Ludwig van Beethoven

(1770-1827)

Beethoven’s Early Period

COMMENTARY

Maestro E at the grave of Beethoven in Vienna's Central Cemetery

Next: Beethoven  in is Own Words and the Words of Others

The Early Period (cont.)

THE PROBLEM WITH THE THREE-PERIOD CLASSIFICATION SCHEME


One has to examine not only the PERIOD, but the GENRE:  

For example:   Within the early period, the Piano Sonatas of 1798-99 are very forward-looking and experimental, such as the “Pathetique”, while the string quartets of 1798 (the first op. 18, for example) are clearly Haydnesque and NOT forward-looking. By the year 1800, the string quartets (for instance, the 4th op. 18 string quartet, which you can listen to at BEETHOVEN VIDEO LINKS) are quite forward-looking and experimental, while the 1st Symphony (also 1800) is very Haydnesque. IMPORTANT!

THE YEAR 1800: a watershed year for Beethoven

  • April 2: a very important concert was given by Beethoven, at which the Symphony no. 1 was performed for the first time in public. Also on the program was his famous Septet op. 20.
  • In this year he published his Opus 18 string quartets: his most important works to date.
  • Therefore, 1800 marks the year that he entered the two arenas (Symphony and String Quartet) that he would dominate for the entire 19th century.
  • In this year, Prince Lichnowsky settled a small annuity on Beethoven, which gave Beethoven a certain degree of financial independence.

THE YEAR 1801:

  • Beethoven first mentions his growing deafness to his friend Wegeler.

THE YEAR 1802:

  • Beethoven writes the "Heiligenstadt Testament", inaugurating the move into the SECOND PERIOD, or HEROIC PERIOD.

In a letter to the violinist Krumpholz written shortly after the op. 28 piano sonata (1801), Beethoven wrote: I am only a little satisfied with my previous works. From today on I will take a new path”. The path he decided on was NOT a lessening of Classical forms leading to a more Romantic approach, but rather a tightening and an EXPANSION of Classical forms, including a nod towards French Revolutionary music.  Perhaps the most important point is BEETHOVEN’S EXPERIMENTATION WITH FORM.