Discovering Classical Music
Discovering Classical Music

Chapter 6

The Classic Period (1750-1820)

Chapter Ancillaries Opera Synopsis: Don Giovanni
Beethoven Symphony #5 in Howard's End
Beethoven Missa Solemnis in Huxley's "Music at Night"
Beethoven Symphony #5 Music Animation
The Classic Period is the shortest of the six style periods, spanning only 60 or 70 years, yet it lends its name to the whole realm of classical music. The most important musical activity takes place in the second half of the 18th century in and around the city of Vienna.

The primary composers are Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. All three excelled in the composition of the most important musical instrumental genres of the day: sonata, concerto, symphony, and string quartet.Information1. A chamber ensemble consisting of two violins, viola, and cello.

2. A composition, usually in four movements, for string quartet.
Hardly less important in their output are opera and sacred music, mainly mass settings.

Just as the development of the violin had influenced composition in the Baroque, so the development of the piano influenced the classical composers to a very large degree. Before about 1740, the primary keyboard instruments were the organ and the harpsichord. Organs were large permanent installations that required an assistant to play: the bellows had to be pumped. The practical, portable polyphonic instrument of Bach's day was the harpsichord, something like a harp turned on its side and fitted with a keyboard. Its strings were plucked by quills activated by a mechanical action.

The piano (short for pianoforte•loud/soft) offered something neither the organ nor the harpsichord had•a touch-sensitive keyboard. Players could control the volume of a note or a passage by the firmness of their touch. This technology spawned a whole new repertoire of solo keyboard music known as the piano sonata. All three of the major composers of the period, and a host of minor ones, contributed to the genre of the piano sonata. Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas are considered to be one of the most important collections of works in a single genre by any composer, and they constitute an important part of the repertoire of a concert pianist.

Sonata Form sonata form diagram

Working Composers
Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven are the three superstar composers of the Classic Period. All were active in Vienna in the second half of the 18th century, but none of them were born there. Haydn came from Rohrau, Mozart from Salzburg, and Beethoven wasn't even Austrian•he came from Bonn, Germany. All three confronted the challenges of trying to make a living as a composer, and all three succeeded in proportion to their ability to deal with patrons and sponsors.

These three brief sketches illustrate the professional vicissitudes of a musician in the 18th century. Success depended on much more than talent and industry. One had to be able to function within the patronage system. Haydn embraced the system, Mozart failed to follow the rules, and Beethoven rejected it from the outset. The remnants of that system remain in play today. Few composers can make a living writing music. Most have another source of income, often a position teaching at a university.

Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Franz Josef Haydn
Haydn came to Vienna as a boy to sing in the choir at St. Stephens Cathedral, along with his brother Michael. They came from a poor village family in lower Austria, and the cathedral choir offered an education with room and board. When Josef reached adolescence and his voice began to change, he contemplated a visit to the surgeon to preserve his soprano voice but, choosing not to go that route, he found himself scrambling to make a living as a musician in the big apple. After a period of financial instability he was fortunate enough to secure a post as assistant Kapellmeister to Count Esterhazy, a rich Hungarian with an estate modeled on Versailles. There, Haydn had access to good singers and instrumentalists as well as time to compose. Though later promoted to Kapellmeister, he was still a servant and wore the same uniform as the footmen; but his creative abilities were valued, and he prospered. Married with no children, he produced an astonishing output of symphonies, string quartets, operas, songs, sonatas, sacred music, and other compositions. When he retired he was twice invited to come to London to conduct his symphonies. He was the most admired musician in Europe, and financially secure. He owed this all to his talent, his industry, and his ability to work for a demanding patron.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart may have been the most gifted musician in history. A child prodigy, he spent his youth touring Europe with his sister and father, a violinist, composer, and stage father par excellence. A frail child, he was often ill, yet he played for all the most important rulers in Europe. Once his parents had died he worked in a number of situations and composed in all the genres, but he never succeeded in securing a position like Haydn had. At one point he seemed to have landed a job working for the archbishop of Salzburg, but that fizzled when he went AWOL. When the irate archbishop fired him he literally kicked him out of his presence. Mozart was extremely productive but not very financially successful and died penniless at age 35. His lack of success can be directly attributed to his inability to meet the demands of a patron like the archbishop. Perhaps he would have found such a sponsor had he lived longer.


