Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier andSalome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poemsand orchestral works, such as Death and TransfigurationTill Eulenspiegel’s Merry PranksAlso sprach ZarathustraAn Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering ofGerman Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

1918 portrait of Strauss by Max Liebermann.

Life and works

Early life and family

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Strauss age 24

Strauss was born on 11 June 1864, in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich. In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father. He wrote his first music at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.

During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there. In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser. The influence of Wagner’s music on Strauss’s style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it. Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of Tristan und Isolde. In later life, Richard Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner’s progressive works. Nevertheless, Strauss’s father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son’s developing taste, not least in Strauss’s abiding love for the horn.

In 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music. He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow, who had been enormously impressed by the young composer’s Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age. Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal. Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885. Strauss’s compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father’s teachings. His remarkably mature Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, is representative of this period and is a staple of modern horn repertoire.

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Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894. She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the finalFour Last Songs of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.

The Strausses had one son, Franz, in 1897. Franz married Alice von Grab, a Jewish woman, in a Catholic ceremony in 1924. Franz and Alice had two sons, Richard and Christian.


Solo and chamber works

Some of Strauss’s first compositions were solo and chamber works. These pieces include: early compositions for piano solo in a conservative harmonic style, many of which are lost; a string quartet (opus 2); a cello sonata; a piano quartet; Violin Sonata in E flat (1888); as well as a handful of late pieces.

After 1890 Strauss composed very infrequently for chamber groups, his energies being almost completely absorbed with large-scale orchestral works and operas. Four of his chamber pieces are actually arrangements of portions of his operas, including the Daphne-Etude for solo violin, and the string Sextet which is the overture to his final opera Capriccio. His last independent chamber work, an Allegretto in E for violin and piano, dates from 1940.

Tone poems and other orchestral works


Strauss with his wife and son, 1910.

Strauss’s style began to truly develop and change when, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter, a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner‘s nieces. It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth, and begin writing tone poems. He also introduced Strauss to the essays of Richard Wagner and the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer. Strauss went on to conduct one of Ritter’s operas, and at Strauss’s request Ritter later wrote a poem describing the events depicted in Strauss’s tone poem Death and Transfiguration.

The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded[2] as Strauss’s first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem Don Juan (1888), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner. Strauss went on to write a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems: Death and Transfiguration (Tod und Verklärung, 1889), Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, 1895), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra, 1896), Don Quixote (1897), Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life, 1898), Sinfonia Domestica (Domestic Symphony, 1903) and An Alpine Symphony (Eine Alpensinfonie, 1911–1915). One commentator has observed of these works that “no orchestra could exist without his tone poems, written to celebrate the glories of the post-Wagnerian symphony orchestra.

Solo instrument with orchestra

Strauss’s output of works for solo instrument or instruments with orchestra was fairly extensive. The most famous include two concertos for horn, which are still part of the standard repertoire of most horn soloists; a Violin Concerto in D minor; the Burleske for piano and orchestra; the tone poem Don Quixote for cello, viola and orchestra; the well-known late Oboe Concerto in D major; and the Duet-Concertino for bassoon, clarinet and orchestra, which was one of his last works (1947).


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Richard Strauss engraved byFerdinand Schmutzer (1922)

Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, Guntram (1894) and Feuersnot (1901), were controversial works:Guntram was the first significant critical failure of Strauss’s career, and Feuersnot was considered obscene by some critics.

In 1905, Strauss produced Salome, based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences. The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls.[5] Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss’s peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was “stupendous”,[6] and Mahler described it as “a live volcano, a subterranean fire”.[7] Strauss reputedly financed his house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.

Strauss’s next opera was Elektra (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further, in particular with the Elektra chordElektra was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions. For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language somewhat, which resulted in operas such as Der Rosenkavalier (1911) having great public success. Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942. With Hofmannsthal he created Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1918), Die ägyptische Helena (1927), and Arabella (1932). For Intermezzo (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto. Die schweigsame Frau (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist;Friedenstag (1935–6) and Daphne (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and Die Liebe der Danae (1940) was with Joseph Gregor. Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.


All his life Strauss produced Lieder. The Four Last Songs are among his best known, along with “Zueignung”CäcilieMorgen!,“Allerseelen”, and others. In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, the masterful and haunting Four Last Songs for soprano and orchestra. He reportedly composed them with Kirsten Flagstad in mind, and she gave the first performance, which was recorded. Strauss’s songs have always been popular with audiences and performers, and are generally considered – along with many of his other compositions – to be masterpieces of the first rank.

Strauss in Nazi Germany

The Nazi Reich forms the Reichsmusikkammer

Richard Strauss

In March 1933, when Richard Strauss was 68, Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power. Strauss never joined the Nazi party, and studiously avoided Nazi forms of greeting. For reasons of expediency, however, he was initially drawn into cooperating with the early Nazi regime in the hope that Hitler – an ardent Wagnerian and music lover who had admired Strauss’s work since viewing Salome in 1907 – would promote German art and culture. Strauss’s need to protect his Jewish daughter-in-law and Jewish grandchildren also motivated his behavior, in addition to his determination to preserve and conduct the music of banned composers such as Mahler andDebussy.

In 1933, Strauss wrote in his private notebook:

I consider the Streicher-Goebbels Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honour, as evidence of incompetence – the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent.

Meanwhile, far from being an admirer of Strauss’s work, Joseph Goebbels maintained expedient cordiality with Strauss only for a period. Goebbels wrote in his diary:

Unfortunately we still need him, but one day we shall have our own music and then we shall have no further need of this decadent neurotic.

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Strauss was on the cover of TIME in 1927 and (here) 1938.

Nevertheless, because of Strauss’s international eminence, in November 1933 he was appointed to the post of president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Bureau. Strauss, who had lived through numerous political regimes and had no interest in politics, decided to accept the position but to remain apolitical, a decision which would eventually become untenable. He wrote to his family, “I made music under the Kaiser, and under Ebert. I’ll survive under this one as well. In 1935 he wrote in his journal:

In November of 1933, the minister Goebbels nominated me president of theReichsmusikkammer without obtaining my prior agreement. I was not consulted. I accepted this honorary office because I hoped that I would be able to do some good and prevent worse misfortunes, if from now onwards German musical life were going to be, as it was said, “reorganized” by amateurs and ignorant place-seekers.

Strauss privately scorned Goebbels and called him “a pipsqueak. In order to gain Goebbels’ cooperation, however, in extending the German music copyright laws from 30 years to 50 years, in 1933 Strauss dedicated an orchestral song, Das Bächlein (“The Little Brook”) to him.

Richard Strauss

Strauss attempted to ignore Nazi bans on performances of works by DebussyMahler, andMendelssohn. He also continued to work on a comic opera, Die schweigsame Frau, with his Jewish friend and librettist Stefan Zweig. When the opera was premiered in Dresden in 1935, Strauss insisted that Zweig’s name appear on the theatrical billing, much to the ire of the Nazi regime. Hitler and Goebbels avoided attending the opera, and it was halted after three performances and subsequently banned by the Third Reich.

On 17 June 1935, Strauss wrote a letter to Stefan Zweig, in which he stated:

Do you believe I am ever, in any of my actions, guided by the thought that I am ‘German’? Do you suppose Mozart was consciously ‘Aryan’ when he composed? I recognise only two types of people: those who have talent and those who have none.

This letter to Zweig was intercepted by the Gestapo and sent to Hitler. Strauss was subsequently dismissed from his post asReichsmusikkammer president in 1935. The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics nevertheless used Strauss’s Olympische Hymne, which he had composed in 1934. Strauss’s seeming relationship with the Nazis in the 1930s attracted criticism from some noted musicians, including Arturo Toscanini, who in 1933 had said, “To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it back on again,” when Strauss had accepted the presidency of the Reichsmusikkammer. Much of Strauss’s motivation in his conduct during the Third Reich was, however, to protect his Jewish daughter-in-law Alice and his Jewish grandchildren from persecution. Both of his grandsons were bullied at school, but Strauss used his considerable influence to prevent the boys or their mother from being sent toconcentration camps.

Richard Strauss


In 1938, when the entire nation was preparing for war, Strauss created Friedenstag (Peace Day), a one-act opera set in a besieged fortress during the Thirty Years’ War. The work is essentially a hymn to peace and a thinly veiled criticism of the Third Reich. With its contrasts between freedom and enslavement, war and peace, light and dark, this work has a close affinity with Beethoven‘s Fidelio. Productions of the opera ceased shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939.

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Strauss at Garmisch in 1938.

When his Jewish daughter-in-law Alice was placed under house arrest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1938, Strauss used his connections in Berlin, including the Berlin intendantHeinz Tietjen, to secure her safety. He drove to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in order to argue, albeit unsuccessfully, for the release of his son Franz’s Jewish mother-in-law, Marie von Grab. Strauss also wrote several letters to the SS pleading for the release of her children who were also held in camps; his letters were ignored.

Richard StraussRichard Strauss

In 1942, Strauss moved with his family back to Vienna, where Alice and her children could be protected by Baldur von Schirach, the Gauleiter of Vienna. Strauss was unable, however, to protect his Jewish relatives completely; in early 1944, while Strauss was away, Alice and his son Franz were abducted by the Gestapo and imprisoned for two nights. Only Strauss’s personal intervention at this point was able to save them, and he was able to take the two of them back to Garmisch, where they remained under house arrest until the end of the war.

Richard Strauss


Strauss completed the composition of Metamorphosen, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945. The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work. Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, Metamorphosen contains Strauss’s most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion. Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss’s mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture – including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation. At the end of the war, Strauss wrote in his private diary:

The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.

In April 1945, Strauss was apprehended by American soldiers at his Garmisch estate. As he descended the staircase he announced to Lieutenant Milton Weiss of the U.S. Army, “I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome.” Lt. Weiss, who, as it happened, was also a musician, nodded in recognition. An ‘Off Limits’ sign was subsequently placed on the lawn to protect Strauss.The American oboist John de Lancie, who knew Strauss’s orchestral writing for oboe thoroughly, was in the army unit, and asked Strauss to compose an oboe concerto. Initially dismissive of the idea, Strauss completed this late masterpiece, his Oboe Concerto, before the end of the year.

Final upsurge of genius

Richard Strauss

The metaphor “Indian Summer” is often used by journalists, biographers, and music critics to describe Strauss’s late upsurge of genius from 1942 through the end of his life. The horrifying events of World War II seemed to bring the composer – who had grown old, tired, and a little jaded – into focus. The major works of the last years of Strauss’s life, written in his late 70s and 80s, have a luminosity which matches anything he had composed earlier in his life, and they surpass most of them in emotional depth. These pieces include, among others, his Horn Concerto No. 2, Metamorphosen, his Oboe Concerto, and his masterful and haunting Four Last Songs.

Richard Strauss

The Four Last Songs, composed shortly before Strauss’s death, deal poetically with the subject of dying. The last, “At Sunset” (Im Abendrot), ends with the line “Is this perhaps death?” The question is not answered in words, but instead Strauss quotes the “transfiguration theme” from his earlier tone poem, Death and Transfiguration – symbolizing the transfiguration and fulfillment of the soul after death.

Death and legacy

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Stamp issued in 1954

Richard Strauss died at the age of 85 on 8 September 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.Georg Solti, who had arranged Strauss’s 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss’s burial. During the singing of the famous trio from Rosenkavalier, Solti described how “each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together.” Strauss’s wife, Paulina, died eight months later, on 13 May 1950, at the age of 88.

During his lifetime Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music. There were few 20th-century composers who compared with Strauss in terms of orchestral imagination, and no composer since Wagner made a more significant contribution to the history of opera. And Strauss’s late works, modelled on “the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness, are perhaps the most remarkable works by any octogenarian composer.

Strauss himself declared in 1947 with characteristic self-deprecation, “I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer.” The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould described Strauss in 1962 as “the greatest musical figure who has lived in this century.

Strauss as a conductor

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Richard Strauss during his career.

Strauss, as conductor, made a large number of recordings, both of his own music as well as music by German and Austrian composers.

His 1929 performances of Till Eulenspiegel and Don Juan with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra have long been considered the best of his early electrical recordings; even the original 78 rpm discs had superior sound for their time, and the performances were top-notch and quite exciting at times, despite a noticeable mistake by the Horn soloist in the famous opening passage of Till Eulenspiegel.

One of the more interesting of Strauss’s recordings is perhaps the first complete performance of his An Alpine Symphony, made in 1941 and later released by EMI, because Strauss used the full complement of percussion instruments required in this spectacular symphony. The intensity of the performance rivaled that of the digital recording Herbert von Karajan made many years later with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Music critic Harold C. Schonberg in The Great Conductors (1967), says that while Strauss was a very fine conductor, he often put scant effort into his recordings. Schonberg focused primarily on Strauss’s recordings of Mozart‘s Symphony No. 40 in G minor and Beethoven‘sSymphony No. 7, as well as noting that Strauss played a breakneck version of Beethoven’s9th Symphony in about 45 minutes. Concerning the Beethoven 7th symphony, Schonberg wrote, “There is almost never a ritard or a change in expression or nuance. The slow movement is almost as fast as the following vivace; and the last movement, with a big cut in it, is finished in 4 minutes, 25 seconds. (It should run between 7 and 8 minutes.)” Schonberg also complained that the Mozart symphony had “no force, no charm, no inflection, with a metronomic rigidity.”

Peter Gutmann‘s 1994 review for says the performances of the Beethoven 5th and 7th symphonies, as well as Mozart’s last three symphonies, are actually quite good, even if they are sometimes unconventional. Gutman wrote:

The Koch CDs represent all of Strauss’s recordings of works by other composers. The best of his readings of his own famous tone poems and other music are collected on DGG 429 925-2, 3 CDs. It is true, as the critics suggest, that the readings forego overt emotion, but what emerges instead is a solid sense of structure, letting the music speak convincingly for itself. It is also true that Strauss’s tempos are generally swift, but this, too, contributes to the structural cohesion and in any event is fully in keeping with our modern outlook in which speed is a virtue and attention spans are defined more by MTV clips and news sound bites than by evenings at the opera and thousand page novels.

Koch Legacy has also released Strauss’s recordings of overtures by GluckCarl Maria von WeberPeter Cornelius, and Wagner. The preference for German and Austrian composers in Germany in the 1920s through the 1940s was typical of the German nationalism that existed after World War I. Strauss clearly capitalized on national pride for the great German-speaking composers.

There were many other recordings, including some taken from radio broadcasts and concerts, during the 1930s and early 1940s. The sheer volume of recorded performances would undoubtedly yield some definitive performances from a very capable and rather forward-looking conductor.

In 1944, Strauss celebrated his 80th birthday and conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in recordings of his own major orchestral works, as well as his seldom-heard Schlagobers (“Whipped Cream”) ballet music. Some find more feeling in these performances than in Strauss’s earlier recordings, which were recorded on the Magnetophon tape recording equipment. Vanguard Records later issued the recordings on LPs. Some of these recordings have been reissued on CD by Preiser and are of remarkable fidelity.

Strauss also made live-recording player piano music rolls for the Hupfeld system, all of which survive today.

Richard Strauss was the composer of the music on the first CD to be commercially released: Deutsche Grammophon‘s 1983 release of their 1980 recording of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Alpine Symphony.


Selected major works


See List of operas by Richard Strauss

Ballet music

  • Josephslegende (The Legend of Joseph), Op. 63 (1914)
  • Schlagobers (Whipped Cream), Op. 70 (1921/2)

Tone poems

Other orchestral works


  • Funf Klavierstucke, Op. 3 (1880–81)
  • Sonata for piano in B minor, Op. 5 (1880–81)


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Burleske (1885–86), performed by Neal O’Doan with the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra.

