Het leven van LvB

Beethoven’s childhood (1770-1792)

Beethoven’s Birth and Family

Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn, in a family of musicians at the royal court of Cologne. His name was given after his grandfather, who was Flemish and who settled in Bonn in 1732. He was a bass player at court, and later, starting with 1761, he became maestro of the chapel.

Beethoven’s father, Johann, left many unpleasant memories in his son’s existence. Undoubtedly talented, Johann was not only incapable of being a positive influence on his genius son’s education, but, at times, he was outright prejudicial. In 1767 Johann marries Maria-Magdalena Kewerich the daughter of the chief cook at the Coblenz court, a 19-year-old widow. Her first husband had been a butler at court. Maria-Magdalena was one of the most radiant figures in Beethoven’s childhood. Her kind, affectionate and gentle character did not stop her from manifesting great self-restraint, amazing will and extraordinary wit if the situation called for it. She had remarkable tact in dealing with her loved ones as well as with strangers.

In December 1770 Maria-Magdalena gives birth to a baby boy whom she names Ludwig. The exact date of birth is unknown; however the records show that the baptising took place on December 17th 1770 so the most probable date of birth is December 16th.

The First Years in Bonn

Ludwig spent the first years of his childhood with his family, in a harmonious and fruitful atmosphere. Johann Beethoven had a good financial situation at the time, although somewhat moderate. Old Ludwig, the composer’s grandfather, was supporting the weak and feeble Johann both morally and financially.

When Ludwig turned five, the Beethoven family moved to Rhine Street, in the house of a baker named Fischer. The Rhine’s right bank revealed itself before the windows of the house, with its small villages and fields as well as the seven mountains rising ahead. Little Ludwig was sometimes completely captured in a deep meditation upon looking at the marvelous river. One could hardly get him out of this state.

Even as a child he stood apart through a rare capacity to focus and through his introvert nature. However, one must not picture little Ludwig as a self-encased melancholic. On the contrary, he was a vigorous youngster not much different from other scoundrels his age. At least this is the image portrayed by Fischer’s manuscript (the baker’s son, Ludwig’s youngest friend, left some indications about Beethoven’s childhood, although not very accurate). Ludwig’s hot temper manifested itself in his passionate affection or, on the contrary, his direct repulsion towards certain people, or in his attitude towards the events of everyday life, in his sense of humor, in his disposition to laugh as much as he could.

Until the age of ten, Ludwig went to primary school, but the years he actually spent in school gave him little knowledge. He could not further his studies due to his family’s poor financial status. We could say that until this period, Beethoven’s childhood was that of any normal child of his age.

Little Mozart

Becoming aware of his son’s extraordinary talent, Johann thinks of turning young Beethoven into a new Mozart (whose childhood success was still vivid in people’s minds). In this respect, he tries to provide Ludwig with a musical education that might enhance his remarkable abilities. In fact, from this point on, Beethoven’s childhood will be marked by his father’s cruel attempts to transform him into a music genius.

Until the age of 12 his studies lacked any systematic organization. Among his teachers there was one of the court’s musicians, a certain Eden, followed by actor Tobias Pfeifer and Franciscan monk Willibald Koch.

In March 1778, Johann forces Ludwig to hold a concert in Koeln. At that time Beethoven was 8 years old.

The First Teacher

In 1782, Beethoven finds his first real teacher – Christian-Gottlob Neefe, the musical director of the national theatre in Bonn. As a true scholar, Neefe became a mentor for Beethoven, showing him the advanced ideas of his century. In 1783, Neefe wrote about Beethoven in a musical magazine: “This young genius deserves to be supported in his artistic endeavors. If he continues in the same manner he started, he is sure to become a second Wolfgang-Amadeus Mozart“. Neefe was Ludwig’s devoted friend for many years, including his childhood. Beethoven held the highest esteem for him, so, in 1793 he wrote to him: “If I ever will amount to anything, this will undoubtedly be your merit.”

Beethoven’s Youth (1770-1792)

Begining to Learn. Beethoven’s First Compositions

Neefe becomes aware not only of his student’s genius, but also of his minuses: lack of self-restraint, discipline and culture. In order to reach a certain level, Beethoven was supposed to thoroughly study the creations of the great composers before him. Thus, he starts with the study of Bach and Handel and continues with that of his contemporaries: Mozart, Haydn and Philipp-Emmanuel Bach.

Young Beethoven’s first known composition – variations for piano on a march theme by Dressler – long forgotten today – dates from 1782. His next work, which still holds a certain importance today, is made up of three sonatas for harpsichord and it was written in 1783 when Beethoven had not yet turned 13. The composition was dedicated to Max-Friederich – the old prince of Cologne. These kinds of dedications were not completely disinterested, since musicians often hoped to gain financial advantages from that. Nevertheless, the financial status of Beethoven’s family remained unaltered.

At the age of 14, the composer’s creation had improved, mostly influenced by Mozart, with various songs and compositions for piano, quartets, and even a concert for piano, out of which only parts remained. At the age of 16, Ludwig already had somewhat of a reputation in Bonn. He taught music lessons and held concerts at aristocratic residences, as well as at court. His fervent harpsichord improvisations held his audience in complete awe. Ludwig’s first compositions, sonatas, quartets, lieds, could easily be compared to the works of well-known German composers of that time. Every so often, they were proof of how the young composer attempted to create a new universe out of musical images.

Vienna for the First Time. Studying with Mozart

However, young Beethoven was no longer satisfied with what Bonn’s artistic life had to offer. Already an ardent Mozart fan, Beethoven decides to go to Vienna in 1787, in order to study with Mozart. There is little information on Beethoven’s first trip to Vienna. The date of his departure, as well as the length of his stay there, are virtually unknown. However, it is known that in 1787 Mozart found time to listen to him although at that time he was completely absorbed by the composition of Don Juan. The young composer brilliantly improvised on a theme suggested by Mozart, astonishing his entire audience. After having listened to him, Mozart said: “watch out for that boy. One day he will give the world something to talk about“. Beethoven started taking lessons with Mozart.

The Family Problems

The news of his mother’s illness determines Beethoven to put on hold his newfound life in Vienna and to return to Bonn. After her death in 1787, Beethoven’s troubles become all the more stringent. He is frequently ill and Johann Beethoven’s behavior becomes intolerable, up to the point where Ludwig asks the prince to give him custody of his two younger siblings. It was decided that half of Johann’s salary of 200 talers was to be used for the raising of the two children. After taking his salary, Johann regularly gave half of it to his older son. For another five years, until his death, wretched Johann Beethoven was a disgrace to his family and the ridicule of the whole community.

These aspects of his life left deep scars in Beethoven’s existence. He nevertheless found comfort and support in the love of a Bonn family, the Breunings, to whom he always remained close. Sweet „Lorchen”, Eleonora von Breuning was two years younger than him. Beethoven was her music teacher, sharing with her the secrets of poetry. Eleonora was his childhood friend and, who knows if there was no romantic involvement between them. She later married doctor Franz Gerhard Wegeler, one of Beethoven’s closest friends. And up to the very end, the relationship between them remained under the auspices of friendship, as their sincere and compassionate letters show (alter treuer Freund, Guter lieber Wegeler)

Meeting Haydn. Vienna for the Second Time

Playing in Neefe’s orchestra, from 1788 until 1792 (when he moves to Vienna), was an excellent opportunity for him to practice and to become acquainted with the most popular operas of his time. His last years in Bonn meant an intense spiritual accomplishment for young Beethoven. He embraced the progressive ideas of his century, in poetry, drama and opera.

Another important aspect of this period is his admittance at the Bonn University on May 14th 1789. Also, during these years, he has the opportunity to meet old Joseph Haydn, who stops at Bonn twice on his way from Vienna to London and back. He commends one of Beethoven’s compositions from 1790 written at the death of Joseph II. Subsequently, Beethoven decides to go to Vienna to continue his studies with Germany’s greatest composer at that time.

Beethoven’s Rise to fame (1792-1805)

The First Years in Vienna. Studying with Haydn

After leaving Bonn on the 2nd or 3rd of November, Beethoven reaches Vienna on November 10th, ready to set a new life for himself. It takes him around three months (until the end of December) to settle all the arrangements (accommodation, his piano, the arrangements with Haydn). Beethoven’s lessons with Haydn lasted for over a year, and were finished once the latter left for London. Anyway, it seems that although their relationship started out as affectionate, the lack of time and Haydn’s age combined with Beethoven’s temper diminished the quality of their lessons.

In his first years in Vienna, Beethoven manages to make his name known in the musical circles. He frequently holds concerts for the nobility of the time. He had somewhat closer relations to Prince Karl Lichowsky and a certain van Swieten.After finishing his lessons with Haydn, the composer starts to study with Johann Schenk, Alois Forster, Johann-Georg Albrechtsberger and Antonio Salieri with whom he was friends. So, one can safely say that Beethoven was the student of Vienna’s greatest pedagogues at that time.

