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Beethoven, The Immortal

Beethoven the best composer the world has knownLudwig van Beethoven wrote " misfortune pains me doubly, in as much as it leads to my being misjudged. For me there can be no relaxation in human society; no refined conversations, no mutual confidences. I must live quite alone and may creep into society only as often as sheer necessity demands; I must live like an outcast. If I appear in company I am overcome by a burning anxiety, a fear that I am running the risk of letting people notice my condition...such experiences almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life - the only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works that I felt the urge to compose, and thus I have dragged on this miserable existence..."
from Emily Anderson, The Letters of Beethoven, Vol. 3
Beethoven, one of the greatest composers of all times suffered from manic depression. He once wrote "As for me, "I am in despair so often and would like to end my life."

Life and Times of Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig as a childHis early life: Beethoven was born in Bonn on December 16, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, tenor in the choir of the archbishop-elector of Cologne, and his wife, Maria Magdalena Ludwig's father drilled him thoroughly with the ambition of showcasing him as a child prodigy. Ludwig gave his first public performance as a pianist when he was eight years old. At the age of eleven he received the necessary systematic training in piano performance and composition from Christian Gottlob  Neefe, organist and court musician in Bonn. Employed as a musician in Bonn court orchestra since 1787, Beethoven was granted a paid leave of absence in the early part of 1787 to study in Vienna under Mozart. he was soon compelled to return to Bonn, however, and after his mother's death had to look after the family.

Beethoven - rising to famesHis ascent to greatness: In 1789 he started to play the viola in the Opera Orchestra, while also composing and teaching. In 1790 he met Haydn, who agreed to teach him in Vienna, and Beethoven moved to Vienna permanently. There he also studied with Albrechtsberger and, possibly, Salieri. He was befriended by Prince Karl Lichnowsky(to whom he dedicated his Piano Sonata in C Minor, the Path¨¦tique ). Lichnowsky was the first of many friends to give him financial support throughout his working life. In 1795 he performed in public in Vienna for the first time, and published his Op.1 trios and Op.2 piano sonatas. Subsequent appearances in Prague, Dresden, and Berlin brought him growing fame as a pianist, and especially as an improviser.
Beethoven's creative life is traditionally divided into three periods. In the first (1792--1802), the individuality of his style gradually developed, and he composed mainly for the piano. Among these works were his Symphony no.1 in C (1800) and Symphony no.2 in D (1802), his first six quartets, and the Path¨¦tique (1799). The Moonlight Sonata in C Sharp Minor (1801) heralded the beginning of the second period.

Onset of deafness and the 'Heliegenstadt Testatement': Beethoven's career as a virtuoso pianist was brought to an end when he began to experience his first symptoms of deafness. Deafness did not effect his ability to compose, but it curtailed his ability to perform and teach (as all communication with him had to be through written notes). In his despair he wrote a will-like document to his two brothers, known as the "Heliegenstadt Testament", in which he confessed his misery and indicated that he felt close to death. He recovered, however, and the works of this middle period, known as his "heroic period', show him determined to strive creatively in the face of despair - in his own words "seizing fate by the throat'.
Beethoven at the zenithReaching at the zenith of his career:
His third symphony (twice the then normal length for a symphony) was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he saw as a revolutionary hero and liberator. But when Beethoven heard Napoleon had proclaimed himself emperor, he defaced the title page in disillusionment and called the work Eroica (1803). Other works during this period include the Kreuzer Sonata (1803), symphonies 3--7, the Violin Concerto in D Major (1806), the Razumovsky Quartets (1806), the Emperor Concerto (1809), and the Archduke Trio Op.97 (1811).  
     In his only opera, Fidelio (written 1805, revised 1806 and 1814), the dominating themes were fidelity, personal liberation, and a symbolic passage from darkness into light. That married infidelity was central to the opera probably reflected  Beethoven's desire to marry. At the time of the composition he was deeply in love with a socially unattainable pupil, Josephine von Brunsvik. 
            In 1801 he had wanted to marry Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, also a pupil, to whom he had dedicated the Moonlight Sonata, but she eventually married someone else in 1803. Beethoven always regretted not marrying, but even his love for Therese Malfatti in 1810 ended without marriage. On his death a letter, written in 1812, was found among his belongings. It was addressed to his "Immortal Beloved", and various suppositions have been made about the identity of the recipient (if, indeed, it had ever been sent). It seems, however, that despite his yearning for marriage Beethoven was probably too absorbed in his music and too emotionally high-charged to sustain such a relationship.

His Final days: From 1813 (the beginning of his third period, also known as the "silent period') he composed less, and his domestic life became increasingly chaotic. Beethoven gave his last public performance on the piano in 1814, but continued to be respected as an important composer by Viennese society, despite his unkemptness and arrogance. His achievements in the last decade of his life include the Diabelli Variations (1820--3), the last piano sonatas, the last six string Portrait of Beethovenquartets, the Mass in D Major, Missa solemnis (1823), and the Choral Symphony, no. 9 (1824) - in which he set An die Freude (Ode to Joy) by Friedrich von Schiller in the final movement. (Beethoven greatly admired the work of Schiller and Goethe; the emotion of Sturm und Drang.) In early December Beethoven returned to Vienna with Karl and the journey brought the composer down with pneumonia. He recovered, only to be laid low again with cirrhosis of the liver, which in turn gave way to dropsy. His condition had deteriorated dramatically by the beginning of March and, sensing the worst, his friends rallied round: faithful Stephan brought his family and Schubert paid his respects. Beethoven's final moments, if a report by Schubert's friend Huttenbrenner are to believed, were dramatic in the extreme. At about 5:45 in the afternoon of 26 March, 1827, as a storm raged, Beethoven's room was suddenly filled with light and shaken with thunder:  

Beethoven's eyes opened and he lifted his right fist for
several seconds, a serious, threatening expression on
his face. When his had fell back, he half closed his eyes
... Not another word, not another heartbeat.

Schubert and Hummel were among the 20,000 - 30,000 people who mourned the composer at his funeral three days later. He was buried in Wahring Cemetery; in 1888 his remains were removed to Zentral-friedhof in Vienna - a great resting place for musicians - where he lies side-by-side with Schubert.

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