Problems listening to this file? See media help.
  • Romance for Clarinet and Orchestra (1879)
  • Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8 (1882)
  • Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11 (1882/83)
  • Romance for Cello and Orchestra (1883)
  • Burleske for piano and orchestra (1886–1890)
  • Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica, for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 73 (1925; ded. Paul Wittgenstein)
  • Panathenäenzug, for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 74 (1926–1927; ded. Wittgenstein)
  • Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major (1942)
  • Oboe Concerto in D major (1945)
  • Duett-Concertino, for clarinet and bassoon with string orchestra (1947)


  • Acht Lieder aus Letzte Blätter, Op. 10 (1885)
  • Ruhe, meine Seele! (“Rest, My Soul!”) Op. 27 No. 1
  • Cäcilie, Op. 27 No. 2
  • Heimliche Aufforderung (“Secret Invitation”), Op. 27 No. 3
  • Morgen! (“Tomorrow!”), Op. 27 No. 4
  • Zwei Gesänge, Op. 34 (1896/97) – 1. Der Abend 2. Hymne
  • Wiegenlied (“Lullaby”), Op. 41 No. 1
  • Deutsche Motette, Op. 62 (1913)
  • Olympische Hymne, for chorus and orchestra (1934)
  • Die Göttin im Putzzimmer (1935)
  • Männerchöre (1935)
  • An den Baum Daphne (1943)
  • Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) (1948)


Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the Baroque composer. For his grandson of the same name, see Johann Sebastian Bach (painter). For other uses of Bach, see Bach (disambiguation).

Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, O.S.31 March 1685, N.S. – 28 July 1750, N.S.) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of theBaroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he did not introduce new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, Bach’s works include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the PartitasThe Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, theMagnificat, the Musical OfferingThe Art of Fugue, the English and French Suites, theSonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the Cello Suites, more than 200 surviving cantatas, and a similar number of organ works, including the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor andPassacaglia and Fugue in C minor, and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes and Organ Mass.

Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque style, and as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Signature of JS Bach


Childhood (1685–1703)

See also: Bach family
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Johann Ambrosius Bach,Bach’s father

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in EisenachSaxe-Eisenach, on 21 March 1685, O.S.31 March 1685,N.S. He was the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of the town musicians, andMaria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt. His father taught him to play violin and harpsichord.[5] His uncles were all professional musicians, whose posts ranged from church organists and court chamber musicians to composers. One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach (1645–93), introduced him to the art of organ playing. Bach was proud of his family’s musical achievements, and around 1735 he drafted a genealogy, “Origin of the musical Bach family”.

Bach’s mother died in 1694, and his father eight months later.The 10-year-old orphan moved in with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), the organist at the Michaeliskirche in Ohrdruf,Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. There, he copied, studied and performed music, and received valuable teaching from his brother, who instructed him on the clavichord. J.C. Bach exposed him to the works of the great South German composers of the day, such as Johann Pachelbel (under whom Johann Christoph had studied) and Johann Jakob Froberger, to the music of North German composers;to Frenchmen, such as Jean-Baptiste LullyLouis MarchandMarin Marais, and to the Italian clavierist Girolamo Frescobaldi. The young Bach probably witnessed and assisted in the maintenance of the organ. Bach’s obituary indicates that he copied music out of Johann Christoph’s scores, but his brother had apparently forbidden him to do so, possibly because scores were valuable and private commodities at the time.

Bach (left) with three of his sons
At the age of 14, Bach, along with his older school friend George Erdmann, was awarded a choral scholarship to study at the prestigious St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg in the Principality of Lüneburg. This involved a long journey with his friend, probably undertaken partly on foot and partly by coach. His two years there appear to have been critical in exposing him to a wider facet of European culture. In addition to singing in the a cappella choir, it is likely that he played the School’s three-manual organ and its harpsichords. He probably learned French and Italian, and received a thorough grounding in theology, Latin, history, geography, and physics. He would have come into contact with sons of noblemen from northern Germany sent to the highly selective school to prepare for careers in diplomacy, government, and the military.

Although little supporting historical evidence exists at this time, it is almost certain that while in Lüneburg, young Bach would have visited the Johanniskirche (Church of St. John) and heard (and possibly played) the church’s famous organ (built in 1549 by Jasper Johannsen and nicknamed the “Böhm organ” after its most prominent master, Georg Böhm). Given his innate musical talent, Bach would have had significant contact with prominent organists of the day in Lüneburg, most notably Böhm (the organist at Johanniskirche) as well as organists in nearby Hamburg, such as Johann Adam Reincken.

A nineteenth century depiction of the Bach family at morning
music practice. Bach is at the keyboard and the other family
members are playing or singing.

Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen (1703–08)

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St. Boniface’s Church in Arnstadt

In January 1703, shortly after graduating from St. Michael’s and after having being turned down for the post of organist at Sangerhausen, Bach gained an appointment as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar. His role there is unclear, but appears to have included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboard player spread. He was invited to inspect and give the inaugural recital on the new organ at St. Boniface’s Church in Arnstadt. The Bach familyhad close connections with people in this ancient town located about 40 km to the southwest of Weimar.[17] In August 1703, he accepted the post of organist at that church, with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a fine new organ tuned in the modern tempered system that allowed a wide range of keys to be used.

Strong family connections and a musically enthusiastic employer failed to prevent tension between the young organist and the authorities after several years in the post. Bach was apparently dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir; more seriously, there was his unauthorised absence from Arnstadt for several months in 1705–06, when he visited the great organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude and his Abendmusiken at the Marienkirche in the northern city of Lübeck. The visit to Buxtehude involved a journey on foot of about 400 kilometres (250 mi) each way. The trip reinforced Buxtehude’s style as a foundation for Bach’s earlier works, and that he overstayed his planned visit by several months suggests that his time with the older master was of great value him. Bach wanted to become amanuensis (assistant and successor) to Buxtehude, but did not want to marry his daughter, which apparently was a condition for his appointment.



Places Bach lived

According to a record of the proceedings of the Arnstadt consistory in August 1705, Bach was involved in a brawl:

Johann Sebastian Bach, organist here at the New Church, appeared and stated that, as he walked home yesterday, fairly late at night … six students were sitting on the “Langenstein” (Long Stone), and as he passed the town hall, the student Geyersbach went after him with a stick, calling him to account: Why had he [Bach] made abusive remarks about him? He [Bach] answered that he had made no abusive remarks about him, and that no one could prove it, for he had gone his way very quietly. Geyersbach retorted that while he [Bach] might not have maligned him, he had maligned his bassoon at some time, and whoever insulted his belongings insulted him as well … [Geyersbach] had at once struck out at him. Since he had not been prepared for this, he had been about to draw his dagger, but Geyersbach had fallen into his arms, and the two of them tumbled about until the rest of the students … had rushed toward them and separated them.

In 1706 Bach was offered a post as organist at St. Blasius’s in Mühlhausen, which he took up the following year. It included significantly higher remuneration and improved conditions, as well as a better choir. Four months after arriving at Mühlhausen, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. Together they would have seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood, including Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach who became important composers in their own right.

The church and city government at Mühlhausen agreed to Bach’s plan for an expensive renovation of the organ at St. Blasius’s. He, in turn, wrote an elaborate, festive cantataGott ist mein König, BWV 71—for the inauguration of the new council in 1708. The council was so delighted with the piece that they paid handsomely for its publication, and twice in later years had the composer return to conduct it.

Weimar (1708–17)

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Portrait of the young Bach (disputed)

After less than a year Bach left Mühlhausen, returning to Weimar this time as organist andconcertmaster at the ducal court. The larger salary given him by Duke Johann Ernst and the prospect of working with a large, well-funded contingent of professional musicians may have prompted the move. Bach moved his family into an apartment just five minutes’ walk from the ducal palace. In the following year, their first child was born and they were joined by Maria Barbara’s elder, unmarried sister, who remained with them to assist in the running of the household until her death in 1729.

Bach’s position in Weimar marked the start of a sustained period of composing keyboard and orchestral works, in which he had attained the technical proficiency and confidence to extend the prevailing large-scale structures and to synthesise influences from abroad. From the music of Italians such as VivaldiCorelli and Torelli, he learned how to write dramatic openings and adopted their sunny dispositions, dynamic motor-rhythms and decisive harmonic schemes. Bach absorbed these stylistic aspects in part by transcribing for harpsichord and organ the concertos of Vivaldi written for various combinations of strings and winds; a number of these transcribed works are still concert favourites. Bach was particularly attracted to the Italian style in which one or more solo instruments alternate section-by-section with the full orchestra throughout a movement.

In Weimar, Bach continued to play and compose for the organ, and to perform a varied repertoire of concert music with the duke’s ensemble. He also began to write the preludes and fugues which were later assembled into his monumental work Das Wohltemperierte Clavier (“The well-tempered keyboard”—Clavier meaning clavichord or harpischord). It consists of two collections compiled in 1722 and 1744, each containing a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key.


Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor (BWV 1001), Bach’s handwriting

During his time at Weimar, Bach started work on the “Little Organ Book” for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann; this contains traditional Lutheran chorales(hymn tunes), set in complex textures to assist the training of organists. The book illustrates two major themes in Bach’s life: his dedication to teaching and his love of the chorale as a musical form. Bach eventually fell out of favour in Weimar and was, according to a translation (see reference that follows) of the court secretary’s report, jailed for almost a month before being unfavourably dismissed:

On November 6, [1717], the quondam concertmaster and organist Bach was confined to the County Judge’s place of detention for too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal and finally on December 2 was freed from arrest with notice of his unfavourable discharge.

Köthen (1717–23)

Sans Souci, Potsdam. King Frederick playing the flute

Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen hired Bach to serve as his Kapellmeister(director of music). Prince Leopold, himself a musician, appreciated Bach’s talents, paid him well, and gave him considerable latitude in composing and performing. The prince was Calvinist and did not use elaborate music in his worship; thus, most of Bach’s work from this period was secular, including the Orchestral Suites, the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello and theSonatas and partitas for solo violin. The well-known Brandenburg Concertosdate from this period.[25] Bach composed secular cantatas for the court such as the Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a.

On 7 July 1720, while Bach was abroad with Prince Leopold, Bach’s wife Maria Barbara, the mother of his first seven children, suddenly died. The following year, the widower met Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a young, highly gifted soprano 17 years his junior, who performed at the court in Köthen; they married on 3 December 1721. Together they had 13 more children, six of whom survived into adulthood: Gottfried HeinrichJohann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian, all of whom became significant musicians; Elisabeth Juliane Friederica (1726–81), who married Bach’s pupil Johann Christoph Altnikol; Johanna Carolina (1737–81); and Regina Susanna (1742–1809).

Leipzig (1723–50)

In 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor of the Thomasschule at St. Thomas Church(Thomaskirche) in Leipzig, as well as Director of Music in the principal churches in the town, namely the Nikolaikirche and the Paulinerkirche, the church of the University of Leipzig.This was a prestigious post in the mercantile city in the Electorate of Saxony, which he held for 27 years until his death. It brought him into contact with the political machinations of his employer, the Leipzig Council. The Council comprised two factions: the Absolutists, loyal to the Saxon monarch in Dresden, Augustus the Strong; and the City-Estate faction, representing the interests of the mercantile class, the guilds and minor aristocrats. Bach was the nominee of the monarchists, in particular of the Mayor at the time, Gottlieb Lange, a lawyer who had earlier served in the Dresden court. In return for agreeing to Bach’s appointment, the City-Estate faction was granted control of the School, and Bach was required to make a number of compromises with respect to his working conditions. Although it appears that no one on the Council doubted Bach’s musical genius, there was continual tension between the Cantor, who regarded himself as the leader of church music in the city, and the City-Estate faction, which saw him as a schoolmaster and wanted to reduce the emphasis on elaborate music in both the School and the Churches. The Council never honoured Lange’s promise at interview of a handsome salary of 1,000 Thaler a year, although it did provide Bach and his family with a smaller income and a good apartment at one end of the school building, which was renovated at great expense in 1732.

Bach’s post required him to instruct the students of the Thomasschule in singing and to provide church music at the main churches in Leipzig. Bach was required to teach Latin, but he was allowed to employ a deputy to do this instead. A cantata was required for the church service on Sundays and additional church holidays during the liturgical year, he performed mostly his own compositions. The bulk of these cantatas was composed in his first three years in Leipzig, beginning with Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75, first performed in the Nikolaikirche on 30 May 1723, the first Sunday after Trinity. He collected them in annual cycles, five are mentioned in obituaries, three are extant. Most of these concerted works expound on the Gospel readings prescribed for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran year. Bach started a second annual cycle on the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724, composing only chorale cantatas, each based on a single church hymn, first O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, then works such as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61, and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1. For other than chorale cantatas, a stanza from a chorale typically forms the concluding movement of a work.

Sans Souci, Potsdam, the music room showig a Silbermann fortepiano, or hammerklavier.

To rehearse and perform these works at Thomaskirche, Bach sat at the harpsichord or stood in front of the choir on the lower gallery at the west end, his back to the congregation and the altar at the east end. He would have looked upwards to the organ that rose from a loft about four metres above. To the right of the organ in a side gallery was the winds, brass and timpani; to the left were the strings. The Council provided only about eight permanent instrumentalists, a source of continual friction with the Cantor, who had to recruit the rest of the 20 or so players required for medium-to-large scores from the University, the School and the public. The organ or harpsichord was probably played by the composer (when not standing to conduct), the in-house organist, or one of Bach’s elder sons, Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel.

Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen

Bach drew the soprano and alto choristers from the School, and the tenors and basses from the School and elsewhere in Leipzig. Performing at weddings and funerals provided extra income for these groups; it was probably for this purpose, and for in-school training, that he wrote at least six motets, mostly for double choir. As part of his regular church work, he performed motets of theVenetian School and Germans such as Heinrich Schütz, which would have served as formal models for his own motets.

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Zimmermannsches Caffeehaus Leipzig, where the Collegium Musicum performed

Bach wanted to broaden his composing and performing beyond the liturgy. In March 1729, he took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum, a secular performance ensemble that had been started in 1701 by his old friend, the composer Georg Philipp Telemann. This was one of the dozens of private societies in the major German-speaking cities that had been established by musically active university students; these societies had come to play an increasingly important role in public musical life and were typically led by the most prominent professionals in a city. In the words of Christoph Wolff, assuming the directorship was a shrewd move that ‘consolidated Bach’s firm grip on Leipzig’s principal musical institutions’. During much of the year, Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum performed twice weekly for two hours in the Zimmermannsches Caffeehaus, a Coffeehouseon Catherine Street off the main market square. Many of Bach’s works during the 1730s and 1740s were written for and performed by the Collegium Musicum; among these were almost certainly parts of the Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice) and many of the violin and harpsichord concertos..

In 1733, Bach composed the Kyrie and Gloria of the Mass in B minor. He presented the manuscript to the King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Elector of Saxony, August III in an eventually successful bid to persuade the monarch to appoint him as Royal Court Composer. He later extended this work into a full Mass, by adding a Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the music for which was almost wholly taken from some of the best of his cantata movements. Bach’s appointment as court composer appears to have been part of his long-term struggle to achieve greater bargaining power with the Leipzig Council. Although the complete mass was probably never performed during the composer’s lifetime, it is considered to be among the greatest choral works of all time. Between 1737 and 1739, Bach’s former pupil Carl Gotthelf Gerlach took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum.

In 1747, Bach visited the court of the King of Prussia in Potsdam. There the king played a theme for Bach and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on his theme. Bach improvised a three-part fugue on Frederick’s pianoforte, then a novelty, and later presented the king with a Musical Offering which consists of fugues, canons and a trio based on the “royal theme,” nominated by the monarch. Its six-part fugue includes a slightly altered subject more suitable for extensive elaboration.

