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Ludwig Van Beethoven

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Ludwig van Beethoven was, and remains today, an Olympian

figure in the history of classical music. His influence on the

last 150 years of music is unequalled; while generally


member of the Classicist fold, he was in fact the first

Romantic, and pre-figured virtually all music that followed the

Romantic era as well. Perhaps no other composer in history

wrote music of such exhilarating power and expressiveness;

certainly no other composer did so against greater odds.

Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. His father, a music

enthusiast, dreamed of molding his son into the next Mozart.

Beethoven never exhibited the astonishing prodigy

characteristics of his predecessor, but he was unusually

talented, learning the piano, organ and violin at an early age.

At 14, he was already proficient enough on the organ to

receive a professional appointment. His family life was

chaotic; his father was an alcoholic, and his mother died

suddenly when he was only 17. After that tragedy, his

domestic situation declined even more, and this condition -

combined with support from Haydn - compelled him to leave

home in 1790 and travel to Vienna to study composition. In

Vienna, Beethoven first studied with Haydn, but eventually

became frustrated with that great composer's teaching

methods, moving on to study with other composers. He

performed frequently in salons of wealthy nobility, but

strangely enough, did not perform in public until he was 25.

But from this point onward, he was embraced by both the

common folk and the aristocracy of Vienna, so much so that

he never had to rely on court appointments or private patrons

for his livelihood. He did receive stipends from admirers and

friends, but he remained independent of the shackles of

conditional patronage that frustrated so many of his

contemporaries. Beethoven was lucky in one sense; he rose

to prominence in the musical world at a time when social

strata were becoming more flexible, and the emerging power

of the middle class provided him many opportunities for

performances of his music for public audiences. This,

combined with lucrative publishing arrangements, allowed him

to live relatively well. He was not ignorant of the benefits of

aristocratic support, however; throughout his career, he

cultivated a romantic, moody and mercurial image with the

upper class and leveraged this persona to achieve a social

status equal to the Viennese nobility. Beethoven was a

master symphonist



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