Learning From the Best

Mozart and Haydn, his greatest predecessors, served as a paradigm of creative work in the new direction of Classicism. Albrechtsberger thoroughly taught him the art of counterpoint, which brought Beethoven his glory. Salieri taught the young composer the artistic matters of the bourgeois musical tragedy. Alois Forster taught him the art of composition with quartets. In other words, the genius musician voraciously absorbed not only the progressive music of his time, but also the richest creative experience of the most erudite contemporary composers. The musical knowledge he acquired and interpreted, together with an unmatched capacity to constantly work, makes Beethoven one of the most knowledgeable composers of his time.

Money Issues

Financially, the first two years in Vienna were very difficult for Beethoven. His first home was in a basement. He had to spend money for furniture, a piano, wood, clothes, in order to make a name for himself in the musical world. Even if his sense of style, as far as clothes went, was more than shabby, his talent and personality helped him improve his financial situation. Most of his acquisitions were gifts from aristocrats, in the saloons of whom he held concerts. Later, money came from author’s rights – he managed to publish his works right from the start, which was not an easy thing at that time. In the first years of his stay in Vienna he raised the extra money he needed from public concerts and tours. He didn’t like to be a teacher; nevertheless he gave private lessons, especially to young aristocratic girls. Usually they took lessons until they got married, after which they almost completely abandoned them. Among Beethoven’s students there were also famous pianists, talented and distinguished ladies like Tereza Brunswik or Dorothea Ertmann.

Playing in the First Academy

Beethoven’s fame was growing by the day. On March 29th-30th 1795, Beethoven was invited to his first “Academy” – a charity event for the widows and orphans of musicians. On December 16th 1795, the already famous Beethoven was invited to Haydn’s “Academy”, despite the tense relationship between the two. In the same period, Beethoven had the satisfaction of yet another victory. For the artist’s annual ball, Vienna’s most acclaimed composers wrote dances: waltz, ecossaise, German dances, quadrille, minuet, etc. The dances of Haydn, Kozeluch, Dittersdorf and others were successful, but were never performed twice. Beethoven’s dances, written in 1795, were very much treasured – after two years they were reiterated with the same success, and, they were even printed in transcripts for piano.

Touring Prague and Berlin. Virtuoso and Composer

In February 1796, Beethoven goes on tour in Prague and Berlin accompanied by prince Lichnowsky (one of his protectors, a nobleman and an admirer of his work). He is very successful in both cities, even if in Berlin the manner in which the audience received his work disappointed Beethoven. Pedagogue Carl Czerny, Beethoven’s future student, describes the composer’s improvisations: “His improvisation was crystalline and worthy of admiration at the utmost degree.” In whatever company he might have found himself, Beethoven knew how to make an impression, so that no eye remained dry, many even bursting into tears upon listening to his music. Once, after finishing an improvisation, he started laughing, thus satirizing the listeners who had let their emotions loose, upon listening to his music. “You fools!” he said, seemingly offended by such proof of admiration, “who can live among such spoiled children?”

Beethoven’s success continued. He held a concert in Prague and appeared in public twice holding two piano concertos (Op.15 and Op.19). As a virtuoso, Beethoven was favorite in Vienna’s musical life and in that of the whole German countries. Joseph Wolffl, Mozart’s student, was the only one who could compete with Beethoven – the pianist. Unmatched clarity and precision, serenity, grace, beautiful, moderate sonority, technical perfection, lack of “romantic fantasies” in the sense of diminishing sounds, so much in fashion at the time – they all made Wolffl’s performance truly remarkable. But Beethoven was still superior because he was not only an outstanding pianist, but also a genius creator.

In a span of five years (1795-1799) Beethoven created various works. The most important of them are the piano sonatas. In the same period, he came up with the ideas for the extraordinary string quartets (Op.18) and for Symphony No. 1, works that promoted a whole new instrumental style.

Beethoven’s Rise to fame (1792-1805)

Beethoven’s First Academy

On April 2nd 1800, Beethoven’s first “Academy” took place. The great “Academy” of a virtuoso or of a famous musical performer was different from ordinary concerts. In those times, an “Academy”, which also had outside performers, started with a great composition for orchestra. If the ” Academy ” was organized by a pianist, the most part of the concert was made up of improvisations. If the person who held the concert was also a composer (it’s known that the vast majority of pianists also wrote music), then the most part of the concert was made up of original compositions. “Academies” were never shorter than four hours, usually beginning at 6:30 in the evening and ending at 10:30. If it happened that a great aristocrat liked the artist, he often bought most tickets, offering him money and precious gifts.

The press was more than benevolent towards Beethoven’s “Academy”. However, Symphony No. 1 raised several critiques. The chronicler of Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig wrote: “The Symphony stands apart through its virtuosity, novelty and abundance of ideas; however, there are too many wind instruments, so the overall impression is that of wind music, rather than the sonority of a great symphonic orchestra.”

The First Signs of Deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament

In the years that followed Beethoven became the teacher of several students, such as Ferdinand Ries, Carl Czerny or Dorothea Ertmann, one of Germany’s best pianists. Although successes came one after another, a very serious problem was making his life difficult. On June 1st 1801 he wrote his friend Karl Amenda: ” You are not one of my Viennese friends. No, you are one of those friends who are born in the land of my country. How often I wish you were here with me. Your Beethoven is most wretched. The noblest part of my existence, my sense of hearing, is very weak. I felt the symptoms even at the time when we were living together, but I had kept this from you then. And now it’s only getting worse. Will I ever be cured? All I have is faith, although I have doubts, because these illnesses are, more often than not, incurable…” although he went to several doctors and underwent various treatments, Beethoven’s illness became so serious, that starting with 1814-1816 he resorted to conversation notebooks.

Undoubtedly, Beethoven felt most wretched because of his illness, especially during the first years. The highest degree of despair is probably best rendered in his famous Heiligenstadt Testament, found among the composer’s documents, after his death. It was written in October 1802 in a country house in the Heiligenstadt village, not far from Vienna, where Beethoven stayed in complete solitude for half a year (from the spring of 1802 until the fall of the same year) following doctor Schmidt’s recommendation.

The Musical Master

By the age of 35, Beethoven had become a prominent cultural personality in Germany. His piano concerts were performed all over Europe, the press no longer criticized him, if only so cautiously, and his admirers ardently promoted his work. Even though he became practically deaf, his work did not seem to suffer at all. Between 1806 and 1809 alone, he composed three symphonies, four concerts, an overture, several sonatas and many other works. But the amazing image of Beethoven’s creative activity came in striking contrast to his personal life. He was confronted with loneliness, personal discontent, financial troubles, ineffectiveness in the household and many other small and pressing matters of his everyday life. Due to his financial troubles, overwhelmed by distrust, he was often on the verge of accusing innocent people of deceit.

As to his daily program, Beethoven rigorously divided his time. He woke up very early in the morning and worked until noon – better said, he wrote down what he had composed the evening before. The rest of the time, he spent meditating and putting his ideas in order, which he best did when walking alone at a rapid pace. His deafness became more and more severe. In the summer of 1807 he started having health problems accompanied by excruciating headaches.

Artistic Maturity (1805-1815)

Deafness and Lost Loves

The period between 1805 and 1815 is that of full artistic maturity. This is when he wrote many of his most valuable works: Symphony IV, Symphony No.5, Symphony No.7, numerous piano concertos (Op. 78, 79, 81), overtures and quartets. On a personal level, things were not going so well. In 1806, when deafness set in, Beethoven said:”May your deafness not be a secret, not even where art is concerned.”

Whereas love is concerned, Beethoven continuously looked for happiness, without much success however. After his relationship with Giulietta Giucciardi, he was captivated for several years by a certain countess Josephine Deym. This young widow was one of Giulietta’s cousins and the sister of Franz and Teresa Brunswick. For a while, Josephine took piano lessons with Beethoven and was a pretty good singer. The composer shared with her his most intimate thoughts. In 1805 their relationship altered, perhaps because her family would not have accepted a marriage between Beethoven and Josephine.

It is likely that during the 1806-1809 period a close friendship developed between the composer and Therese Brunswick. To this very day, the exact nature of their relationship is uncertain. However it’s certain that this remarkable woman was devoted to Beethoven her whole life and for a while she even responded to his passionate feelings. Apparently, love was not to bring Beethoven long lasting happiness.