The Art of Fugue was written shortly before Bach’s death and was finished but for the final fugue. It consists of 18 complex fugues and canons based on a simple theme.It was only published posthumously.

The final work Bach completed was a chorale prelude for organ, dictated to his son-in-law, Johann Altnikol, from his deathbed. EntitledVor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit (Before thy throne I now appearBWV 668a); when the notes on the three staves of the final cadence are counted and mapped onto the Roman alphabet, the initials “JSB” are found.

Death (1750)


Bach’s final resting place, St. Thomas’ Church, Leipzig

Bach’s health declined in 1749; on 2 June, Heinrich von Brühl wrote to one of the Leipzigburgomasters to request that his music director, Gottlob Harrer, fill the post of Thomascantor andDirector musices posts “upon the eventual … decease of Mr. Bach.” Bach became increasingly blind, and the British eye surgeon John Taylor operated on Bach while visiting Leipzig in 1750.

On 28 July 1750 Bach died at the age of 65. A contemporary newspaper reported the cause of death as “from the unhappy consequences of the very unsuccessful eye operation”. Some modern historians speculate that the cause of death was a stroke complicated by pneumonia. An obituary was written by his son Emanuel and his pupil Johann Friedrich Agricola at the time.Bach’s estate was valued at 1159 Thaler and included five Clavecins, two lute-harpsichords, three violins, three violas, two cellos, a viola da gamba, a lute and a spinet, and 52 “sacred books”, including books by Martin Luther and Josephus. He was originally buried at Old St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig. His grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years. In 1894 his coffin was finally discovered and reburied in a vault within St. John’s Church. This building was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, and in 1950 Bach’s remains were taken to their present resting place at Leipzig’s Church of St. Thomas


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Statue of Bach by Donndorf, Eisenach

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Bach statue, Leipzig

A comprehensive obituary of Bach was published (without attribution) four years later in 1754 by Lorenz Christoph Mizler (another former student) in Musikalische Bibliothek a musical periodical. The obituary remains probably “the richest and most trustworthy” early source document about Bach. However, after his death, Bach’s reputation as a composer at first declined; his work was regarded as old-fashioned compared to the emerging classical style. Initially he was remembered more as a player, teacher and as the father of his children, most notably Johann Christian and Carl Philipp Emanuel.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Bach was widely recognised for his keyboard work. MozartBeethoven, and Chopin were among his most prominent admirers. Beethoven described him as the “Urvater der Harmonie“, “original father of harmony”.Composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn began writing in a more contrapuntal style after being exposed to Bach’s music.

The composer’s reputation among the wider public was prompted in part by Johann Nikolaus Forkel‘s 1802 biography. Felix Mendelssohn significantly contributed to the revival of Bach’s reputation with his 1829 Berlin performance of the St Matthew Passion. In in 1850, the Bach Gesellschaft (Bach Society) was founded to promote the works; by 1899, the Society had published a comprehensive edition of the composer’s works, with a conservative approach to editorial intervention. At the time Bach’s music was mostly performed on the newly prominentHammerklavier.

During the 20th century, the process of recognising the musical as well as the pedagogic value of some of the works has continued, perhaps most notably in the promotion of the Cello Suites by Pablo Casals. Another development has been the growth of the “authentic” or period performance movement, which, as far as possible, attempts to present the music as the composer intended it. Examples include the playing of keyboard works on the harpsichord rather than a moderngrand piano and the use of small choirs or single voices instead of the larger forces favoured by 19th- and early 20th-century performers. The Bach Crater on Mercury is named for him.

Bach’s contributions to music—or, to borrow a term popularised by his student Lorenz Christoph Mizler, his “musical science”—are frequently bracketed with those by William Shakespeare in English literature and Isaac Newton in physics[citation needed]. In Germany, many streets were named and statues were erected in honour of Bach during the twentieth century. Three pieces of Bach’s work were included onboard the Voyager spacecrafts in the form of golden records that were meant to “represent our hope and our determination and our goodwill”.


In 1950, a catalogue called Bach Werke Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue) was compiled by Wolfgang Schmieder, who organised the work of Bach thematically. In compiling the catalogue, Schmieder largely followed the Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe, a comprehensive edition of the composer’s works that was produced between 1850 and 1905. BWV 1–224 are cantatas; BWV 225–249, the large-scale choral works including his Passions; BWV 250–524, chorales and sacred songs; BWV 525–748, organworks; BWV 772–994, other keyboard works; BWV 995–1000, lute music; BWV 1001–40, chamber music; BWV 1041–71, orchestral music; and BWV 1072–1126, canons and fugues.

Organ works

Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres—such as preludesfantasias, and toccatas—and stricter forms, such as chorale preludes and fugues. He established a reputation at a young age for his great creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck, whom the young organist visited in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos byVivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord. His most productive period (1708–14) saw the composition of several pairs of preludes andfugues and toccatas and fugues, and of the Orgelbüchlein (“Little organ book”), an unfinished collection of 45 short chorale preludes that demonstrate compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After he left Weimar, Bach’s output for organ fell off, although his best-known works (the six trio sonatas, the “German Organ Mass” in Clavier-Übung III from 1739, and the “Great Eighteen” chorales, revised late in his life) were all composed after this time. Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals. One of the high points may be the third part of the Clavier-Übung, a setting of 21 chorale preludes uniting the traditional Catholic Missa with the Lutheran catechism liturgy, the whole set interpolated between the mighty “St. Anne” Prelude and Fugue on the theme of the Trinity.

Other keyboard works


The title page of the third part of theClavier-Übung, one of the few works by Bach that was published during his lifetime

Bach wrote many works for the harpsichord, some of which may have been played on theclavichord. Many of his keyboard works are anthologies that show an eagerness to encompass whole theoretical systems in an encyclopaedic fashion.

  • The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2 (BWV 846–893). Each book comprises a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys in chromatic order from C major to B minor (thus, the whole collection is often referred to as ‘the 48’). “Well-tempered” in the title refers to the temperament (system of tuning); many temperaments before Bach’s time were not flexible enough to allow compositions to move through more than just a few keys.
  • The 15 Inventions and 15 Sinfonias (BWV 772–801). These short two- and three-part contrapuntal works are arranged in the same chromatic order as the Well-Tempered Clavier, omitting some of the less used keys. The pieces were intended by Bach for instructional purposes.
  • Three collections of dance suites: the English Suites (BWV 806–811), the French Suites (BWV 812–817) and the Partitas for keyboard (BWV 825–830). Each collection contains six suites built on the standard model (AllemandeCouranteSarabande–(optional movement)–Gigue). The English Suites closely follow the traditional model, adding a prelude before the allemande and including a single movement between the sarabande and the gigue. The French Suites omit preludes, but have multiple movements between the sarabande and the gigue. The partitas expand the model further with elaborate introductory movements and miscellaneous movements between the basic elements of the model.
  • The Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), an aria with thirty variations. The collection has a complex and unconventional structure: the variations build on the bass line of the aria, rather than its melody, and musical canons are interpolated according to a grand plan. There are nine canons within the 30 variations, one placed every three variations between variations 3 and 27. These variations move in order from canon at the unison to canon at the ninth. The first eight are in pairs (unison and octave, second and seventh, third and sixth, fourth and fifth). The ninth canon stands on its own due to compositional dissimilarities.
  • Miscellaneous pieces such as the Overture in the French Style (French Overture, BWV 831), Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (BWV 903), and the Italian Concerto (BWV 971).

Among Bach’s lesser known keyboard works are seven toccatas (BWV 910–916), four duets (BWV 802–805)sonatas for keyboard (BWV 963–967), the Six Little Preludes (BWV 933–938), and the Aria variata alla maniera italiana (BWV 989).

Orchestral and chamber music

Bach wrote music for single instruments, duets and small ensembles. Bach’s works for solo instruments—the six sonatas and partitas for violin (BWV 1001–1006), the six cello suites (BWV 1007–1012) and the Partita for solo flute (BWV 1013)—may be listed among the most profound works in the repertoire. Bach composed a suite and several other works for solo lute. He wrote trio sonatas; solo sonatas(accompanied by continuo) for the flute and for the viola da gamba; and a large number of canons and ricercare, mostly for unspecified instrumentation. The most significant examples of the latter are contained in The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering.

Bach’s best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg concertos, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721; his application was unsuccessful. These works are examples of the concerto grosso genre. Other surviving works in the concerto form include two violin concertos (BWV 1041 and BWV 1042); a Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (BWV 1043), often referred to as Bach’s “double” concerto; and concertos for one, two, three and even four harpsichords. It is widely accepted that many of the harpsichord concertos were not original works, but arrangements of his concertos for other instruments now lost. A number of violin, oboe and flute concertos have been reconstructed from these. In addition to concertos, Bach wrote four orchestral suites, a series of stylised dances for orchestra, each preceded by a French overture. The work now known as the Air on the G String is an arrangement for the violin made in the nineteenth century from the second movement of the Orchestral Suite No. 3. An arrangement of the Air for cello and piano was the very first piece of Bach’s music to be recorded, in 1902 in Saint Petersburg, by the Russian cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich.

Vocal and choral works

Bach performed a cantata on Sunday at the Thomaskirche, on a theme corresponding to the lectionary readings of the week, as determined by the Lutheran Church Year calendar. He did not perform cantatas during the seasons of Lent and Advent. Although he performed cantatas by other composers, he composed at least three entire sets of cantatas, one for each Sunday and holiday of the church year, at Leipzig, in addition to those composed at Mühlhausen and Weimar. In total he wrote more than 300 sacred cantatas, of which approximately 195 survive.

His cantatas vary greatly in form and instrumentation. Some of them are only for a solo singer; some are single choruses; some are for grand orchestras; some only a few instruments. A common format consists of a large opening chorus followed by one or more recitative-aria pairs for soloists (or duets) and a concluding chorale. The recitative is part of the corresponding Bible reading for the week and the aria is a contemporary reflection on it. The melody of the concluding chorale often appears as a cantus firmus in the opening movement. Among the best known cantatas are Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, BWV 21Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106 (Actus Tragicus), Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 andHerz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

In addition, Bach wrote a number of secular cantatas, usually for civic events such as council inaugurations. These include wedding cantatas, the Wedding Quodlibet, the Peasant Cantata and the Coffee Cantata, which concerns a girl whose father will not let her marry until she gives up her addiction to that extremely popular drink.

Bach’s large choral-orchestral works include the grand scale St Matthew Passion and St John Passion, both written for Good Friday vespers services at St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches in alternate years, and the Christmas Oratorio (a set of six cantatas for use in the Liturgical season of Christmas). The Magnificat in two versions (one in E-flat major, with four interpolated Christmas-related movements, and the later and better-known version in D major), the Easter Oratorio, and the Ascension Oratorio compare to large, elaborate cantatas, of a lesser extent than the Passions and the Christmas Oratorio.


Title page of the Calov Bible, with Bach’s signature in the bottom right hand corner.

Bach’s other large work, the Mass in B minor, was assembled by Bach near the end of his life, mostly from pieces composed earlier (such as the cantatas Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191 and Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12). It was never performed in Bach’s lifetime, or even after his death, until the 19th century.

All of these works, unlike the six motets (Singet dem Herrn ein neues LiedDer Geist hilft unser Schwachheit aufJesu, meine FreudeFürchte dich nichtKomm, Jesu, komm!; andLobet den Herrn alle Heiden), have substantial solo parts as well as choruses.

Bach’s signature in a copy of a three volume Bible commentary by the orthodox Lutheran theologian, Abraham Calov, was discovered in 1934 in a house in Frankenmuth, Michigan in the US. It is not known how the Bible came to America, but it was purchased in a used book store in Philadelphia in the 1830s or 1840s by an immigrant and taken to Michigan. Its provenance was verified and it was subsequently deposited in the rare book holdings ofConcordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. It contains Bach’s markings of texts for his cantatas and notes. It is only rarely displayed to the public. A study of the so-called Bach Bible was prepared by Robin Leaver, titled J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1985).

Musical style

Bach’s musical style arose from his extraordinary fluency in contrapuntal invention and motivic control, his flair for improvisation at the keyboard, his exposure to South German, North German, Italian and French music, and his apparent devotion to the Lutheran liturgy. His access to musicians, scores and instruments as a child and a young man, combined with his emerging talent for writing tightly woven music of powerful sonority, appear to have set him on course to develop an eclectic, energetic musical style in which foreign influences were injected into an intensified version of the pre-existing German musical language. Throughout his teens and 20s, his output showed increasing skill in the large-scale organisation of musical ideas, and the enhancement of the Buxtehudian model of improvisatory preludes and counterpoint of limited complexity. The period 1713–14, when a large repertoire of Italian music became available to the Weimar court orchestra, was a turning point. From this time onwards, he appears to have absorbed into his style the Italians’ dramatic openings, clear melodic contours, the sharp outlines of their bass lines, greater motoric and rhythmic conciseness, more unified motivic treatment, and more clearly articulated schemes for modulation.

There are several more specific features of Bach’s style. The notation of Baroque melodic lines tended to assume that composers would write out only the basic framework, and that performers would embellish this framework by inserting ornamental notes and otherwise elaborating on it. Although this practice varied considerably between the schools of European music, Bach was regarded at the time as being on one extreme end of the spectrum, notating most or all of the details of his melodic lines—particularly in his fast movements—thus leaving little for performers to interpolate. This may have assisted his control over the dense contrapuntal textures that he favoured, which allow less leeway for the spontaneous variation of musical lines. Bach’s contrapuntal textures tend to be more cumulative than those of Händel and most other composers of the day, who would typically allow a line to drop out after it had been joined by two or three others. Bach’s harmony is marked by a tendency to employ brief tonicisation—subtle references to another key that lasts for only a few beats at the longest—particularly of the supertonic, to add colour to his textures.


The opening of the six-part fugue from The Musical Offering, in Bach’s hand

At the same time, Bach, unlike later composers, left the instrumentation of major works including The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering open. It is likely that his detailed notation was less an absolute demand on the performer and more a response to a 17th-century culture in which the boundary between what the performer could embellish and what the composer demanded to be authentic was being negotiated.

Bach’s apparently devout, personal relationship with the Christian God in theLutheran tradition and the high demand for religious music of his times inevitably placed sacred music at the centre of his repertory. He taught Luther’s Small Catechism as the Thomascantor in Leipzig,  and some of his pieces represent it. Specifically, the Lutheran chorale hymn tune, the principal musical aspect of the Lutheran service, was the basis of much of his output. He invested the chorale prelude, already a standard set of Lutheran forms, with a more cogent, tightly integrated architecture, in which the intervallic patterns and melodic contours of the tune were typically treated in a dense, contrapuntal lattice against relatively slow-moving, overarching statements of the tune.

Bach’s theology informed his compositional structures: Sei Gegrüsset is perhaps the finest example where there is a theme with 11 variations (making 12 movements) that, while still one work, becomes two sets of six—to match Lutheran preaching principles of repetition. At the same time the theological interpretation of ‘master’ and 11 disciples would not be lost on his contemporary audience. Further, the practical relationship of each variation to the next (in preparing registration and the expected textural changes) seems to show an incredible capacity to preach through the music using the musical forms available at the time.

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Bach’s seal, used throughout his Leipzig years. It contains the letters J S Bsuperimposed over their mirror image topped with a crown.

Bach’s deep knowledge of and interest in the liturgy led to his developing intricate relationships between music and linguistic text. This was evident from the smallest to the largest levels of his compositional technique. On the smallest level, many of his sacred works contain short motifs that, by recurrent association, can be regarded as pictorial symbolism and articulations of liturgical concepts. For example, the octave leap, usually in a bass line, represents the relationship between heaven and earth; the slow, repeated notes of the bass line in the opening movement of the cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106) depict the laboured trudging of Jesus as he was forced to drag the cross from the city to the crucifixion site.

