Beethoven and Tchaikovsky
While Ludwig van Beethoven and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky have much in common, they also have many differences. Both men are famous for their orchestral compositions and their future influence on other composers. They experienced a blend of horrible failures and great successes. Although they were from different musical time periods, they both made huge contributions to the world of music. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany 1770; the second half of the classical period. After the death of his grandfather, who was also named Ludwig van Beethoven, the family was on a downward slope financially. As far as physical appearances are concerned, young Beethoven looked much like his grandfather. Beethoven was forced to leave school at the age of eleven in order to support his family. He became an assistant court organist to Christian Gottlob Neefe, through whom Beethoven had his first composition, Nine Variations on a March by Dressler. After seeing Beethoven’s musical progress the arch-bishop Maximilian Francis sent him to study with Wolfgang A. Mozart in Vienna. While Beethoven was studying with Mozart his mother died and he traveled back to Bonn where he continued to serve as a court musician. Joseph Haydn, another accomplished musician, offered to take Beethoven as a student. Beethoven accepted and moved back to Vienna where he continued to live for the remainder of his life. The works that he composed in Vienna were happily accepted by the people. Beethoven wrote to his brother saying, “Things are going well with me, thoroughly well. My art wins friends and consideration for me; and what more can I ask?” (Capell 378). The community loved his piano virtuosity and improvisational skills. Soon Haydn’s lessons were proving useless to Beethoven and he began to see other instructors in private. His first public appearance in 1795 was a landmark in his career. He performed a concerto by Mozart and a concerto of his own. Over the following three years Beethoven went on an international tour to Prague and Berlin. Around 1800 Beethoven began to realize that his hearing was coming to an end. He was gradually becoming deaf and according to doctors, there was no way to reverse the issue. The early period of the deafness did not have much of an impact on his life. He continued to perform in public and private. However as the disability worsened, Beethoven became tremendously depressed and lost all hope. Beethoven approached Johann Nepomuk Malzel, a mechanic who invented various objects, in the hope that Malzel could construct a hearing device for him. Malzel did have a “hearing trumpet”, as they were called, and Beethoven made use of it until his hearing was beyond what the hearing-aid could do to help. In a letter to his brothers, Carl and Johann Beethoven, we see that Beethoven pondered suicide and sought isolation. The following are excerpts from Beethoven’s letter, “Heiligenstadt Testament”. But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone standing next to me heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life. Beethoven’s despair is understandable. To be so gifted and attuned to the music of the cosmos and then to lose it would seem to be an inconsolable loss. The influence of music and art is what some believe kept Beethoven alive and hopeful throughout his stages of melancholy. So the fervent hope of catching one more strain, one more perfect chord kept him alive. This can be proven by another portion of his letter.
It was only my art that held me back.
Oh, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had forth all that I felt was within me. So I endured this wretched existence, truly wretched for so susceptible a body, which can be thrown by a sudden change from the best condition to the worst. Patience,...
Cited: Capell, Richard. Beethoven, Music and Letters, Vol.19, No.4 Oxford University Press: Oct. 1938, p. 375-390
Kamien, Roger. Music: An Appreciation 6th Brief Ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill 2008
Kolisch, Rudolf, Arthur Mendel. Tempo and Character in Beethoven 's Music Part I The Musical Quarterly,Vol. 29, No. 2. Oxford University Press: Apr. 1943, p. 169-187
Lane, William. Beethoven: The Immortal. Jan. 16, 2006
Sabaneev, Leonid, S.W. Pring Tchaikovsky The Musical Times, Vol. 70, No. 1031. Musical Times Publications Ltd. Jan. 1929, p. 20-23
Slonimsky, Nicolas. Further Light on Tchaikovsky The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 24,No. 2 Oxford University Press: Apr. 1938, p. 139-146
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