Financial Problems and Protectors

Moreover, these sentimental problems were overlapped by financial ones. Beethoven’s protectors, as much as they appreciated his music, were not quick to make his life easier. A relevant episode in this respect is linked to the subordination on January 1st 1807 of the imperial theatre houses and of the Viennese Theatre to a committee made up of representatives of the nobility. Taking Count Lobkowitz’s advice, Beethoven applies for the position of permanent composer of the imperial theatres. The nobility, not only did not accept Beethoven’s proposition, but didn’t even write him back. Subsequently, Beethoven developed a powerful feeling of resentment towards the nobility in general. It must be said that some of the members of the committee, like Lobkowitz, genuinely treasured Beethoven. Nevertheless their efforts to convince the others that Beethoven could perform his duties honorably must have been insufficient.

After having been rejected, Beethoven started thinking more and more seriously about moving to another city. In the fall of 1808, he was offered a position as chapel maestro at the court of Jerome Bonaparte, the king of Westphalia. His repulsion towards Vienna and the significant financial advantages promised at Kassel (the capital of Westphalia) determined Beethoven to accept the position.

In order to stop him from leaving Vienna, the Archduke Rudolf, Count Kinsky and Prince Lobkowitz, upon interventions from the composer’s friends, pledged to pay Beethoven a pension of 4000 florins a year. He accepted and remained in Vienna. But even from the start his pension came irregularly; only Archduke Rudolf paid his share at the established date. Kinsky, called for military duty that year, systematically forgot to pay and Lobkowitz stopped paying in September 1811. Around that same period Kinsky fell off his horse and died. His successors refused to continue the payments for Beethoven’s pension. In the end, in 1815, after insistent pressure, Beethoven received for several years a large amount of money, which should have covered his debts. All in all, this period was somewhat better financially since the composer got some money through selling his author’s rights to editors.

Beethoven and Therese Malfatti

In 1810, Beethoven’s life was marked by an event that caused him much suffering. In the spring of 1809, the forty-year-old composer fell in love with a student – the beautiful eighteen-year-old Therese Malfatti. The composer considered the esteem and devotion Tereza held for him to be love. So confident in his future with this young girl, Beethoven even thought of marriage (in a letter to his good friend Wegeler, he asked for his birth certificate from Bonn required for marriage).

The Legend of Fur Elise

But his wish never came true. In fact there is a small story related to this. In the spring of 1810 he was invited to the Malfatti household for a party thrown by Therese’s father for his acquaintances and business partners. Beethoven wanted to propose marriage to her on that night after playing a bagatelle he had composed especially for her. Unfortunately he got so drunk that night that he was unable to play or to propose to anyone. All he could do is write Therese’s name on the title page of the bagatelle. He wrote : “Fur Therese“, but in almost illegible writing. When the manuscript was found (on Therese’s death) it was published but since the writing was illegible it became “Fur Elise“…

Artistic Maturity (1805-1815)

The Immortal Beloved Letter

However, chance has it that the same year, 1810, Beethoven met a person to which he will forever be linked in friendship. That person was Bettina Brentano-Arnim, the sister-in-law of the daughter of a certain Birckenstock, one of Austria’s important Enlightenment representatives. Bettina, a person with remarkable intellectual qualities, appreciated Beethoven from their first encounter, the feeling being mutual. She will facilitate the meeting between Beethoven and another giant of German culture – Goethe. They will meet in the summer of 1812 in the Czech resort, Teplitz.

Moreover, Beethoven’s visit in Teplitz was not important solely because of the meeting with Goethe, but also because of an enigmatic letter, which later caused so many comments and suppositions. This document is known under the name of “Letter to the Immortal Beloved”. To this very day, it was impossible to establish who was the addressee of this letter and under what circumstances it got back to Beethoven. It was established that it was written in Teplitz in 1812, while biographers dated it before that. This letter was found the day after Beethoven’s death in the secret compartment of an old drawer, together with a picture of Tereza Brunswick, as well as other documents and valuables. The letter was either sent to the addressee and was later returned, or it was never sent altogether.

The letter may have been addressed to Tereza Brunswick. This woman undoubtedly played a positive role in Beethoven’s life. They were linked through a yearlong friendship and affection for each other. In order to understand why the 42-year-old composer wrote his 37-year-old friend such a letter, one must restore the entire process of their reciprocal relations. The event itself is all the more remarkable since Tereza Brunzwick is one of the most important and with the greatest potential of all the women who were ever the object of Beethoven’s affection.

Romain Rolland, who became acquainted with Tereza’s intimate diaries, cautiously concludes: “The assumptions about the immortal lover do not seem incompatible with what I have learned of the circumstances of that time.” Besides this, Romain Rolland admits that there are a great number of bizarre coincidences, which may point towards Tereza as the immortal lover. Romain Rolland later changes his view regarding this, inclining to believe that the addressee of the letter is an unknown woman.

One of the most recent theories regarding the Immortal Beloved is the one of Maynard Solomon. The biographer considers that the letters were addressed to Antonie Brentano. There are several clues that indicate this hypothesis as there are some that go against it. So the mystery remains.

Beethoven and Goethe

Going back to Beethoven’s stay at Teplitz, it is safe to say that during the first days he lived alone, solely minding his health. The atmosphere there created by the gathered aristocracy annoyed the composer. On July 14th he wrote to an acquaintance about Teplitz: “There are few people and among these, none of them stands apart. That is why I live alone! Alone! Alone!” Nevertheless, his solitude soon ended. On July 24th Bettina Brettano and her husband came to Teplitz. His greatest joy, however, was around July 15th when Goethe came to visit him. Goethe wrote down in his journal several meetings he had with the composer. On July 19th the poet visited him and wrote to his wife: “I have never met such solemn an artist, so energetic and so profound. I can only imagine how amazing he behaves with those around him.” The next day they both took a long walk.

On July 21st, after his second visit to Beethoven, Goethe wrote in his journal: “He played wonderfully.” On July 23rd, the poet visited the composer again. But by the end of Beethoven’s stay at Teplitz the relationship between the two deteriorated. Two weeks after his meeting with Goethe, Beethoven wrote in a letter: “The atmosphere at court is much to the liking of Goethe, more than a poet should. Is there any point in talking about the ridiculous infatuation of virtuosos, when poets, who should be regarded as the nation’s first tutors, forget everything for the sake of their own pleasure?

In his turn, in a letter to a friend, composer Zelter from Berlin, Goethe let him know of his meeting with Beethoven: “I met Beethoven. His talent astonished me; nevertheless, he unfortunately has a tumultuous personality, which is not completely wrong in thinking the world repulsive, but undoubtedly he makes no effort to render it more pleasant to himself or to others. He must be shown forgiveness and compassion, for he is loosing his hearing, thing that affects less his musical side, but more his social one. As laconic as he usually is, he is even more so due to his disability.

The Separation of Two Great Minds

But the event that permanently altered the relationship between the two was the encounter of a group of aristocrats on the streets of Teplitz. Bettina Brettano tells the story of that encounter as such: “As they were walking together, Beethoven and Goethe crossed paths with the empress, the dukes and their cortege. So Beethoven said to Goethe: Keep walking as you did until now, holding my arm, they must make way for us, not the other way around. Goethe thought differently; he drew his hand, took off his hat and stepped aside, while Beethoven, hands in pockets, went right through the dukes and their cortege, barely miming a saluting gesture. They drew aside to make way for him, saluting him friendlily. Waiting for Goethe who had let the dukes pass, Beethoven told him: «I have waited for you because I respect you and I admire your work, but you have shown too great an esteem to those people.»”

Clearly, this led to a tacit rupture in their relationship. Subsequently, Goethe never mentioned Beethoven’s name again and after a few years he never returned one of the composer’s letters. Nevertheless, Beethoven held the highest respect for the poet, even trying to rekindle the old friendship, but his efforts were in vain.

Beethoven’s Last Years (1815-1827)

Beethoven’s nephew, Karl

The last 12 years of Beethoven’s life were marked, at least in the first part, by his struggle with the wife of his brother Karl-Kaspar who died in late 1815, for the custody of their son Karl. This boy caused Beethoven many troubles. Apparently, even though he was a gifted child, Karl had two major faults: he was lazy and dishonest. Beethoven’s fight with Johanna (Karl-Kaspar’s wife) went on for 5 years. In the end, he gained custody of Karl.

Financial troubles still haunted the composer, who struggled to find a viable solution. As determined and bold as he was in his creation and in political issues, he was just as weak in every day matters. Devoted friends tried their best to help him. English pianist, Charles Neate, who met Beethoven in 1815, together with Ferdinand Ries, established in London, advised the composer to hold a concert in the capital of England. Here, he had a certain reputation, which might have insured him a large income. Beethoven, who had wanted to hold a concert for a long time, burned with desire to visit London. The British Philharmonic sent him an official invitation. The conditions were marvelous. But, at the last minute Beethoven was still undecided due to his illness and to the fact that he felt he could not let his nephew alone for too long, so he declined the so generous invitation.

