Front Page Chronology Works Influences Life & Times In His Own Words Musical Instruments Discs Quiz

 


Revolution
and
Romance

In the Age of Beethoven,
HE was the revolution in music.


He first made his mark as a young virtuoso pianist.



Newly arrived in Vienna, he quickly sent ripples across the musical establishment. "Why has this man come to trouble us?"
they asked, as the 25-year old transplant from Bonn pounded the keyboard on his way to fame. It was said that in his hands, the piano became another instrument. Of course we all know that as a composer, he left this world on the crest of a tsunami. His nine symphonies shook the world as he took the genre to new heights and gave new meaning to the word "music."

Of course he was influenced by the works of his predecessors, but as he listened to the rumblings of the world around him and to the music within him, Beethoven became first to break out of the classical mold that shaped the music of Haydn and Mozart.

He held on to the sonata form perfected by Haydn, enriching it even as he broke loose from its strictures. He wrote grand introductions and expanded both development and coda sections. He eliminated needless repetition and ornamentation and amplified thematic variations, his accelerated tempi transforming minuet into scherzo. He recognized the distinct sound and the solo potential of each orchestral instrument, and as he did in the Ninth Symphony he allowed the introgression of the human voice into the symphonic form when instrument alone did not suffice. And finally, whether by intent or by accident (of his premature deafness), he was oblivious to the fallibilites of his performers and the preferences of his audience. It was thus that he chipped away at the rules that governed musicmaking in his time.

By giving full rein to expressivity in music, he imbued form with the substance of human emotion, and singlehandedly sparked the revolution that blazed the trail for the early Romantics (e.g., Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann) and foreordained the lush orchestrations of Berlioz, Wagner, and Mahler. It is no wonder that a multiplicity of descriptive titles exists for many of his works - e.g., Emperor, Eroica, Pastoral, Les Adieux, Pathetique, Moonlight, Appassionata - titles not of his own making that speak of triumph and heroism, joy and sorrow, and of course - romance; and that Beethoven, the revolutionary, is also thought by many to be music's first Romantic.


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FIDELIO - his only opera
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