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Ludwig Beethoven, full, detailed history, biography, One of the greatest musical geniuses of all time.

by The Oregon Herald
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German pianist and composer widely considered to be one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time.
Beethoven’s personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. Many of Beethoven's most accomplished works were created during the time he was deaf. Bonn, Germany Vienna, Austria
 Published on Monday October 11, 2021 5:21 AM
Ludwig van Beethoven, German: ; baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music. His career has conventionally been divided into early, middle, and late periods. The 'earl'y period, during which he forged his craft, is typically considered to have lasted until 1802. From 1802 to around 1812, his 'middle' period showed an individual development from the 'classical' styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and is sometimes characterized as 'heroic'. During this time, he began to suffer increasingly from deafness. In his 'late' period from 1812 to his death in 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression.

Born in Bonn, Beethoven's musical talent was obvious at an early age, and he was initially harshly and intensively taught by his father Johann van Beethoven. Beethoven was later taught by the composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe, under whose tutelage he published his first work, a set of keyboard variations, in 1783. He found relief from a dysfunctional home life with the family of Helene von Breuning, whose children he loved, befriended, and taught piano. At age 21, he moved to Vienna, which subsequently became his base, and studied composition with Haydn. Beethoven then gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and he was soon patronized by Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky for compositions, which resulted in his three Opus 1 piano trios in 1795.

His first major orchestral work, the First Symphony, premiered in 1800, and his first set of string quartets was published in 1801. Despite his hearing deteriorating during this period, he continued to conduct, premiering his Third and Fifth Symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. His Violin Concerto appeared in 1806. His last piano concerto, dedicated to his frequent patron Archduke Rudolf of Austria, was premiered in 1811, without Beethoven as soloist. He was almost completely deaf by 1814, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public. He described his problems with health and his unfulfilled personal life in two letters, his 'Heiligenstadt Testament' to his brothers and his unsent love letter to an unknown 'Immortal Beloved' .

After 1810, increasingly less socially involved, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works, including later symphonies, mature chamber music and the late piano sonatas. His only opera, Fidelio, first performed in 1805, was revised to its final version in 1814. He composed Missa solemnis between 1819 and 1823 and his final Symphony, No. 9, one of the first examples of a choral symphony, between 1822 and 1824. Written in his last years, his late string quartets, including the Grosse Fuge, of 1825–1826 are among his final achievements. After some months of bedridden illness, he died in 1827. Beethoven's works remain mainstays of the classical music repertoire.

Life and career

Family and early life

Beethoven was the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, a musician from the town of Mechelen in the Austrian Duchy of Brabant who had moved to Bonn at the age of 21. Ludwig was employed as a bass singer at the court of Clemens August, Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, eventually rising to become, in 1761, Kapellmeister and hence a pre-eminent musician in Bonn. The portrait he commissioned of himself towards the end of his life remained displayed in his grandson's rooms as a talisman of his musical heritage. Ludwig had one son, Johann, who worked as a tenor in the same musical establishment and gave keyboard and violin lessons to supplement his income.

Johann married Maria Magdalena Keverich in 1767; she was the daughter of Heinrich Keverich, who had been the head chef at the court of the Archbishopric of Trier. Beethoven was born of this marriage in Bonn, at what is now the Beethoven House Museum, Bonnstrasse 20. There is no authentic record of the date of his birth; but the registry of his baptism, in the Catholic Parish of St. Remigius on 17 December 1770, survives, and the custom in the region at the time was to carry out baptism within 24 hours of birth. There is a consensus that his birth date was 16 December, but no documentary proof of this.

Of the seven children born to Johann van Beethoven, only Ludwig, the second-born, and two younger brothers survived infancy. Kaspar Anton Karl was born on 8 April 1774, and Nikolaus Johann, the youngest, was born on 2 October 1776.