The Grand Academy

Another important event of this period is Beethoven’s grand “Academy” during which Symphony No.9 and three movements of the Missa solemnis were first performed. The “Academy” took place on May 7th 1824 at the Karntnertor Theater and it was repeated on May 23rd in the great hall of the Fort. The conductor was Umlauf; at the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. The success was smashing. Despite the obvious negligence of the interpreters who had been gathered in a rush, Beethoven’s compositions left a memorable impression on his audience. The soprano and alto parts were interpreted by two famous young singers: Henriette Sonntag and Caroline Unger.

Standing Ovations

At the end of the “Academy”, Beethoven received standing ovations. But word has it that he had his back to the public, plunged in deep thought in the silence caused by his deafness and could not see the audience. So, then, Caroline Unger took the composer’s hand and turned him to the public. The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. The theatre house had never seen such enthusiasm in applause.

At that time, it was customary that the imperial couple be greeted with three ovations at their entrance in the hall. The fact that a private person, who wasn’t even employed by the state, and all the more, was a musician (class of people who had been perceived as lackeys at court), received five ovations, was in itself inadmissible, almost indecent. Police agents present at the concert had to break off this spontaneous explosion of ovations. Beethoven left the concert deeply moved.

Even so, the hard part was yet to come: the “Academy” raised a total of 2000 guldens, but the net gaining barely reached 420 guldens. Thus Beethoven gained practically nothing as a result of his success. The hard earned money was spent on treatments and on the raising of his nephew.

In the beginning of 1826, Beethoven’s medical condition worsened when Karl attempted suicide as a result of serious gambling debts. His adored nephew’s reckless gesture aged Beethoven even more. He never recovered from this absurd blow, unlike Karl who soon went back to normal. Seeing that he cannot handle raising Karl alone, he asked his brother, Johann, to promise him that after his death, he would take care of the child.

The Last Days

In his last days, Beethoven’s friends, Schindler, Hutenbrenner and Stephan Breuring, stood by his side. He spent these last days in a shabby room, in an unsuitable atmosphere for a sick person, far from his beloved nephew and haunted by his misfortune. His physical state was more than deplorable; at night he suffered from insomnia and the gray sad mornings brought him no joy in the silent world he lived. His situation was worse by the day.

Just before his death he received a large amount of money from the London Philharmonic Society at the intervention of his student Moscheles. Schindler wrote that “Upon receiving this money, Beethoven could buy his favorite food and a comfortable armchair. Until then, he would deny himself even basic things he needed so as not to touch the stock he wanted to leave as inheritance to his nephew Karl. Beethoven was very happy upon receiving this gift and he still hoped he could somehow return the favor.” In his last letter to Moscheles from March 18th (a week before his death) he pledged to offer the Philharmonic Society a new symphony.

Beethoven’s Last Days. The 1815-1827 Period

The Last Day

News also arrived from the shores of the Rhine: editor Schott sent him from Manz a case of wine. But, Beethoven’s condition was so bad at this point that he barely took a sip of that wine.

On March 24th Beethoven signed his last will and testament, leaving everything he had to his nephew Karl. On the 26th, Breuning and Schindler went to see about a burial place at the cemetery, leaving Hutenbrenner alone with the now dying Beethoven.

Here is how Romain Rolland describes Beethoven’s final day: “That day was tragic. There were heavy clouds in the sky… around 4 or 5 in the afternoon the murky clouds cast darkness in the entire room. Suddenly a terrible storm started, with blizzard and snow… thunder made the room shudder, illuminating it with the cursed reflection of lightning on snow. Beethoven opened his eyes and with a threatening gesture raised his right arm towards the sky with his fist clenched. The expression of his face was horrifying. His hand fell to the ground. His eyes closed. Beethoven was no more.

The Funeral

The funeral took place on March 29th. The building’s huge yard, which had numerous tenants and which was also known as “the black Spaniard’s house”, was full of people. It was a sunny spring day that would become a sad part of history. Beetoven’s casket was followed by twenty thousand people, almost the tenth part of Vienna’s entire population at that time. All schools were closed in sign of mourning. At Wahring cemetery, actor Anschutz, who had personally knew the composer, gave an open-hearted speech, edited by poet Grillparzer: “He was an artist and a man, a man in the highest sense of the word. He was a loner, never finding a life partner to his stature. But his heart was up to the very end close to the whole of humanity. That is how he was, how he died and how he will always remain for eternity. Leave discontent behind and shroud yourselves in sublime feelings, all you who find yourselves standing here before the tomb of a man about whom we can say, as of no other man before him: he accomplished great deeds, he knew no foulness. Go home not sad, but full of peace. Take a small flower from his grave, in the memory of the man he was and the great things he accomplished. And in the future, when you will be overwhelmed by the power of his creation, call back in your mind the image of today…

At the graveyard, speeches were forbidden by the authorities. Thousands of people sorrowfully watched the simple casket be lowered in the ground.The life of the great composer had just ended. The history of Beethoven had just began.

On April 3rd, Mozart’s Requiem was performed in one of Vienna’s churches in the memory of the deceased.

The Belongings

In the summer of the same year, Beethoven’s belongings, among which there were also his manuscripts, were sold at auction. This auction was held in August when the composer’s admirers were out of Vienna. The manuscripts were in their most part acquired by two editors Hasslinger and Artaria, who got them practically for free. Hence the manuscript of Symphony V was sold for only 6 florins.

The fate of Beethoven’s manuscripts is truly sad. After Stephan Vreuning’s death, six weeks after Beethoven’s own death, Schindler alone was left to establish the true value of the composer’s remaining documents. But he had failed to keep Beethoven’s house sealed after his death. For several months, the late composer’s house could be visited by practically anybody: his manuscripts were either jumbled or stolen; the composer’s patrimony was not even inventoried. A great deal of documents was lost due to the negligence of his nephew Karl and his family and their complete disregard for Beethoven’s manuscripts. Schindler himself destroyed a great deal of the remaining conversational notebooks.The lost documents could have cast some light into the composer’s life and work.

The Revolutionary Composer

And so we part from one of mankind’s greatest artists. The noble eminence of the revolutionary composer was for many decades a paradigm of heroic life, pledged to artistic truth and pure passion. His works are now a part of music history. Beethoven’s sublime distinction is to this very day an example for all artists.

Beethoven’s life and Major Events in Chronological Order

1770, December 16th – Ludwig van Beethoven is born in Bonn. He was the son of Johann van Beethoven, tenor and violinist at the court of the Elector Prince of Cologne.

1778, March 26th – Has his first public concert.

1780 – Becomes Neefe’s student.

1783 – Successfully replaces Neefe at the court. He also, publishes a sonata, 2 pieces of the Bossles anthology, a fugue and a rondo.

1784 – Composes a rondo and a piano concerto

1785 – Composes 3 quartets.

1787, March – Leaves Bonn. On the 7th of April arrives in Vienna and meets Mozart.

1787, July 17th – Returns to Bonn. His mother dies.

1789, May 14th – Enrolls at the Bonn University.

1790 – Composes 2 cantatas: one when Joseph the 2nd dies and when Leopold the 2nd is made emperor. He also, composes a bale.

1791 – Writes a fragment of a violin concerto. On December 5th Mozart dies

1792 – Composes a string trio. Around the 2nd or 3rd of November Beethoven leaves for Vienna. He arrives there on the 10th of November. On the 18th of December his father dies.

1793 – Becomes Haydn’s pupil

1794 – The first symptoms of the deafness appear. Composes a trio for piano, Op.1. On the 29th of March, he holds his first concerto at The Burgtheater.

1796 – February-June – goes to Nuremberg, Prague, Dresden and Berlin, where he composes the Sonata for Violoncello Op.5. He also composes the sonata for Piano Op.2.

1797 – Composes the Piano Sonata No.4 Op.7

1798 – Composes the Piano Sonata Op. 10 and the Violin Sonata Op.12. Neefe dies.

1799 – Composes Symphony No.1 and the Patetica Sonata Op. 14 and Op. 49/1

1800 – Composes the String Quartet Op. 18, the Septet Op.20, the Piano Concerto Op. 37 and the Prometheus Ballet.

1801 – Composes The Spring Sonata Op. 24 and the Piano Sonata Op.28. Giulietta Guicciardi becomes his pupil.

1802 – 6th and 10th of October – writes the Heiligenstadt Testament. Composes the variations for Eroica, the Op. 26 and 27 sonatas and the Symphony No.2

1803 – Composes the 3rd Piano Concerto Op. 37, the Kreutzer Sonata and Christus am Olberge. Works on the Eroica Symphony.