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven came to Vienna at age 18 as a piano virtuoso. In spite of his less than attractive appearance and occasionally surly manners he conquered hearts with his performance at the keyboard. Politically, Beethoven was a child of the Revolution•a libertarian and an egalitarian. He had no desire for a patron who would limit his artistic and personal freedom. He accepted commissions, but he refused to be anyone's lackey. Without help from his friends he could not have survived in Vienna, yet he sustained an impressive output of work in all the major genres throughout his adult life. This was complicated by his hearing loss, which began when he was around 30 and progressed to complete deafness. But some of his greatest works, like the 9th symphony and the late string quartets were written after he became deaf. He died in poverty at age 57.

Sonatas were also composed for other instruments such as the violin, cello, flute, or trumpet. When the solo is a monophonic instrument, the piano is normally employed as accompaniment. So a piano sonata is for piano alone while a violin sonata is for violin and piano. Sonatas typically have three movements arranged in the order of fast, slow, fast tempos.

The first movement of a sonata is usually in sonata form, so the term is used to describe both genre and form. Sonata form, which is actually a complex binary form, is also used for the first movements of concertos, symphonies, and string quartets. Like many musical forms, sonata form (sometimes also referred to as "sonata-allegro" form) is characterized by its tonal resolution of thematic relationships. In the textbook model of sonata form, the first theme is presented in the tonic keyInformationThe tonic note is the most important in a key, the one which all other notes relate and which gives a sense of resolution, usually found at the end of a melody and composition. In solfeg, the tonic is 'Do'. The tonic key, then, serves the same purpose in a composition which may change keys. and the second theme is written in another key. Often times, the second theme will be be in the dominant keyInformationThe dominant is the fifth scale degree from the tonic, and is next in importance to it. In solfeg, the dominant is "So" to the tonic's "Do". or the relative keyInformationRelative keys are the major and minor keys that share the same key signature. Every major key has a relative minor, and likewise, every minor key has a relative major key. For example, the relative minor key of C Major is A minor (vise versa: the relative major key of A minor is C major). In a major key, the relative minor tonic is found at the sixth scale degree, or submediant. In solfg, the submediant is "La". In a minor key, the relative major is the mediant or the third scale degree. In solfeg, the mediant is "Mi". In a sonata-form composition in a minor key, the exposition generally modulates to the mediant (or relative major) instead of the dominant because so many notes are shared. A tonic 'a' minor chord is A-C-E, and the mediant is a C Major chord C-E-G. The resolution of this conflict occurs in the recapitulation when both the first and second theme are restated, but in this section of the sonata form the second theme will be presented in the tonic key. The structure soon became the most important feature of musical architecture of the Classic/Romantic Era (1750-1900).

Concertos are like sonatas with orchestra. If you took a violin sonata and orchestrated the piano part you'd have a rudimentary violin concerto. While this is simplistic, it is a pretty accurate description of an important genre. Remember that a concerto is a work for solo instrument with orchestra, and that the solo instrument could be any orchestral instrument or the piano. Mozart wrote 27 piano concertos and they are among his most charming works. He often appeared as soloist in performances of his piano concertos. The same was true of Beethoven. Although he only composed five piano concertos, they are among his greatest works, especially the last, called the "Emperor."

Although the word sinfonia had been used to describe instrumental works before, it was in the Classic Period that the symphony as we know it came to exist. Haydn, often called the father of the symphony, composed 106! Since a typical symphony has four movements, that comes to more than 400 pieces of music for the symphony orchestra. That would be an amazing lifetime output by itself, but Haydn also produced 26 operas, 68 string quartets, 14 masses, 47 piano sonatas, and other assorted compositions.

About half of Mozart's 41 symphonies are considered masterpieces of the genre. Beethoven composed 9 symphonies, all of which are considered masterpieces, but the odd- numbered ones are generally conceded to be superior to the even-numbered ones. Of course, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is universally regarded as one of the greatest art works of western culture, and its first movement is probably the best-known orchestral composition of all times. Everyone can name it after only four notes have been played!

