Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer who made a significant contribution to the development of the Viennese Classicism. In his 56 years of life, he wrote about 340 works, including symphonies, piano concertos, string quartets and one opera.

Musical work

Beethoven was born in 1770 as son of an immigrant family of musicians in Bonn. His extraordinary musical talent was encouraged early and he received lessons in organ, piano, violin and composition.

At age 12, Beethoven already published his first own compositions. 10 years later, the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn became aware of Ludwig’s remarkable musical talent and invited him to Vienna. There, Beethoven should follow in Mozart’s footsteps as piano virtuoso and composer, as Mozart had died one year before.

The success of Beethoven's work, however, was variable: initially, his only opera "Fidelio" was publicly criticized in 1805, before the Viennese audience enthusiastically celebrated the work a few years later. At age 48, his progressive hearing loss eventually led to total deafness. However, this did not prevent Beethoven from continuing his work as a composer and conductor. He was not able to hear his late compositions- including the famous "Symphony No. 9"- himself anymore though.

Characteristics & effects of his work

Unlike Mozart’s music which is often lively and playful, Beethoven's works are characterized by their serious and dramatic effects. In addition to that, he was one of the first composers who staged their music in a dramaturgically coherent sequence. Many of his unpredictable works take numerous unexpected turns until they culminate in a large, dramatic finale.

Most significant works (Selection):

Op. 13: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor "Pathétique"
Op. 27: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Moonlight"
Op. 55: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major "Eroica"
Op. 57: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor "Appassionata"
Op. 67: Symphony No. 5 in C minor
Op. 68: Symphony No. 6 in F major "Pastoral”
Op. 72: Opera „Fidelio“
Op. 123: „Missa Solemnis“ in D major
Op. 125: Symphony No. 9 in D minor "Choral" (“Ode to Joy”)