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Ludwig van Beethoven

Biography

The popular image of Beethoven as a morose individual who shunned society is only partly true. He did have a serious outlook on life, and in later years he had difficulty mixing with people because of his deafness, which emerged ...

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Biography

The popular image of Beethoven as a morose individual who shunned society is only partly true. He did have a serious outlook on life, and in later years he had difficulty mixing with people because of his deafness, which emerged in his late twenties and gradually increased thereafter till his death. Yet he loved company, and had a ready wit. His letters contain many puns, and it was he who introduced the scherzo (literally, ‘joke’) into the symphony when he used one in his Symphony No. 2 instead of the customary minuet.

This Second Symphony already goes well beyond the models of Haydn and Mozart, the two chief influences on his style. Building on their example Beethoven continually strove to stretch the bounds of music to new limits, whether in his seven surviving concertos, 16 string quartets, 35 piano sonatas (including three very early ones) or other works.

Each of his nine symphonies (and an incipient tenth) is completely different from any previous one, and he showed similar originality in every major genre of the time, from his only opera Fidelio and his mighty Missa solemnis to his numerous settings of folk songs, which he treated in an entirely novel way. He achieved his goal through a combination of natural genius and sheer hard work: every one of his major compositions is the result of painstaking refinement, evident in the many thousands of pages of musical sketches that he wrote.

It is not always realised, however, that Beethoven was extraordinary in other ways too. Having no wife or family of his own, he spent enormous energy on helping his nephew, and he was deeply religious. Indeed his goodness and kindness were so evident to his contemporaries that at least three of them independently asserted that he was even greater as a human being than as a musician. Considering that many regard him as the greatest composer in history, such praise is astonishing.

Beethoven also responded strikingly to political upheavals – the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic wars. Although no political activist, he made his hatred of tyranny very plain in works such as Fidelio and his music for Goethe’s play Egmont.

Yet it is the quality of his music that has ensured his lasting reputation. Although its novelty initially puzzled some of his contemporaries, repeated hearings and study have shown that it is based on firm foundations. Its combination of beauty and unpredictability, extreme emotional depth and intellectual rigour, across so many genres, is unsurpassed and probably always will be.

Profile © Barry Cooper

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Tracks (48)

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Symphony no. 7 (Op.92) in A major, 3rd movement; Presto
Symphony no. 7 (Op.92) in A major, 3rd movement; Presto
Last played on
Sonata for violin and piano (Op.47) in A major "Kreutzer"; 3rd movement; Finale
Sonata for violin and piano (Op.47) in A major "Kreutzer"; 3rd movement; Finale
Last played on
Concerto for piano and orch no. 1 (Op.15) in C major, 3rd mvt; Rondo
Concerto for piano and orch no. 1 (Op.15) in C major, 3rd mvt; Rondo
Performer
Last played on
Sonata no. 21 in C major Op.53 (Waldstein)
Sonata no. 21 in C major Op.53 (Waldstein)
Performer
Sunwook Kim
Piano Concerto no.5 in E flat major: 3rd mvt
Piano Concerto no.5 in E flat major: 3rd mvt
Performer
Sunwook Kim
Last played on
Symphony no. 6 in F major Op.68 (Pastoral); 5th movement; Hirtengesang, Frohe
Symphony no. 6 in F major Op.68 (Pastoral); 5th movement; Hirtengesang, Frohe
Last played on
Symphony no. 7 in A major Op.92 - 4th movement; Allegro con brio
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major with Grosse Fuge Op. 130
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major with Grosse Fuge Op. 130
Sonata for piano no. 24 (Op.78) in F sharp major
2 Sonatinas for mandolin: C minor WoO 43/1 and C major WoW 44/1
2 Sonatinas for mandolin: C minor WoO 43/1 and C major WoW 44/1
Performer
Shalev Ad-El
Avi Avital
Violin Sonata no.3 in E flat Op.12 no.3 - last movement
Violin Sonata no.3 in E flat Op.12 no.3 - last movement
Composer
Ludwig van [1770 -1827] Beethoven
String Quartet in C minor Op. 18 No 4-Allegretto-Prestissimo
String Quartet in C minor Op. 18 No 4-Allegretto-Prestissimo
Concerto no. 5 in E flat major Op.73 (Emperor) for piano and orchestra
Concerto no. 5 in E flat major Op.73 (Emperor) for piano and orchestra
Last played on
Romance in F (Op. 50) arr. Craig for viola and piano
Romance in F (Op. 50) arr. Craig for viola and piano
Performer
Music Arranger
Symphony No.6 (Pastoral) (2nd mvt: Andante, 'By the Brook')
Symphony No.6 (Pastoral) (2nd mvt: Andante, 'By the Brook')
7 Variations on 'Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen' WoO.46 for cello and piano
7 Variations on 'Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen' WoO.46 for cello and piano
12 Variations on 'Ein Madchen oder Weibchen' Op.66 for cello and piano
12 Variations on 'Ein Madchen oder Weibchen' Op.66 for cello and piano
Last played on
Sonata no. 25 in G major Op.79 for piano
Sonata no. 25 in G major Op.79 for piano
Performer
Kun Wu Paik
Last played on
Sonatain F major Opus 24 - 1st movement
Sonata No 5 in F Opus 24 - 1st movement
Sonata no. 15 in D major Op.28 (Pastoral) for piano: 4th movement; Rondo
Sonata no. 15 in D major Op.28 (Pastoral) for piano: 4th movement; Rondo
Last played on
Variations on Bei Männern from Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute
Variations on Bei Männern from Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute
Symphony no. 6 (Op. 68) in F major "Pastoral" 1st mvt, Erwachen heiterer...
Symphony no. 6 (Op. 68) in F major "Pastoral" 1st mvt, Erwachen heiterer...
Last played on
Piano Concerto no.1 in C major - 3rd movement
Piano Concerto no.1 in C major - 3rd movement
Performer
Paul Lewis
Last played on
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor (Op.37): Rondo finale
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor (Op.37): Rondo finale
Performer
Paul Lewis
Last played on
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