The string quartet is a bit like a miniature symphony in that it, too, has four movements but is played by four solo musicians rather than a full orchestra. A string quartet is made up of two violins, viola, and cello. (There is no contrabass in a string quartet.) Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were all instrumental in the development of the genre, which is the paradigm for all chamber music. Beethoven's late quartets•written after he was totally deaf•are regarded as among the finest compositions in all of classical music.

Classic period opera is also very important to our discussion, and all three of the major composers wrote opera. Mozart is clearly the superstar of this genre. At least a half dozen of his operas are still in the repertoire of every major opera company in the world. Don Giovanni is regarded by some as the greatest opera ever composed. Haydn wrote more operas than Mozart, but none of them is now in the standard repertoire; I've only heard a few of them on recordings. Beethoven's Fidelio is a flawed masterpiece over which he labored and agonized for many years, obsessively revising it and composing no fewer than four different overtures for it. The three Leonora Overtures that he decided not to use have become standard concert repertoire for symphony orchestras. These overtures, originally intended as theatrical curtain raisers, are much like the first movement of a symphony.

While sacred music did not hold quite the important place it had in the Renaissance and the Baroque, composers continued to write liturgical music, especially masses. Masses by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries are typically scored for a quartet of vocal soloists, choir, and orchestra. They are longer and more impressive than 16th-century settings of the Ordinary. Many of them, like Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, are concert works with sacred Latin texts, much too long and expensive to produce to be practical for a worship service. Today you would be most likely to hear a work like this performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.



Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827)

To begin an exploration of the Romantic period in Western classical music, it is helpful to begin with one significant composer who helped to define it: Beethoven. Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 17 December 1770, Bonn, Germany – d. 26 March 1827, Vienna, Austria) is one of the most important composers in the history of western music. More than anyone, he shaped the course of western art music during the 19th Century and greatly influenced composers of the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries.

Beethoven inherited the Viennese Classical tradition from Mozart and Haydn. This inheritance included a dedication to formal design, particularly to one form – the Sonata Form, with its inherent tonal conflicts and thematic contrasts – and an underlying belief that interest in music derives from following and, then, understanding the process of how ideas are worked out from the beginning to the end of a composition. Early in his career as a composer and performer Beethoven absorbed and subsequently extended all aspects of Viennese Classicism. But, shortly after the turn of the new century Beethoven began to suffer from two personal difficulties: growing deafness and an inability to sustain happy personal relationships. Both plagued him for the remainder of his life and significantly colored his career. The continuing failures of his important relationships and his growing deafness seem to correspond with his compositional style becoming markedly more personal as he grew older.

In combining the tradition of Viennese Classicism with a radically new level of personal expression, Beethoven became regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th Century. Every important composer who followed him acknowledged his influence on his work. The combination of the respect for his music and his continuing popularity has made him the most revered composer in the history of western music.

Early Years

Three generations of Beethoven's family were employed as musicians at the Court of the Electorate of Cologne in Bonn. This is important to remember because it places Beethoven firmly in the line of servant-musicians to the aristocracy to which his predecessors Mozart and Haydn had belonged. His father, a very undistinguished tenor singer, pianist and violinist at the Court, and an alcoholic, gave him his first lessons. Beethoven's first public performance was as an eight-year old pianist in one of his father's student recitals. He probably took additional piano lessons, organ lessons,violin and viola lessons from other musicians at the Court, but his general education extended only as far as elementary school. In 1779 Beethoven began working with his first significant teacher, the new Court Organist at Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe. In 1781 a newspaper article reports that Beethoven is a "boy of 11 years old and of most promising talent" and that "he plays piano very skillfully with power" and "would surely become a second Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart if he were to continue as he has begun." In 1782 he became an assistant and substitute for his teacher in the Court Orchestra and soon became harpsichordist in the Opera Orchestra, where he learned all of the popular operas of the time. In 1783 he had his first significant compositions published, Three Piano Sonatas (WoO 47).

