Thursday, September 1, 2011

23 Interesting Facts about Beethoven

Many Google searches came for Beethoven today, bringing this search string to the prominent top-ten list. I hope, that most of the people were looking for reference to the famous classical composer, rather than to the cute dog, named on his honor.

Ludwig van Beethoven definitely deserves the public interest, as he was among the most influential, creative and powerful musicians in the history has ever known. This German composer and pianist has produced some classical pieces of work in the field of music, which includes many symphonies, an opera, concerti, piano sonatas, etc. Beethoven was a legend recognized for his great music, also as his temper!  In this post, I would like to bring to your attention some interesting and not widely known facts of his life and career. As any genius, he was also a human being with his feelings, fears, desires, and love stories.

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1.       Born in Germany on December 16th, 1770, Beethoven was the eldest of 7 siblings, 4 of whom passed away during childhood.
2.       Beethoven’s earliest music instructions were the piano lessons his father started to give him when he was four or five years old. Some researchers claim that Beethoven suffered substantial abuse by her father to practice music to the extreme. Some also believe he was the victim of sexual abuse. There are opinions that his music expresses anger later in life at the mistreatment suffered by the victim.
3.       His first public performance came at the age of seven on 26th March 1778. Interestingly, 26th March was the same date when Beethoven died. While delivering his first performance in Cologne, Beethoven’s father announced him to be six years old. It was due to this declaration that he always thought himself to be 1½ years younger than his real age. It was only years later when he received his baptism certificate did he learn about his real age. He assumed it to be his elder brother’s certificate, who died in childhood.
4.       It is rumored that as a young man, another very famous musician—Mozart, heard Beethoven’s playing. He made a comment about the young man, and that Beethoven’s career should be watched for his genius. Mozart seemingly passed on the torch for being the most famous musicians in the world to the young Beethoven, and their meeting may have very well inspired Beethoven to work hard to achieve greatness.
5.       Beethoven was lucky to learn music under the guidance of well-known musicians, like Gottlob Neefe, Joseph Haydn, Albrechtsberger, Salieri and the celebrated Mozart.
6.       It was in 1782 at the young age of 12 when Beethoven published his first composition. It was a set of keyboard variations that eventually declared him as one of the popular piano players in history.

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7.       He moved to Vienna in 1792 where he met the prominent Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and studied piano under him. This earned him the reputation of a virtuoso pianist in no time.
8.       Beethoven is known for composing 9 symphonies, 7 concertos, 17 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, and 10 violin sonatas, 5 cello sonatas, a sonata for French horn.
9.       Beethoven was one of the first musicians to be given annual grant of 4000 florins, just because the people didn't want him to leave Vienna.
10.    Beethoven wrote three love letters to an “Immortal Beloved”, the mystery of which remains unsolved till date. Since he fell in love with many women, biographers are unable to figure out the woman behind this entire eccentric puzzle. Some researchers believe her to be one of three different women. Each of the three women went on to marry other men, but they are believed to have been loved and lost by Beethoven.
11.    Beethoven did not have any children, but he formed an attachment to one of his nephews, and he even won custody of him after his brother’s death. The nephew did not grow up to be a musician like his uncle, and he seemed to have been spoiled by his famous uncle.
12.    During his entire lifetime, Beethoven wrote just one opera titled Fidelio which is still considered to be one of the classical and prominent pieces of art.
13.    His musical life was divided into three major periods. It was during the second period, popularly known as the “Heroic” period, when he struggled a lot and attained heroism. Even his renowned Fifth Symphony was one of the masterpieces composed during this period.
14.    Around 1796, Beethoven started having hearing problems. What started as an annoying ringing sensation worsened and transformed into a severe ailment called tinnitus. And by 1816, he had completely lost his hearing and became deaf.
15.    Despite losing his hearing powers, Beethoven continued to compose, conduct, and perform. He used a special rod on his piano sound board which he used to bite as it helped him determine the sound through the vibrations that traveled from the piano to his jaw. He also sawed off the legs of his piano. This has allowed him to compose music by feeling the vibrations from the floor.
16.    Strangely, Beethoven poured lots of ice water on his head whenever he sat down to compose music.
17.    Beethoven constantly put 60 coffee beans in his cup of coffee. No wonder where he got all that energy from!
18.    Beethoven was also known for his poor temper. The truth is, he would stop performing to his audiences if he felt that they were talking too much or not giving him proper attention. It is also known that Beethoven once threw a plate full of food at a waiter because he wasn’t happy with his service.
19.    Beethoven spent most of his time composing music. At one occasion, he was arrested by the police as his clothes and hair were so messy that the police thought he was some homeless tramp.

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20.    Beethoven’s final masterpiece is an ironic one. He suffered at the hands of his violently alcoholic father while growing up, and then his progressive and eventually complete deafness cut his spirits in his adult life. And yet, he was able to compose the Ninth Symphony and its “Ode to Joy,” arguably one of the most beautiful compositions in history.
21.    Unlike Mozart, who was buried in a common grave (as was the custom at the time), 20,000 Viennese citizens lined the streets at Beethoven’s funeral on 29 March 1827. The funeral procession was one of the most impressive Vienna had. Franz Schubert, a great Beethoven admirer, was one of the grave bearers and died in the following year. He was buried next to Beethoven.

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22.    In August 1845, Beethoven's monument at Bonn was unveiled, which also happened to be the first monument of a composer that was created in Germany.
23.    Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music; occasionally he is referred to as one of the "three Bs" (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomize that tradition. However,
many musicians and music critics – including Beethoven’s one-time teacher, Joseph Haydn—actually feared Beethoven’s work at the time because it relied so much on passion rather than the mathematically precise nature consistent with the Classical style of the age.

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