What I have in my heart and soul – must find a way out. That’s the reason for music.-Beethoven. Ludwig Van Beethoven, also known as “The Father of the Symphony”, revolutionized the musical world from the Classical Era into Romanticism. He expanded the musical language and transitioned his knowledge into a totally different period of music. He wished to experiment with his own style of music and expressed his feelings and ideas through it. For that reason, people from around the world considered him the greatest composer of all times.
Beethoven was born on December 17, 1770, Bonn, Germany. Even though there are no records on the date of his birth, the registry of his baptism states that children were baptized a day after they were born, making this his date of birth. He was the second-born to seven children from Johann Van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich. Only he and his two younger brothers, Kaspar Anton and Nikolaus Johann survived through infancy. His father was his first music teacher and an alcoholic, which then lead to many physical and emotional cases of abuse toward young Beethoven. Ludwig had an incredible music talent even at his young age, and because of this, his father took advantage of the situation and insinuated that Beethoven was a child prodigy at only seven years old.
Sixteen-year-old Beethoven stayed at Dr. Joseph Von Schaden house momentarily because of the music classes he was attending at the moment. Four months later, he traveled to Vienna, Italy with the hopes of studying with one of the greatest composers from the Classical Era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Beethoven was very fond of Mozart and it was one major influence in his life as a musician. Later on, he learned that his mother was extremely ill, and went back to Bonn, Germany as soon as possible. He wrote an apology letter to Dr. Von Schaden in July 1787, and the book called The Music and the Life of Beethoven stated, “I can easily imagine what you must think of me, and I cannot deny that you have good grounds to think of me unfavorably. I must tell you that from the time I left Augsburg, my joy and with my health began to decline. My longing to see my sick mother once more overcame all the obstacles and helped me surmount the greatest difficulties.” (pg. 3) Beethoven’s letter stated his current situation with his health and the unpaid debt owed to Dr. Von Schaden. Weeks later of his return from Vienna, his mother died from tuberculosis, which leads the great composer through a dark path of regret and sorrow.
Beethoven did not compose abundant pieces of music compared to other well-known composers. As the book Music to Your Ears states, “Each of his work took a special importance in his life; therefore, he struggled with them in a way that the Baroque and Classical masters did not struggle with theirs.”(pg.75). He always attempted to make his music stand out and different from others by expressing his feelings through the music. His compositions were divided into three periods: Imitation, Experimentation, and Reflection.
One of his most famous composition was Symphony #5 entitled the Pastoral Symphony. He produced many emotions and images of the subject through this piece and loved by everyone. Symphony #9 was composed in 1824, at this time Beethoven was completely deaf and the pieces were composed of his pure imagination and creativity since he never heard them. One of my favorite piece from Beethoven is Clair de Lune, also known as Moonlight Sonata, because this reminds me of my childhood and it transmits many nostalgic feelings whenever I listen to it.
In 1826, he grew weak and ill from being in contact with pneumonia and it was clear that his health was not going to improve for the better. Sadly, on March 26, 1827, Ludwig Van Beethoven died at 56 years old. Autopsies revealed that his cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver which is a type of liver scarring that leads to liver failure later on. It’s stated by the book called Music to Your Ears that, “Over twenty thousand people lined the streets of Vienna for the funeral procession, and many schools and businesses were closed for the day.” (pg. 75). All of Europe was saddened to hear the loss of a great composer, even though he had difficulty with hearing, he never gave up doing what he loved.
The Heiligenstadt Testament is a letter addressed to Beethoven’s brothers that he wrote in October, 1802. In this letter, he states about his hearing loss and despair on his health. This document was hidden for the rest of his life, mostly because he didn’t want anyone to see it. When Beethoven passed away, the letter was found by Anton Felix and Stephan von Breuning who later on published it on October 1827.
The father of the Symphony as he was also known for, transitioned the classical period into the romantic period by introducing new ideas and styles no other composer was able to. He opened many doors for new composers which lead them into a new era that was then known as the Romantic Era.