Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven may sound like a stuffy name. But this German composer was a star in his time, and he had many fans. He broke the rules for writing music. Most people consider Beethoven one of the greatest musicians of all time.
A TROUBLED LIFE
Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770. His childhood was unhappy. His father drank too much. Beethoven’s musical talent was obvious from childhood. He quickly became a talented performer on the piano. In 1792, he moved to Vienna, Austria, to study with Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Soon Beethoven was playing music that he wrote himself. Many people admired his powerful, dramatic music.
Beethoven was often ill or depressed. He was unable to find a woman who would marry him. Just as he was becoming very successful, he started to lose his hearing. Deafness is the worst fate for a musician. Beethoven’s performing career was over.
Despite Beethoven’s hearing loss, he still wrote music. The music he wrote became even better. His music was richly expressive and revealed feelings such as joy and sadness. He created one bold masterpiece after another. Besides piano music, Beethoven wrote string quartets (pieces for four stringed instruments) and other kinds of chamber music. Chamber music is written for small groups, and people can play it in their homes or in small halls. Beethoven also wrote songs, two masses, an opera, and nine outstanding symphonies.
Crowds loved him and adored his music. Beethoven was famous, although not happy. In 1827, he got pneumonia and died in Vienna.
WHAT MAKES BEETHOVEN’S MUSIC SPECIAL?
Beethoven studied works by Haydn, German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Then he broke their rules and made music that was like no one else’s. It was emotional and challenging. Beethoven wanted his music to express ideas as well as emotions. He wanted it to praise freedom and equality and other high ideals.
Some of Beethoven’s well-known achievements are the Moonlight Sonata for piano, the Fifth Symphony, and the Ninth Symphony. The Fifth Symphony has a famous four-note opening, da-da-da-dum. The Ninth Symphony ends with a triumphant chorus called “Ode to Joy.” Beethoven’s music set a standard that later composers measured their work by.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta