Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beethoven changed the very World of Music

The music of Ludwig van Beethoven not only turned him into a phenomenon after his death but it also brought about some changes that were disconcerting enough to make way for a romantic idiom in musical history. It broke away from Classicism. His music left a big impact on the composers that were to follow him. It also molded the whole world in the way that people began to acknowledge musical ideas through the voice of an orchestral ensemble. Beethoven moulded the identity of what was termed as Romanticism in music. It has also been observed that during the second half of the nineteenth century, the concert halls mostly played music of composers that were long dead and Beethoven was very much the focus of most of the concert programs. This is mainly due to the intensity that is brought out by his compositions and his unique style of generating large structures with a dense development of motifs. These motifs went on to shape the very culture of Romanticism in music and its repertoire. It is now one hundred and eighty eight years after his death and we can be honest by saying that we cannot get bored of hearing his music even when we are hearing it for the umpteenth time. Beethoven's orchestral music, especially, brings before us what is mighty in music and its value can not be measured. You can sense infinite yearning, setting in motion awe and pain, at the same time. After Beethoven, the orchestra was not any longer a cute ensemble for the entertainment of the elite classes but it came to life thereafter. It is an interesting fact to note that majority of concert programs after Beethoven's death generally included one of his symphonies to close the concerts. The art of conducting also took shape as a result of his mighty symphonies and styles developed through various interpretations of how his works were performed. This was unthinkable in the days of Mozart and Haydn. There was not much room for improvisation or style of interpretation. Forget the orchestra; the pianoforte also went through a transformation and carried the mark left by Beethoven as a highly flexible instrument. When the twentieth century arrived, the technology behind recording techniques also evolved more or less taking Beethoven's symphonies into consideration. The first classical music long playing vinyl record was made in 1931 and it was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. When the first compact disc was issued, it was formatted to last seventy five minutes and this was mainly because the entire Choral Symphony could be captured on it. There can be no argument on the issue that Ludwig van Beethoven changed the very world of music, particularly that which is played in the concert halls. The concert hall transformed from being regarded not as a place where diverse musical entertainment could be acquired but it became a meeting place for austere memorials to the brilliance of the composer and the artists performing their music. Music listening went through a revolutionary change after Beethoven passed away. Listeners were now expected to pay complete attention to the dense and emotional narratives of the expressions by Beethoven. Take the example of Eroica, for example. Haydn could not stomach it when he first heard it and expected that the world should be ready to change their attitude to what they perceive music as. The musicians' platform changed into an invisible drama stage and the concert halls became prayer rooms where the Creator was glorified through revelations with sound. During the Second World War, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony took on the code of being symbolized for victory. The opening motif notes were then linked to the Morse code for victory. In 1989, Bernstein conducted the Choral Symphony after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Beethoven's late string quartets have also been hailed as a pinnacle in string ensemble writing. Many authors who wrote biographies of Beethoven have mentioned that the unrest during the Napoleonic wars in Austria and Germany and the eventual restoration of the monarchy rule had an influence on Beethoven's life and turned him into a recluse in a world of visions. His deafness also led him to behave the way he did; he was agitated and impulsive. It separated him from the mundane and daily life activities. As he grew in age, he started becoming fond of dead masters like Haendel, Bach, Haydn and Mozart. He started taking interest in counterpoint and polyphony. Beethoven was perpetually influenced by several political forces in his life, from a very early point in his career. The influence is seen ihis Creatures of Prometheus, Ruins of Athens, Coriolan, Missa Solemnis, Wellington's Victory, the Eroica, Fifth and the Choral Symphonies. The European Union has gone ahead and converted the finale of his Choral Symphony - the Ode to Joy- as its national anthem, officially. There is no tribute that will be sufficient for Beethoven. You do not come across this kind of musical genius everyday. It is rare. He went through tough experiences during his journey in life with so many tribulations. It was not in vain that he suffered inside with a mental anguish; it moulded his musical compositions to shape the very world of music after him. His life may have been a whole lot of pain for him but it was a big victory for the age of Romanticism. If you want to feel the anguish that he felt, you have to read his Heiligenstadt Testament in which he describes that his thirty-second year was the darkest hour in his life; he was struggling with love, loyalty and political ideas and with the approaching deafness. The testament to this struggle was the Eroica which shattered the walls of the classical and bourgeois world.

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