Ludwig Van Beethoven - the great deaf composer | Sunday Observer

Ludwig Van Beethoven - the great deaf composer

German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time and was a predominant figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras.

He was born in 1770, as the eldest child of Johann and Maria Magdalena Beethoven. However, his date of birth is unknown. His family, and later a teacher of his Johann Albrechts Berger celebrated Beethoven’s birthday on December 16. Records indicate that he was baptised on December 17, 1770.

The Beethoven family is of Flemish origin and it was Beethoven’s grandfather, also named Ludwig who first settled in Bonn when he became a singer in the choir of the Archbishop – elector of Colonge. Later, he was promoted as the Kappelmeister.

Beethoven’s father Johann was also a singer in the electors’ choir. Johann Beethoven realised that his son was very talented and he tried to portray him as a child prodigy such as Mozart but failed in the attempt. This was because Beethoven blossomed as a musician only in adolescence, not as early as Mozart.

In 1773 Beethoven’s grand -father Ludwig died and the family’s fortunes dwindled and Beethoven’s father Johann became an alcholic making the family’s situation worse. Beethoven had to leave school at the age of 11 and at 18 he became the breadwinner of the family.

In 1780, Joseph, 11 became the sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and appointed his brother Maximillian Francis as adjutant and successor to the Archbishop of Cologne who transformed the City into a cultural hub. Thus, this was the environment in which young Beethoven grew up, and developed his musical talents.

Beethoven’s father was his first music teacher and he was a hard task master. Subsequently, he was taught by others such as the court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe and Tobias Pfeiffer (a family friend who taught him the keyboard). By 1782, Beethoven had become Neefe’s assistant Court organist. He studied counterpoint and harmony with renowned teacher Johann Albrechtsberger.

Archbishop elector Maximillian sent Beethoven to study with Mozart, but Beethoven had to return home suddenly owing to his mother’s death. It is said that Mozart was so impressed by Beethoven’s improvisation that he is supposed to have said, "This young man will make a great name for himself in the world.”

Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and struck up friendships with other well-known composers such as Joseph Haydn. It was also at this time that Beethoven began to compose seriously.

Tragically, by 1796 he started to suffer from tinnitus and began to lose his hearing.

It was during the middle period of his career that Ludwig Van Beethoven composed sonatas such as the Waldstein and the Apassionata. In 1808, he composed the Fifth Symphony, the opening motif, which is one of the most famous excerpts of music in the history of music.

Beethoven completed his one and only opera ‘Fidelio’ in 1805 and it took him years to complete it to his satisfaction. It is said that he wrote one aria 18 times. He also composed four overtures for it before finally deciding on the one he liked. 'Fidelio’ premiered at Vienna’s Theatre An der Wien on November 20, 1805.

Sickness and deafness decreased Beethoven’s composing of music but some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life when he could not hear at all. Among his works at the time were some important pieces such as his late quartets in 1825. These were considered to be very inventive for the era.

Ludwig van Beethoven passed away in Vienna on March 26,1827 after a long illness.


 Some of Beethoven’s work

The Ninth Symphony (Symphony No 9 in D minor Op 125 ). Popularly known as the Choral Symphony and written in 1824 this has remained a favourite among classical, musical lovers through the ages. It was the first time that a composer had used choral voices in a major symphony. This is the last of Beethoven’s great symphonies. This symphony written during 1803-1804 debuted on April 7, 1805 in honour of Napolean Bonaparte.

The ‘Eroica’ (Symphony No 3 in E flat major - Op 55 ) This is one of Beethovens’s most famous works and is a large scale composition which marks the start of Beethoven’s 'creative middle period.'

The Sixth Symphony (Symphony No 6 in F major Op 68) This is also known as the ‘Pastoral ‘ (German- Pastorale). Written in the classical, era it has five movements.

The’ Waldstein’ Sonata – This Piano Sonata No 21 in C major Op 53 is also known as the ‘Waldstein Sonata’. It is an important work in what is known as ‘Beethoven’s Heroic Decade’ (1803-1812).

The ‘Sonata Pathetique’ (Piano Sonata No 8 in C minor Op 13), was written in 1798 when Beethoven was 27 years old. It has three movements. It is thought that the name ‘Pathetique' was chosen by Beethoven to denote the romantic and even sorrowful mood of the sonata.

Fuer Elise – The popular name for Beethoven’s Bagatelle No 25 in A minor, is Fur Elise (the German for for Elise).

There is confusion as to Elise’s identity. Beethoven had dedicated this to Fur Therese and the difference in name is attributed to a rather slapdash copywriter, called Ludwig Nohl who is supposed to have mixed up the names.