Ludwig van Beethoven was born on December 17th, 1770 in a place called Bonn (“Life of Beethoven- ‘Childhood’ ” par. 1). He was the first born son and his father was so determined to mold him into a musician. His father used to give him violin and piano classes when he was a child.
At eight years of age, he learned theory and keyboard under the instruction of van den Eeden who was the former chapel organizer (par. 2-3). He also received piano lessons from Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer while Franz Rovantini gave him violin and viola lessons (Schindler p. 40).
Equipped with the basics, his father forced him to stage a public performance at only twelve years of age (“Life of Beethoven- ‘Childhood’” par. 3). During his teenage years, Beethoven concentrated more on performances than composition (“Life of Beethoven- ‘Youth’ ” par. 1). In 1787, Beethoven visited Vienna and it is believed that he may have attended some classes with Mozart, a famous symphony composer at the time.
His visit was, however, cut short by the news of his ailing mother who later died in July the same year (par. 4-5). His father was so much affected by the loss that he resorted to heavy drinking leaving Beethoven with no option, but to assume the role of the family head. Beethoven even sort court proceedings to allow him to receive a portion of his father’s salary to take care of the family.
Having assured the welfare of his younger siblings, Beethoven eventually moved permanently to Vienna in 1792 (Schindler p. 48). While there he studied courses like choral fugues, double fugue and canon. In his adult years, he concentrated more on music composition and composed many symphonies.
In the year 1800, he made a performance of his first symphony (Schindler p. 54). Between the year 1801 and 1806, he composed his 2nd 3rd and 4th symphonies making him a successful composer with the best symphonies in the industry. Beethoven excelled in his career as a symphony composer until his death on 26 March, 1827 in Vienna.
General Overview of the Genre
A symphony is an extended musical composition in the western classical music (“Symphony” par. 1). It contains both instrumental passages and overtures or interludes. The usage of the word symphony dates back to the 17th century tracing its origin from Greek word συμφωνία meaning agreement or concord of sound.
Symphonies written in the past had three movements namely; quick-slow-quick. They were mainly used as overtures to introduce a stage work (“Symphony” par. 1). A piece originally written as an overture could be used as a symphony and a symphony could also be used as an overture.
The three movements in the 17th century symphony were later replaced by four movements in the 18th and 19th centuries. The change from three to four movements originated from German composers especially Haydn and Mozart. The four movements were: the opening, slow movement, a minute with trio, and an allegro (“Symphony” par. 6). There were, however, variations in this layout in terms of style and content.
In the 19th century, symphonies became very popular among the music fans. Beethoven expanded symphony very fast with his compositions. His ninth symphony was the best ever composed making a summary of the previous eight. By the end of the 19th century, instruments that allowed an orchestral approach to symphonies were introduced by French organizers.
In the 20th century, symphony experienced further diversification in style and content, but still mentioned the old format. Symphonies still remained to be orchestral works even with diversification of style and content. However, most symphonies composed in the 20th century had variations distinguishing them from the earlier genre.
Analysis of the Specific Work
Beethoven composed a total of nine symphonies commonly classified as No. 1-9, though they had names as we will see below. His first and second symphonies were a continuation of Haydn’s and Mozart’s work (Comini p. 124, 130). His third symphony was called ‘Eroica’, which was a romantic symphony. It marked the start of his best compositions.
In his fourth symphony, he featured strong programmatic background. This symphony also marked the start of the fading away of the classical symphony. His fifth symphony was unique. This is so because of its sonata that made it stand out from his previous compositions.
The sixth symphony called the pastoral is a series of symphonic poems interconnected through related melodic motifs (Comini p. 135). The seventh and the eighth symphonies has new element of aesthetics. The ninth symphony is in the form of a choral. It represents the summit of the Beethoven Symphony (Cook p. 64).
It also represents all the musical means of expression utilized by himself up to that point of his composition (Cook p. 64). Beethoven once said that symphonies were a true representation of him. Through them you would get to know his likes and dislikes. Beethoven is the best known composer in the world both during his time and in the current world.
His compositions were a great breakthrough for this genre of music. They were all unique from the other artists’ compositions. Each prepared a way for the next. They were like a continuation of each other. Some of his best compositions were symphony No. 3, 5 and 9. They were the most popular and the most listened to during his time. Beethoven’s compositions are known to many in the history of this genre of music.
Analysis of the Ninth Symphony (Choral Work)
Composed in the early 19th Century, Symphony No. 9 is the summary of all Beethoven’s symphonies (Comini p. 138). This composition includes all his previous eight compositions. It has all the ideas of the previous symphonies summarized into one composition. Its tone is that of happiness hence considered by many as the symphony of joy (Cook p. 67).
Part one of this symphony has an everlasting moment in the creation of the composition and Beethoven is viewed as a genius for this. Its content presents the horrors of war in the world at that time. The music background is composed of violins and the cellos. The first theme is introduced with much effort contrasting with the secondary themes and motives (p. 65).
Part two of the symphony is joyful. It has great intense and depth, which often made the crowd happy and cheerful during performance. Part three creates a different atmosphere altogether. It is like the beginning of a new cycle (p. 70). There are movements of lyrics allowing for dancing during the performance. Finally, part four is the summary of the whole symphony (p. 72). It creates the most memorable page in the book of universal culture.
Comini, Alessandara. The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study in Mythmaking. New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 2008. Print.
Cook, Nicholas. Beethoven Symphony, Issue 9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.
“Life of Beethoven.” All About Beethoven.com. Web. <http://www.all-about-beethoven.com/beethovenlife.html>.
Schindler, Anton. Beethoven as I knew him: A Biography. Canada: General Publications Co. 1996. Print.
“Symphony.” Oxford Grove Music Encyclopedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Web.