CCSF MUS27A Symposium musician with his seven-stringed lyre beside the fluted column of a building, ca. 460 b.c.  University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology (c) Instructor: Larry Ferrara  
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Music Appreciation
Week 12



Painting of Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven


Ludwig Van Beethoven personifies in music what is heroic, powerful, sensitive, energetic and what represents victory over struggle. When he was 5 years old America's Declaration of Independence was signed and when he was 18, the French Revolution broke out. Beethoven believed in the French Revolutions aspirations toward "Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood." In addition Beethoven had to fight the injustices of his alcoholic father and the death of his mother when he was 15. He raised his family by being a pianist, organist and music teacher and thus attained a tremendous amount of responsibility at an early age. These circumstances bred an inner strength but also a certain amount of contempt for the outer world. Beethoven sees himself as a survivor.

In 1790 Beethoven started to go deaf. He took the news tragically. His diary reads, “How could I possibly mention to others the loss of a sense which in me should be more perfectly developed than in other people, a sense which at one time I possessed in the greatest perfection. How humiliated I have felt when somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing! Such experiences made me despair. I would have ended my life it was only my art that held me back.” By 1802 Beethoven recognize that he suffered a total loss of hearing. He withdrew from society and lived in solitude in Heiligenstadt just outside of Vienna. It was here that he wrote some of his most beautiful pieces (the late piano sonatas symphony 9, Ode to Joy, and his late string quartets). His condition was a devastating one for a musician, but he continued to compose some of his most well known and respected works. His style at this time (the last 10 years of his life) could be described as "other worldly, serene, introspective and peaceful." Through composing and offering the world magnificent music, Beethoven overcame life's pain and sorrow and in the end can be seen as individual who rose above his own fate.

Beethoven’s works are often divided into three periods. These are stylistic phases that his life and consequently his compositions go through. They reflect turning points as well as personal experiences in his life at the time of his musical compositions. In addition to mapping Beethoven’s psychological progression they also give great insight into his music.


Beethoven’s early period works 1792- 1802

Painting of young Beethoven

Young Beethoven

Beethoven’s works follow the model of Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven left Bonn at 19 to study with Haydn and was trained in a strict classical mold but it didn’t take Beethoven long to break the classical forms. He extended the classical forms such as sonata form, variation form, minuet and trio and rondo form. He changed them by altering the standard tempos and wrote scherzo’s (scherzo means joke, as if to mock the classical minuet) instead of minuet and trio’s.

Listen to how much the 1st piano concerto by Beethoven sounds like Mozart or Haydn:



Beethoven’s middle period works 1802-1812

Painting of Beethoven in 1804

Beethoven in 1804

The French revolution of 1789 had a profound effect on Beethoven. His Third Symphony was named "Eroica" and dedicated to the early hero of the French Revolution, Napoleon. However the dedication was angrily withdrawn when Napoleon declared himself emperor and proved himself not to be the leader of freedom, democracy and the preserver of self-determination. Beethoven stood for those democratic ideals and his music took on a triumphant, victorious and conquering quality characterized by driving rhythms, dynamic orchestral affects and self assured march like qualities.

In addition he became aware of his growing deafness and his inability to hear loudly and with clarity.

Listen to a strong, rhythmic and triumphant passage from the final movement of Symphony No.5.



Beethoven’s late period works 1813 to 1827

Painting of Beethoven in 1827

Beethoven in 1827

The final period in Beethoven’s life was when he was totally deaf. He produced works that transcend history and will be truly immortal. They show a deep spirituality in the tender melodies, meditative moods, passionate harmonies and in some of his works like the 9th Symphony, the last five Piano Sonatas and the Miss Solemnis, a sublime outpouring of emotion.

Listen to Beehoven's personal vision of universal joy, nobility and warmth in the Ode to Joy theme:


Listen to a meditative, intimate and personal statement from his 3rd piano concerto:



Beethoven's contributions toward the future of music:

 Beethoven fit the form of the music to match the expression of what was being
created. His autobiographical works of self expression and human values are an
example of much of the music that will eventually follow.

 The many movements of a symphony are seen as one long narrative.
The linking movements by using the same motive from one movement to the next.

 Using Program Music (instrumental music descriptive of a scene, poem, story or
some other literary source).

 Powerful rhythmic drive in opening and closing movements of a symphony.




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