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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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Ludwig van Beethoven was the reflection of infinite strength and musicality. A man who did not allow deafness to bar him from composing music, he exhibited the amazing ability to transcend physical limitations. Beethovenís childhood was difficult and tumultuous. His father was a violent drunkard who hoped to capitalize on Beethovenís piano playing. The young boy was abused while he practiced, and forced to give concerts in order to fund his fatherís continual use of alcohol. Beethoven became a shy, awkward, and excessively sensitive young man whose only source of companionship and tenderness was his mother.

Although Beethoven did exhibit a great deal of talent in his childhood performances, he did not rouse the attention of audiences as Mozart had done. Beethovenís initial teacher was a kind man by the name of Christian Gottlob Neefe. Neefe was the court organist, and allowed Beethoven to substitute for him as times. In 1787 the courtís elector was impressed with Beethoven, and provided him with the funds to visit Vienna. There Beethoven played for Mozart, the man he most revered, and won his approval. Sadly, he received the news that his mother was suffering from tuberculosis, and rushed back home from Vienna to sit by his motherís death bed.

Following the death of his mother, Beethoven was wholly responsible for controlling his fatherís antics. In order to support himself and his intemperate father, Beethoven performed on the viola in theatre orchestra, and gave lessons to the children of nobility. In 1790 Haydn encountered Beethoven, and was greatly impressed by the boyís talent. Haydn encouraged Beethoven to come to Vienna and study with him. Thus, 1792 found Beethoven living in Vienna and studying under Haydn. However, the personalities of these two musicians clashed. Haydn could not temper nor work with Beethovenís aggressive and crude manners, and Beethoven could not conform himself to Haydnís traditional and restrictive views. Beethoven sought other mentors; however, he encountered few who he was able to learn from. A self taught man, Beethoven could not confine his musical style to the limiting beliefs of others.

Throughout his life, Beethoven received tremendous support from the courts. Many princes welcomed him and appreciated his talents. The nobility gave Beethoven great respect when he performed, and often requested private lessons from him. They looked past his sensitive, and often rude behavior because of the extent to which they valued his musicianship.

In 1801 Beethoven began to recognize that he was going deaf He did not alert many of his friends about this condition, and therefore many believed that he was unnecessarily becoming ruder and more reclusive. At this time, Beethoven wrote a will, as he anticipated a quick death. However, Beethoven summoned up the strength to endure, and death did not suddenly overtake him. Many brilliant pieces of music were yet to be written. A heroic and somber tone were expressed in his next works, characterizing the trials Beethoven had endured.

Men of the highest stations vied to entertain Beethoven, as he became a greater and greater illustration of strength. Almost completely deaf, Beethoven turned away from people, and looked to spirit for comfort and assurance. He worked assiduously on his music, producing spellbinding symphonies and operas. Beethoven was prone to falling in love, and constantly dedicated his works to the beautiful, noble women who came to him for private lessons.

During the middle phase of his life, Beethoven produced music prolifically. Symphony no. 6, Symphony no. 7, and Symphony no. 8, as well as many sonatas were written and distributed. Beethovenís days as a pianist had come to a close, for deafness prevented him from performing. However, this afforded Beethoven greater time to spend on his compositions. When he contemplated moving to Germany to attain a secure post, many of his Viennese patrons banded together to provide the composer with a lifelong income.

Toward the final phase of Beethovenís life, he focused on bringing out spiritual concepts in his music. He also hoped to gain custody of his brotherís orphaned son. Although the young boy was eventually placed under Beethovenís custody, he proved to be an ungrateful burden. Nonetheless, Beethovenís commitment to spiritualizing his music endured.

In 1824 Beethoven sat onstage at the premiere of the Ninth Symphony. Beating in time with the music, he was completely unaware when the piece came to an end. Thus, the audience came to appreciate the reality of Beethovenís miraculous strength. He was a man who did not allow deafness to distance him from the music in his soul. Although he could not hear a word, he could communicate immensely powerful emotions to masses of individuals. Thus, when Beethoven passed away in 1827 thousands of his devotees lined the streets in mourning.

 

Notes by Shanaira Udwadia (May-2001)