Beethoven's first music teacher was his father. He later had other local teachers: the court organist Gilles van den Eeden, Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer, Franz Rovantini, and court concertmaster Franz Anton Ries for the violin. His tuition began in his fifth year. The regime was harsh and intensive, often reducing him to tears. With the involvement of the insomniac Pfeiffer, there were irregular late-night sessions, with the young Beethoven being dragged from his bed to the keyboard. His musical talent was obvious at a young age. Johann, aware of Leopold Mozart's successes in this area, attempted to promote his son as a child prodigy, claiming that Beethoven was six on the posters for his first public performance in March 1778.

1780–1792: Bonn

In 1780 or 1781, Beethoven began his studies with his most important teacher in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe. Neefe taught him composition; in March 1783 appeared Beethoven's first published work, a set of keyboard variations . Beethoven soon began working with Neefe as assistant organist, at first unpaid, and then as a paid employee of the court chapel. His first three piano sonatas, WoO 47, sometimes known as 'Kurfürst' for their dedication to Elector Maximilian Friedrich, were published in 1783. In the same year, the first printed reference to Beethoven appeared in the Magazin der Musik – 'Louis van Beethoven ... a boy of 11 years and most promising talent. He plays the piano very skilfully and with power, reads at sight very well ... the chief piece he plays is Das wohltemperierte Klavier of Sebastian Bach, which Herr Neefe puts into his hands'. Maximilian Friedrich's successor as Elector of Bonn was Maximilian Franz. He gave some support to Beethoven, appointing him Court Organist and paying towards his visit to Vienna of 1792.

He was introduced in these years to several people who became important in his life. He often visited the cultivated von Breuning family, at whose home he taught piano to some of the children, and where the widowed Frau von Breuning offered him a motherly friendship. Here he also met Franz Wegeler, a young medical student, who became a lifelong friend . The von Breuning family environment offered an alternative to his home life, which was increasingly dominated by his father's decline. Another frequenter of the von Breunings was Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, who became a friend and financial supporter during Beethoven's Bonn period. Waldstein was to commission in 1791 Beethoven's first work for the stage, the ballet Musik zu einem Ritterballett

In the period 1785–90 there is virtually no record of Beethoven's activity as a composer. This may be attributed to the lukewarm response his initial publications had attracted, and also to ongoing problems in the Beethoven family. His mother died in 1787, shortly after Beethoven's first visit to Vienna, where he stayed for about two weeks and almost certainly met Mozart. In 1789 Beethoven's father was forcibly retired from the service of the Court and it was ordered that half of his father's pension be paid directly to Ludwig for support of the family. He contributed further to the family's income by teaching and by playing viola in the court orchestra. This familiarized him with a variety of operas, including works by Mozart, Gluck and Paisiello. Here he also befriended Anton Reicha, a composer, flautist and violinist of about his own age who was a nephew of the court orchestra's conductor, Josef Reicha.

From 1790 to 1792, Beethoven composed several works showing a growing range and maturity. Musicologists have identified a theme similar to those of his Third Symphony in a set of variations written in 1791. It was perhaps on Neefe's recommendation that Beethoven received his first commissions; the Literary Society in Bonn commissioned a cantata to mark the occasion of the death in 1790 of Joseph II, and a further cantata, to celebrate the subsequent accession of Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor, may have been commissioned by the Elector. These two Emperor Cantatas were never performed at the time and they remained lost until the 1880s when they were described by Johannes Brahms as 'Beethoven through and through' and as such prophetic of the style which would mark his music as distinct from the classical tradition.

Beethoven was probably first introduced to Joseph Haydn in late 1790 when the latter was travelling to London and stopped in Bonn around Christmas time. A year and a half later, they met in Bonn on Haydn's return trip from London to Vienna in July 1792, when Beethoven played in the orchestra at the Redoute in Godesberg. Arrangements were likely made at that time for Beethoven to study with the older master. Waldstein wrote to him before his departure: 'You are going to Vienna in fulfilment of your long-frustrated wishes ... With the help of assiduous labour you shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands.'

