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: Piano Concerto No 3; Mozart: Piano Concerto No 24 / Sudbin, Vanska
Release Date: 02/25/2014   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1978   Number of Discs: 1
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Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas / Igor Levit
Release Date: 11/05/2013   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 370387   Number of Discs: 2
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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 / Jean-efflam Bavouzet
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10798   Number of Discs: 3
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Beethoven, Berg: Violin Concertos / Weithaas, Sloane, 	Stavanger Symphony
Release Date: 01/14/2014   Label: Cavi Music  
Catalog: 8553305   Number of Discs: 1
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Beethoven:
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Idi  
Catalog: 6678   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Leonore Overture no 3 in C major, Op. 72a

 

About This Work
There are no fewer than four separate overtures for Beethoven's only opera Fidelio. This unusual state of affairs can be attributed to the extremely long and convoluted evolution of the opera, which actually began life as Leonore, the first version Read more of which was staged in 1805, when Napoleon's troops were overrunning Vienna.

The work concerns the Spanish nobleman Florestan, who has been wrongfully imprisoned by his enemy Don Pizarro. Leonore, Florestan's wife, is keen to help, and disguises herself as Fidelio, and wins the trust of the jailer Rocco, who employs her (believing Fidelio to be a man) as his assistant. Also unaware of the subterfuge, and entirely convinced by the disguise, Rocco's daughter Marzelline falls in love with Fidelio, and their match is encouraged by Rocco, though her real suitor Jaquino is understandably confused. In any event, Fidelio wins the confidence of her employer, and is finally allowed to see the imprisoned Florestan. Pizarro arrives at the jail, resolved to kill Fidelio, but he is prevented and all the prisoners are freed.

It is not clear when the first two Leonora overtures were written, but Beethoven quickly suppressed No. 1; it was not published until 1838, long after his death. Leonora No. 2 (1805) is much longer, and like No. 3, it conveys the themes of the opera, and suggests its overall dramaturgy in microcosm. The Leonora Overture No. 3, Op. 72, was composed in 1806, and is much the most successful of the three Leonora overtures. One important distinction between the Leonora overtures and the Fidelio overture of 1814 is that the later work makes no attempt at a précis of the whole opera, but instead it provides the powerful curtain-raiser that Beethoven by now sensed was needed to properly complete the piece. Mendelssohn was the first conductor to program all four overtures together, during a concert at the Leipzig Gewandhaus given in 1840.

Leonora No. 3 opens with a solemn slow introduction, entirely fitting given the lofty themes of personal freedom under review in the opera. The main C major allegro begins softly, in unison on the strings, but develops into a magnificent heraldic hymn to liberty. Further points to note are the two off-stage trumpet fanfares heard in the central development section, the second sounding closer, thus signifying the moment of approaching release. The coda begins with a spectacular rising passage for the violin section, a virtuoso ensemble device that was again designed to make the climax of the overture prefigure the ultimate outcome of the opera as decisively as possible.

-- AllMusic.com Read less

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