Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Born: December 17 1770 – Bonn, Electorate of Cologne
Died: March 26 1827 – Vienna, Austrian Empire

 

A few facts about Ludwig von Beethoven

 

  • Realizing young Ludwig’s abilities as a pianist his father Johan set his sights on his son become a prodigy as Mozart had been years before and forced him to practice night and day. Neighbours recalled the small boy standing on a bench to reach the keyboard, crying as his father loomed over him.

 

  • Because of his alcoholism Johan lost his job as Court Singer so it fell to young Ludwig, as the eldest, to find work. He applied at Court for the position of assistant Court organist and got the job. He was 13!

 

  • Though recognized as a pianist virtuoso Beethoven also played the harpsicord, organ, violin, and viola. His skills as a violinist came nowhere near his mastery of the piano, however he was good enough to hold a position in the Court theatre orchestra.

 

  • Soon after his arrival in Vienna the young Beethoven could claim Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz as a major patron. The Prince kept his own orchestra and built a concert hall in his palace.  The composer dedicated his Eroica Symphony to him after angrily withdrawing the original dedication to Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

  • The Prince was also the dedicatee of the Fifth and Sixth symphonies amongst other works. However, Beethoven was often rude to him and on one occasion is said to have threated to hit him with a chair.

 

Symphony no. 5 in C minor op. 67
Composed:  1804-7
Premiered: December 22 1808 – Vienna, Austrian Empire
Instrumentation:  piccolo, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, French horns, trumpets, trombones, timpani, strings

Performance Time:  35 minutes

 

  • The work was one of eight works by Beethoven premiered at a four-hour long concert. He not only conducted the programme but played the Fourth Piano Concerto and a set of improvisations.

 

  • Beethoven first sketched his ideas for the Fifth in 1804 but completion was interrupted by work on an opera, the Mass in C, the Appassionato piano sonata, the Fourth Symphony, string quartets, and a violon concerto. He completed it in 1807 while working on the Sixth Symphony.

 

  • Critical response was indifferent to the premiere which took place under less-than-ideal conditions. There had been one rehearsal, at one point in the Choral Fantasy a soloist lost their place, so they began again.  The auditorium was freezing, and the audience was tired by a lengthy programme.  The evening was not a success.

 

  • However, two years later a rapturous review by E. T. A. Hoffmann thrust it into the public’s eye where it has remained to this day. It has been recognized as a ground-breaking and influential work central to the symphonic repertoire.

 

  • Much has been written about the four notes that begin the work. A debatable story came from Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s secretary, who claimed that the composer referred to them as “fate knocking at the door”. However, Carl Czerny, Beethoven’s pupil, claimed “the little pattern of notes had come to [Beethoven] from a yellow-hammer’s song, heard as he walked in the Prater-park in Vienna.” Whatever the origin they are perhaps the most recognizable notes in Western Music.

 

  • Of the many recordings of the Fifth out there only one has gone into outer space. The 1977 Voyager space mission carried a gold-plated copper disc containing images, sounds, messages in 55 languages and musical extracts.  The music included selections by Mozart, Bach and the first movement of Symphony no. 5 with Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.

A very good analysis of each movement can be found here:
Classic Cat – Beethoven Symphony no. 5 in C minor op. 67

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