1792–1802: Vienna – the early years

Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna in November 1792, amid rumours of war spilling out of France; he learned shortly after his arrival that his father had died. Over the next few years, Beethoven responded to the widespread feeling that he was a successor to the recently deceased Mozart by studying that master's work and writing works with a distinctly Mozartian flavour. He did not immediately set out to establish himself as a composer, but rather devoted himself to study and performance. Working under Haydn's direction, he sought to master counterpoint. He also studied violin under Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Early in this period, he also began receiving occasional instruction from Antonio Salieri, primarily in Italian vocal composition style; this relationship persisted until at least 1802, and possibly as late as 1809.

With Haydn's departure for England in 1794, Beethoven was expected by the Elector to return home to Bonn. He chose instead to remain in Vienna, continuing his instruction in counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger and other teachers. In any case, by this time it must have seemed clear to his employer that Bonn would fall to the French, as it did in October 1794, effectively leaving Beethoven without a stipend or the necessity to return. However, several Viennese noblemen had already recognised his ability and offered him financial support, among them Prince Joseph Franz Lobkowitz, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, and Baron Gottfried van Swieten.

Assisted by his connections with Haydn and Waldstein, Beethoven began to develop a reputation as a performer and improviser in the salons of the Viennese nobility. His friend Nikolaus Simrock began publishing his compositions, starting with a set of keyboard variations on a theme of Dittersdorf . By 1793, he had established a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso, but he apparently withheld works from publication so that their eventual appearance would have greater impact.

In 1795 Beethoven made his public debut in Vienna over three days, beginning with a performance of one of his own piano concertos on 29 March at the Burgtheater and ending with a Mozart concerto on 31 March, probably the D minor concerto for which he had written a cadenza soon after his arrival in Vienna. By this year he had two piano concertos available for performance, one in B-flat major he had begun composing before moving to Vienna and had worked on for over a decade, and one in C major composed for the most part during 1795. Viewing the latter as the more substantive work, he chose to designate it as his first piano concerto, publishing it in March 1801 as Opus 15, before publishing the former as Opus 19 the following December. He wrote new cadenzas for both works in 1809. Shortly after his public debut he arranged for the publication of the first of his compositions to which he assigned an opus number, the three piano trios, Opus 1. These works were dedicated to his patron Prince Lichnowsky, and were a financial success; Beethoven's profits were nearly sufficient to cover his living expenses for a year. In 1799 Beethoven participated in a notorious piano 'duel' at the home of Baron Raimund Wetzlar against the virtuoso Joseph Wölfl; and in the following year he similarly triumphed against Daniel Steibelt at the salon of Count Moritz von Fries. Beethoven's eighth piano sonata the 'Pathétique', published in 1799 is described by the musicologist Barry Cooper as 'surpass any of his previous compositions, in strength of character, depth of emotion, level of originality, and ingenuity of motivic and tonal manipulation'

Beethoven composed his first six string quartets between 1798 and 1800 . They were published in 1801. He also completed his Septet in 1799, which was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. With premieres of his First and Second Symphonies in 1800 and 1803, he became regarded as one of the most important of a generation of young composers following Haydn and Mozart. But his melodies, musical development, use of modulation and texture, and characterisation of emotion all set him apart from his influences, and heightened the impact some of his early works made when they were first published. For the premiere of his First Symphony, he hired the Burgtheater on 2 April 1800, and staged an extensive programme, including works by Haydn and Mozart, as well as his Septet, the Symphony, and one of his piano concertos . The concert, which the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung described as 'the most interesting concert in a long time', was not without difficulties; among the criticisms was that 'the players did not bother to pay any attention to the soloist'. By the end of 1800, Beethoven and his music were already much in demand from patrons and publishers.

1802–1812: The 'heroic' period


Beethoven told the English pianist Charles Neate that he dated his hearing loss from a fit he suffered in 1798 induced by a quarrel with a singer. During its gradual decline, his hearing was further impeded by a severe form of tinnitus. As early as 1801, he wrote to Wegeler and another friend Karl Amenda, describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings . The cause was probably otosclerosis, perhaps accompanied by degeneration of the auditory nerve.

