Born in Bonn, Germany, in December 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was a third-generation musician. His grandfather, Ludwig, and his father, Johann, were both singers in the royal court of Cologne.
Beethoven''s early childhood was marred by his father. Wanting to turn his son into the next Wolfgang Mozart, who was a child prodigy, Johann started his son playing the piano at an early age and often beat young Beethoven. Ironically, Beethoven may have actually taken lessons from Mozart in 1787. Johann continued to be a difficult part of Beethoven''s life until Johann, an alcoholic, died in 1792.
Beethoven''s first known composition, written in 1782 when Beethoven was 12 years old, was a piece for the piano.
As Beethoven worked and his fame grew, his life did not become easier. He first started losing his hearing during his 20s, possibly as a result of the beatings he suffered when he was a child. By the age of 42, Beethoven was completely deaf but continued to compose for the rest of his life.
In addition to his hearing loss, Beethoven suffered from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning symptoms include abdominal pain, which started when Beethoven was 20, and poor digestion. Lead poisoning can also lead to personality changes. Beethoven became increasingly irritated, hot tempered and isolated as he aged.
Beethoven also may have suffered from depression. Experts do not know if these changes were the result of lead poisoning, his hearing loss, which may also have been the result of lead poisoning, or a combination of both lead poisoning and deafness. When Beethoven died at the age of 56 in 1827, the effects of lead poisoning were unknown.
During the early period of Beethoven''s career, from 1792 to 1802, Beethoven''s work showed influences from both Mozart and Joseph Haydn. In addition, work from this time shows his first efforts into taking his music into new, innovative directions.
During this period, works Beethoven completed include:
Among the famous works during this period are the "Pathetique Sonata" and the "Moonlight Sonata."
The middle period of Beethoven''s career, from 1803 to 1812, might have been defined by his progressing hearing loss. Works during this period were large-scale and reflected his struggles with his life. Compositions during this era include:
During this period, Beethoven composed his only opera, "Fidelio." After "Fidelio" opened in 1805, Beethoven revised the opera twice, once in 1806 and once in 1814. Unfortunately, "Fidelio" was not well-received during Beethoven''s lifetime.
The late period, starting in 1823 and lasting until Beethoven''s death, included words such as:
Compositions during this period are known for their personal depth, innovation and intensity.
Many have tried copying Beethoven, but none have succeeded. Beethoven''s work still reaches through time and enthralls audiences today.
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Argonne National Laboratory. (2005)Argonne Researchers Confirm Lead as Cause of Beethoven''s Illness. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from the Anl.gov Web site: http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2005/news051206.html.
Biography.com (n.d.) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Retrieved December 12, 2007, from the Biography.com Web site: http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9204862.
MusicWithEase.com (n.d.) Fidelo. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from the MusicWithEase.com Web site: http://www.musicwithease.com/beethoven-fidelio.html.
Schwaegermann, Ingrid (2007). Beethoven''s Childhood 1770-1881. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from the Raptus Association for Music Appreciation Web site: http://www.raptusassociation.org/beet-biopages.html.
Schwaegermann, Ingrid (2007). Beethoven''s Family. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from the Raptus Association for Music Appreciation Web site: http://www.raptusassociation.org/beet-biopages.html.
Walsh, William J. PhD. (2000). Press Conference. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from the San Jose State University Web site: http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/beethoven/hair/hairtestpc.html.