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Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. He was a crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music and is considered to be one of the greatest European composers. His career has conventionally been divided into early, middle, and late periods. The "early" period in which he forged his craft, is typically seen to last until 1802. His "middle" period, (sometimes characterised as "heroic") shows an individual development from the "classical" styles of Haydn and Mozart, covers the years 1802 to 1812, during which he increasingly suffered from deafness. In the "late" period from 1812 to his death in 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression. During his life, he composed amongst other works nine symphonies, five piano concertos, a violin concerto, thirty-two piano sonatas, sixteen string quartets, two masses, and the opera Fidelio.

Beethoven was born in Bonn. His musical talent was obvious at an early age, and he was initially harshly and intensively taught by his father Johann van Beethoven. He was later taught by the composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe, under whose tuition he published his first work, a set of keyboard variations, in 1783. He was relieved from his dysfunctional home life by his "second mother" Helene von Breuning, whose children he loved, befriended and taught piano. At age 21, he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven then gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and he was soon courted by Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky for compositions, which resulted in his three Opus 1 piano trios (the earliest works which he accorded an opus number) in 1795.

His first major orchestral work, the First Symphony, appeared in 1800, and his first set of string quartets was published in 1801. During this period, his hearing began to deteriorate, but he continued to conduct, premiering his Third and Fifth Symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. His Violin Concerto appeared in 1806. He was almost completely deaf by 1811, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public. His last piano concerto (No. 5, Op. 73, known as the 'Emperor') was premiered in that year, with its dedicatee Archduke Rudolf as soloist.

In the following years, removed from society, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works including his later symphonies and his mature chamber music and piano sonatas. His only opera Fidelio, which had been first performed in 1805, was revised to its final version in 1814. He composed his Missa Solemnis in the years 1819–1823, and his final, Ninth, Symphony, one of the first examples of a choral symphony, in 1822–1824. Written in his last years, his late string quartets of 1825–26 are amongst his final achievements. After some months of bedridden illness he died in 1827.



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