Ludwig Van Beethoven is probably the most famous of all composers, partly because his music represents the transition between the Classical and Romantic periods. He wrote music for piano, orchestra, and solo instruments. Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770, but spent most of his life in Vienna, Austria. He was a teacher and composer. Beethoven lost his hearing around age 30. However, this tragedy did not stop him from composing. In fact, many of Beethoven’s greatest works were written after he went deaf.
To compose without being able to hear, Beethoven cut off the legs of his piano so he could feel the vibration of the notes through the floor. This way, he composed many impressive songs. One of Beethoven’s most famous compositions is his Fifth Symphony. It is strikingly powerful with dramatic pauses and dynamics inspired from his anger of losing his hearing. It took four years to compose and was finished in 1808. In the key of C minor, the piece gives off an intense vibe that thrills audiences and makes it a popular song to play. The first movement of the symphony starts off with four famous electrifying notes that sound like blows of fate. The second movement is a lot calmer than the first, as it is andante. However, the second movement still has some grand moments. The third movement then goes back to the fierce energy from the first movement. And finally, the fourth movement, the finale, wraps up the symphony with grand explosiveness, perhaps signifying the defeat or acceptance of the fate (of his ears).
Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas, five piano concertos, nine symphonies, string quartets, choral music, and an opera. Beethoven’s works included Classical forms, but he gave them richness and feeling, like the music in the Romantic period. This was how he acted as the bridge between Classical and Romantic periods. Beethoven’s first composition was written when he was only 12-years-old. It was a set of nine variations for piano on a March by Ernst Christoph Dressler in C minor. It was extremely difficult to play. Beethoven earned his living playing the viola in an orchestra.
Beethoven was almost always ill. He suffered from deafness, jaundice, rheumatism, chronic hepatitis, and much more. Beethoven also had many responsibilities. After the death of his mother in 1787, Beethoven was forced to look after his younger brothers. Beethoven drank a lot of alcohol, because his father had been an alcoholic. This caused his liver to have cirrhosis, which was discovered after his death. Beethoven always fell in love with unattainable women so he never married. For example, he fell in love with a Countess named Julie. However, he could not marry her because he was considered a commoner. He wrote 15 passionate and unrequited love letters to her. After writing nine symphonies, Beethoven died and this made other composers afraid to write a ninth symphony. He passed away during a thunderstorm on the March 29, 1827 at the age of 56 in Vienna. Because he was not famous at his time, Beethoven’s headstone only had a single word on it- Beethoven.
Beethoven inspired composers to add more feeling into their music, consequently starting the romantic period. The romantic period included many prominent composers such as Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, and the great Paganini.
Niccolo Paganini was a romantic composer who played the violin, viola, and guitar. He was born in Genoa, Italy. And just like me, his birthday was October 27, except he was born in 1782. Paganini was sometimes called the Devil’s violinist due to his incredible talent. In fact, Paganini is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of all time. Niccolo Paganini was the third of six children. His parents were Antonio and Teresa Paganini. His father, Antonio, played the mandolin for income. Because of this, Paganini started learning mandolin at the age of five. At the age of seven, he switched to violin, his favorite instrument.
Young Paganini’s musical talents were quickly recognized, earning him many scholarships for violin lessons. As a child, Paganini first learned violin with local violinists such as Giovanni Servetto and Giacomo Costa, but his ability quickly surpassed theirs. So he studied under Ferdinando Paer and Gasparo Ghiretti, whom influenced his composition style.
Paganini possessed many fine string instruments such as a violin made by the master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri. At first, the violin was lent to him by a wealthy businessman named Livron. However, Livron was so impressed by Paganini’s playing that he refused to take the violin back. This particular violin came to be known as ll Cannone Guarnerius.
Paganini also was a very impactful composer. He composed his own works to play in his concerts, all of which influenced the evolution of violin technique. Paganini’s compositions were imaginative and as a result, the tone of the instrument was greatly expanded. For example, a lot of his songs imitated different instruments and animals. However, Paganini’s works were criticized for lacking characteristics of true polyphonism. Polyphonism is the combination of a number of separate but harmonizing melodies. Yehudi Menuhin, an American-born 20th century violinist and conductor, suggested that this might have been a product of Paganini’s reliance on the guitar as an aid in composition. But all in all, Paganini’s style in consistent with other Italian composers such as Rossini and Paisiello, who were also influenced by the guitar. Paganini was also the inspiration for a number of composers like Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and more.
Paganini’s playing included factors of agility and flexibility in the fingering and bowing. Paganini also was renowned for his use of harmonics and left hand pizzicato in his performances. Paganini had exceptionally long fingers and was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, which is remarkable, even by today’s standards. This seemingly abnormal ability, however, may have been a result of marfan syndrome. Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. The marfan syndrome could have allowed him to spread his fingers farther apart or reach further.
Paganini wrote 24 Caprices around 1817 while in the service of the Baciocchi court. His last one, Caprice No. 24 in A minor, is the final caprice. It consists of 11 variations and finale and is widely considered one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the solo violin. It includes many highly advanced techniques such as octaves, rapid shifting, extremely fast scales, arpeggios, minor scales in thirds and tenths, left hand pizzicato, high positions and quick string crossing.
Beethoven, the conversion between Classical and Romantic periods, and Paganini, the Devil’s violinist, both made huge impacts on the music world.
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