From 1783 to 1792 Beethoven continued to study, play piano and serve as a violist in the Court Chapel and Opera Orchestras and to compose. In 1787 he visited Vienna, but remained only two weeks due to the death of his mother. In 1789 he became head of his family as his father's drinking caused him to lose his position. During this time, however, Beethoven formed several friendships that helped support him throughout his life. One was with Count Ferdinand Waldstein, an influential music patron, to whom Beethoven in 1804 later dedicated one of his most well known piano sonatas, the "Waldstein" Sonata, Op. 53.

Life in Vienna

Finally, in 1792 Beethoven left for Vienna never to return. He went to study composition with the great composer, Haydn. But, the master and pupil did not suit each other's personalities and lessons were abandoned when Haydn left for London in 1793. Beethoven also took lessons with Johann SchenkInformationJohann Schenk (1753-1836) was a prominent composer at St. Stephen's Cathedral Vienna, and also composed incidental music , the Court Composer, Antonio Salieri,InformationAntonio Salieri (1750-1825) was a hugely influential and cosmopolitan composer based in Vienna and born in Italy, Salieri's works fell out of favor until a historically questionable portrayal in the 1984 movie, "Amadeus" sparked renewed interest in his music. and most importantly with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger,InformationJohann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809) was known also for his writings and teaching, he led music at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna and his influence on Beethoven was summed up by the composer himself, "Patience, diligence, persistence, and sincerity will lead to success." who taught him counterpoint. This was the extent of his musical training and preparation. Nevertheless, it seems to have served him well as his career progressed.

By 1795 Beethoven was becoming popular as a pianist and composer with those in Viennese aristocratic circles. Members of the Viennese aristocracy were addicted to music and theater and spent lavishly on it. Princes Lobkowitz and Karl von Lichnowsky, Court Councillor von Kees, Baron van Swieten and the Russian ambassador, Count Razumovsky regularly entertained with large concerts played by their own musicians. The young Beethoven often performed concerts in their homes, as was the custom of the time. All became important patrons of Beethoven later in his life. Within a short period of time Beethoven became the most sought after pianist in Vienna and was considered one of the leading virtuosos of the day in Europe. 1795-1800 also was an important time of growth for Beethoven as a composer. He wrote his most important early compositions during this time including his first symphony, first piano concerto, his Septet, Op. 20, the first major group of String Quartets, the Op. 18 Quartets, his Op. 23 and 24 Violin Sonatas and a number of piano sonatas. However, in June 1801, as he was ascending to the peak of his career, Beethoven was forced to confess that he was going deaf. Although this condition had been developing for several years, the public admission of it marks a turning point in Beethoven's life that defines him as an artist for posterity.

In 1802 Beethoven suffered the first of several failures in relationships. He fell in love with the Countess Giuletta Giucciardi, to whom he dedicated the Moonlight Piano Sonata. That Beethoven would court a countess is not surprising because he lived in the society of the aristocracy and he was highly regarded as an artist. This is a far different situation from that which his father, not to mention Mozart and Haydn, as young musicians experienced and demonstrates how Viennese society was evolving around the turn of the Century. It also shows how Beethoven viewed himself as one who was on the same human level as his patrons, for at about this time, although he displayed difficulty in social situations, Beethoven began to think of himself as a "Prince of Music" and not beholding to persons of aristocratic rank.

The year 1803 marks the beginning of Beethoven's first period of extraordinary compositional creativity and accomplishment. It also is the first time in which he shows despair over the rapidly increasing and irreversible loss of his hearing. From 1803 to 1808 Beethoven suffered deep depression twice due to his hearing loss and entered into another subsequently disappointing amorous relationship. During these five years, though, Beethoven composed at least a half dozen works that today are still thought of as among the masterworks of western music. In the spring of 1803 he wrote the Oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives. In the summer he wrote the "Kreutzer" Violin Sonata. In the late summer he wrote his Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica." In the fall he wrote the "Waldstein" and "Appasionata" piano sonatas, Op. 53 and 57. From 1804-1806 he wrote the "Razumovsky" string quartets. In 1804-1805 he wrote the first version of his only completed opera, Fidelio. In 1806 he wrote his Violin Concerto, most of the Piano Concerto No. 4, the Coriolan Overture and the Mass in C (this for Prince Esterhazy II, Haydn's former patron). In 1807 he completed almost all the his Symphony No. 5 and in the summer of 1808 he finished his Symphony No. 6 and two of the Op. 70 Piano Trios.