1804 – Composes The Waldstein Sonata Op.53 and the Appasionata Op.57

1805, April 7th – The first audition of Eroica. Composes the 4th Piano Concerto Op.58

1805, November 20th – composes The First and Second Leonora Overtures.

1806 – Composes the 3rd Leonora Overture, the 4th Symphony Op.60, the Violin Concerto and the Razumovski quartet.

1807 – The first audition of the 4th symphony and of the Piano Concerto No.4. Composes the 5th Symphony Op.67

1808 – Composes the Choral Piano and Orchestra Fantasia Op.80.

1809, May 11th – The Vienna Siege. He finishes the 5th Piano Concerto Op.73, the Op.74 Quartet and the Piano Sonatas Op.78, 79 and 81.

1810 May – Meets Bettina Brentano. Composes the music for Goethe’s Egmont, the Op. 95 quartet. The first audition of the Piano Concerto Op. 73 in Leipzig

1812, February 12th – The first audition of the 5th Piano Concerto. Meets Goethe. Finishes the 7th and 8th Symphonies in September.

1813, December 8th – The first audition of the 7th Symphony.

1814, November 29th – Composes the Triple Concerto Op. 56 and the Piano Sonata Op. 90.

1815 – Composes the Scottish Songs Op. 108.

1816 – Composes the piano sonata Op. 101

1817 – The first lines of the 9th Symphony.

1818 – Composes the HammerKlavier Sonata

1820 – Composes the Op.109 Sonata.

1822 – Composes the Piano Sonatas Op.110 and 111. Finishes the Missa Solemnis and composes the Die Weihe des Hauses Overture, Op. 124.

1823 – Finishes the 9th Symphony.Composes the Op. 120 variations and the Diabelli variations.

1823, February 8th – Letter to Goethe.

1823, March 19th – First audition of Missa Solemnis

1825 – Composes the Op. 127 130 and 132 quartets.1826-Composes the Op. 131 and 135 quartets. In December falls ill with pneumonia.

1827, January 3rd – Makes his Will

1827, March 26th, 17:45 – Ludwig van Beethoven dies.

Invitation to Beethoven’s funeral… – On the afternoon of Thursday, March 29th 1827, between 10,000 and 30,000 people united for the funeral of Ludwig van Beethoven. The actor Heinrich Anschütz, read the funeral oration written by Franz Grillparzer, (a great writer), in front of the doors of the Währing Cemetery (now Schubert Park).
Beethoven’s funeral procession in front of the former Black Spanish Monastery in Vienna, 1827 – watercolor by Franz Xaver Stöber (1795–1858)

bg-funeral Funerailles_FranzStober_1827_PlusPres



Beethoven’s funerals, by Franz Stober, 1827.
Two plaques, situated on the outside, remind us that Beethoven and Schubert both had their funerals held here. The Dreifaltigkeitskirche was built between 1687 and 1727…

The Dreifaltigkeitskirche or Church of the Holy Trinity in the 8th district of Vienna (Josefstadt) is an early-Baroque church generally neglected by tourists. It was built by the “Trinitarian Order”, a monastic order that workedtowards the liberation of Christians in (usually Muslim) captivity. They were founded near Paris in 1198 and came to Vienna in 1688, five years after the defeat of the Turkish army in the Second Siege of Vienna. Warfare with the Turks continued until well into the 18th century, so Vienna certainly was auseful base for the Trinitarians.

The order built a small chapel in a suburb that is now part of the Josefstadt district – it was opened in 1689, but soon it was too small because many locals attended mass with the monks. The chapel was extended and became a church with three altars and a wooden tower – and in the following year, theTrinitarians started to build a monastery in addition to the church. When the monastery was opened in 1694, there was also a need for an even bigger and more elaborate church. Emperor Leopold I officially opened the construction work for a church in 1695. The construction took seven years and the Dreifaltigkeitskirche was opened in 1702.

With the dissolution of “non-practical” orders under the rule of Emperor Joseph II, the Trinitarians were dissolved in 1783. Instead of the Trinitarians, the Minorites – once grown to a powerful order in the course of the counter-reformation and educational measures – moved in at the monastery and Dreifaltigkeitskirche. The Minorites had previously occupied only theMinoritenkirche in the first district, now they carried all sorts of fancy monastic artwork to the Dreifaltigkeitskirche.


Dreifaltigkeitskirche goes Parish Church

With this move, the Church of the Holy Trinity was made a parish church – which it still is. In 1827, the dead body of Ludwig van Beethoven was laid here, commemorated by a memorial plate at the front of the church. In 1828, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche got new bells – and Franz Schubert composed the anthem “Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung” (“Faith, Love, Hope”) upon this occasion (another memorial plate for that one).

The Dreifaltigkeitskirche is considered to be an example for early Baroquearchitecture in Vienna – however, it looks like it was built much later than it actually was. At the time of its construction, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche was state-of-the-art and the first church of its kind with round façade elements in Vienna. There is the twin-tower that is typical for large Baroque churches. The interiors are a mix-and-match of artworks by Trinitarians, Minorites and later additions – try to spot some displays of the Holy Trinity. The Trinitarians, by the way, were re-founded in Austria in 1900 and have to “branches”, one in Viennaand one in Mödling.

Attractions nearby are numerous: Apart from being in the middle of a nice neighbourhood, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche is also in walking distance to theVotivkirche, the Main University and Rathaus City Hall – all on Ringstraße. Close are also the Altes AKH and the AKH General Hospital. For a “study” on the next step in architectural history, go to the nearbyPiaristenkirche church by Lukas von Hildebrandt in late Baroque / Rococo.


Beethoven’s first tomb Drawing by Vincent d’Indy – 1880…

We who stand here at the grave of the deceased are in a sense the representatives of an entire nation, the whole German people, come to mourn the passing of one celebrated half of that which remained to us from the vanished brilliance of the fatherland. The hero of poetry in the German language and tongue still lives — and long may he live. But the last master of resounding song, the gracious mouth by which music spoke, the man who inherited and increased the immortal fame of Handel and Bach, of Haydn and Mozart, has ceased to be; and we stand weeping over the broken strings of an instrument now stilled.

An instrument now stilled. Let me call him that! For he was an artist, and what he was, he was only through art. The thorns of life had wounded him deeply, and as the shipwrecked man clutches the saving shore, he flew to your arms, oh wondrous sister of the good and true, comforter in affliction, the art that comes from on high! He held fast to you, and even when the gate through which you had entered was shut, you spoke through a deafened ear to him who could no longer discern you; and he carried your image in his heart, and when he died it still lay on his breast.

He was an artist, and who shall stand beside him? As the behemoth sweeps through the seas, he swept across the boundaries of his art. From the cooing of the dove to the thunder’s roll, from the subtlest interweaving of willful artifices to that awesome point at which the fabric presses over into the lawlessness of clashing natural forces — he traversed all, he comprehended everything. He who follows him cannot continue; he must begin anew, for his predecessor ended where art ends.

Adelaide and Leonore! Commemorations of the heroes of Vittoria and humble tones of the Mass! Offspring of three and four-part voices. Resounding symphony, “Freude, schöner Götterfunken”, the swansong. Muses of song and of strings, gather at his grave and strew it with laurel!

He was an artist, but also a man, a man in every sense, in the highest sense. Because he shut himself off from the world, they called him hostile; and callous, because he shunned feelings. Oh, he who knows he is hardened does not flee! (It is the more delicate point that is most easily blunted, that bends or breaks.)

Excess of feeling avoids feelings. He fled the world because he did not find, in the whole compass of his loving nature, a weapon with which to resist it. He withdrew from his fellow men after he had given them everything and had received nothing in return. He remained alone because he found no second self. But until his death he preserved a human heart for all men, a father’s heart for his own people, the whole world.

Thus he was, thus he died, thus he will live for all time!

And you who have followed his escort to this place, hold your sorrow in sway. You have not lost him but won him. No living man enters the halls of immortality. The body must die before the gates are opened. He whom you mourn is now among the greatest men of all time, unassailable forever. Return to your homes, then, distressed but composed. And whenever, during your lives, the power of his works overwhelms you like a coming storm; when your rapture pours out in the midst of a generation yet unborn; then remember this hour and think: we were there when they buried him, and when he died we wept!

geboren: Bonn 17 dec. 1770
gestorven: Wenen 26 maart 1827
Duits componist uit de Weense klassieke school, later beschouwd als exponent van de (vroeg) romantiek.

