Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s Early Period
Maestro E at the grave of Beethoven in Vienna's Central Cemetery
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.