Ludwig van BeethovenCover of Ludwig van Beethoven
(text in large print for classroom projection)

Born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, lived until 1827. Moved to Vienna as a young adult, originally to study with Joseph Haydn. However, the two clashed, and the relationship fizzled. Unlike Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven refused to be treated as a servant, and remained in Vienna only after several noblemen promised to pay him a regular stipend for composing in Vienna. Everything was looking up until he neared his 30th birthday and found that he was losing his hearing.

There are many stories about Beethoven's dedication after losing his hearing. Beethoven lived a hard life. He cared for a nephew who had nervous breakdown and began suffering hearing loss (and eventually vision loss) at an early age. Stories abound about the composer placing his piano directly on the floor (he had the legs taken off) to hear the vibrations of the notes better, supposedly becoming blind after composing the Moonlight Sonata by the light of the moon, conducting orchestras like a madman because he could not hear the music, and even not being able to hear the applause after a work of his was completed. How much of this was truth, myth, or maybe tall tale is hard to surmise. In any case, Beethoven continued creating some of his best works well after his deafness was complete.

Beethoven was also considered bad tempered and quite moody, although some historians point out that it may have been directly related to the loss of hearing and the issues with his nephew, which frustrated and depressed him.

Beethoven never did marry. However, he did have a string of love affairs, which seemed to keep him busy. He also loved and cared for his nephew. He fought for the boy's custody from his sister, who he thought was unfit. However, I don't know if being with the very moody bachelor Beethoven (especially as he started losing his hearing around age 30), was healthy for a growing boy.

Unlike Mozart who could quickly write and compose a symphony in no time at all (it was as natural as breathing to him), Beethoven worked exceedingly hard at creating his work. He was a perfectionist, his home covered in scratched out scores and manuscripts. Beethoven strove for ultimate perfection in his work. It is amazing that Beethoven, even after deafness had claimed his hearing forever, still produced incredibly symphonies and works, is quite a feat!

Both Mozart and Beethoven were considered musical geniuses. Yet, their composition styles were drastically different. Mozart could hear an entire symphony in his head and compose it directly to paper without even touching a piano. In fact, Mozart "stole" music by sitting in concerts and dictating the music to paper as he listened (which was actually considered illegal at that time! Yep, and this was BEFORE P2P filesharing! ). Mozart did this as a musical exercise, but it just lends more credence to his incredible talents.

Beethoven, on the other hand, only composed nine symphonies, but they are certainly masterworks! He spent years perfecting his notes. He, too, could hear the music in his head (which is why he could compose even after going deaf and half blind). However, he constantly perfected and tweaked each and every note.

Beethoven created amazing symphonies, like his Third Symphony (Eroica, originally to be named after Napoleon, but then changed after Bonaparte declared himself emperor), and the Sixth Symphony (the Pastoral Symphony, which reflects Beethoven's love of nature). He only wrote a single opera, "Fidelio" and dozens of piano sonatas. He was a transitionary force between the Classical and Romantic Eras.
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