Ludwig van Beethoven

(1770-1827)

Q&A

Quiz yourself on facts about Beethoven's Early Period


Beethoven Video Links

We will be concerning ourselves solely with works from the early period of Beethoven in this section. Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna in late 1792. The early period works show the decisive influence of both Mozart and Haydn on the young Beethoven, while at the same time demonstrating a growing independence from those masters and brilliant new innovations, some of which will be discussed in the video examples below. The early period ends by 1802-03, coinciding with Beethoven's first crisis of his life: his realization that his hearing problems and growing deafness would be a permanent feature of his life and career. In the famous Heiligenstadt Testament (1802) he writes about his struggles with his deafness. This crisis would usher in the middle period of Beethoven's output, often called the "Heroic Period".

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1795)

PROGRAM NOTES

"His genius, his magnetic personality were acknowledged by all, and there was, besides, a gaiety and animation about the young Beethoven that people found immensely attractive. The troubles of boyhood were behind him: his father had died very shortly after his departure from Bonn, and by 1795 his brothers were established in Vienna, Caspar Karl as a musician, Johann as an apothecary. During his first few months in the capital, he had indeed been desperately poor, depending very largely on the small salary allowed him by the Elector of Bonn. But that was all over now..."

Ten Beethoven Innovations


Beethoven is credited with numerous innovations that changed the course of music history. In this special interactive section, learn about ten of his major innovations, complete with video examples!

BEETHOVEN IN HIS OWN WORDS & THE WORDS OF OTHERS


Here are some famous and not-so-famous quotes by the composer and his contemporaries/colleagues, offering valuable insights into the life and work of Beethoven.


Piano Sonata Op. 2 No. 3 (1795)

Beethoven's first published piano sonatas were dedicated to his teacher Joseph Haydn and were composed in 1795. These early works clearly show the influence of both Mozart and Haydn. At this time, Beethoven was establishing himself as one of the foremost pianists in Vienna. Heard here is the brilliant Finale to the third and last opus 2 Sonata.


String Trio in C Minor (1797-98)

Beethoven approached the writing of string quartets with extreme caution, given that his teacher (Haydn) was the "father" of the string quartet, having composed 68 string quartets in his long career. Therefore, Beethoven "practiced" by writing string trios and other chamber works before diving into the string quartet medium. His early string trios are magnificent works, and this performance features three of the greatest performers in the 20th century. Note the use of Beethoven's favorite key: C Minor!


"Pathetique" Piano Sonata (1798)

Since Beethoven's main instrument was the piano, it stands to reason that many of his innovations and experiments first show up in his piano writing, and then later find their way into his chamber music and symphonic music. We can always find "new" techniques and ideas first in his piano works. As an example, his "Pathetique" Piano Sonata is very forward looking and daring, in terms of both form and harmony, while at this same time, his string quartets from the same year are a bit stiff. Of course, he would not even compose his Symphony no. 1 until the year 1800, and that work is very much indebted to Haydn.


Septet (1800)

Beethoven wrote music for various reasons: at times he would consciously compose works for mass consumption that were quite accessible (and profitable!), and at other times he would write works of a very difficult nature-forward looking experimental works. The Septet was considered to be one of THE most popular works of the composer's entire career, much to his chagrin. Here is the wonderfully light and sparkling Scherzo from that iconic piece of music.


Symphony No. 1 (1800)

Since Beethoven's teacher was the "father of the symphony" as well as the "father of the string quartet", Beethoven also tread carefully when thinking about composing his first symphony. After all, Haydn had composed 104 symphonies (!) by the time Beethoven started working on his Symphony no. 1. This symphony shows an unmistakable debt to Haydn and is filled with Haydnesque features, including humor and many surprises. Beethoven parts company with Haydn, however, when it comes to the third movement, heard here. Whereas Haydn and Mozart composed stately Menuets for their third movements, Beethoven introduces for the first time the concept of the Scherzo, which is played at a MUCH faster tempo than the 18th Century Menuet. Note that Beethoven still calls this a Menuet, but it certainly is NOT a Menuet!


String Quartet op. 18 No. 4 (1798-1800)

The most important works, by far, of the entire early period are the six string quartets op. 18. The string quartet form was considered to be the ultimate height of compositional perfection, and Beethoven took the challenge very seriously. His op. 18 string quartets are all fabulous works that cover new ground in the genre, especially in terms of emotional content, formal structure, and independence of parts. Here is the brooding first movement of op. 18 no. 4, again in Beethoven's favorite "dark" key of C minor.


"Moonlight" Sonata (1801)

By 1801, Beethoven was certainly beginning to move away from the Haydn/Mozart paradigm, and inching his way toward a new style. This style was of course first seen in his piano sonatas. The "Moonlight" Sonata shows Beethoven grappling with the ideas and concepts of Romanticism, which was beginning to show up in the works of numerous composers. If you compare this video with the Piano Sonata op. 2 No. 3 from above, you will notice quite a difference in style. The early period is coming to its end!


"Moonlight" Sonata: another version!!

Everyone will enjoy this clip from the outrageously fictional movie Immortal Beloved, starring Gary Oldman as Beethoven. A MUST SEE!


Symphony no. 2 (1802)

This Symphony, composed at the height of Beethoven's crisis regarding his deafness, is one of his brightest and most joyous works: go figure. The Finale is a highly energetic Rondo that has an extremely propulsive rhythmic nature. Beethoven only composed two symphonies in the early period: his remaining seven symphonies would be quite different!


Symphony no. 3 "Eroica"   (1803)

The middle period of Beethoven begins with this epochal work from 1803: a work that changed the course of music history. Lasting 55 minutes (certainly the longest symphony written up until that time), and breaking new ground in every aspect of composition, including orchestration, formal structure, thematic development, motivic saturation, rhythmic displacement, key relationships, and advanced harmony, the "Eroica" Symphony stands as one of the greatest works of Western music. Here is a short excerpt form the first movement that demonstrates the complexity and daring of Beethoven at his best. Enjoy! Certainly an amazing distance covered between 1800 (Symphony no. 1) and 1803 (Symphony no. 3).



CYS Performance History:

Works by Beethoven

CYS has been regularly playing the works of Beethoven for the last 30 years. Listed below is the performance history:

    • Piano Concerto No. 1 (2009, 2019)

    • Piano Concerto No. 2 (2017)

    • Piano Concerto No. 3 (2008)

    • Piano Concerto No. 4 (2003, 2013)

    • Piano Concerto No. 5 (1997)

    • Violin Concerto  (1998)

    • Symphony no. 8 (1992)

    • Consecration of the House Overture (1994)

Read More

Important Works of the

First Period (1795-1802)


ORCHESTRAL WORKS:

Symphony no. 1  (1800)

Creatures of Prometheus ballet (1801)

Symphony no. 2  (1802)


CONCERTOS AND WORKS FOR
SOLO INSTRUMENT AND ORCHESTRA:


Piano Concerto no. 1 in C Major  (1795)

Piano Concerto no. 2 in Bb Major  (1795)

Romance in F Major for Violin and Orchestra (1798)

Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Minor  (1800)

Romance in G Major for Violin and Orchestra (1802)


CHAMBER MUSIC:

String Trio in Eb Major  op. 3  (before 1794)

Piano Trios op. 1  (1795)

Cello Sonatas op. 5  (1796)

Eight Violin Sonatas (1797-1802)

Three String Trios op. 9  (1798)

Septet (1800)

String Quartets op. 18  1-6   (1798-1800)


PIANO SONATAS:

20 out of 32 Piano Sonatas composed through 1802

COMMENTARY