Ludwig van Beethoven

(1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven has a prominent place in the pantheon of composers, for his influence has stretched far beyond his stature even as the greatest German composer of the Classical period.

After an unhappy childhood there were abortive attempts at studying with Albrectsberger and Salieri. He settled in Vienna establishing himself as a freelance musician, rebelling against the common practice of court patronage. Deafness afflicted him from early manhood and eventually became total, bringing to an end his performing career but not his composing.

His work constantly broke new ground, extending the technical and expressive range of piano music (as in his thirty-two piano sonatas and five concertos) and establishing the symphony, of which he wrote nine, as a major artistic form. In contrast to other composers of the time he wrote only one opera, Fidelio, which none the less ranks as a masterpiece. The chamber music is recognised as being of outstanding beauty and pathos, especially the string quartets of his later years. His personality was not, however, so refined and he was regarded as brusque and temperamental.

Beethoven died of dropsy and his funeral in Vienna was effectively a state occasion.

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