral bier passed through the streets of Vienna - Schubert was one of the pallbearers. Soldiers were needed to control grief stricken crowds. After nine priests blessed his body, he was buried in a grave marked by a simple pyramid that read simply, "Beethoven".
In 1994 two collectors paid £4,000 for a four inch long lock of Beethoven's hair.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA 1. Amongst the movies about Beethoven are
1985 Beethoven's Nephew In which Beethoven played by Wolfgang Pechmann struggles to tame his (yes) nephew.
1989 Beethoven played by Clifford David was a passenger of Bill and Ted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
1994 Immortal Beloved The story follows Beethoven's secretary and first biographer, Anton Schindler, as he attempts to ascertain the true identity of the Immortal Beloved addressed in three letters found in the late composer's private papers. Beethoven is played by Gary Oldman. 2006 Copying Beethoven, starring Ed Harris as the composer. This film is a fictionalized account of Beethoven's last days, and his struggle to produce his Ninth Symphony before he died.
The 1992 film Beethoven is about a St Bernard dog who apart from being named after the composer, has nothing to do with him.

2. Beethoven is much quoted in popular music - Roll Over Beethoven was a hit for both Chuck Berry and Electric Light Orchestra . A more funky interpreter was Walter Murphy who had a # 1 US hit with A Fifth of Beethoven, a disco version of Beethoven's yep Fifth Symphony. Also check out I Love to Listen to Beethoven by the Eurythmics.

3. Beethoven's Sixth Symphony was famously used in a Blue Band Magazine advert and his nith Symphony in a Pirelli Tyres commercial

4. Beethoven's biggest critic is Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon strip, as she tries to win the heart of her beloved piano player, Schroeder, who is the composer's number one fan. Lucy tries to batter the reputation of Beethoven to make Schroeder interested in others eg her.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Beethoven was influential in development of symphony and expanded the horizons of orchestra music. He pushed boundaries in all music's parameters melodic, harmonic, rhythmic.
2. Introduced the trombone to the orchestra.
3. The first important composer to earn his living solely from public concerts and copies of his compositions without getting a patron. Though he could have done with one.
4 Possibly the greatest composer in the western tradition.
5.. In a poll of over a million music lovers, Beethoven was voted Britain's second favorite classical composer of the past Millennium and his Ninth Symphony the third favorite classical piece of the last millennium.

1. The Faber Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman.
2. James Galway's Music in Time.
3. Wikipedia.

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