On the advice of his doctor, Beethoven moved to the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, from April to October 1802 in an attempt to come to terms with his condition. There he wrote the document now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide due to his growing deafness and records his resolution to continue living for and through his art. The letter was never sent and was discovered in his papers after his death. The letters to Wegeler and Amenda were not so despairing; in them Beethoven commented also on his ongoing professional and financial success at this period, and his determination, as he expressed it to Wegeler, to 'seize Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not crush me completel'y. In 1806, Beethoven noted on one of his musical sketches: 'Let your deafness no longer be a secret – even in art.'

Beethoven's hearing loss did not prevent him from composing music, but it made playing at concerts—an important source of income at this phase of his life—increasingly difficult. Czerny remarked however that Beethoven could still hear speech and music normally until 1812. Beethoven never became totally deaf; in his final years he was still able to distinguish low tones and sudden loud sounds.

1813–1822: Acclaim

Family problems

In early 1813 Beethoven apparently went through a difficult emotional period, and his compositional output dropped. His personal appearance degraded—it had generally been neat—as did his manners in public, notably when dining. Family issues may have played a part in this. Beethoven had visited his brother Johann at the end of October 1812. He wished to end Johann's cohabitation with Therese Obermayer, a woman who already had an illegitimate child. He was unable to convince Johann to end the relationship and appealed to the local civic and religious authorities, but Johann and Therese married on 8 November.

The illness and eventual death of his brother Kaspar from tuberculosis became an increasing concern. Kaspar had been ill for some time; in 1813 Beethoven lent him 1500 florins, to procure the repayment of which he was ultimately led to complex legal measures. After Kaspar died on 15 November 1815, Beethoven immediately became embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with Kaspar's wife Johanna over custody of their son Karl, then nine years old. Beethoven had successfully applied to Kaspar to have himself named the sole guardian of the boy. A late codicil to Kaspar's will gave him and Johanna joint guardianship. While Beethoven was successful at having his nephew removed from her custody in January 1816, and had him removed to a private school in 1818 he was again preoccupied with the legal processes around Karl. While giving evidence to the court for the nobility, the Landrechte, Beethoven was unable to prove that he was of noble birth and as a consequence, on 18 December 1818 the case was transferred to the civil magistrate of Vienna, where he lost sole guardianship. He only regained custody after intensive legal struggles in 1820. During the years that followed, Beethoven frequently interfered in his nephe'ws life in what Karl perceived as an overbearing manner.

1823–1827: The final years

The year 1823 saw the completion of three notable works, all of which had occupied Beethoven for some years, namely the Missa solemnis, the Ninth Symphony and the Diabelli Variations. Beethoven at last presented the manuscript of the completed Missa to Rudolph on 19 March . He was not however in a hurry to get it published or performed as he had formed a notion that he could profitably sell manuscripts of the work to various courts in Germany and Europe at 50 ducats each. One of the few who took up this offer was Louis XVIII of France, who also sent Beethoven a heavy gold medallion. The Symphony and the variations took up most of the rest of Beethoven's working year. Diabelli hoped to publish both works, but the potential prize of the Mass excited many other publishers to lobby Beethoven for it, including Schlesinger and Carl Friedrich Peters. .

Beethoven had become critical of the Viennese reception of his works. He told the visiting Johann Friedrich Rochlitz in 1822:

You will hear nothing of me here ... Fidelio? They cannot give it, nor do they want to listen to it. The symphonies? They have no time for them. My concertos? Everyone grinds out only the stuff he himself has made. The solo pieces? They went out of fashion long ago, and here fashion is everything. At the most, Schuppanzigh occasionally digs up a quartet.

