After listening to a very moving podcast about Beethoven's life and works, I came away better able to understand the man and the greatness of his music. In Music History courses, students are exposed mainly to just the few musicians who played pivotal roles in pushing the parameters of music. Three Germanic composers, Bach (1685-1750), and Haydn (1732-1809), and Mozart (1756-1791), are recognized as TRANSITIONAL FIGURES because of their originality, genius and sheer output. Bach basically defined the Baroque period in Music, however many of his compositions pushed the accepted boundaries of that era. Haydn's music defined the new, clean, well-ordered style of the Classical Period. Mozart lived during the Classical age, but defied the rules and pushed towards more freedom of expression and emotional content. He helped transition music into the age of Romanticism, a style period that Beethoven matured in and further defined through his genius and originality.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) grew up studying the works of the masters, and even met both Mozart and Haydn in Vienna. He actually studied for a time with Papa Haydn. Beethoven had the desire to master and even go beyond the performance capabilities and compositions of these masters. He witnessed the demise of the "Court Composer" Patron system (like Haydn) to the new commercial model of the "freelance musician" (like Mozart). Beethoven had equal hard luck with both systems.
After learning about all of Beethoven's hard luck throughout his life from family problems, to romantic heart-aches, from sickness to total deafness, it is hard to imagine how this tortured man could create such sublime music. Through all of his difficulties, though, he still managed to continue his faith in God. In fact, Beethoven covenanted with Him to continue to create music for as long as he was able to use his God-given gift. How truly inspirational!
I think I respect Beethoven and his music better now.