At the turn of the 18th century to the 19th, Ludwig van Beethoven came on the scene as an explosion. His works were built on the achievements of the Classical Period. He inherited a style and certain musical forms from Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven’s music embodied a new dynamism and power that symbolized the changing role of the composer in the society. Well, the composer was no longer the servant of the society who used to be required submissively to meet its needs. The composer became a hero in the 19th century society. Beethoven transformed the Classical heritage into the source of Romantic Period. Beethoven himself was neither a Classical composer, nor a Romantic one. He is Beethoven and his figure towers like a huge statue in the history of music. We name the years between 1790-1830 as the AGE OF BEETHOVEN.
When we take a look at the historical events of his time, we find that in 1789 there was the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte had begun his rise to the dictatorship. In 1792, George Washington was the president of the United States. Joseph Haydn was at the height of his fame, and Mozart’s body was lying in an unmarked grave in a Viennese cemetery. The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was very impressive in the social change of European life. And Beethoven, unlike Mozart, was very much impressed by the historical events of his time, which is a sign for romanticism.
Beethoven was born in Bonn. His grandfather was Flemish and emigrated to Bonn and was a court singer. His father was a court musician as well and had every intention of turning his son into a child prodigy, a second Mozart. The child was beaten, overworked and forced to practice long hours. He played in public when he was eight years old. But his precocity was not similar to Mozart’s. He was removed from school at eleven, in order to be concentrated in music. He had instructions on the piano, organ and violin. He studied composition with a remarkable composer in the baroque tradition, called Neefe who was an organist from Bonn. At 13 years old, he had a position as an assistant organist. At 17, he went to study in Vienna. There he probably had some lessons with Mozart, who prophesied a bright future for him. Then he had to go back home to see his dying mother. Afterwards he had to take care of his family because his father was a drunkard. His main duty was to play viola in the theater orchestra of the court of Count Waldstein. Since Bonn was too small for a developing composer, then Beethoven went to Vienna again to study with Haydn in 1792. The lessons were not succesful. Then he studied with the leading teachers of the day, including Gluck and Salieri. Meanwhile he was establishing himself as a bright pianist. As a pianist, Beethoven had a deep fire, brillance and fantasy. His first published work was also for his instrument: A piano trio of op.1 in 1795.
For thirthy years, he produced music of all kinds in a steady flow. His first public appearance was a soloist in his second piano concerto (in order of composition, no.1), in 1795. Five years later he conducted his first symphony in Vienna. In 1805, his only opera Fidelio (Leonora) was performed. Then his famous symphonies followed each other ending with the 9th, which has a choral final by the text of Schiller (1824), “Ode to Joy”.
Beethoven stayed in Vienna until his death. He always ran after an unattainable love, which is a characteristic of the romantic composer. During his lifetime he head a couple of crises. His first crises caught him when he discovered his deafness to be perpetual. The second crises of his lifetime occured when he had to come to an end with his love affair. This should be an affair with the wife of one of his best friends. In 1825 his brother Karl died. Beethoven wanted to legalize his son as of his. This procedure took quite a long time and afterwards the nephew Carl, at 10, tried to commit suicide. This event was to cause another crises period for Beethoven. He spent a few months at his nephew’s house. As he came back home, he was a sick man. For three months he lay in his bad. On the 27th of March, 1827, in a stormy weather, with a thunder he gave his last breath. His tomb is in the central cemetery of Vienna.
Beethoven’s music, more than that of any composer before him, gives the impression of being a direct outpouring of his personality. This is a step to Romanticism, where the content became more important than the form. But Beethoven also kept the tradition of Classical age where the form should balance the content. Comparing to his predecessors, the main outstanding characteristics of Beethoven’s music, is the quality of passionate energy. The energy breaks forth also as humor, not like the playfulness of Haydn or the gaity of Mozart. He had something more robust, and hearty, a romantic irony. Still his music is not always volcanic or exuberant; it may melt into tenderness, like in the second movement of his piano sonata op.90; or sadness, like the Adagio of his op.59. Sudden change of mood is another characteristic of his works, like the finale of the 9th symphony.