He, therefore, enquired about premiering the Missa and the Ninth Symphony in Berlin. When his Viennese admirers learnt of this, they pleaded with him to arrange local performances. Beethoven was won over, and the symphony was first performed, along with sections of the Missa solemnis, on 7 May 1824, to great acclaim at the Kärntnertortheater. Beethoven stood by the conductor Michael Umlauf during the concert beating time, and because of his deafness was not even aware of the applause which followed until he was turned to witness it. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung gushed, 'inexhaustible genius had shown us a new world', and Carl Czerny wrote that the Symphony 'breathes such a fresh, lively, indeed youthful spirit ... so much power, innovation, and beauty as ever from the head of this original man, although he certainly sometimes led the old wigs to shake their heads'. The concert did not net Beethoven much money, as the expenses of mounting it were very high. A second concert on 24 May, in which the producer guaranteed him a minimum fee, was poorly attended; nephew Karl noted that 'many people already gone into the countr'y. It was Beethoven's last public concert. Beethoven accused Schindler of either cheating him or mismanaging the ticket receipts; this led to the replacement of Schindler as Beethoven's secretary by Karl Holz, the second violinist in the Schuppanzigh Quartet, although by 1826 Beethoven and Schindler were reconciled.

Beethoven then turned to writing the string quartets for Galitzin, despite failing health. The first of these, the quartet in E? major, Op. 127 was premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet in March 1825. While writing the next, the quartet in A minor, Op. 132, in April 1825, he was struck by a sudden illness. Recuperating in Baden, he included in the quartet its slow movement to which he gave the title 'Holy song of thanks to the Divinity, from a convalescent, in the Lydian mode'. The next quartet to be completed was the Thirteenth, op. 130, in B? major. In six movements, the last, contrapuntal movement proved to be very difficult for both the performers and the audience at its premiere in March 1826 . Beethoven was persuaded by the publisher Artaria, for an additional fee, to write a new finale, and to issue the last movement as a separate work . Beethoven's favourite was the last of this series, the quartet in C? minor Op. 131, which he rated as his most perfect single work.

Beethoven's relations with his nephew Karl had continued to be stormy; Beethoven's letters to him were demanding and reproachful. In August, Karl, who had been seeing his mother again against Beethoven's wishes, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head. He survived and after discharge from hospital went to recuperate in the village of Gneixendorf with Beethoven and his uncle Johann. Whilst in Gneixendorf, Beethoven completed a further quartet, which he sent to Schlesinger. Under the introductory slow chords in the last movement, Beethoven wrote in the manuscript 'Muss es sein?' ; the response, over the faster main theme of the movement, is 'Es muss sein!' . The whole movement is headed 'Der schwer gefasste Entschluss' . Following this in November Beethoven completed his final composition, the replacement finale for the op. 130 quartet. Beethoven at this time was already ill and depressed; he began to quarrel with Johann, insisting that Johann made Karl his heir, in preference to Johann's wife


On his return journey to Vienna from Gneixendorf in December 1826, illness struck Beethoven again. He was attended until his death by Dr. Andreas Wawruch, who throughout December noticed symptoms including fever, jaundice and dropsy, with swollen limbs, coughing and breathing difficulties. Several operations were carried out to tap off the excess fluid from Beethoven's abdomen.

Karl stayed by Beethoven's bedside during December, but left after the beginning of January to join the army at Iglau and did not see his uncle again, although he wrote to him shortly afterwards 'My dear father ... I am living in contentment and regret only that I am separated from you.' Immediately following Karl's departure, Beethoven wrote a will making his nephew his sole heir. Later in January, Beethoven was attended by Dr. Malfatti, whose treatment was largely centred on alcohol. As the news spread of the severity of Beethoven's condition, many old friends came to visit, including Diabelli, Schuppanzigh, Lichnowsky, Schindler, the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel and his pupil Ferdinand Hiller. Many tributes and gifts were also sent, including £100 from the Philharmonic Society in London and a case of expensive wine from Schotts. During this period, Beethoven was almost completely bedridden despite occasional brave efforts to rouse himself. On 24 March, he said to Schindler and the others present 'Plaudite, amici, comoedia finita est' . Later that day, when the wine from Schott arrived, he whispered, 'Pity – too late.'

