Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
If I had a music hero . . .
If I had a music hero, it would be Ludwig van Beethoven. He was and has always been my inspiration since I was taking piano lessons as a child. Beethoven, as he is commonly referred to, had a pretty difficult childhood, but became one of the “Three B’s” as my piano teacher, Miss Virginia Sheffield Holtzendorff, told me. The Three B’s, according to her, were Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms, all of whom were exceptional composers and musicians.
I remember how excited I was to finally get to learn “Fur Elise”, one of Beethoven’s earlier piano compositions. It is still very popular even today, being heard on commercials and even ring tones! Wouldn’t he be surprised that this little piece had withstood the test of time for probably over 200 years.
A Night with Beethoven . . .
Several years ago, when I was still teaching classes of piano students, I hosted “A Night With Beethoven” for them in his birthday month, December. I created a workbook about his life, we had a candlelight dinner with foods he is reported to have liked, and then the students played a recital of some of his piano solos. It was a great success, and they learned so much about Beethoven.
I’m sharing some of the information about his life in this post. He was and continues to be a remarkable musician, and a tremendous influence on the lives of budding musicians, both young and old.
Beethoven’s life . . .
“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the greatest and best known musicians who ever lived. He was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany. Both his grandfather and father were musicians and singers. Ludwig studied music with his father when he was just a small boy.
Ludwig also studied music with some of the other great music composers of the time, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach. Their music made a great impression on him.
When he was 17 years old, Ludwig van Beethoven went to Vienna, Austria to study. Vienna was the center for music and musicians in Europe.
Beethoven always looked like he had a frown on his face and his hair needed combing. People thought he was always angry. He had a reputation for being impatient and even unfriendly at times. Even family and friends thought he was unreasonable and impossible. All these things had an influence on his passion when writing his music compositions. He expressed himself through his excellent music.
Deafness . . . his plight
Everyone knows Beethoven as the composer who became deaf. But, he wasn’t born deaf . . . he became deaf due to some physical ailment that plagued him at some point in his life. Because he was born with the ability to hear, he was still able to write music in his deafness, hearing the music in his inner hearing. When he could no longer hear anything, he had to remember how the notes sounded when they were played. This is what allowed him to keep writing music.
When Beethoven was about 30 years old, he began to go deaf. Soon he could no longer hear speech and loud noises were even louder in his ears. The loud noises drowned out the music Beethoven heard in his head.
By the age of 47 he was totally deaf and never able to hear again. He continued to write music even after this, but could not hear the music he wrote.
His doctors told him to go to the countryside and rest. Here he was inspired by nature and wrote nature sounds in some of his symphonies. You can hear the birds chirping, water running in a stream and a storm. You can even hear thunder and lightning! He made these sounds through notes, not actual birds and storms.
Beethoven’s Death . . .
“. . . and a time to die.”
In 1826, Beethoven caught cold coming back from his brother’s place. The illness complicated other health problems he had suffered all his life. He passed away encircled by his closest friends on March 26, 1827.
The funeral took place at the church of the Holy Trinity. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 people attended. Franz Schubert, a timid and huge admirer of Beethoven, was one of the coffin bearers, along with other musicians. Schubert died the next year and was buried next to Beethoven.
Beethoven’s Contribution . . .
Beethoven’s “song” is the musical contribution he made to mankind. Piano solos, sonatas, symphonies, string quartets, and even an opera. His 5th Symphony is one of the favorites even today. And his 9th Symphony has the choir singing what we know as “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. One of my favorite sonatas of all time is his “Moonlight Sonata”, which he wrote for his Immortal Beloved. It’s beautiful, haunting melody touches your heart in a special way.
His music has withstood the test of time and is, in my opinion, immortal, so to speak, just like the music he wrote to his “Immortal Beloved”. We don’t know for sure who she was, but she was a significant influence in his life.
Your song . . .
Everyone has a “song” that they, throughout their life “sings”. Their song is their contribution to mankind. I think Beethoven would tell you, live your life every day as if it were the most beautiful song you could ever play. Every day adding a new verse, but always going back to the beauty of your life’s chorus. He had many challenges in his life, but he lived his life just like he played his music . . . with both love and passion until he could live no more.