Beethoven: Life and Career

            Ludwig van Beethoven was, and remains today, an influential figure in the history of classical music. Perhaps no other composer in history wrote music of such inspiring power and expressiveness. His influence on the last 150 years of music is unequalled. .

             Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. His father, a music enthusiast, dreamed of molding his son into the next Mozart. Beethoven never showed the impressive characteristics of Mozart, but he was unusually talented, learning the piano, organ and violin at a very early age. At 14, he was already skilled enough on the organ to receive a professional appointment (Beethoven). He held positions as an assistant organist in the electoral chapel where he obtained his first lessons in composition from the court organist. His family life was chaotic; his father was an alcoholic, and his mother died suddenly when he was only 17. After that tragedy, his family situation declined even more, and this caused him to leave home in 1790 and travel to Vienna to study composition. .

             In Vienna, Beethoven first studied with Franz Joseph Haydn, but eventually became frustrated with the great composer's teaching methods and he moved on to study with other composers. He performed often in wealthy salons but interestingly enough, he did not perform in public until he was 25 years old (Beethoven). .

             Beethoven impressed many of his fellow composers including Mozart and while he was in Vienna, he had a chance to play for him. After Beethoven improvised brilliantly at the piano on a theme Mozart had given to him, the 30year-old Mozart ran excitedly into the next room and prophetically told his friends, "Watch that fellow - someday he'll really make a name for himself!" (Grunfeld 76).

             The early piano sonatas of Beethoven deserve special mention. Although his first published examples of concertos and trios and the first two symphonies are beneath the masterpieces of Mozart and Haydn, the piano sonatas bear an unmistakably Beethovian stamp: grandiose in scope and length, and innovative in their range of expression.

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