Beethoven died on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56; only his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner and a 'Frau van Beethoven' were present. According to Hüttenbrenner, at about 5 in the afternoon there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder: 'Beethoven opened his eyes, lifted his right hand and looked up for several seconds with his fist clenched ... not another breath, not a heartbeat more.' Many visitors came to the death-bed; some locks of the dead man's hair were retained by Hüttenbrenner and Hiller, amongst others. An autopsy revealed Beethoven suffered from significant liver damage, which may have been due to his heavy alcohol consumption, and also considerable dilation of the auditory and other related nerves.

Beethoven's funeral procession in Vienna on 29 March 1827 was attended by an estimated 10,000 people. Franz Schubert and the violinist Joseph Mayseder were among the torchbearers. A funeral oration by the poet Franz Grillparzer was read by the actor Heinrich Anschütz. Beethoven was buried in the Währing cemetery, north-west of Vienna, after a requiem mass at the church of the Holy Trinity in Alserstrasse. Beethoven's remains were exhumed for study in 1863, and moved in 1888 to Vienna's Zentralfriedhof where they were reinterred in a grave adjacent to that of Schubert.


The 'three periods'

The historian William Drabkin notes that as early as 1818 a writer had proposed a three-period division of Beethoven's works and that such a division eventually became a convention adopted by all of Beethoven's biographers, starting with Schindler, F.-J. Fétis and Wilhelm von Lenz. Later writers sought to identify sub-periods within this generally accepted structure. Its drawbacks include that it generally omits a fourth period, that is, the early years in Bonn, whose works are less often considered; and that it ignores the differential development of Beethoven's composing styles over the years for different categories of work. The piano sonatas, for example, were written throughout Beethoven's life in a progression that can be interpreted as continuous development; the symphonies do not all demonstrate linear progress; of all of the types of composition, perhaps the quartets, which seem to group themselves in three periods fit this categorization most neatly. Drabkin concludes that 'now that we have lived with them so long ... as long as there are programme notes, essays written to accompany recordings, and all-Beethoven recitals, it is hard to imagine us ever giving up the notion of discrete stylistic periods.'

Bonn 1782–1792

Some forty compositions, including ten very early works written by Beethoven up to 1785, survive from the years that Beethoven lived in Bonn. It has been suggested that Beethoven largely abandoned composition between 1785 and 1790, possibly as a result of negative critical reaction to his first published works. A 1784 review in Johann Nikolaus Forkel's influential Musikalischer Almanack compared Beethoven's efforts to those of rank beginners. The three early piano quartets of 1785, closely modelled on violin sonatas of Mozart, show his dependency on the music of the period. Beethoven himself was not to give any of the Bonn works an opus number, save for those which he reworked for use later in his career, for example, some of the songs in his Op. 52 collection and the Wind Octet reworked in Vienna in 1793 to become his String Quintet, Op. 4. Charles Rosen points out that Bonn was something of a backwater compared to Vienna; Beethoven was unlikely to be acquainted with the mature works of Haydn or Mozart, and Rosen opines that his early style was closer to that of Hummel or Muzio Clementi. Kernan suggests that at this stage Beethoven was not especially notable for his works in sonata style, but more for his vocal music; his move to Vienna in 1792 set him on the path to develop the music in the genres he became known for.

The first period

The conventional 'first period' begins after Beethoven's arrival in Vienna in 1792. In the first few years he seems to have composed less than he did at Bonn, and his Piano Trios, op.1 were not published until 1795. From this point onward, he had mastered the 'Viennese style' and was making the style his own. His works from 1795 to 1800 are larger in scale than was the norm ; typically he uses a scherzo rather than a minuet and trio; and his music often includes dramatic, even sometimes over-the-top, uses of extreme dynamics and tempi and chromatic harmony. It was this that led Haydn to believe the third trio of Op.1 was too difficult for an audience to appreciate.