On the largest level, the large-scale structure of some of his sacred vocal works is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning: for example, the overall form of the St Matthew Passionillustrates the liturgical and dramatic flow of the Easter story on a number of levels simultaneously; the text, keys and variations of instrumental and vocal forces used in the movements of the Ascension Oratorio Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11) may form a structure that resembles the cross.

Beyond these specific musical features arising from Bach’s religious affiliation is the fact that he was able to produce music for an audience that was committed to serious, regular worship, for which a concentrated density and complexity was accepted. His natural inclination may have been to reinvigorate existing forms, rather than to discard them and pursue more dramatic musical innovations. Thus, Bach’s inventive genius was almost entirely directed towards working within the structures he inherited, according to most critics and historians.


Frontispiece of Bach’s Clavier-Büchlein vor Anna Magdalena Bach, composed in 1722 for his second wife

Bach’s inner personal drive to display his musical achievements was evident in a number of ways. The most obvious was his successful striving to become the leading virtuoso and improviser of the day on the organ. Keyboard music occupied a central position in his output throughout his life, and he pioneered the elevation of the keyboard from continuo to solo instrument in his numerous harpsichord concertos and chamber movements with keyboardobbligato, in which he himself probably played the solo part. Many of his keyboard preludes are vehicles for a free improvisatory virtuosity in the German tradition, although their internal organisation became increasingly more cogent as he matured. Virtuosity is a key element in other forms, such as the fugal movement from Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, in which Bach himself may have been the first to play the rapid solo violin passages. Another example is in the organ fugue from BWV 548, a late work from Leipzig, in which virtuosic passages are mapped onto Italian solo-tutti alternation within the fugal development.

Related to his cherished role as teacher was his drive to encompass whole genres by producing collections of movements that thoroughly explore the range of artistic and technical possibilities inherent in those genres. The most famous examples are the two books of the Well Tempered Clavier, each of which presents a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, in which a variety of contrapuntal and fugal techniques are displayed. The English and French Suites, and the Partitas, all keyboard works from the Köthen period, systematically explore a range of metres and of sharp and flat keys. This urge to manifest structures is evident throughout his life: the Goldberg Variations (1746?), include a sequence of canons at increasing intervals (unison, seconds, thirds, etc.), and The Art of Fugue (1749) can be seen as a compendium of fugal techniques.


Present-day Bach performers usually pursue either of two traditions: so-called “authentic performance practice”, utilising historical techniques, or alternatively the use of modern instruments and playing techniques, with a tendency towards larger ensembles. In Bach’s time orchestras and choirs were usually smaller than those known to, for example, Brahms, and even Bach’s most ambitious choral works, such as his Mass in B minor and Passions, are composed for relatively modest forces. Some of Bach’s important chamber music does not indicate instrumentation, which gives greater latitude for variety of ensemble.

Easy listening realisations of Bach’s music and their use in advertising contributed greatly to Bach’s popularisation in the second half of the twentieth century. Among these were the Swingle Singers‘ versions of Bach pieces that are now well-known (for instance, the Air on the G string, or the Wachet Auf chorale prelude) and Wendy Carlos‘s 1968 groundbreaking recording Switched-On Bach, using the then recently invented Moog electronic synthesiser. Jazz musicians have adopted Bach’s music, with Jacques LoussierIan AndersonUri Caine and the Modern Jazz Quartet among those creating jazz versions of Bach works.

See also

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mozart circa 1780, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Signature.svg

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (German: [ˈvɔlfɡaŋ amaˈdeus ˈmoːtsaʁt]English see fn.), baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonicconcertantechamber, piano, operatic, and choralmusic. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.

Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent onkeyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart’s death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wifeConstanze and two sons.

Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.


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Mozart’s birthplace at Getreidegasse 9, Salzburg, Austria

Family and early years

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born to Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl Mozart at 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg, capital of the sovereign Archbishopric of Salzburg, in what is now Austria but, at the time, was part of the Holy Roman Empire. His only sibling to survive infancy was his elder sister Maria Anna (1751–1829), nicknamed “Nannerl”. Mozart wasbaptized the day after his birth at St. Rupert’s Cathedral. The baptismal record gives his name in Latinized form as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. He generally called himself “Wolfgang Amadè Mozart”[4] as an adult, but there were many variants.

His father (1719–1787) was from Augsburg. He was deputy Kapellmeister to the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg, a minor composer, and an experienced teacher. In the year of Mozart’s birth, his father published a violin textbook, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, which achieved success.

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Anonymous portrait of the child Mozart, possibly by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni; painted in 1763 on commission from Leopold Mozart

When Nannerl was seven, she began keyboard lessons with her father while her three-year-old brother would look on. Years later, after her brother’s death, she reminisced:

He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was always striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good. […] In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier. […] He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time. […] At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.

These early pieces, K. 1–5, were recorded in the Nannerl Notenbuch.

Biographer Maynard Solomon notes that, while Mozart’s father was a devoted teacher to his children, there is evidence that Mozart was keen to progress beyond what he was taught. His first ink-spattered composition and his precocious efforts with the violin were of his own initiative and came as a surprise to his father. Mozart’s father eventually gave up composing when his son’s musical talents became evident. In his early years, Mozart’s father was his only teacher. Along with music, he also taught his children languages and academic subjects.

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The Mozart family on tour: Leopold, Wolfgang, and Nannerl. Watercolor by Carmontelle, ca. 1763

1762–1773: Years of travel

During Mozart’s youth, his family made several European journeys in which he and Nannerl performed as child prodigies. These began with an exhibition, in 1762, at the court of the Prince-electorMaximilian III of Bavaria in Munich, and at the Imperial Court in Vienna and Prague. A long concert tour spanning three and a half years followed, taking the family to the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, again to Paris, and back home via ZurichDonaueschingen, and Munich. During this trip, Mozart met a great number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, whom Mozart visited in London in 1764 and 1765. The family again went to Vienna in late 1767 and remained there until December 1768. In 1767, during this period, he composed the Latin drama Apollo et Hyacinthus first performed in Salzburg University.

These trips were often difficult and travel conditions were primitive. The family had to wait for invitations and reimbursement from the nobility and they endured long, near-fatal illnesses far from home.

After one year in Salzburg, father and son set off for Italy, leaving Mozart’s mother and sister at home. This travel lasted from December 1769 to March 1771. As with earlier journeys, Mozart’s father wanted to display his son’s abilities as a performer and a rapidly maturing composer. Mozart met G. B. Martini, in Bologna, and was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica. In Rome, he heard Gregorio Allegri‘sMiserere once in performance in the Sistine Chapel. He wrote it out in its entirety from memory, only returning to correct minor errors—thus producing the first illegal copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican.

In Milan, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), which was performed with success. This led to further operacommissions. He returned with his father later twice to Milan (August–December 1771; October 1772 – March 1773) for the composition and premieres of Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772). Mozart’s father hoped these visits would result in a professional appointment for his son in Italy, but these hopes were never fulfilled.

Toward the end of the final Italian journey, Mozart wrote the first of his works to be still widely performed today, the solo motet Exsultate, jubilateK. 165.

1773–1777: The Salzburg court

After finally returning with his father from Italy on 13 March 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg,Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. The composer had a great number of friends and admirers in Salzburg and had the opportunity to work in many genres, composing symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, serenades, and a few minor operas. Between April and December 1775, Mozart developed an enthusiasm for violin concertos, producing a series of five (the only ones he ever wrote), which steadily increased in their musical sophistication. The last three—K. 216K. 218K. 219—are now staples of the repertoire. In 1776 he turned his efforts to piano concertos, culminating in the E-flat concerto K. 271 of early 1777, considered by critics to be a breakthrough work.

Despite these artistic successes, Mozart grew increasingly discontented with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find a position elsewhere. One reason was his low salary, 150 florins a year; Mozart also longed to compose operas, and Salzburg provided only rare occasions for these. The situation worsened in 1775 when the court theater was closed, especially since the other theater in Salzburg was largely reserved for visiting troupes.

Two long expeditions in search of work interrupted this long Salzburg stay: Mozart and his father visited Vienna from 14 July to 26 September 1773, and Munich from 6 December 1774 to March 1775. Neither visit was successful, though the Munich journey resulted in a popular success with the premiere of Mozart’s opera La finta giardiniera.

1777–1778: The Paris journey


The Mozart family circa 1780. The portrait on the wall is of Mozart’s mother (Wolfgang Mozart with sister Maria Anna and father Leopold)

In August 1777, Mozart resigned his Salzburg position and, on September 23, ventured out once more in search of employment, with visits to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich.

Mozart became acquainted with members of the famous orchestra in Mannheim, the best in Europe at the time. He also fell in love with Aloysia Weber, one of four daughters in a musical family. There were prospects of employment in Mannheim, but they came to nothing, and Mozart left for Paris on 14 March 1778 to continue his search. One of his letters from Paris hints at a possible post as an organist at Versailles, but Mozart was not interested in such an appointment.[24] He fell into debt and took to pawning valuables. The nadir of the visit occurred when Mozart’s mother took ill and died on 3 July 1778. There had been delays in calling a doctor—probably, according to Halliwell, because of a lack of funds.

While Mozart was in Paris, his father was pursuing opportunities for his son back in Salzburg. With the support of local nobility, Mozart was offered a post as court organist and concertmaster. The yearly salary was 450 florins, but he was reluctant to accept. After leaving Paris on in September 1778, he tarried in Mannheim and Munich, still hoping to obtain an appointment outside Salzburg. In Munich, he again encountered Aloysia, now a very successful singer, but she was no longer interested in him. Mozart finally reached home on 15 January 1779 and took up the new position, but his discontent with Salzburg was undiminished.

Among the better known works that Mozart wrote on the Paris journey are the A minor piano sonata K. 310/300d and the “Paris” Symphony (no. 31); these were performed in Paris on 12 and 18 June 1778.

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Circa 1777; Portrait of Mozart wearing the Order of the Golden Spur, received in 1770 from Pope Clement XIV in Rome.

1781: Departure to Vienna

In January 1781, Mozart’s opera Idomeneo premiered with “considerable success” in Munich. The following March the composer was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. Mozart, fresh from the adulation he had earned in Munich, was offended when Colloredo treated him as a mere servant and particularly when the archbishop forbade him to perform before the Emperor at Countess Thun‘s for a fee equal to half of his yearly Salzburg salary. The resulting quarrel came to a head in May: Mozart attempted to resign and was refused. The following month, permission was granted but in a grossly insulting way: the composer was dismissed literally “with a kick in the ass”, administered by the archbishop’s steward, Count Arco. Mozart decided to settle in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.

The quarrel with the archbishop went harder for Mozart because his father sided against him. Hoping fervently that he would obediently follow Colloredo back to Salzburg, Mozart’s father exchanged intense letters with his son, urging him to be reconciled with their employer. Mozart passionately defended his intention to pursue an independent career in Vienna. The debate ended when Mozart was dismissed by the archbishop, freeing himself both of his employer and his father’s demands to return. Solomon characterizes Mozart’s resignation as a “revolutionary step”, and it greatly altered the course of his life.

Early Vienna years

Mozart’s new career in Vienna began well. He performed often as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi on 24 December 1781, and he soon “had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna”. He also prospered as a composer, and in 1782 completed the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”), which premiered on 16 July 1782 and achieved a huge success. The work was soon being performed “throughout German-speaking Europe”, and fully established Mozart’s reputation as a composer.

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1782 portrait of Constanze Mozart by her brother-in-lawJoseph Lange

Near the height of his quarrels with Colloredo, Mozart moved in with the Weber family, who had moved to Vienna from Mannheim. The father, Fridolin, had died, and the Webers were now taking in lodgers to make ends meet. Aloysia, who had earlier rejected Mozart’s suit, was now married to the actor and artist, Joseph Lange. Mozart’s interest shifted to the third Weber daughter, Constanze. The courtship did not go entirely smoothly; surviving correspondence indicates that Mozart and Constanze briefly separated in April 1782. Mozart also faced a very difficult task in getting his father’s permission for the marriage. The couple were finally married on 4 August 1782 in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the day before his father’s consent arrived in the mail.

The couple had six children, of which only two survived infancy:

  • Raimund Leopold (17 June – 19 August 1783)
  • Karl Thomas Mozart (21 September 1784 – 31 October 1858)
  • Johann Thomas Leopold (18 October – 15 November 1786)
  • Theresia Constanzia Adelheid Friedericke Maria Anna (27 December 1787 – 29 June 1788)
  • Anna Maria (died soon after birth, 25 December 1789)
  • Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (26 July 1791 – 29 July 1844)

In the course of 1782 and 1783 Mozart became intimately acquainted with the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel as a result of the influence of Gottfried van Swieten, who owned many manuscripts of the Baroque masters. Mozart’s study of these scores inspired compositions in Baroque style, and later influenced his personal musical language, for example in fugal passages in Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”) and the finale of Symphony No. 41.

In 1783, Mozart and his wife visited his family in Salzburg. His parents were cordially polite to Constanze, but the visit prompted the composition of one of Mozart’s great liturgical pieces, the Mass in C minor. Though not completed, it was premiered in Salzburg, with Constanze singing a solo part.

Mozart met Joseph Haydn in Vienna, and the two composers became friends. When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes played together in an impromptu string quartet. Mozart’s six quartets dedicated to Haydn (K. 387, K. 421, K. 428, K. 458, K. 464, and K. 465) date from the period 1782 to 1785, and are judged to be a response to Haydn’s Opus 33 set from 1781. Haydn in 1785 told Mozart’s father: “I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition. (Also see: Haydn and Mozart)

From 1782 to 1785 Mozart mounted concerts with himself as soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. Since space in the theaters was scarce, he booked unconventional venues: a large room in the Trattnerhof (an apartment building), and the ballroom of the Mehlgrube (a restaurant). The concerts were very popular, and the concertos he premiered at them are still firm fixtures in the repertoire. Solomon writes that during this period Mozart created “a harmonious connection between an eager composer-performer and a delighted audience, which was given the opportunity of witnessing the transformation and perfection of a major musical genre”.

With substantial returns from his concerts and elsewhere, Mozart and his wife adopted a rather plush lifestyle. They moved to an expensive apartment, with a yearly rent of 460 florins. Mozart also bought a fine fortepiano from Anton Walter for about 900 florins, and a billiard table for about 300. The Mozarts sent their son Karl Thomas to an expensive boarding school, and kept servants. Saving was therefore impossible, and the short period of financial success did nothing to soften the hardship the Mozarts were later to experience.

On 14 December 1784, Mozart became a Freemason, admitted to the lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (“Beneficence”). Freemasonry played an important role in the remainder of Mozart’s life: he attended meetings, a number of his friends were Masons, and on various occasions he composed Masonic music. (See also Mozart and Freemasonry)

1786–1787: Return to opera

Despite the great success of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart did little operatic writing for the next four years, producing only two unfinished works and the one-act Der Schauspieldirektor. He focused instead on his career as a piano soloist and writer of concertos. However, around the end of 1785, Mozart moved away from keyboard writing and began his famous operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. 1786 saw the successful premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna. Its reception in Prague later in the year was even warmer, and this led to a second collaboration with Da Ponte: the opera Don Giovanni, which premiered in October 1787 to acclaim in Prague, and also met with success in Vienna in 1788. The two are among Mozart’s most important works and are mainstays of the operatic repertoire today, though at their premieres their musical complexity caused difficulty for both listeners and performers. These developments were not witnessed by Mozart’s father who had died on 28 May 1787.

