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Ludwig van Beethoven

Biography

Born: 1770, Germany   Died: 1827, Austria   Period: Classical, Romantic
The events of Beethoven's life are the stuff of Romantic legend, evoking images of the solitary creator shaking his fist at Fate and finally overcoming it through a supreme effort of creative will. Born in the small German city of Bonn on or around December 16, 1770, he received his early training from his father and other local musicians. As a teenager, he earned some money as an assistant to his teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, then was Read more granted half of his father's salary as court musician from the Electorate of Cologne in order to care for his two younger brothers as his father gave in to alcoholism. Beethoven played viola in various orchestras, becoming friends with other players such as Antoine Reicha, Nikolaus Simrock, and Franz Ries, and began taking on composition commissions. As a member of the court chapel orchestra, he was able to travel some and meet members of the nobility, one of whom, Count Ferdinand Waldstein, would become a great friend and patron to him. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn; despite the prickliness of their relationship, Haydn's concise humor helped form Beethoven's style. His subsequent teachers in composition were Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Antonio Salieri. In 1794, he began his career in earnest as a pianist and composer, taking advantage whenever he could of the patronage of others. Around 1800, Beethoven began to notice his gradually encroaching deafness. His growing despondency only intensified his antisocial tendencies. However, the Symphony No. 3, "Eroica," of 1803 began a sustained period of groundbreaking creative triumph. In later years, Beethoven was plagued by personal difficulties, including a series of failed romances and a nasty custody battle over a nephew, Karl. Yet after a long period of comparative compositional inactivity lasting from about 1811 to 1817, his creative imagination triumphed once again over his troubles. Beethoven's late works, especially the last five of his 16 string quartets and the last four of his 32 piano sonatas, have an ecstatic quality in which many have found a mystical significance. Beethoven died in Vienna on March 26, 1827.
Beethoven's epochal career is often divided into early, middle, and late periods, represented, respectively, by works based on Classic-period models, by revolutionary pieces that expanded the vocabulary of music, and by compositions written in a unique, highly personal musical language incorporating elements of contrapuntal and variation writing while approaching large-scale forms with complete freedom. Though certainly subject to debate, these divisions point to the immense depth and multifariousness of Beethoven's creative personality. Beethoven profoundly transformed every genre he touched, and the music of the nineteenth century seems to grow from his compositions as if from a chrysalis. A formidable pianist, he moved the piano sonata from the drawing room to the concert hall with such ambitious and virtuosic middle-period works as the "Waldstein" (No. 21) and "Appassionata" (No. 23) sonatas. His song cycle An die ferne Geliebte of 1816 set the pattern for similar cycles by all the Romantic song composers, from Schubert to Wolf. The Romantic tradition of descriptive or "program" music began with Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony No. 6. Even in the second half of the nineteenth century, Beethoven still directly inspired both conservatives (such as Brahms, who, like Beethoven, fundamentally stayed within the confines of Classical form) and radicals (such as Wagner, who viewed the Ninth Symphony as a harbinger of his own vision of a total art work, integrating vocal and instrumental music with the other arts). In many ways revolutionary, Beethoven's music remains universally appealing because of its characteristic humanism and dramatic power. Read less
Beethoven: Complete String Quartets / Tokyo SQ
Release Date: 09/09/2014   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 807641   Number of Discs: 8
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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas No 1-3, 5-10, 12-18, 23, 30-33 / Glenn Gould
Release Date: 10/30/2012   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 541286   Number of Discs: 6
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The Beethoven Journey - Piano Concertos No 1-5 / 	Leif Ove Andsnes
Release Date: 10/27/2014   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 305887   Number of Discs: 3
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Beethoven: Complete Works for Cello & Piano / Queyras, Melnikov
Release Date: 09/09/2014   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 902183   Number of Discs: 2
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Beethoven: Piano Trios Op 70 No 2,
Release Date: 02/11/2014   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 902125   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Rage Over a Lost Penny (Rondo a capriccio)

 

About This Work
Though Beethoven's Rondo a capriccio in G major, Op. 129 is today a recital favorite, it was apparently unknown in the composer's own lifetime. Indeed, the incomplete manuscript, dating to 1795, came to light only at an auction of Beethoven's Read more personal effects following his death in 1827. The work was first published in 1828 by Beethoven's colleague, the publisher Anton Diabelli, today best remembered for his association with Beethoven's monumental set of 33 Variations, Op. 120. It has been suggested that Diabelli himself completed the Rondo, although the original edition gives no indication that the work was incomplete and had been significantly rearranged. The manuscript disappeared for many years and was considered lost until it turned up in the United States just after World War II. From the original manuscript, musicologist Erich Hertzmann prepared a new edition, published in 1949.

The title on Beethoven's manuscript of the work is "Alla ingharese quasi un capriccio"; the familiar subtitle "Rage over a Lost Penny" was later added by Anton Schindler. Marked Allegro vivace and in 2/4, the Rondo a capriccio combines a familiar rondo scheme with Beethoven's singular variation technique. The Rondo theme itself has two parts, each consisting of an eight-measure antecedent-consequent phrase. The statements of this darting, quicksilver theme are separated by episodes that are just as frenetic. In one of the Rondo's most distinct features, each return of the main theme is different from its initial presentation. Such alterations range from graceful ornamentation of the melodic line to changes of mode from major to minor. During one statement, the tune appears in the left hand, while in the lengthy coda, Beethoven's treatment of the material becomes conspicuously developmental. It is possibly this departure from a more conventional conception of the rondo that led Beethoven to use the expression "quasi un capriccio" (like a fantasy).

-- John Palmer, All Music Guide Read less

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