Geen componist is zó vaak met zó’n boze gezichtsuitdrukking afgebeeld als Beethoven. Hij is de geschiedenisingegaan als een driftkikker, soms teder, dan weer kokend van razernij. De ordelijke, klassieke vormregels die Haydn en Mozart nog hadden eerbiedigd waren tegen hem niet bestand. In zijn sonates en symfonieën gooide hij de vaste volgorde van de delen om als hem dat zo uitkwam, hij overschreed de gebruikelijke lengte, hij smeet met schokeffecten en overvloedig thematisch materiaal, en dat alles kwam de expressie ten goede: de taal van een bewogen karakter. Voor Beethoven golden niet alleen de noten die een keurvorst of een bisschop wilde horen; hij drukte zijn eigen gevoelens uit, krachtiger dan zijn voorgangers ooit hadden gedaan. Die neiging werd versterkt door de doofheid waaraan hij vanaf zijn zesentwintigste jaar leed; iemand die zich steeds meer een buitenstaander voelt worden, schept zijn eigen regels. Achter zijn persoonlijke tragedie ging echter een zeker optimisme schuil. Hij geloofde in de mensheid en was er van overtuigd dat kunst mensen de weg wijst naar een harmonieuze toekomst. ‘Het scheelde niet veel of ik maakte een einde aan mijn leven’, schreef hij in 1802 in een brief aan zijn broers, ‘maar die Kunst weerhield mij ervan’.

De grootvader van Ludwig van Beethoven was kapelmeester in Bonn en zijn vader, eveneens Vlaams van afkomst, wat het tussenvoegsel ‘van’ in zijn naam verklaart, was daar werkzaam als tenorzanger. Zijn moeder noemde Ludwig van Beethoven (geboren in Bonn op 16 december 1770) ooit zijn ‘beste vriendin’; ze was zachtzinnig maar ook zwartgallig.

Zijn vader Johann beweerde lange tijd dat zijn zoon in 1772 ter wereld kwam. Zo kon hij een heel bijzonder wonderkind aan het hof presenteren en als pianist laten optreden om zijn karige inkomen aan te vullen.

In zijn jeugdjaren in Bonn kwamen naast een aantal juvenilia ook al rijpere werken tot stand, zoals de drie Kurfürstensonaten voor piano, drie pianokwartetten, twee cantates en twee variatiecycli, eveneens voor piano. De belangrijkste invloeden waren die van Neefe en wolfgang amadeus mozart. Een aantal van zijn vroege ongepubliceerde en vaak onafgemaakte werken zou beethoven in latere composities verwerken.

Ludwig van Beethoven ontving behalve van zijn vader muzieklessen van de hoboïst Pfeiffer en van de componistNeefe die hem in 1783 een aanstelling bezorgde als cembalist aan het keurvorstelijk hof, waar hij ook werkte als kerkorganist, zodat hij als zevenjarige zijn eerste optreden als pianist kan vieren, op elfjarige leeftijd Bachs Welgetemperd Klavier van buiten kent, en een jaar later Neefe als hoforganist kan vervangen.

Via zijn vriend Franz Gerhard Wegeler leerde Beethoven in deze tijd de familie Von Breuning kennen, waar hij zijn leven lang bevriend mee zou blijven. Helene von Breuning was een adelijke weduwe met veel belangstelling voor kunst en muziek. Beethoven werd de pianoleraar van de dochter Elénore en de jongste zoon Lorenz en onderging de heilzame invloed van dit culturele milieu.

In 1787 ging Van Beethoven naar Wenen om te studeren bij Mozart. Helaas is nergens duidelijk vastgelegd of de twee genieën elkaar ook daadwerkelijk hebben ontmoet. Dit verblijf moest hij afbreken door ziekte van zijn moeder, Maria Magdalena Keverich, die kort daarop aan tering stierf, waarop Beethoven de zorg op zich nam voor zijn drankzuchtige vader en zijn twee broers.

Vanaf 1789 speelde hij als altist in de hofkapel en het theaterorkest in Bonn.

In juli 1792 deed de inmiddels 60-jarige Franz Joseph Haydn op de terugreis van Londen naar Wenen, Bonn aan. Haydn uitte zijn bewondering voor de jonge componist en raadde hem aan om zich in Wenen te vestigen. Door tussenkomst van graaf Waldstein kreeg Beethoven opnieuw betaald verlof van de keurvorst en vertrok hij op 2 of 3 november 1792 voorgoed uit Bonn.

In de vroege Weense periode (1793-1799) maakte Beethoven zich enerzijds de Weense klassieke stijl eigen, anderzijds zocht hij nadrukkelijk een eigen weg, wat tot uiting kwam in een aantal vernieuwingen.

Beethoven maakte ondanks zijn ruwe omgangsvormen veel vrienden onder de musici in Wenen. Ondertussen begon de reputatie van Ludwig van Beethoven als improvisator te groeien en in 1795 werden zijn eerste composities gepubliceerd.

pianosonates (opus 2, 1796)

sonate opus 10, nr. 2 (1798)

sonate opus 13 (Sonate Pathétique, 1799)

strijkkwartetten opus 18 (1798. 1800)

eerste symfonie (1799)

Het septet opus 20 vormt het hoogtepunt van zijn zogenaamde tweede periode.

In 1799 had Beethoven via zijn vriend Zmeskall kennis gemaakt met de familie Von Brunswick en de dochters Thérèse en Joséphine. Beethoven werd de muziekleraar van de familie en maakte ook beide zusjes het hof.

De tweede periode wordt ingeleid door de pianosonate opus 26 (met treurmars), de sonate opus 27:2 (Mondscheinsonate) en de sonate opus 31:2 (met het recitatief in deel I), en door de tweede symfonie met haar ongewoon lange en monumentale inleiding van het eerste deel.

Zijn tweede periode (vanaf ca 1800); Monumentaliteit, expressieve geladenheid, contrasterende thema’s die leiden tot dramatische ontwikkelingssecties, en uitvoerige coda’s kenmerken deze stijlperiode. In toenemende mate kwam Beethoven onder de invloed zowel van de Franse postrevolutionaire muziek van Luigi Cherubini en Méhul als ook van de humanitaire idealen van de Franse Revolutie en het ethisch gebonden vrijheidspathos van Friedrich von Schiller en Goethe.

Beethoven kende een vrij bewogen liefdesleven, uitsluitend gestoffeerd met dames uit de hogere kringen, die hem vaak ook de inspiratie leverden voor heel wat composities. In 1800 heeft hij trouwplannen met zijn leerlinge Giuletta Guicciardi, wat de wereld de ‘Mondscheinsonate’ oplevert.

Sinds ca 1800 leed Beethoven aan hardhorendheid, die steeds erger werd en ca 1818 overging in doofheid; in zijn laatste levensjaren was conversatie alleen mogelijk met behulp van – schriftelijke – ‘Konversationshefte’, waarvan er ca 1400 bewaard zijn gebleven.

Zijn vrienden Amenda en Wegeler waren de eersten die hij hierover inlichtte, in twee ontroerende brieven uit juni 1801. Omstreeks 1802 begon Beethoven zich te realiseren dat zijn doofheid erger zou worden en ongeneeselijk zou blijven. In oktober van dat jaar raakte hij hierdoor in een zware depressie. Ondanks zijn neerslachtigheid slaagde Beethoven erin om in dit jaar de Tweede Symfonie te voltooien. Merkwaardigerwijs klinkt in dit werk nauwelijks iets van de somberheid door, die hij in zijn brieven aan de dag legde.

In 1802 schrijft hij het beroemde zelfportret in het zgn. ‘Heiligenstädter Testament’, en tot in 1808 speelt hij bij concerten nog zelf piano. De levenslust en wellevende humor van Haydn – de grote architect van de symfonie als muziekvorm – zijn wellicht mede door persoonlijke tegenslag bij Beethoven rauwer geworden, al gebruikte Beethoven in deze symfonie nog dezelfde kleine orkestbezetting als Haydn.

derde symfonie (1803; Eroica). Oorspronkelijk was deze symfonie opgedragen aan Napoleon. Beethoven zou de opdracht aan Napoleon bij het bericht van diens keizerskroning hebben verscheurd, omdat ook deze grote leider een tiran bleek te zijn; het belette hem niet in 1810 de mis opus 86 aan Bonaparte op te dragen.

sonate opus 57 (Appassionata) (1804)

Concert voor piano, viool en cello in C grote terts opus 56 (1804)
Wat Beethoven inspireerde tot het schrijven van een concert voor pianotrio en orkest is niet bekend. De combinatie van viool, cello en piano in dit concert dat de bijnaam Tripel Concert kreeg, was verre van gebruikelijk. pas ruim een eeuw later waagden andere componisten zich aan het schrijven van een concert voor deze uitzonderlijke combinatie van solo-instrumenten. Uit aantekeningen van Beethovens secretaris en biograaf Anton Schindler blijkt dat Beethoven dit concert schreef voor de pianist aartshertog Rudolf van Oostenrijk. Deze was kort daarvoor leerling van Beethoven geworden en dat verklaart waarom de componist de pianopartij relatief eenvoudig heeft gehouden. pas in 1807 werd het werk uitgegeven, waarna een jaar later de eerste openbare uitvoering ervan plaatsvond.

