2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven's birth. He was born in December of 1770 in Bonn, Germany and died March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria. His music straddles the Classical and Romantic musical eras, and his musical output can be divided into early, middle, and late periods.
Beethoven's early period included his First Symphony and the Op. 18 String Quartets, among other works. One of Beethoven's lesser known early works is the song Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels (Elegy on the death of a poodle), written when Beethoven was only 19 years old. Beethoven's music conveys great sadness on the death of this pet, but happy pleasure in the memories. The text, opens a new window, written by an anonymous author, pays tribute to this dog who provided great happiness to its owners.
The early works of his showed his great promise, and his middle period saw his skills developing further. Important works from this period include his Fifth Symphony, his final piano concerto (the "Emperor," No. 5, Op. 73), and his violin concerto. The Fifth Symphony may be the work that all people can recognize by the first four notes, and it has been used in many different contexts such as this mashup of the beginning of Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Led Zepplin's Whole Lotta Love, opens a new window. Matthew Guerrieri's The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination explores this idea further.
Beethoven's hearing had already started to deteriorate during his early period, and by his late period he was almost entirely deaf. Even so, this last period saw Beethoven's greatest achievements, including the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis, and the late string quartets. His hearing loss started as tinnitus, or the ringing in the ears that is common to many of us. Rick Beato discusses the deafness, opens a new window and bring several works that indicate what happened to Beethoven's music as his deafness progressed.