In December 1787, Mozart finally obtained a steady post under aristocratic patronage. Emperor Joseph II appointed him as his “chamber composer”, a post that had fallen vacant the previous month on the death of Gluck. It was a part-time appointment, paying just 800 florins per year, and only required Mozart to compose dances for the annual balls in the Redoutensaal. However, even this modest income became important to Mozart when hard times arrived. Court records show that Joseph’s aim was to keep the esteemed composer from leaving Vienna in pursuit of better prospects.

In 1787 the young Ludwig van Beethoven spent several weeks in Vienna, hoping to study with Mozart. No reliable records survive to indicate whether the two composers ever met. (See also Mozart and Beethoven)


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Drawing of Mozart insilverpoint, made by Dora Stockduring Mozart’s visit to Dresden, April 1789

Toward the end of the decade, Mozart’s circumstances worsened. Around 1786 he had ceased to appear frequently in public concerts, and his income shrank. This was a difficult time for musicians in Vienna because Austria was at war, and both the general level of prosperity and the ability of the aristocracy to support music had declined.

By mid-1788, Mozart and his family had moved from central Vienna to the suburb of Alsergrund.Although it has been thought that Mozart reduced his rental expenses, recent research shows that by moving to the suburb Mozart had certainly not reduced his expenses (as claimed in his letter toPuchberg), but merely increased the housing space at his disposal. Mozart began to borrow money, most often from his friend and fellow Mason Michael Puchberg; “a pitiful sequence of letters pleading for loans” survives. Maynard Solomon and others have suggested that Mozart was suffering from depression, and it seems that his output slowed. Major works of the period include the last three symphonies (Nos. 3940, and 41, all from 1788), and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Così fan tutte, premiered in 1790.

Around this time Mozart made long journeys hoping to improve his fortunes: to LeipzigDresden, and Berlin in the spring of 1789, and to Frankfurt, Mannheim, and other German cities in 1790. The trips produced only isolated success and did not relieve the family’s financial distress. (Also see Mozart’s Berlin journey)


Mozart’s last year was, until his final illness struck, a time of great productivity—and by some accounts a time of personal recovery.He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works: the opera The Magic Flute, the final piano concerto (K. 595 in B-flat), the Clarinet Concerto K. 622, the last in his great series of string quintets (K. 614 in E-flat), the motet Ave verum corpus K. 618, and the unfinished Requiem K. 626.

Mozart’s financial situation, a source of extreme anxiety in 1790, finally began to improve. Although the evidence is inconclusive, it appears that wealthy patrons in Hungary and Amsterdam pledged annuities to Mozart in return for the occasional composition. He probably also benefited from the sale of dance music written in his role as Imperial chamber composer. Mozart no longer borrowed large sums from Puchberg, and made a start on paying off his debts.

He experienced great satisfaction in the public success of some of his works, notably The Magic Flute (performed many times in the short period between its premiere and Mozart’s death) and the Little Masonic Cantata K. 623, premiered on 15 November 1791.

Final illness and death

Main article: Death of Mozart
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Posthumous painting byBarbara Krafft in 1819

Mozart fell ill while in Prague for the premiere on 6 September of his opera La clemenza di Tito, written in 1791 on commission for the Emperor’s coronation festivities. He was able to continue his professional functions for some time, and conducted the premiere of The Magic Flute on 30 September. The illness intensified on 20 November, at which point Mozart became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting.

Mozart was nursed in his final illness by his wife and her youngest sister, and was attended by the family doctor, Thomas Franz Closset. It is clear that he was mentally occupied with the task of finishing his Requiem. However, the evidence that he actually dictated passages to his studentSüssmayr is very slim.

Mozart died at 1 am on 5 December 1791 at the age of 35. The New Grove gives a matter-of-fact description of his funeral:

“Mozart was buried in a common grave, in accordance with contemporary Viennese custom, at the St. Marx Cemetery outside the city on 7 December. If, as later reports say, no mourners attended, that too is consistent with Viennese burial customs at the time; later Jahn (1856) wrote that Salieri, Süssmayr, van Swieten and two other musicians were present. The tale of a storm and snow is false; the day was calm and mild”.

The cause of Mozart’s death cannot be known with certainty. The official record has it as “hitziges Frieselfieber” (“severe miliary fever”, referring to a rash that looks like millet seeds), a description that does not suffice to identify the cause as it would be diagnosed in modern medicine. Researchers have posited at least 118 causes of death, including trichinosisinfluenzamercury poisoning, and a rare kidney ailment. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that Mozart died of acute rheumatic fever.

Mozart’s sparse funeral did not reflect his standing with the public as a composer: memorial services and concerts in Vienna and Prague were well attended. Indeed, in the period immediately after his death, Mozart’s reputation rose substantially: Solomon describes an “unprecedented wave of enthusiasm for his work; biographies were written (first by SchlichtegrollNiemetschek, and Nissen; seeBiographies of Mozart); and publishers vied to produce complete editions of his works.

Appearance and character

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Unfinished portrait of Mozart by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange

Mozart’s physical appearance was described by tenor Michael Kelly, in his Reminiscences: “a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain”. As his early biographer Niemetschek wrote, “there was nothing special about [his] physique. […] He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius.” His facial complexion was pitted, a reminder of his childhood case of smallpox. He loved elegant clothing. Kelly remembered him at a rehearsal: “[He] was on the stage with his crimson pelisse and gold-laced cocked hat, giving the time of the music to the orchestra.” Of his voice his wife later wrote that it “was a tenor, rather soft in speaking and delicate in singing, but when anything excited him, or it became necessary to exert it, it was both powerful and energetic”.

Mozart usually worked long and hard, finishing compositions at a tremendous pace as deadlines approached. He often made sketches and drafts; unlike Beethoven’s these are mostly not preserved, as his wife sought to destroy them after his death.He was raised a Roman Catholic and remained a member of the Church throughout his life. (See also:Mozart’s compositional methodMozart and Roman Catholicism)


Mozart lived at the center of the Viennese musical world, and knew a great number and variety of people: fellow musicians, theatrical performers, fellow Salzburgers, and aristocrats, including some acquaintance with the Emperor Joseph II. Solomon considers his three closest friends to have been Gottfried von Jacquin, Count August Hatzfeld, and Sigmund Barisani; others included his older colleagueJoseph Haydn, singers Franz Xaver Gerl and Benedikt Schack, and the horn player Joseph Leutgeb. Leutgeb and Mozart carried on a curious kind of friendly mockery, often with Leutgeb as the butt of Mozart’s practical jokes.

He enjoyed billiards and dancing, and kept pets: a canary, a starling, a dog, and also a horse for recreational riding. He had a startling fondness for scatological humor, which is preserved in his surviving letters, notably those written to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart around 1777–1778, but also in his correspondence with his sister and parents. Mozart even wrote scatological music, a series of canons that he sang with his friends. (See also: Mozart and danceMozart and scatology)

Works, musical style, and innovations


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A facsimile sheet of music from the Dies Irae movement of the “Requiem Mass in D Minor” (K. 626) in Mozart’s own handwriting. It is located at the Mozarthaus in Vienna.

Mozart’s music, like Haydn‘s, stands as an archetype of the Classical style. At the time he began composing, European music was dominated by the style galant, a reaction against the highly evolved intricacy of the Baroque. Progressively, and in large part at the hands of Mozart himself, the contrapuntal complexities of the late Baroque emerged once more, moderated and disciplined by new forms, and adapted to a new aesthetic and social milieu. Mozart was a versatile composer, and wrote in every major genre, including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music including string quartet and string quintet, and the piano sonata. These forms were not new, but Mozart advanced their technical sophistication and emotional reach. He almost single-handedly developed and popularized the Classicalpiano concerto. He wrote a great deal of religious music, including large-scale masses, but also dances, divertimentiserenades, and other forms of light entertainment.

The central traits of the Classical style are all present in Mozart’s music. Clarity, balance, and transparency are the hallmarks of his work, but simplistic notions of its delicacy mask the exceptional power of his finest masterpieces, such as the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, the Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, and the opera Don GiovanniCharles Rosen makes the point forcefully:

It is only through recognizing the violence and sensuality at the center of Mozart’s work that we can make a start towards a comprehension of his structures and an insight into his magnificence. In a paradoxical way, Schumann‘s superficial characterization of the G minor Symphony can help us to see Mozart’s daemon more steadily. In all of Mozart’s supreme expressions of suffering and terror, there is something shockingly voluptuous.

Especially during his last decade, Mozart exploited chromatic harmony to a degree rare at the time, with remarkable assurance and to great artistic effect.

Mozart always had a gift for absorbing and adapting valuable features of others’ music. His travels helped in the forging of a unique compositional language. In London as a child, he met J.C. Bach and heard his music. In Paris, Mannheim, and Vienna he met with other compositional influences, as well as the avant-garde capabilities of the Mannheim orchestra. In Italy he encountered the Italian overture and opera buffa, both of which deeply affected the evolution of his own practice. In London and Italy, the galant style was in the ascendent: simple, light music with a mania for cadencing; an emphasis on tonic, dominant, and subdominant to the exclusion of other harmonies; symmetrical phrases; and clearly articulated partitions in the overall form of movements. Some of Mozart’s early symphonies are Italian overtures, with three movements running into each other; many are homotonal (all three movements having the same key signature, with the slow middle movement being in the relative minor). Others mimic the works of J.C. Bach, and others show the simple rounded binary forms turned out by Viennese composers.

As Mozart matured, he progressively incorporated more features adapted from the Baroque. For example, the Symphony No. 29 in A Major K. 201 has a contrapuntal main theme in its first movement, and experimentation with irregular phrase lengths. Some of his quartets from 1773 have fugal finales, probably influenced by Haydn, who had included three such finales in his recently published Opus 20 set. The influence of the Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”) period in music, with its brief foreshadowing of the Romantic era, is evident in the music of both composers at that time. Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor K. 183 is another excellent example.

Mozart would sometimes switch his focus between operas and instrumental music. He produced operas in each of the prevailing styles:opera buffa, such as The Marriage of FigaroDon Giovanni, and Così fan tutteopera seria, such as Idomeneo; and Singspiel, of whichDie Zauberflöte is the most famous example by any composer. In his later operas he employed subtle changes in instrumentation, orchestral texture, and tone color, for emotional depth and to mark dramatic shifts. Here his advances in opera and instrumental composing interacted: his increasingly sophisticated use of the orchestra in the symphonies and concertos influenced his operatic orchestration, and his developing subtlety in using the orchestra to psychological effect in his operas was in turn reflected in his later non-operatic compositions.


Mozart’s most famous pupil, whom the Mozarts took into their Vienna home for two years as a child, was probably Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a transitional figure between Classical and Romantic eras. More important is the influence Mozart had on composers of later generations. Ever since the surge in his reputation after his death, studying his scores has been a standard part of the training of classical musicians.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart’s junior by fifteen years, was deeply influenced by his work, with which he was acquainted as a teenager. He is thought to have performed Mozart’s operas while playing in the court orchestra at Bonn, and he traveled to Vienna in 1787 hoping to study with the older composer. Some of Beethoven’s works have direct models in comparable works by Mozart, and he wrotecadenzas (WoO 58) to Mozart’s D minor piano concerto K. 466.

A number of composers have paid homage to Mozart by writing sets of variations on his themes. Beethoven wrote four such sets (Op. 66, WoO 28, WoO 40, WoO 46). Others include Frédéric Chopin‘s Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni (1827) and Max Reger‘s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart (1914), based on the variation theme in the piano sonata K. 331Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Orchestral Suite No. 4 in G, “Mozartiana” (1887), as a tribute to Mozart.

Köchel catalogue

Main article: Köchel catalogue

For unambiguous identification of works by Mozart, a Köchel catalogue number is used. This is a unique number assigned, in regular chronological order, to every one of his known works. A work is referenced by the abbreviation “K.” followed by this number. The first edition of the catalogue was completed in 1862 by Ludwig von Köchel. It has since been repeatedly updated, as scholarly research improves our knowledge of the dates and authenticity of individual works.

Mozart family

The Mozart family are the ancestors, relatives, and descendants of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The earliest documents mentioning the name “Mozart”, then spelled “Motzhart” or “Mozthardt”, are from the Bavarian part of Swabia (today the Regierungsbezirk of Bavarian Swabia).

Mozart family

  1. David E. Motzhardt, farmer in Pfersee, today a suburb of Augsburg
    1. David Mozthardt (1620–1685), bricklayer and master-builder in Augsburg; built the tower of the church in Dillingen an der Donau
      1. a son, died early
      2. Johann Georg Mozart (1647–1719), bricklayer and master-builder, guild master, built the provost’s church St Georg in Augsburg, collaborated at the Fugger residence
      3. Franz Mozart (1649–1694), bricklayer
        1. Johann Georg Mozart (4 May 1679 – 19 February 1736), bookbinder in Augsburg, married (i) Anna Maria Banegger, no children; (ii) Anna Maria Sulzer (1696–1766), 8 children including:
          1. Leopold Mozart (1719–1787), composer, married Anna Maria Pertl (1720–1778)
            1. Maria Anna Mozart (“Nannerl”), (1751–1829), married Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1736–1801), 3 children
              1. Leopold Alois Pantaleon von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1785–1840)
              2. Jeanette von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1789–1805)
              3. Maria Babette von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1790–1791)
            2. Five other children, all died before the age of 16
            3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), composer, married Constanze Weber (1762–1842), 6 children
              1. Raimund Leopold Mozart (1783–1783)
              2. Karl Thomas Mozart (1784–1858), official in the service of the Viceroy of Naples in Milan; unmarried and no children
              3. Johann Thomas Leopold Mozart (1786–1786)
              4. Theresia Constantia Adelhaid Friederica Marianna Mozart (1787–1788)
              5. Anna Maria Mozart (1789–1789)
              6. Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791–1844), composer and teacher; unmarried and no children
          2. Franz Alois Mozart (1712–1791), bookbinder in Augsburg, married Maria Victoria Eschenbach
            1. Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (“Bäsle”) (1758–1841)
          3. Five further sons, two daughters
      4. Michael Mozart (1655–1710), a Conventual Franciscan as Fr David Mozart

Weber family

The Weber family became connected with the Mozart family through the marriage of Wolfgang Amadeus to Constanze. The family were from Zell im Wiesental, Germany and included:

  1. Fridolin Weber (1691–1754), married Maria Eva Schlar
    1. Franz Fridolin Weber (1733–1779), married Cäcilia Cordula Stamm (1727–1793)
      1. Josepha Weber (1758–1819), soprano, married (i) Franz de Paula Hofer (1755–96) (ii) Sebastian Mayer (1773–1835)
      2. Aloysia Weber (c. 1760–1839), soprano, married Joseph Lange (1751–1831)
      3. Constanze Weber (1762–1842), married (i) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) (ii) Georg Nikolaus von Nissen(1761–1826)
        1. 6 children by W. A. Mozart as above
      4. Sophie Weber (1763–1846), singer, married Jakob Haibel (1762–1826)
    2. Franz Anton Weber (1734–1812)
      1. Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826), composer
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Portrait of Leopold Mozart
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Anna Maria Mozart néePertl, c. 1775
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Marie Anna Mozart (“Nannerl”), c. 1785
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Mozart’s wife and children (Below) :
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Constanze Mozart née Weber, 1802
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Franz Xaver Mozart and Karl Mozart. 1798

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was aGerman composer and pianist. The crucial figure in the transition between the Classical andRomantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.

Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20s, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His hearing began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.


A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Signature of Ludwig van Beethoven

Background and early life

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Prince-Elector’s Palace (Kurfürstliches Schloss) in Bonn, where the Beethoven family had been active since the 1730s
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House of birth, Bonn, Bonngasse 20, now theBeethoven-Haus museum

Beethoven was the grandson of a musician of Flemishorigin named Lodewijk van Beethoven (1712–73). Beethoven was named after his grandfather, as Lodewijk is the Dutch cognate of Ludwig. Beethoven’s grandfather was employed as a bass singer at the court of theElector of Cologne, rising to become Kapellmeister (music director). He had one son, Johann van Beethoven (1740–1792), who worked as a tenor in the same musical establishment, also giving lessons on piano and violin to supplement his income. Johann married Maria Magdalena Keverich in 1767; she was the daughter of Johann Heinrich Keverich, who had been the head chef at the court of the Archbishopric of Trier.