Toen de betrekkingen met vorst Lichnovsky, die hem tot dan financieel steunde, in 1806 tijdelijk bekoelden, besloten de vorsten Kinsky, Lobkovitz en aartshertog Rudolf van Habsburg (sinds ca 1806 Beethovens leerling) zich aaneen om hem een jaargeld te verlenen.

kwartetten opus 59 (Rasoemovsky-kwartetten, 1806),

vierde pianoconcert, vioolconcert (ca 1806)

‘Maar mijn beste Beethoven, wat heeft u nu toch weer gewrocht!’, merkte vorst Nikolaus Esterházy op, nadat hij de Mis in C in zijn slot te Eisenstadt had aangehoord. Beethovens vriend Johann Nepomuk Hummel stond erbij te lachen. De Mis in C, Beethovens eerste werk in dit religieuze genre, was geen succes, niet bij de Eisenstadt-première op 13 september 1807 en ook niet bij latere uitvoeringen.

De vierde en de vijfde symfonie (1807).
Symfonie Nr. 5 in c, opus 67.
1. Allegro con brio
2. Andante con brio
3. Allegro
4. Allegro
Eén van de populairste is de vijfde. Ze wordt beheerst door het ritmische motief van vier noten, kort-kort-kort-lang, ook wel het ‘Noodlotsmotief’ genoemd. Het eerste thema in het eerste deel ontwikkelt zich hieruit en zelfs tijdens het melodieuze tweede thema blijft het waarneembaar in de begeleiding van de bassen. Het tweede deel begint met een wondere melodie die wordt aangezet door altviolen en celli, waarna houtblazers en violen erop voortspinnen. In een marsachtig tussendeel zijn de vier slagen van het centrale motief weer te horen. Het derde deel, qua vorm een scherzo, heeft iets dreigends en gaat zonder onderbreking met een geheimzinnig gefluister over in de dramatische-spannende finale. Beethoven heeft de krachtigste en scherpste instrumenten voor deze apotheose bewaard: de trombones, de contrafagot en de piccolo, voordien nog nooit in het symfonieorkest gebruikt.

Beethovens Pastorale
Tegen de tijd dat hij z’n Zesde Symfonie, de Pastorale, had geschreven, had hij z’n eigen muze gevonden. Z’n inspiratie was volkomen uniek. Hij was losgebroken uit ’t keurslijf van de formele structuren In de Romantischeperiode zocht men naar middelen om emoties uit te drukken. Beethoven liep bij die beweging voorop. We horen hier ‘n componist die niet meer gehinderd wordt door de beperkingen van vorm en precisie. In de Pastorale is te horen hoe de klassieke traditie plaatsmaakt voor de Romantiek.

De zesde symfonie (Pastorale, 1808) werd met haar poëtisch programma o.a. het model voor Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. De programmatische aspecten van deze symfonie hebben, in combinatie met de extreme dynamiek van de muziek, ertoe geleid dat Beethovens werk omgeven werd met een ethisch aura, waardoor in de 19de eeuw diverse programmatische suggesties aan composities zijn toegevoegd die niet authentiek zijn.

De eerste aantekeningen voor deze symfonie dateren uit 1802, de uiteindelijke compositie werd in de zomers van 1807 en 1808 afgerond. Beethoven bracht deze maanden door in het plaatsje Heiligenstadt. Vandaag de dag een buitenwijk van Wenen maar toen een landelijk dorp. Een ‘groen’ uitvluchtoord voor het hectische Wenen en een perfecte plaats voor Beethoven om te componeren. In Heiligenstadt, kwamen zijn gedachten tot rust. Behalve de ‘Pastorale’ componeerde hij hier ook de vijfde symfonie, de cellosonate in A-groot en twee pianotrio’s (op.70). Beethoven produceerde zoveel muziek in die tijd dat hij er niet meer zeker van was welke symfonie hij het eerste af had. Uiteindelijk catalogiseerde hij de ‘Pastorale’ als de vijfde en de c-klein symfonie als nummer zes. Dit werd later weer gecorrigeerd.

Zelf schreef Beethoven, in een brief aan Nanette Streicher: ‘Wanneer u door die stille dennenbossen wandelt, denk er dan aan dat ik daar dikwijls gedicht, of, zoals men zegt, gecomponeerd heb’. Het plaatje van een onbegrepen dichter die bij een bergbeek peinzend naar de horizon staart is in de loop der tijd jammerlijk gedevalueerd; tegenwoordig valt het in de categorie Zigeunerjongetje-met-traan, gecoiffeerde poedels en zeemansverdriet. Dat doet natuurlijk geen afbreuk aan de muziek zelf, maar juist bij dit werk staat de artistieke integriteit van de compositie in een merkwaardige verhouding tot het beeld dat de muziek oproept.

In zijn tumultueze oeuvre vormt de Zesde symfonie een oase van rust. Deze muziek staat haaks op de taal die hij in de voorgaande jaren bezigde: geen heroïek, geen geworstel met het noodlot, maar een idylle vol vogelzang en riviergeklater, die de ziekelijke uitwassen van de menselijke geest in toom houden. De natuur bezweert hier volledig het conflict dat in Beethoven in vrijwel al zijn andere composities zo duidelijk laat doorklinken. Zelfs wanneer een onweer dreigt, in het vierde deel, neemt dit niet de vorm aan van een toornige godheid, en blijft de verwachte krachtmeting tussen mens en natuur uit.

Beethoven voorzag de afzonderlijke delen zelf van bloemrijke titels en noemde het geheel Pastorale symfonie, of ‘een herinnering aan het leven op het land’, maar voegde daar in de partituur als onderschrift aan toe: ‘Meer gevoelsuitdrukking dan schildering’. Het ware ‘schilderen in klank’ kwam pas later in zwang, bij componisten als Berlioz en Liszt. In dat opzicht loopt Beethoven met dit werk ook niet echt vooruit op de Romantiek. Veeleer zet hij hier op eigenzinnige wijze een traditie uit de Barok voort; pastorale muziek vindt men al bij Bach, Händel en Vivaldi.

De titels van elk van de 5 delen geven een duidelijk beeld over wat de componist in zijn gedachten moet hebben gehad. Om de luisteraar een beetje te helpen, in deze tijd waar de pastorale traditie misschien wat meer in nevelen is gehuld volgt hier toch een korte toelichting op de symfonie. Temeer daar de Pastorale zich laat lezen als een verhaal.

Het eerste deel; ‘Angenehme Empfindungen, welche bey der Ankunft auf dem Lande im Menschen erwachen’, verbeeld de opwindende gevoelens die de mensen hebben bij aankomst op het platteland. In tegenstelling tot veel van zijn andere symfonin begint deze zeer kalm. Na de eerste 4 maten valt er al een stilte. Het deel schetst een idyllische sfeer die steeds terugkomt in het stuk. De beginmelodie zal nog vele malen terug komen in het eerste deel.

Het tweede deel; ‘Scene am Bach’, brengt de luisteraar helemaal in de natuur. Een in dit deel steeds terugkerende melodie is het geluid van het kabbelen van een beekje. In het begin gespeeld door de tweede violen, de altviolen en de cello’s. Later wordt dit motief ook door andere instrumenten overgenomen. De beek is in dit geval een beek die vaak bezocht wordt door kwartels, koekoeken en nachtegalen, wiens stemmen worden weergegeven door de houtblazers.

In het derde deel; ‘Lustiges Beysammenseyn der Landleute’ richt Beethoven zijn aandacht meer op het menselijke aandeel. Het vrolijk bijeenkomen van de boeren leidt tot een dorpsdans .

Een dorpsfanfare brengt de mensen aan het dansen. Van toonschildering is hier geen sprake meer. Maar plots valt de dans stil door aankomend onweer; ‘Donner und Sturm’ (deel 4) en wanneer de storm is gaan liggen slaat ook de gedrukte sfeer om in een vrolijk zingen van herders.

In het laatste deel: ‘Wohltätige, mit Dank an die Gottheit verbundene Gefhüle nach dem Sturm.’ keert de rust van het eerste deel weer terug. De laatste drie delen worden achter elkaar gespeeld zonder pauze ertussen.
Wenen, organiseerde Beethoven een galaconcert om de twee symfonien in première te laten gaan, samen met nog wat andere nieuwe werken. Het concert vond plaats in het ‘Theater an der Wien’ op 22 december.

