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Ludwig Van Beethoven
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Beethoven, Ludwig van
German composer. The greatest composer of his day, he began to lose his hearing in 1801 and was deaf by 1819. His music, which formed a transition from classical to romantic composition, includes 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, a violin concerto, 32 piano sonatas, several other sonatas, 2 Masses, and an opera.
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Ludwig van (bâ´toven), 1770-1827, German composer, universally recognized as one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Young Beethoven's musical gifts were acknowledged by MOZART and HAYDN, and his piano virtuosity and extraordinary compositions won him the generous support of the Viennese aristocracy despite his notoriously boorish manners. Despite the onset (1801) of deafness, which became progressively worse and was total by 1817, his creative work was neverrestricted. Beethoven's work may be divided into three distinct periods. The early works, influenced by the tradition of Mozart and Haydn, include the First and Second Symphonies, the first three piano concertos, and a number of piano sonatas, including the Pathétique. From 1802, his work broke the formal conventions of classical music. This most productive middle period included the Third Symphony (Eroica); the Fourth through Eighth Symphonies; his one Violin Concerto; and his sole opera, Fidelio. Beethoven's final period, dating from about 1816, is characterized by works of greater depth, including the Hammerklavier Sonata; the monumental Ninth Symphony, with its choral finale based on SCHILLER's Ode to Joy; the Missa Solemnis; and the last five string quartets. A prolific composer, Beethoven produced numerous smaller works besides his major symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and quartets. His work crowned the classical period and initiated the romantic era in music.
Artistic freedom, of course, is what Beethoven's life was all about, the constant struggle to push beyond all the limits of music and forge more meaning and more complexity of vision than sound had ever before carried. But the artist, as Joyce has dramatically demonstrated in _Ulysses_ and _Finnegans Wake_, is fighting the struggle which every human must fight if we are not to replapse into total robotry: the struggle to see and hear with one's own eyes and ears, not with the circuitry of social conditioning. Beethoven is one man, and struggles, suffers, and triumphs as one, but he speaks for all who are in any degree conscious of their potential individuality. It is the music of a stubborn individual who is willing to suffer anything, pay any price asked, to achieve greater organic vision than has existed in the world before him. Nobody but Shakespeare or a damned fool would make an iambic pentameter line out of "never" repeated five times; but Shakespeare does it, and where and when he does it, he produces one of his most powerful tragic effects. And nobody but Beethoven or damned fool would represent the unity of thesis and antithesis (or the individual Will and implacable Fate) by progressing from the third to the fourth movement without the traditional pause; but Beethoven does it and makes it work. Genius is the capacity to conceive the inconceivable, as Alekhine checkmates with a pawn, while his opponent and every witness was wondering what his knights or queen might be about to do.
Perhaps some mystics have achieved higher levels of consciousness than Beethoven (perhaps!), but if so, we cannot know of it. Aleister Crowley once astonished me by writing that the artist is greater than the mystic, an odd remark from a man who was only a mediocre artist himself (althought a great mystic.) Listening to Ludwig, I have come to understand what Crowley meant. The mystic, unless he or she is also an artist, cannot communicate the higher states of awareness achieved by the fully turned-on brain; but the great artist can. Listening to Beethoven, one shares, somewhat, in his expanded perceptions; and the more one listens, the more one shares.
Finally, one is able to believe
his promise: if one listens to that music enough, one will never again
be unhappy. Ludwig himself? He ended his days as a (relatively)
poor, distinctly shabby old man; deaf and lonely; shuffling around Vienna
"humming and howling" in an offkey voice as he constructed the music he
couldn't hear; furtively sneaking off to brothels because he had accepted,
finally, that the Romantic Love he yearned for was not part of his Fate.
Some of his neighbors said he was crazy. But what was going on in
his head was the creation of the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis, and
the late quartets, the greatest artistic expressions in all history of
script of evolution from unicellular dance to the struggles and sufferings
of complex organisms to the extraterrestrial perspective of the Cosmic Immortals
we are becoming.
- Justin Case - _Beethoven As Information_