Beethoven was born of this marriage in Bonn. There is no authentic record of his birthday; however, the registry of his baptism, in a Roman Catholic service at the Parish of St. Regius on 17 December, 1770, survives. As children of that era were traditionally baptised the day after birth in the Catholic Rhine country, and it is known that Beethoven’s family and his teacher Johann Albrechtsberger celebrated his birthday on 16 December, most scholars accept 16 December, 1770 as Beethoven’s date of birth. Of the seven children born to Johann van Beethoven, only Ludwig, the second-born, and two younger brothers survived infancy. Caspar Anton Carl was born on 8 April 1774, and Nikolaus Johann, the youngest, was born on 2 October 1776.

Beethoven’s first music teacher was his father. Tradition has it that Johann van Beethoven was a harsh instructor, and that the child Beethoven, “made to stand at the keyboard, was often in tears. However, the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians claimed that no solid documentation supported this, and asserted that “speculation and myth-making have both been productive. Beethoven had other local teachers: the court organist Gilles van den Eeden (d. 1782), Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer (a family friend, who taught Beethoven piano), and a relative, Franz Rovantini (violin and viola). His musical talent manifested itself early. Johann, aware ofLeopold Mozart‘s successes in this area (with son Wolfgang and daughter Nannerl), attempted to exploit his son as a child prodigy, claiming that Beethoven was six (he was seven) on the posters for Beethoven’s first public performance inMarch 1778.

Some time after 1779, Beethoven began his studies with his most important teacher in Bonn,Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed the Court’s Organist in that year. Neefe taught Beethoven composition, and by March 1783 had helped him write his first published composition: a set of keyboard variations (WoO 63). Beethoven soon began working with Neefe as assistant organist, first on an unpaid basis (1781), and then as paid employee (1784) of the court chapel conducted by the Kapellmeister Andrea Luchesi. His first three piano sonatas, named “Kurfürst” (“Elector”) for their dedication to the Elector Maximilian Frederick, were published in 1783. Maximilian Frederick, who died in 1784, not long after Beethoven’s appointment as assistant organist, had noticed Beethoven’s talent early, and had subsidised and encouraged the young man’s musical studies.

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A portrait of the 13-year-old Beethoven by an unknown Bonn master (c. 1783)

Maximilian Frederick’s successor as the Elector of Bonn wasMaximilian Franz, the youngest son of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and he brought notable changes to Bonn. Echoing changes made in Vienna by his brother Joseph, he introduced reforms based on Enlightenment philosophy, with increased support for education and the arts. The teenage Beethoven was almost certainly influenced by these changes. He may also have been influenced at this time by ideas prominent infreemasonry, as Neefe and others around Beethoven were members of the local chapter of the Order of the Illuminati.

In March 1787 Beethoven traveled to Vienna (possibly at another’s expense) for the first time, apparently in the hope of studying with Mozart. The details of their relationship are uncertain, including whether or not they actually met. After just two weeks there Beethoven learned that his mother was severely ill, and returned home. His mother died shortly thereafter, and the father lapsed deeper into alcoholism. As a result, Beethoven became responsible for the care of his two younger brothers, and he spent the next five years in Bonn.

Beethoven was introduced to several people who became important in his life in these years. Franz Wegeler, a young medical student, introduced him to the von Breuning family (one of whose daughters Wegeler eventually married). Beethoven was often at the von Breuning household, where he was exposed to German and classical literature, and where he also taught piano to some of the children. The von Breuning family environment was also less stressful than his own, which was increasingly dominated by his father’s decline. Beethoven came to the attention of Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, who became a lifelong friend and financial supporter.

In 1789 Beethoven obtained a legal order by which half of his father’s salary was paid directly to him for support of the family. He also contributed further to the family’s income by playing violain the court orchestra. This familiarised Beethoven with a variety of operas, including three ofMozart‘s operas performed at court in this period. He also befriended Anton Reicha, a flautist and violinist of about his own age who was the conductor’s nephew.

Establishing his career in Vienna

With the Elector’s help, Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792. He was probably first introduced to Joseph Haydn in late 1790, when the latter was traveling to London and stopped in Bonn around Christmas time. They met in Bonn on Haydn’s return trip from London to Vienna in July 1792, and it is likely that arrangements were made at that time for Beethoven to study with the old master. In the intervening years, Beethoven composed a significant number of works (none were published at the time, and most are now listed as works without opus) that demonstrated his growing range and maturity. Musicologists identified a theme similar to those of his third symphony in a set of variations written in 1791. Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna in November 1792, amid rumors of war spilling out of France, and learned shortly after his arrival that his father had died. Count Waldstein in his farewell note to Beethoven wrote: “Through uninterrupted diligence you will receive Mozart’s spirit through Haydn’s hands. Beethoven responded to the widespread feeling that he was a successor to the recently deceased Mozart over the next few years by studying that master’s work and writing works with a distinctly Mozartean flavor.

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Portrait of Beethoven as a young man by Carl Traugott Riedel (1769–1832)

Beethoven did not immediately set out to establish himself as a composer, but rather devoted himself to study and performance. Working under Haydn’s direction, he sought to master counterpoint. He also studied violin under Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Early in this period, he also began receiving occasional instruction from Antonio Salieri, primarily in Italian vocal composition style; this relationship persisted until at least 1802, and possibly 1809. With Haydn’s departure for England in 1794, Beethoven was expected by the Elector to return home. He chose instead to remain in Vienna, continuing his instruction in counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger and other teachers. Although his stipend from the Elector expired, a number of Viennese noblemen had already recognised his ability and offered him financial support, among them Prince Joseph Franz LobkowitzPrince Karl Lichnowsky, and BaronGottfried van Swieten.

By 1793, Beethoven established a reputation as an improviser in the salons of the nobility, often playing the preludes and fugues of J. S. Bach‘s Well-Tempered Clavier. His friend Nikolaus Simrock had begun publishing his compositions; the first are believed to be a set of variations (WoO 66). By 1793, he had established a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso, but he apparently withheld works from publication so that their publication in 1795 would have greater impact. Beethoven’s first public performance in Vienna was in March 1795, a concert in which he debuted a piano concerto. It is uncertain whether this was the First or Second. Documentary evidence is unclear, and both concertos were in a similar state of near-completion (neither was completed or published for several years). Shortly after this performance, he arranged for the publication of the first of his compositions to which he assigned an opus number, the piano trios of Opus 1. These works were dedicated to his patron Prince Lichnowsky, and were a financial success; Beethoven’s profits were nearly sufficient to cover his living expenses for a year.

Musical maturity

Between 1798 and 1802 Beethoven tackled what he considered the pinnacles of composition: thestring quartet and the symphony. With the composition of his first six string quartets (Op. 18)between 1798 and 1800 (written on commission for, and dedicated to, Prince Lobkowitz), and their publication in 1801, along with premieres of the First and Second Symphonies in 1800 and 1802, Beethoven was justifiably considered one of the most important of a generation of young composers following Haydn and Mozart. He continued to write in other forms, turning out widely known piano sonatas like the “Pathétique” sonata (Op. 13), which Cooper describes as “surpass[ing] any of his previous compositions, in strength of character, depth of emotion, level of originality, and ingenuity of motivic and tonal manipulation. He also completed his Septet(Op. 20) in 1799, which was one of his most popular works during his lifetime.

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Beethoven in 1803, painted byChristian Horneman

For the premiere of his First Symphony, Beethoven hired the Burgtheater on 2 April 1800, and staged an extensive program of music, including works by Haydn and Mozart, as well as the Septet, the First Symphony, and one of his piano concertos (the latter three works all then unpublished). The concert, which the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung described as “the most interesting concert in a long time,” was not without difficulties; among the criticisms was that “the players did not bother to pay any attention to the soloist.

While Mozart and Haydn were undeniable influences (for example, Beethoven’s quintet for piano and winds is said to bear a strong resemblance to Mozart’s work for the same configuration, albeit with his own distinctive touches), other composers like Muzio Clementi were also stylistic influences. Beethoven’s melodies, musical development, use of modulation and texture, and characterization of emotion all set him apart from his influences, and heightened the impact some of his early works made when they were first published. By the end of 1800 Beethoven and his music were already much in demand from patrons and publishers.

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Ludwig van Beethoven: detail of an 1804 portrait by Joseph Willibrod Mähler. The complete painting depicts Beethoven with alyre-guitar

In May of 1799, Beethoven taught piano to the daughters of Hungarian Countess Anna Brunsvik. During this time, Beethoven fell in love with the younger daughter Josephine who has later become the subject of speculation about his “Immortal Beloved“. Shortly after these lessons, she was married to Count Josef Deym. Beethoven was a regular visitor at their house, teaching and playing at parties. While her marriage was by all accounts happy (despite initial financial problems), the couple had four children, and her relationship with Beethoven intensified after Deym died suddenly in 1804.

Beethoven had few other students. From 1801 to 1805, he tutored Ferdinand Ries, who went on to become a composer and later wrote Beethoven remembered, a book about their encounters. The young Carl Czerny studied with Beethoven from 1801 to 1803. Czerny went on to become a renowned music teacher himself, instructing Franz Liszt, and gave the Vienna premiere of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto (the “Emperor”) in 1812.

Beethoven’s compositions between 1800 and 1802 were dominated by two works, although he continued to produce smaller works, including the Moonlight Sonata. In the spring of 1801 he completed The Creatures of Prometheus, a ballet. The work received numerous performances in 1801 and 1802, and Beethoven rushed to publish a piano arrangement to capitalise on its early popularity. In the spring of 1802 he completed the Second Symphony, intended for performance at a concert that was ultimately canceled. The symphony received its premiere at a subscription concert in April 1803 at the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven had been appointed composer in residence. In addition to the Second Symphony, the concert also featured the First Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto, and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. While reviews were mixed, the concert was a financial success; Beethoven was able to charge three times the cost of a typical concert ticket.

Beethoven’s business dealings with publishers also began to improve in 1802 when his brother Carl, who had previously assisted him more casually, began to assume a larger role in the management of his affairs. In addition to negotiating higher prices for recently composed works, Carl also began selling some of Beethoven’s earlier unpublished works, and encouraged Beethoven (against the latter’s preference) to also make arrangements and transcriptions of his more popular works for other instrument combinations. Beethoven acceded to these requests, as he could not prevent publishers from hiring others to do similar arrangements of his works.

Loss of hearing

Around 1796, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. He suffered from a severe form of tinnitus, a “ringing” in his ears that made it hard for him to hear music; he also avoided conversation. The cause of Beethoven’s deafness is unknown, but it has variously been attributed tosyphilislead poisoningtyphusauto-immune disorder (such as systemic lupus erythematosus), and even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake. The explanation, from the autopsy of the time, is that he had a “distended inner ear,” which developed lesions over time. Because of the high levels of lead found in samples of Beethoven’s hair, that hypothesis has been extensively analyzed. While the likelihood of lead poisoning is very high, the deafness associated with it seldom takes the form that Beethoven exhibited.

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Beethoven in 1815 portrait byJoseph Willibrod Mähler

As early as 1801, Beethoven wrote to friends describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings (although it is likely some of his close friends were already aware of the problems). Beethoven, on the advice of his doctor, lived in the small Austrian town ofHeiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, from April to October 1802 in an attempt to come to terms with his condition. There he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide due to his growing deafness and records his resolution to continue living for and through his art. Over time, his hearing loss became profound: there is a well-attested story that, at the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience; hearing nothing, he wept. Beethoven’s hearing loss did not prevent his composing music, but it made playing at concerts—a lucrative source of income—increasingly difficult. After a failed attempt in 1811 to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor”), which was premiered by his student Carl Czerny, he never performed in public again.

A large collection of Beethoven’s hearing aids, such as a special ear horn, can be viewed at the Beethoven House Museum in Bonn, Germany. Despite his obvious distress, Carl Czernyremarked that Beethoven could still hear speech and music normally until 1812. By 1814 however, Beethoven was almost totally deaf, and when a group of visitors saw him play a loud arpeggio of thundering bass notes at his piano remarking, “Ist es nicht schön?” (Is it not beautiful?), they felt deep sympathy considering his courage and sense of humor (he lost the ability to hear higher frequencies first).

As a result of Beethoven’s hearing loss, a unique historical record has been preserved: his conversation books. Used primarily in the last ten or so years of his life, his friends wrote in these books so that he could know what they were saying, and he then responded either orally or in the book. The books contain discussions about music and other matters, and give insights into his thinking; they are a source for investigation into how he felt his music should be performed, and also his perception of his relationship to art. Out of a total of 400 conversation books, 264 were destroyed (and others were altered) after Beethoven’s death by Anton Schindler, in an attempt to paint an idealised picture of the composer.


Beethoven’s patron, Archduke Rudolph

While Beethoven earned income from publication of his works and from public performances, he also depended on the generosity of patrons for income, for whom he gave private performances and copies of works they commissioned for an exclusive period prior to their publication. Some of his early patrons, including Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Lichnowsky, gave him annual stipends in addition to commissioning works and purchasing published works.

Perhaps Beethoven’s most important aristocratic patron wasArchduke Rudolph, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II, who in 1803 or 1804 began to study piano and composition with Beethoven. The cleric (Cardinal-Priest) and the composer became friends, and their meetings continued until 1824.Beethoven dedicated 14 compositions to Rudolph, including the Archduke Trio (1811) and his great Missa Solemnis (1823). Rudolph, in turn, dedicated one of his own compositions to Beethoven. The letters Beethoven wrote to Rudolph are today kept at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

In the Autumn of 1808, after having been rejected for a position at the royal theatre, Beethoven received an offer from Napoleon‘s brother Jérôme Bonaparte, then king of Westphalia, for a well-paid position as Kapellmeister at the court in Cassel. To persuade him to stay in Vienna, the Archduke Rudolph, Prince Kinsky and Prince Lobkowitz, after receiving representations from the composer’s friends, pledged to pay Beethoven a pension of 4000 florins a year. Only Archduke Rudolph paid his share of the pension on the agreed date. Kinsky, immediately called to military duty, did not contribute and soon died after falling from his horse. Lobkowitz stopped paying in September 1811. No successors came forward to continue the patronage, and Beethoven relied mostly on selling composition rights and a small pension after 1815. The effects of these financial arrangements were undermined to some extent by war with France, which caused significant inflation when the government printed money to fund its war efforts.

The Middle period

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Beethoven Monument in Bonn, Muensterplatz

Beethoven’s return to Vienna from Heiligenstadt was marked by a change in musical style, now recognised as the start of his “Middle” or “Heroic” period. According to Carl Czerny, Beethoven said, “I am not satisfied with the work I have done so far. From now on I intend to take a new way. This “Heroic” phase was characterised by a large number of original works composed on a grand scale. The first major work employing this new style was the Third Symphony in E flat, known as the “Eroica.” This work was longer and larger in scope than any previous symphony. When it premiered in early 1805 it received a mixed reception. Some listeners objected to its length or misunderstood its structure, while others viewed it as a masterpiece.

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Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Op. 67)was composed during Beethoven’s Middle period. (first movement)

Beethoven composed prolifically throughout the Middle period. The period is sometimes associated with a “heroic manner” of composing. The use of the term “heroic” has become increasingly controversial in Beethoven scholarship. The term is more frequently used as an alternate name for the Middle period. The appropriateness of the term “heroic” to describe the Middle period has been questioned as well. While some of Beethoven’s Middle period works, like the Third and Fifth Symphonies, are easily associated with the term “heroic”, many other middle period works, like the “Pastoral” Sixth Symphony, are not obviously “heroic”.