By this time Beethoven was not only a celebrated pianist, but in addition, a popular composer. Viennese society placed him at the top of the musical heap. Viennese tastes favored symphonic and chamber music. To garner true fame across all of Europe at the time required the composition of operas. Composers such as Cherubini and Mehul (both French) whose operas were staged from London to Prague were the true international stars of the time. Beethoven sought this fame with his opera Leonora (later changed to Fidelio). But, it was neither entirely successful, nor popular at first. His true strength lay in instrumental composition. With the compositions of this period Beethoven revolutionized the conception of symphonic writing and the Sonata Form, the frame of instrumental compositions within the world of Viennese Classicism.

With the works of this period Beethoven began to engage with very large-scale compositions that involved extra-musical ideas. The "Eroica" Symphony is characteristic of this development. Originally conceived as a work to honor Napoleon Bounaparte, Beethoven withdrew his dedication because of Napoleon's imperialistic ambitions and rededicated it to simply, "A Hero." The Symphony is a masterpiece. Its scope, incredible originality and technical mastery are astonishing. For example, in the first movement the powerful motive that outlines an E-flat Major triad and constitutes the first theme is something no one had ever before thought was possible to construct a movement upon. Then, the way in which Beethoven inserts the motive into almost all parts of the movement, creating extreme musical drama and unifying the movement, is unprecedented. Modulations into very distant keys (the supertonic and seventh degree), an enormous development section in the first movement and driving fugattos throughout the entire work that are extremely strong also signal a completely new approach to working with symphonic design.


A scultpture by German artist Franz von Stuck (1863-1928)

Emotional forcefulness, expanded range and radical new concepts of form set the tone for Symphony No. 5 and No. 6, as well as the later Symphonies, No. 7 and No. 9. These works establish a new ideal in symphonic conception and set them apart from anything in the 18th Century tradition. The Symphony No. 5 (1807/1808) typifies thematic unification as "organic" construction. Based on the model of Symphony No. 3, here the "Fate" theme of the first movement and the horn call before the second theme dominate the entire movement. The concept of classic balances is completely abandoned, the large codasInformationAn extended passage at the end of a piece of music, which disturbs the form, or structure, of the piece, but can also add a lot to the desired effect of the composer. of the first and last movements create a sense of propulsion or "progress" from the beginning of the symphony to the end. The dark turmoil of the first movement resolves itself through the succeeding three movements into a triumphal conclusion in the coda of the last movement. Beginning with the "Eroica," Beethoven's symphonic composition establishes the impression of a psychological journey or growth process through the course of a piece. There is a transcendent sense of overcoming that ends in triumph. This is the true journey of the hero. It is further aided by extra-musical ideas (the titles of Symphony No. 3 – "Eroica," – and No. 6 – "Pastorale" – and the literary text of Symphony No. 9. "Evolving" themes, expanded transitions and actual thematic restatements in succeeding movements all help create this sense. All of this, however, is new.

During the years that followed, roughly from 1808 through 1813, Beethoven continued producing major compositions at a remarkable rate. Works from this time that remain the backbone of classical music repertory include The Chorale Fantasy, the "Les adieux" Sonata, the Piano Concerto No. 5, the "Harp" String Quartet and the String Quartet in F Minor, Op, 95 "Quartetto Serioso," the "Archduke" Piano Trio in B-flat, the Symphonies No. 7 and 8 and the Incidental Music to Egmont. In almost all of these pieces Beethoven continues his explorations of new ways to enlarge, strengthen and organize compositions that increase the drama and emotion of the music and suggest a heroic journey. This creative explosion took place against an exceptionally turbulent personal background. There were troubling relationships with two women, one of which nearly resulted in marriage, but ultimately failed. In addition, the French invaded Vienna and occupied the city for two months in 1809, causing displacement and severe financial loss for many of Beethoven's patrons, including two, who underwrote an annuity on which Beethoven lived. Finally, Beethoven interfered with his brother Johann's marriage, an exceptionally high-handed act that resulted in a permanent split between the brothers.