He also explored new directions and gradually expanded the scope and ambition of his work. Some important pieces from the early period are the first and second symphonies, the set of six string quartets Opus 18, the first two piano concertos, and the first dozen or so piano sonatas, including the famous Pathétique sonata, Op. 13.

The middle period

His middle period began shortly after the personal crisis brought on by his recognition of encroaching deafness. It includes large-scale works that express heroism and struggle. Middle-period works include six symphonies, the last two piano concertos, the Triple Concerto and violin concerto, five string quartets, several piano sonatas, the Kreutzer violin sonata and his only opera, Fidelio.

The 'middle period' is sometimes associated with a 'heroic' manner of composing, but the use of the term 'heroic' has become increasingly controversial in Beethoven scholarship. The term is more frequently used as an alternative name for the middle period. The appropriateness of the term 'heroic' to describe the whole middle period has been questioned as well: while some works, like the Third and Fifth Symphonies, are easy to describe as 'heroic', many others, like his Symphony No. 6, Pastoral or his Piano Sonata No. 24, are not

The late period

Beethoven's late period began in the decade 1810-1819. He began a renewed study of older music, including works by Palestrina, Johann Sebastian Bach, and George Frideric Handel, whom Beethoven considered 'the greatest composer who ever lived'. Beethoven's late works incorporated polyphony and Baroque-era devices. For example, the overture The Consecration of the House included a fugue influenced by Handel's music. A new style emerged, now called his 'late period'. He returned to the keyboard to compose his first piano sonatas in almost a decade; the works of the late period include the last five piano sonatas and the Diabelli Variations, the last two sonatas for cello and piano, the late string quartets, and two works for very large forces: the Missa solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. Works from this period are characterised by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal expression. The String Quartet, Op. 131 has seven linked movements, and the Ninth Symphony adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement.

Beethoven's pianos

Beethoven's earlier preferred pianos included those of Johann Andreas Stein; he may have been given a Stein piano by Count Waldstein. From 1786 onwards there is evidence of Beethoven's cooperation with Johann Andreas Streicher, who had married Stein's daughter Nannette. Streicher left Stein's business to set up his own firm in 1803, and Beethoven continued to admire his products, writing to him in 1817 of his 'special preference' for his pianos. Amongst the other pianos Beethoven possessed was an Érard piano given to him by the manufacturer in 1803. The Érard piano, with its exceptional resonance, may have influenced Beethoven's piano style – shortly after receiving it he began writing his 'Waldstein' Sonata – but despite initial enthusiasm he seems to have abandoned it before 1810, when he wrote that it was 'simply not of any use any more'; in 1824 he gave it to his brother Johann. In 1818 Beethoven received, also as gift, a grand piano by John Broadwood & Sons. Although Beethoven was proud to receive it, he seems to have been dissatisfied by its tone, and sought to get it remodelled to make it louder. In 1825 Beethoven commissioned a piano from Conrad Graf, which was equipped with quadruple strings and a special resonator to make it audible to him, but which failed in this task.



There is a museum, the Beethoven House, the place of his birth, in central Bonn. The same city has hosted a musical festival, the Beethovenfest, since 1845. The festival was initially irregular but has been organised annually since 2007.

The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, in the campus of San Jose State University, California. serves as a museum, research center, and host of lectures and performances devoted solely to Beethoven's life and works.


The Beethoven Monument in Bonn was unveiled in August 1845, in honour of the 75th anniversary of his birth. It was the first statue of a composer created in Germany, and the music festival that accompanied the unveiling was the impetus for the very hasty construction of the original Beethovenhalle in Bonn . Vienna honoured Beethoven with a statue in 1880.


The third largest crater on Mercury is named in his honour,as is the main-belt asteroid 1815 Beethoven.

Beethoven's music features twice on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.

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