It’s 1 am, a nine year old boy is fast asleep when his drunken father comes barging into his room.
The boy is beaten awake and dragged downstairs to a piano where he is forced to play
for his father and drunken friends for hours. A wrong note results in slaps,punches and ridicule. It happens regularly, and even when his father is sober the boy is mocked, beaten and forced to practise until
he can barely see straight. Amid this madness, aged 11, rather than starve, he starts to earn a living as an organist.
The beatings get so bad that twice, before the age of 13, he almost dies. As a teenager his mother dies, leaving him and his siblings in such dire straits that the boy is forced to go to court and wrest control of his father’s salary so the family can eat. The adult that emerged from that hell was angry, sullen and suspicious.
He was scarred physically and mentally, often suicidal, clumsy, badly co-ordinated, obtuse, prone to obsessive-compulsive behaviours and lacking both personal hygiene and social graces.
His name was Ludwig van Beethoven.
He went on single-handedly to change the musical world for ever.
It has been said that he alone dragged music out of the Classical age and into the Romantic. But that doesn’t go far enough. I believe passionately that Beethoven both defined and deserves his own musical era. Due to specific dates and composers to different musical movements or eras works for everyone except Beethoven. There are many great musicians who left their signature. And there is Beethoven, standing alone above them all. Beethoven, whose Ninth Symphony was composed in 1824
and waited patiently until the early 1900s for Mahler to pick up its mantle. His last three piano sonatas (1820-22) perhaps found an equal when Prokofiev started work on his War Sonatas in 1942. is late string quartets (1825) are still without equal nearly 200 years later.
Before Beethoven, composers worked for the glory of God. Or else they wrote on bended knee for wealthy courts and egotistical patrons. Beethoven kicked down the doors of the aristocratic world and made himself at home.
He wrote for himself alone. He was a superstar in Vienna, universally conceded to be the greatest composer in the world, something almost unheard of in the pre-digital age. And, most importantly,
he knew it, “there will always be many princes and emperors but there will only ever be one Beethoven”, he wrote. It’s important here not to dismiss this as arrogance. What some may mistake as arrogance has stood the test of time as an unquenchable truth.
Beethoven is the most performed, revered composer there is. He eclipses every other composer and his shadow falls over
every music manuscript in the world. Beethoven somehow achieved musical enlightenment and it is quite simply a fact of life that he is and always will be the benchmark, the prophet and the absolute peak of compositional genius for everyone else to aspire to. Beethoven humbly transcended ego because he knew beyond doubt that he was writing for eternity. His confidence in his abilities was the only great truth in his life and
he held on to it with such tenacity because it kept him alive. “To my art I owe the fact that I did not end my life with suicide” he wrote. He was totally different to Mozart and Bach — his letters are full of words like artist,art,artistry. Bach, Beethoven and Mozart are without question the holy trinity of music. But there is one reason alone that makes Beethoven The One, and it is his humanity. Some say the other two Mozart had gifts that came straight from God. I’m an atheist, but i guess digging the explanation for the depth of genius they displayed is kinda difficult (I’m no good to judge ’em, so i’m leaving it aside) Beethoven, on the other hand, was on his own. Every note was sweated over, every theme worked on tirelessly and chiselled into immortality. In 1805 he changed the course of musical history, composing the Eroica symphony; a symphony twice as long as anything that had come before it, written for an orchestra of the future
and the first truly heroic piece of music. With one compulsive wrench, music entered the 19th century. His invention and resource never flagged. his Fifth symphony, described by many as “the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man”. His music, especially that composed during his last 10 years, is nothing like it has been composed, Nothing ever will.
And he was deaf.
Study Shakespeare and he will show us who we are. Listen to Beethoven, a man tormented and isolated, who wrote simply to justify his artistic and intellectual existence, and he will show us who we could be.
Ref : Wikipedia, Beethoven’s biography, brainyquotes