Some of the Middle period works extend the musical language Beethoven had inherited from Haydn and Mozart. The Middle period work includes the Third through Eighth Symphonies, the string quartets 7–11, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, Christ on the Mount of Olives, the opera Fidelio, the Violin Concerto and many other compositions. During this time Beethoven earned his living from publishing and performances of his work, and from his patrons. His position at the Theater an der Wien was terminated when the theater changed management in early 1804, and he was forced to move temporarily to the suburbs of Vienna with his friend Stephan von Breuning. This slowed work on Fidelio, his largest work to date, for a time. It was delayed again by the Austrian censor, and finally premiered in November 1805 to houses that were nearly empty because of the French occupation of the city. In addition to being a financial failure, this version of Fidelio was also a critical failure, and Beethoven began revising it.

The Middle period string quartets are Op. 59 no 1Op 59 no 2Op 59 no 3 (The Razumowski quartets), Op. 74 (the Harp) and Op 95. Beethoven’s publisher said that the world was not ready for them. The slow movement of Op. 59 no 2 has been described as the closest Beethoven got to heaven. Beethoven said that the Op. 95 quartet was not suitable for public performance.

The work of the Middle period established Beethoven’s reputation as a master. In a review from 1810, he was enshrined by E. T. A. Hoffmann as one of the three great “Romantic” composers; Hoffman called Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony “one of the most important works of the age.” A particular trauma for Beethoven occurred during this period in May 1809, when the attacking forces of Napoleon bombarded Vienna. According to Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven, very worried that the noise would destroy what remained of his hearing, hid in the basement of his brother’s house, covering his ears with pillows. He was composing the “Emperor” Concerto at the time.

Personal and family difficulties

Beethoven met Giulietta Guicciardi in about 1800 through the Brunsvik family. He mentions his love for her in a November 1801 letter to his boyhood friend, Franz Wegeler. Beethoven dedicated to Giulietta his Sonata No. 14, popularly known as the “Moonlight” Sonata. Marriage plans were thwarted by Giulietta’s father and perhaps Beethoven’s common lineage. In 1803 she married Count Wenzel Robert von Gallenberg (1783–1839), another amateur composer.

Beethoven’s relationship with Josephine Deym notably deepened after the death of her first husband in 1804. There is some evidence that Beethoven may have proposed to her, at least informally. While his feelings were apparently reciprocated, she turned him down, and their relationship effectively ended in 1807. She cited her “duty,” an apparent reference to the fact that she was born of nobility and he was a commoner. I is also likely that he considered proposing (whether he actually did or not is unknown) to Therese Malfatti, the supposed dedicatee of “Für Elise” in 1810; his common status may also have interfered with those plans.

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Life mask made in 1812

In the spring of 1811 Beethoven became seriously ill, suffering headaches and high fever. On the advice of his doctor, he spent six weeks in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz. The following winter, which was dominated by work on the Seventh symphony, he was again ill, and decided to spend the summer of 1812 at Teplitz. It is certain that he was at Teplitz when he wrote a love letter to his “Immortal Beloved. While the identity of the intended recipient is subject to ongoing debate, the two candidates preferred by most mainstream scholars areAntonie Brentano and Josephine Brunsvik. Beethoven traveled to Karlsbad in late July, where he stayed in the same guesthouse as the Brentanos. After traveling with them for a time, he returned to Teplitz, where after another bout of gastric illness, he left for Linz to visit his brother Johann.

Beethoven’s visit to his brother was an attempt to end the latter’s cohabitation with Therese Obermayer, a woman who already had an illegitimate child. He was unable to convince Johann to end the relationship, so he appealed to the local civic and religious authorities. The end result of Beethoven’s meddling was that Johann and Therese married on 9 November.

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Beethoven in 1814. Portrait by Louis-René Létronne.

In early 1813 Beethoven apparently went through a difficult emotional period, and his compositional output dropped. Historians have suggested a variety of causes, including his lack of romantic success. His personal appearance, which had generally been neat, degraded, as did his manners in public, especially when dining. Some of his (married) desired romantic partners had children (leading to assertions among historians of Beethoven’s possible paternity), and his brother Carl was seriously ill. Beethoven took care of his brother and his family, an expense that he claimed left him penniless. He was unable to obtain a date for a concert in the spring of 1813, which, if successful, would have provided him with significant funds.

Beethoven was finally motivated to begin significant composition again in June 1813, when news arrived of the defeat of one of Napoleon’s armies atVitoria, Spain, by a coalition of forces under the Duke of Wellington. This news stimulated him to write the battle symphony known as Wellington’s Victory. It premiered on 8 December at a charity concert for victims of the war along with his Seventh Symphony. The work was a popular hit, likely because of its programmatic style that was entertaining and easy to understand. It received repeat performances at concerts Beethoven staged in January and February 1814. Beethoven’s renewed popularity led to demands for a revival of Fidelio, which, in its third revised version, was also well-received at its July opening. That summer he composed a piano sonata for the first time in five years (No. 27, Opus 90). This work was in a markedly more Romantic style than his earlier sonatas. He was also one of many composers who produced music in a patriotic vein to entertain the many heads of state and diplomats that came to the Congress of Viennathat began in November 1814. His output of songs included his only song cycle, “An die ferne Geliebte,” and the extraordinarily expressive, but almost incoherent, “An die Hoffnung” (Opus 94).

Custody struggle and illness

Between 1815 and 1817 Beethoven’s output dropped again. Beethoven attributed part of this to a lengthy illness (he called it an “inflammatory fever”) that afflicted him for more than a year, starting in October 1816. Biographers have speculated on a variety of other reasons that also contributed to the decline, including the difficulties in the personal lives of his would-be paramours and the harsh censorship policies of the Austrian government. The illness and death of his brother Carl from consumption likely also played a role.

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Beethoven in 1818 by August Klöber

Carl had been ill for some time, and Beethoven spent a small fortune in 1815 on his care. When he finally died on 15 November 1815, Beethoven immediately became embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with Carl’s wife Johanna over custody of their son Karl, then nine years old. Beethoven, who considered Johanna an unfit parent because of her morals (she had an illegitimate child by a different father before marrying Carl, and had been convicted of theft) and financial management, had successfully applied to Carl to have himself named sole guardian of the boy. A late codicil to Carl’s will gave him and Johanna joint guardianship. While Beethoven was successful at having his nephew removed from her custody in February 1816, the case was not fully resolved until 1820, and he was frequently preoccupied by the demands of the litigation and seeing to Karl’s welfare, whom he first placed in a private school. The custody fight brought out the worst aspects of Beethoven’s character; in the lengthy court cases Beethoven stopped at nothing to ensure that he achieved this goal, interrupting his work for long periods.

The Austrian court system had one court for the nobility and members of the Landtafel, the R&I Landrechte, and many others for commoners, among them the Civil Court of the Vienna Magistrate. Beethoven disguised the fact that the Dutch “van” in his name did not denote nobility as does the German “von, and his case was tried in the Landrechte. Owing to his influence with the court, Beethoven felt assured of the favorable outcome of being awarded sole guardianship. While giving evidence to the Landrechte, however, Beethoven inadvertently admitted that he was not nobly born. The case was transferred to the Magistracy on 18 December 1818, where he lost sole guardianship.

Beethoven appealed, and regained custody. Johanna’s appeal to the Emperor was not successful: the Emperor “washed his hands of the matter.” Beethoven stopped at nothing to blacken her name, as can be read in surviving court papers. During the years of custody that followed, Beethoven attempted to ensure that Karl lived to the highest moral standards. His overbearing manner and frequent interference in his nephew’s life apparently drove Karl to attempt suicide on 31 July 1826 by shooting himself in the head. He survived, and was brought to his mother’s house, where he recuperated. He and Beethoven reconciled, but Karl insisted on joining the army, and last saw Beethoven in early 1827.

The only major works Beethoven produced during this time were two cello sonatas, a piano sonata, and collections of folk song settings. He began sketches for the Ninth Symphony in 1817

Late works

Beethoven began a renewed study of older music, including works by J. S. Bach and Handel, that were then being published in the first attempts at complete editions. He composed theConsecration of the House Overture, which was the first work to attempt to incorporate his new influences. A new style, now called his “late period,” emerged when he returned to the keyboard to compose his first piano sonatas in almost a decade. The works of the late period are commonly held to include the last five piano sonatas and the Diabelli Variations, the last two sonatas for cello and piano, the late quartets (see below), and two works for very large forces: theMissa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony.

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Beethoven in 1823; copy of a destroyed portrait by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller

By early 1818 Beethoven’s health had improved, and his nephew moved in with him in January. On the downside, his hearing had deteriorated to the point that conversation became difficult, necessitating the use of conversation books. His household management had also improved somewhat; Nanette Streicher, who had assisted in his care during his illness, continued to provide some support, and he finally found a skilled cook. His musical output in 1818 was still somewhat reduced, but included song collections and the Hammerklavier Sonata, as well as sketches for two symphonies that eventually coalesced into the epic Ninth. In 1819 he was again preoccupied by the legal processes around Karl, and began work on the Diabelli Variations and the Missa Solemnis.

For the next few years he continued to work on the Missa, composing piano sonatas and bagatelles to satisfy the demands of publishers and the need for income, and completing the Diabelli Variations. He was ill again for an extended time in 1821, and completed the Missa in 1823, three years after its original due date. He also opened discussions with his publishers over the possibility of producing a complete edition of his work, an idea that was arguably not fully realised until 1971. Beethoven’s brother Johann began to take a hand in his business affairs around this time, much in the way Carl had earlier, locating older unpublished works to offer for publication and offering the Missa to multiple publishers with the goal of getting a higher price for it.

Two commissions in 1822 improved Beethoven’s financial prospects. The Philharmonic Society of London offered a commission for a symphony, and Prince Nikolay Golitsin of St. Petersburgoffered to pay Beethoven’s price for three string quartets. The first of these spurred Beethoven to finish the Ninth Symphony, which premiered, along with the Missa Solemnis, on 7 May 1824, to great acclaim at the Kärntnertortheater. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung gushed, “inexhaustible genius had shown us a new world,” and Carl Czerny wrote that his symphony “breathes such a fresh, lively, indeed youthful spirit […] so much power, innovation, and beauty as ever [came] from the head of this original man, although he certainly sometimes led the old wigs to shake their heads.” Unlike his earlier concerts, Beethoven made little money on this one, as the expenses of mounting it were significantly higher. A second concert on 24 May, in which the producer guaranteed Beethoven a minimum fee, was poorly attended; nephew Karl noted that “many people have already gone into the country.” It was Beethoven’s last public concer.

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The piano sonata in C minor (Op. 111)was written between 1821 and 1822, during Beethoven’s Late period. (first movement)

Beethoven then turned to writing the string quartets for Golitsin. This series of quartets, known as the “Late Quartets,” went far beyond what either musicians or audiences were ready for at that time. One musician commented that “we know there is something there, but we do not know what it is.” Composer Louis Spohrcalled them “indecipherable, uncorrected horrors,” though that opinion has changed considerably from the time of their first bewildered reception. They continued (and continue) to inspire musicians and composers, from Richard Wagner to Béla Bartók, for their unique forms and ideas. Of the late quartets, Beethoven’s favorite was the Fourteenth Quartet, op. 131 in C# minor, which he rated as his most perfect single work. The last musical wish of Schubert was to hear the Op. 131 quartet, which was done on 14 November 1828, five days before Schubert’s death.

Beethoven wrote the last quartets amidst failing health. In April 1825 he was bedridden, and remained ill for about a month. The illness—or more precisely, his recovery from it—is remembered for having given rise to the deeply felt slow movement of the Fifteenth Quartet, which Beethoven called “Holy song of thanks (‘Heiliger dankgesang’) to the divinity, from one made well.” He went on to complete the (misnumbered) ThirteenthFourteenth, and Sixteenth Quartets. The last work completed by Beethoven was the substitute final movement of the Thirteenth Quartet, deemed necessary to replace the difficult Große Fuge. Shortly thereafter, in December 1826, illness struck again, with episodes of vomiting and diarrhea that nearly ended his life.

Illness and death


Beethoven’s death mask byJosef Danhauser

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Beethoven’s grave site, ViennaZentralfriedhof

Beethoven was bedridden for most of his remaining months, and many friends came to visit. He died on Monday, 26 March 1827, during a thunderstorm. His friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, claimed that there was a peal of thunder at the moment of death. An autopsy revealed significant liver damage, which may have been due to heavy alcohol consumption.

Beethoven’s funeral procession on 29 March 1827 was attended by an estimated 20,000 Viennese citizens. Franz Schubert, who died the following year and was buried next to Beethoven, was one of the torchbearers. Unlike Mozart, who was buried anonymously in a communal grave (the custom at the time), Beethoven was buried in a dedicated grave in theWähring cemetery, north-west of Vienna, after a requiem mass at the church of the Holy Trinity (Dreifaltigkeitskirche). His remains were exhumed for study in 1862, and moved in 1888 to Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof.

There is dispute about the cause of Beethoven’s death; alcoholic cirrhosissyphilisinfectious hepatitislead poisoningsarcoidosis and Whipple’s disease have all been proposed. Friends and visitors before and after his death clipped locks of his hair, some of which have been preserved and subjected to additional analysis, as have skull fragments removed during the 1862exhumation. Some of these analyses have led to controversial assertions that Beethoven was accidentally poisoned to death by excessive doses of lead-based treatments administered under instruction from his doctor.


Beethoven’s personal life was troubled by his encroaching deafness and irritability brought on by chronic abdominal pain (beginning in his twenties) which led him to contemplate suicide (documented in his Heiligenstadt Testament). Beethoven was often irascible and may have suffered from bipolar disorder, as discussed in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb. Nevertheless, he had a close and devoted circle of friends all his life, thought to have been attracted by his strength of personality. Toward the end of his life, Beethoven’s friends competed in their efforts to help him cope with his incapacities.

Sources show Beethoven’s disdain for authority, and for social rank. He stopped performing at the piano if the audience chatted amongst themselves, or afforded him less than their full attention. At soirées, he refused to perform if suddenly called upon to do so. Eventually, after many confrontations, the Archduke Rudolph decreed that the usual rules of court etiquette did not apply to Beethoven.

Beethoven was attracted to the ideals of the Enlightenment. In 1804, when Napoleon’s imperial ambitions became clear, Beethoven took hold of the title-page of his Third Symphony and scratched the name Bonaparte out so violently that he made a hole in the paper. He later changed the work’s title to “Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d’un grand’uom” (“Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”), and he rededicated it to his patron, Prince Joseph Franz von Lobkowitz, at whose palace it was first performed.

The fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony features an elaborate choral setting of Schiller’s OdeAn die Freude (“Ode to Joy”), an optimistic hymn championing the brotherhood of humanity.

Religious views

Scholars disagree about Beethoven’s religious beliefs, and about the role they played in his work. It has been asserted, but not proven, that Beethoven was a Freemason.


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A bust based upon Beethoven’s life mask

Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music; occasionally he is referred to as one of the “three Bs” (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomise that tradition. He was also a pivotal figure in the transition from the 18th century musical classicism to 19th century romanticism, and his influence on subsequent generations of composers was profound.


Beethoven composed in several musical genres, and for a variety of instrument combinations. His works for symphony orchestra include nine symphonies (the Ninth Symphony includes a chorus), and about a dozen pieces of “occasional” music. He wrote seven concerti for one or more soloists and orchestra, as well as four shorter works that include soloists accompanied by orchestra. His only opera is Fidelio; other vocal works with orchestral accompaniment include two masses and a number of shorter works.