Eigenlijk was Beethoven van plan na dit concert Wenen te verlaten om een concertreis te maken naar Leipzig en misschien zelfs Londen. Wenen bracht hem weinig financiële voorspoed en een reis zou zijn populariteit zeker ten goede komen. Daarnaast was het moeilijk om in Wenen je werken ten gehore te brengen. Beethoven moest zelf een zaal huren, de muzikanten regelen, de kaartjes drukken en de advertenties plaatsen.

Na dit concert zou er verandering in de situatie komen. Het dreigende afscheid van Beethoven verontruste vooral Marie Erdödy. Zij bewerkstelligde dat Gleichenstein, een goed voorziene vriend van Beethoven, drie jonge zeer gefortuneerde muziekliefhebbers interesseerde om Beethoven van een vast inkomen te voorzien. Deze, vorst Kinsky, vorst Lobkowitz en aartshertog Rudolf van Hamburg, stelde een document samen waarin ze hem een jaarinkomen toezeggen van 4000 Fl. Aan o.a. Prins Lobkowitz draagt hij zijn zesde symfonie op. Deze overeenkomst verlichtte Beethoven van alle financiele kopzorgen en deed hem besluiten in Wenen te blijven.

De vrouw met wie Beethoven het dichtst een huwelijk was genaderd, is Teresa Malfatti rond 1809-1810 geweest, met als gevolg een ontmoeting met Goethe en de ‘Egmont’-muziek.

kwartet opus 74 (Harfenquartett, 1809)

vijfde pianoconcert (ca 1809)

pianosonate opus 78 (1809)

sonate opus 81a (Les adieux, 1810)

kwartet opus 95 (1810).

het Aartshertogtrio (1810. 1811)

de zevende symfonie en de achtste symfonie (ca 1811)
In de Achste Symfonie lijkt Beethoven zijn belangstelling voor de symfonie-vorm te hebben verloren. Hij componeerde hiermee een laatste, soms ironisch eerbewijs aan de stijl meesters als Haydn.

Er is een beroemde brief bewaard gebleven die Beethoven richtte aan een ‘onsterfelijke geliefde’ waarvan men altijd aannam dat het Thérèse von Brunswick betrof. Deze heeft tot haar dood in 1861 volgehouden dat de brief aan haar was geadresseerd, ter gelegenheid van een geheime en platonische verloving tussen hen beide. Waarschijnlijk is ze dat ook in al die jaren echt gaan geloven. Er zijn echter biografen die menen dat het heel anders is gegaan dan de oude aderlijke Hongaarse dame wilde doen geloven. De brief zou zijn geschreven in juni 1812 en gericht zijn aan Joséphine, haar zuster.

sonate opus 90 (1814)

In 1814, toen Beethoven voor het Weense Congres een aantal gelegenheidswerken componeerde, bereikte zijn roem een hoogtepunt; hij werd bejubeld door een groot publiek en kreeg keizerlijke onderscheidingen.

De jaren 1814 en 1815 waren voor Beethoven in de persoonlijke sfeer tragisch. Zijn broer Karl stief in 1815 op 41-jarige leeftijd en hij besloot diens zoon, ook Karl geheten, te adopteren. Dit zou tot grote problemen leiden met de echtgenote van zijn broer, Johanna Reiss. Beethoven besloot te proberen de jongen aan de macht van zijn moeder te onttrekken. Dit lukte tenslotte in 1820 en Karl ging op negenjarige leeftijd naar kostschool. Zijn neef Karl was op de kostschool bijzonder ongelukkig geweest. Ook had hij veel te lijden gehad van het onwrikbare moralisme van zijn oom en diens totale gebrek aan psychologisch inzicht en realiteitszin. Ze hadden meerdere malen ruzie en Karl trachtte op 29 juli 1826 op 15-jarige leeftijd zelfmoord te plegen: hij vuurde op een afgelegen plek enkele kogels op zichzelf af, maar bleef in leven.

De derde periode, na ca 1816, is de voortzetting van de stijlevolutie van de vorige periode. Het hyper-individuele en in zichzelf verzonkene triomferen evenzeer als het grandioze, de drang zich als kunstenaar te richten tot de gehele mensheid als profeet en leider. Daarnaast is er een tendens waarneembaar naar volksliedachtige melodiek, zoals in de liedcyclus An die ferne Geliebte. Beethoven greep ook terug op contrapuntische vormen en modaliteit.

de laatste pianosonates (opus 101, 102 nr. 1 en nr. 2, opus 109 en 110; 1816. 1822).

Missa solemnis (1822)

De negende symfonie (1824, met de koorfinale op Schillers Ode an die Freude). Het met niets te vergelijken monumentale en vernieuwende meesterwerk dat als een mijlpaal kwam te staan in de Europeese symfonie muziek.

De Negende Symfonie (1824) en de Missa Solemnis waren hoogtepunten van vernieuwing in Beethovens tijd. Maar tijdens zijn leven hadden zich ook grote veranderingen voltrokken in de muziekpraktijk. Concerten vonden niet alleen meer plaats aan de grote adellijke hoven of in de huizen van de rijke burgerij. Steeds meer werden grote zalen gebruikt voor openbare concerten. Dit maakte ook grotere bezettingen van het orkest mogelijk, zoals vereist in Beethovens latere werken.

de laatste kwartetten (opus 127, 130, 131, 132 en 135; 1825. 1826).
De laatste jaren van zijn leven (vanaf 1824) wijdde hij geheel aan het componeren van vijf strijkkwartetten, die qua stijl een abstracte sublimering zijn van de stilistische verworvenheden van de voorafgaande werken. Zij hadden tot in de 20ste eeuw invloed.

Was er al kritiek geweest op de extravaganties van de middenperiode, Beethovens late stijl werd toen en nog veel later nauwelijks begrepen, terwijl het verwijt dat hij met instrumenten en stemmen geen rekening hield (laatste kwartetten, Missa solemnis en koorfinale van de negende symfonie) hem tot in de wetenschappelijke Beethoven-literatuur achtervolgde. Tegenwoordig treffen eerder de consequente rechtlijnigheid van zijn gehele stijlevolutie, de eenheid van zijn magistrale oeuvre en de actualiteit van de problematiek ervan, juist in de laatste periode. Een vernieuwer in eigenlijke zin was Beethoven niet, al breidde hij de orkestbezetting enigszins uit (trombones, piccolo en contrafagot in de vijfde symfonie, slagwerk bovendien in de negende symfonie). Nieuwe vormen schiep hij nauwelijks, maar hij wijzigde de bestaande naar inhoud en afmeting. Van grote betekenis was dat hij de variatietechniek (o.a. Diabellivariaties, 1823) losmaakte van de versieringstechniek en in zijn latere werken omboog naar de karaktervariaties en vrije variaties van de romantiek.

Beethoven heeft in Wenen in zo’n 30 huizen gewoond. Hij leefde in grote wanorde, maakte dikwijls ruzie met zijn beschermheren en zijn personeel en kleedde zich slecht. Na de creative explosie van de symfonieën 4, 5 en 6 was Beethoven op zichzelf in Wenen. Hij woonde alleen, na de ruzie met vorst Lichnowksy en kwam steeds vaker in conflict andere beschermheren vanwege zijn onberekenbare gedrag, dat ongetwijfeld veel te maken had met zijn voortschrijdende hardhorendheid.

Beethoven heeft slechts één opera geschreven, Fidelio. Hij moest de oerversie, Léonore, drie maal bewerken voordat iedereen tevreden was over de opera en zo zijn er vier ouvertures ontstaan, Léonore 1, Léonore 2, Léonore 3 en de Fidelio-ouverture. Het overige werk van Beethoven voor theater beperkte zich tot het ballet van Viganò, Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus en een aantal losse ouvertures of scènemuziek voor toneel.

Reeds jaren gekweld door een leverkwaal, werd hij in het najaar van 1826 ernstig ziek. Zijn laatste jaren zou hij doorbrengen in het zogenaamde Schwarzpanierhaus, een voormalig klooster op geringe afstand van het huis van de bevriende familie Breuning. Naar dit huis keerde Beethoven terug, na een nachtelijke avontuurlijke reis in een open melkkar tijdens een storm. Hij ging thuis direct naar bed en liet een dokter komen, die een longontsteking vaststelde. Bovenop de longontsteking volgde een aanval van geelzucht. Er waren in de eerste weken van 1827 drie operaties nodig en hierna heeft Beethoven zijn bed niet meer verlaten. Beethovens doodsstrijd begon op 24 maart en duurde twee dagen. Twee dagen later op 28 maart 1827 vond de begrafenis plaats en volgens Beethovens vriend Zmeskall werd deze door twintig- à dertigduizend mensen bijgewoond. De kist werd gedragen door acht musici, waaronder de componist Franz Schubert, die zelf een jaar later, op 31-jarige leeftijd zou sterven.

Het leven & de muziek van Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) op Compact Discs, DVD's en Boeken

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