Beethoven’s deafness had started as early as 1798, when he was 28 years old. And it grew worse and worse until 1820, then he became totally deaf. As a gifted and thoroughly trained musician, with a perfect inner ear, he could hear music, by looking at it, and could write the ideas that came into his head. As time went on, he became more and more sensitive and he turned to himself, unable to share his thoughts with others, growing steadily more touchy, eccentric and more aggressive. He kept notebooks and sketchbooks for his compositions. He had a habit of taking long walks and composing out-of-doors. His physical appearance was described as a “Red face with small piercing eyes, bushy eyebrows, white hair, and wearing a black overcoat all the time. He used to have a forceful laughter that was painful to his listeners.

Bethoven’s creative life has traditionally been divided into three periods. Vincent d’Indy, the French composer and musicologist (at the same time he was the tudor of Adnan Saygun during his stay in Paris, aronud 1928) calls them the periods of Imıtation, Externalization and Reflection.
Imitation Period (1795-1802)
These years are Beethoven’s youth and early manhood, with his establishment as a major composer, imitating the works of Haydn and Mozart. The first three piano sonatas are influenced by Haydn and dedicated to him. Instead of three movements, Beethoven’s sonatas are in four. Same structure reflects to his symphonies as well: The classical Minuetto is replaced by a brisky Scherzo.
His works in this period carry a classical form with a romantic content. Piano Sonatas (OP.7, 10, 13); piano trios, Quartets op.18; violin sonatas no.1, op 12, violoncello sonata op.5, septet for strings op.20; First symphony (Haydnesque), second symphony and the piano concerto no.2, which is indeed the first in order of composition, belong to this period.
Externalization Period (1803-1816)
This is his middle life in which he handled all musical forms with full command and produced many of his most famous works. Beethoven never in his life had to write music for anyone else’s command. He wrote for himself, for an ideal universal audience and not for a patron. Therefore his music is strongly pernsonal, a direct expression of himself and of his historical epoch. In this period we find an eccentricity of speech and manner in his works: Third Symphony (Eroica-heroic-idealization of Napoleon); fourth; fifth (fate knocking the door with the famous four chords); sixth (Pastoral-descriptive titles, suggesting scenes from country life, storm, man’s glad acceptance of nature); seventh and eigth were written in this period.
His orchestral overtures are related in style to these symphonies (Egmont, Leonora, Coriolan). The last three piano concertos, the only violin concerto, trio concerto; his only opera Fidelio, Razumovsky quartets; violin sonatas, piano sonatas, are the products of this period. ( Sonatas like Moonlight, Apassionata, Waldstein).
Reflection Period (1816-1827)
The years around 1815 were the most pleasant years for Beethoven. His music was much played in Vienna and he was celebrated both home and abroad. His financial affairs were in good order thanks to the demand of publishers and the generosity of patrons. But his deafness cuased him to loose contact with others and he became very suspicious even towards his close friends. He retreated into himself and isolated from others. The trials social and personal, that Beethoven underwent seem to have a clear reflection in his music. His deafness prevented him to hear new works of other composers, so his own idiom instead of altering as the years passed, stayed basically the same, only growing more refined and concentrated. The great climaxes to his life’s work were still to come: They consist of two choral works (9th Symphony and Missa Solemnis) and a group of string quartets Op.135. “Diabelli Variations” for piano show how he changed his concept on theme and variation form where he discovered new layers of meaning in each variation. His last five piano sonatas are also in this group.
The character of his third style works are meditative. A feeling of tranquility and calm affirmation replaced his former agitation and passionate outpouring. His musical language became more abstract and concentrated. He invented new sonorities. His 9th Symphony is a vision of perfection and eternal human bliss. First performed in 1824, Beethoven introduced a choir, soloists and orchestra together to join in the expression of the feelings about humanity and universal brotherhood. The words are from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”.
Only a few of his contemporaries understood his late works. They were so personal that they could hardly be imitated. Beethoven was chiefly concerned with the truth (content), not beauty (form) in his last string quartets (Op.135). The revolutionary element, the demon like spirit and the underlying conception of music as a mood of self-expression fascinated the romantic generation.

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