In 1814 Beethoven was at the height of his popularity in Vienna. Even his financial situation was relatively secure. But, the personal failures of the previous few years and his almost total deafness overwhelmed him and he sank into a severe depression. This depression lasted for almost three years and contributed to a complete stagnation in his creative output. Whatever energy he had went into trying to gain custody of his nephew, Karl, a battle that lasted for more than four years. Beethoven ultimately won the struggle, but when Karl then attempted suicide, Beethoven was again shattered.

Late Life

Beginning late in 1816 Beethoven gradually resumed composing. This last decade of Beethoven's life usually is thought of as his Third Period of composition, in which his style becomes much more personal and idiosyncratic and the pieces he composed seem to belong to no particular time period. Some of the most important of these works are the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, Op. 106, finished in 1818, the three piano sonatas, Op, 109, 110 and 111, finished in 1820, 1821 and 1822 respectively, the Diabelli Variations, Op. 120, the Missa Solemnis, completed in 1822, Symphony No. 9, first performed in May 1824 and the final group of string quartets, the E-flat major, A minor, B-flat major with the "Grosse fuge" and the C minor. Public opinion by this time had turned against Beethoven as it had against Mozart in the early 1790s. Beethoven seems to be composing these works more for himself than for performance to Viennese audiences. Still, these are the works on which the myth of Beethoven, the hero who is forced to struggle against enormous obstacles and triumphs for the betterment of humankind, are based. On the 26th of March 1827, however, Beethoven's struggle ended and he died of hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

Ode to Joy Found in the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is this iconic text by Friedrich von Schiller commonly known as the "Ode to Joy." Beethoven set the poem to a primarily stepwise melody that exemplifies his genius.

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein,
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja - wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Was den großen Ring bewohnet,
Huldige der Sympathie!
Zu den Sternen leitet sie,
Wo der Unbekannte thronet.

Freude trinken alle Wesen
An der Brüsten der Natur,
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küße gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod.
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such ihn überm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
daughter from Elysium,
we, drunk with fire, step into
your holy shrine, Heavenly One.
Your magic binds together again
that which custom has rigidly divided:
all human beings become brothers
wherever your gentle wing is.
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, over the starry canopy
there must be a loving Father dwelling.

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt
to be a friend to a friend,
whoever has won a dear wife,
may he mix in his rejoicing!
Yes, whoever can call even only one soul
his on the round earth!
And whoever never could, let him leave
secretly, weeping, from this union.
Whatever inhabits the great Circle,
may it honor sympathy!
It [sympathy] leads to the stars,
where the Unknown is enthroned.

All beings drink Joy
at the breast of Nature;
all good [beings], all evil [ones]
follow her rosy trail.
She gave us kisses and grapes,
gave us] a friend, tested by death itself.
Delight was given even to the worm,
and the angel stands before God.
Are you falling down, Millions?
Do you perceive your Creator, World?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
He must be dwelling above the stars.

During the last ten years of his life Beethoven endured severe emotional trauma and in his professional life had to wrestle with the musical changes that resulted from the passage of one era into the next. The technical solutions he adopted in his music were to increase the level of lyricism, to reduce musical ideas to very basic units, to emphasize variation technique, but a new type of variation that takes apart themes and transforms them as the basis of a composition, as well as the extensive use of counterpoint. Beethoven takes these solutions and integrates them into a sonata style in which there is a finely controlled tonal field. His motivation seems to be to try to find a more direct and personal type of communication, to humanize his music and to reach directly to listeners' hearts.

Musical Influence

Beethoven's musical style and productivity as a composer relates directly to his emotional state more so than any other composer before him. The most important characteristics of his life and work can be summarized as follows:
Beethoven's influence on the course of Western Music is unprecedented and immense. He stands out among the handful of greatest musical artists in the Western tradition.

Chapter 6 Music for Listening