His large body of compositions for piano includes 32 piano sonatas and numerous shorter pieces, including arrangements of some of his other works. Works with piano accompaniment include 10 violin sonatas, 5 cello sonatas, and a sonata for French horn, as well as numerouslieder.

Beethoven also wrote a significant quantity of chamber music. In addition to 16 string quartets, he wrote five works for string quintet, seven for piano trio, five for string trio, and more than a dozen works for various combinations of wind instruments.

The three periods

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Sample of the Für Elise from Beethoven

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Beethoven’s compositional career is usually divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods. In this scheme, his early period is taken to last until about 1802, the middle period from about 1803 to about 1814, and the late period from about 1815.

In his Early period, Beethoven’s work was strongly influenced by his predecessors Haydn andMozart. He also explored new directions and gradually expanded the scope and ambition of his work. Some important pieces from the Early period are the first and second symphonies, the set of six string quartets Opus 18, the first two piano concertos, and the first dozen or so piano sonatas, including the famous Pathétique sonata, Op. 13.

His Middle (Heroic) period began shortly after Beethoven’s personal crisis brought on by his recognition of encroaching deafness. It includes large-scale works that express heroism and struggle. Middle-period works include six symphonies (Nos. 3–8), the last three piano concertos, the Triple Concerto and violin concerto, five string quartets (Nos. 7–11), several piano sonatas (including the MoonlightWaldstein and Appassionata sonatas), the Kreutzer violin sonata and Beethoven’s only operaFidelio.

Beethoven’s Late period began around 1815. Works from this period are characterised by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal expression. TheString Quartet, Op. 131 has seven linked movements, and the Ninth Symphony adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement. Other compositions from this period include theMissa Solemnis, the last five string quartets (including the massive Große Fuge) and the last five piano sonatas.

Beethoven on screen

Eroica is a 1949 Austrian film depicting life and works of Beethoven (Ewald Balser), which also entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival. The film is directed by Walter Kolm-Veltée, produced by Guido Bagier with Walter Kolm-Veltée and written by Walter Kolm-Veltée with Franz Tassié.

In 1962, Walt Disney produced a made-for-television and extremely fictionalised life of Beethoven titled The Magnificent Rebel. The film was given a two-part premiere on the Walt Disney anthology television series and released to theatres in Europe. It starred Karlheinz Böhm as Beethoven.

In 1994 a film about Beethoven (Gary Oldman) titled Immortal Beloved was written and directed by Bernard Rose. The story follows Beethoven’s secretary and first biographerAnton Schindler(portrayed by Jeroen Krabbé), as he attempts to ascertain the true identity of the Unsterbliche Geliebte (Immortal Beloved) addressed in three letters found in the late composer’s private papers. Schindler journeys throughout the Austrian Empire, interviewing women who might be potential candidates, as well as through Beethoven’s own tumultuous life. Filming took place in the Czech cities of Prague and Kromeriz and the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, Austria, between 23 May and 29 July 1994.

In 2003 a made-for-television BBC/Opus Arte film Eroica was released, with Ian Hart as Beethoven and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner performing the Eroica Symphony in its entirety. The subject of the film is the first performance of the Eroica Symphony in 1804 at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz (played by Jack Davenport).

In a 2005 three-part BBC miniseries, Beethoven was played by Paul Rhys.

A movie titled Copying Beethoven was released in 2006, starring Ed Harris as Beethoven. This film was a fictionalised account of Beethoven’s last days, and his struggle to produce his Ninth Symphony before he died.


Beethoven’s LastNight

The Beethoven Monument, Bonn was unveiled in August 1845, in honour of his 75th anniversary. It was the first statue of a composer created in Germany, and the music festival that accompanied the unveiling was the impetus for the very hasty construction of the originalBeethovenhalle in Bonn (it was designed and built within less than a month, on the urging ofFranz Liszt). A statue to Mozart had been unveiled in SalzburgAustria in 1842. Vienna did not honour Beethoven with a statue until 1880.

List of compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven

(List of compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven)

The musical works of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) are listed below. Two overlapping lists of Beethoven’s works are presented here. The first is a listing of his most well-known works classified by genre. The second is a larger list of works, classified by various numbering systems. Years in parentheses denote dates of composition or publication.

The most common methods of numbering Beethoven’s works are by Opus number, assigned by Beethoven’s publishers during his lifetime, and by number within genre. For example, the 14th string quartet, published as Opus 131, may be referenced either as “String Quartet No. 14” or “the Opus 131 String Quartet“.

Many works that were unpublished have been assigned either “WoO” or “Anh” numbers. For example, the short piano piece “Für Elise“, is more fully known as the “Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 (‘Für Elise’)”. Some works are also commonly referred to by their nicknames, such as the ‘Kreutzer’ Violin Sonata, or the Eroica Symphony.

The listings that follow include all of these relevant identifiers. While other catalogues of Beethoven’s works exist, the numbers here represent the most commonly used and widely known.

List of works by genre

Beethoven, caricatured by J. P. Lyser

Orchestral music

Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, nine concertos, and a variety of other orchestral music, ranging from overtures and incidental music for theatrical productions to other miscellaneous “occasional” works, written for a particular occasion. Of the concertos, seven are widely known (one violin concerto, five piano concertos, and one triple concerto for violin, piano, and cello); the other two are an unpublished early piano concerto (WoO 4) and an arrangement of the Violin Concerto for piano and orchestra (Opus 61a).


  • Opus 21: Symphony No. 1 in C major (composed 1799–1800, premièred 1800)
  • Opus 36: Symphony No. 2 in D major (composed 1801–02, premièred 1803)
  • Opus 55: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”) (composed 1803/04, premièred 1804)
  • Opus 60: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major (composed 1806, premièred 1807)
  • Opus 67: Symphony No. 5 in C minor (composed 1804–08, premièred 1808)
  • Opus 68: Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”) (composed 1804–08, premièred 1808)
  • Opus 92: Symphony No. 7 in A major (composed 1811–12, premièred 1813)
  • Opus 93: Symphony No. 8 in F major (composed 1812, premièred 1814)
  • Opus 125: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”) (composed 1817–24, premièred 1824)

Once believed by some to be an early symphony by Beethoven, the “Jena” Symphony in C major is now thought to be by Friedrich Witt.

Beethoven is believed to have intended to write a Tenth Symphony in the last year of his life; a performing version of possible sketches was assembled by Barry Cooper.


Other works for soloist and orchestra

Overtures and incidental music

  • Opus 43: The Creatures of Prometheus, overture and ballet music (1801)
  • Opus 62: Coriolan Overture (1807)
  • Overtures composed for Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, Op. 72:
    • Opus 72: Fidelio Overture (1814)
    • Opus 72a: Leonore Overture “No. 2” (1805)
    • Opus 72b: Leonore Overture “No. 3” (1806)
    • Opus 138: Leonore Overture “No. 1” (1807)
  • Opus 84: Egmont, overture and incidental music (1810)
  • Opus 91: Wellington’s Victory (“Battle Symphony”) (1813)
  • Opus 113: The Ruins of Athens (Die Ruinen von Athen), overture and incidental music (1811)
  • Opus 117: King Stephen (König Stephan), overture and incidental music (1811)
  • Opus 115: Zur Namensfeier (Feastday) Overture (1815)
  • Opus 124: Consecration of the House (Die Weihe des Hauses), overture (1822)

Chamber music

Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets and numerous other forms of chamber music, including piano triosstring trios, and sonatas for violinand cello with piano, as well as works with wind instruments.


Piano trios
Piano quartets
  • WoO 36: 3 Piano Quartets (1785)
    • No. 1 in E-flat major
    • No. 2 in D major
    • No. 3 in C major
  • Opus 16/b: Piano Quartet in E-flat (1797) (arrangement of Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16)
[edit]String trios
  • Opus 3: String Trio No. 1 in E-flat major (1794); five-movement piano transcription (anon, supervised composer?, c 1814–15)
  • Opus 8: String Trio No. 2 (“Serenade”) in D major (1797)
  • Opus 9: Three String Trios (1798)
    • No. 1: String Trio No. 3 in G major
    • No. 2: String Trio No. 4 in D major
    • No. 3: String Trio No. 5 in C minor
  • Hess 28: Movement in A-flat for String Trio
  • WoO 37: Trio for flute, bassoon, and piano in G major (1786)

String quartets


String quintets

Chamber music with winds

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Hess 19: Wind Quintet in E-flat

Sonatas for solo instrument and piano

Violin sonatas
Cello sonatas
Horn sonatas

Solo piano music

In addition to the 32 celebrated sonatas, Beethoven’s work for solo piano includes many one-movement pieces, notably more than twenty largely unpublished sets of variations and over thirty bagatelles, including the well-known Für Elise.

Piano sonatas


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performed November 2010

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  • Opus 33: Seven Bagatelles (1802)
  • Opus 119: Eleven new Bagatelles (1822)
  • Opus 126: Six Bagatelles (1823)
  • WoO 52: Presto (Bagatelle) for piano in C minor (1795, rev. 1798 and 1822)
  • WoO 53: Allegretto (Bagatelle) for piano in C minor (1796–97)
  • WoO 54: Lustig-Traurig (Bagatelle) for piano in C major (1802)
  • WoO 56: Allegretto (Bagatelle) for piano in C major (1803, rev. 1822)
  • WoO 59: Poco moto (Bagatelle) in A minor, “Für Elise” (c. 1810)
  • WoO 60: Ziemlich lebhaft (Bagatelle) for piano in B-flat major (1818)

Other works

Vocal music

While he completed only one opera, Beethoven wrote vocal music throughout his life, including two Mass settings, other works forchorus and orchestra (in addition to the Ninth Symphony), ariasduetsart songs (lieder), and true song cycles.


  • Opus 72: Leonore (1805) The first version in three acts
  • Opus 72: Leonore (1806) The second version in two acts
  • Opus 72: Fidelio (1814) The final version in two acts


  • Opus 80: Choral Fantasy for solo piano, chorus, and orchestra (1808)
  • Opus 85: Christus am Ölberge (Christ on the Mount of Olives) – oratorio (1803)
  • Opus 86: Mass in C major (1807)
  • Opus 112: Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), for chorus and orchestra (1815)
  • Opus 123: Missa Solemnis in D major (1823)
  • Opus 136: The moment of Glory, Cantata for four solo voices, chorus and orchestra
    • 1. Chorus: “Europa steht!”
    • 2. Recitative: “O seht sie nah und näher treten!”, Chorus: “Vienna Vienna Vienna”
    • 3. Recitative: “O Himmel welch Enzücken!” Aria (Vienna) with chorus: “Alle die Herrscher darf ich grüssen”
    • 4. Recitative: “Das Auge schaut” with chorus: “Dem die erste Zähre”
    • 5. Recitative: “Der den Bund im Sturme festgehalten”
    • 6. Chorus: “Es treten vor die Scharem der Frauen”
  • Emperor Cantatas
    • WoO 87: Funeral cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II, for solo voices, chorus and orchestra
      • 1. Chorus and soloists: “Tot! Tot, stöhnt es durch die öde Nacht”
      • 2. Recitative: “Ein Ungeheuer, sein Name Fanatismus” (bass)
      • Aria: “Da kam Joseph” (bass)
      • 3. Aria (soprano) with chorus: “Da stiegen die Menschen an’s Licht”
      • 4. Recitative: “Er schläft, von den Sorgen seiner Welten entladen” (soprano)
      • Aria: “Hier schlummert seinen stillen Frieden der grosse Dulder” (soprano)
      • 5. Chorus and soloists: “Tot! Tot, stöhnt es durch die öde Nacht”
    • WoO 88: Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II, for solo voices, chorus and orchestra
      • 1. Recitative: “Er schlummert” – “Lasst sanft den grossen Fürsten Ruhen!” (soprano, chorus)
      • Aria: “Fliesse, Wonnezähre, fliesse!” (soprano)
      • 2. Recitative: “Ihr staunt, Völker der Erde!” (bass)
      • 3. Recitative: “Wie bebt mein Herz vor Wonne!” (tenor)
      • Trio: “Ihr, die Joseph ihren Vater nannten” (tenor, bass, soprano)
      • 4. Chorus: “Heil! Stürzet nieder, Millionen” (chorus, soloists)


  • Opus 46: “Adelaide” – song (1794–1795)
  • Opus 48: “Gellert Songs” – song set (1802)
  • Opus 52: 8 Lieder
    • no.1 Urians Reise um die Welt (before 1790?)
    • no.2 Feuerfarb (1794)
    • no.3 Das Liedchen von der Ruhe (1794)
    • no.4 Maigesang (1796)
    • no.5 Mollys Abschied (?)
    • no.6 Die Liebe (1790)
    • no.7 Marmotte (1790?)
    • no.8 Das Blümchen Wunderhold (?)
  • Opus 75: 6 Gesänge
    • no.1 Kennst du das Land
    • no.2 (2nd Version) Neue Liebe neues Leben
    • no.3 Aus Goethes Faust (Mephistos Flohlied)
    • no.4 Gretels Warnung; no.5 An den fernen Geliebten
    • no.6 Der Zufriedene
  • Opus 82: 4 Arietten und ein Duett (1809–10)
    • no.1 Dimmi ben mio che mami
    • no.2 Tintendo si mio cor
    • no.3 Lamante impaziente (Arietta buffa)
    • no.4 Lamante impaziente (Arietta assai seriosa)
    • no.5 Odi laura che dolce sospira (Duet)
  • Opus 88: “Vita felice” (1803)
  • Opus 94: “An die Hoffnung” (2nd Version, 1815)
  • Opus 98: An die ferne Geliebte – song cycle (April 1816) (“The first true song cycle in the history of music”)[5]
    • no.1 Auf dem Hügel sitz ich spähend
    • no.2 Wo die Berge so blau
    • no.3 Leichte Segler in den Höhen
    • no.4 Diese Wolken in den Höhen
    • no.5. Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au
    • no.6 Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder
  • Opus 99: Der Mann von Wort (Summer 1816)
  • Opus 100: Merkenstein (2nd setting, 1815)
  • Opus 108: Twenty-five Scottish Songs
    • No. 1 Music, love and wine
    • No. 2 Sunset
    • No. 3 O sweet were the hours
    • No. 4 The Maid of Isla
    • No. 5 The sweetest lad was Jamie
    • No. 6 Dim, dim is my eye
    • No. 7 Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie
    • No. 8 The lovely lass of Inverness
    • No. 9 Behold, my Love, how Green The Groves
    • No. 10 Sympathy
    • No. 11 Oh! thou art the lad of my heart, Willy
    • No. 12 Oh, had my fate been join′d with thine
    • No. 13 Come fill, fill, my good fellow!
    • No. 14 O, how can I be blithe and glad
    • No. 15 O cruel was my father
    • No. 16 Could this ill world have been contriv′d
    • No. 17 O Mary, at thy window be
    • No. 18 Enchantress, farewell
    • No. 19 O swiftly glides the bonny boat
    • No. 20 Faithfu′ Johnie
    • No. 21 Jeanie′s Distress
    • No. 22 The Highland Watch
    • No. 23 The Shepherd’s Song
    • No. 24 Again, my lyre, yet once again
    • No. 25 Sally in our Alley
  • Opus 128: Ariette (Der Kuss) (1798, 1822)
  • WoO 107: Achilderung eines Machens (1782)
  • WoO 118: Seufzer eines Ungeliebten – Gegenlieb (1795)
  • WoO 123: Ich liebe dich so wie du mich (Zartliche Liebe) (1795)
  • WoO 124: La partenze (1795)
  • WoO 126: Opferlied (1798)
  • WoO 129: Der Wachtelschlag (1803)
  • WoO 132: Als die Geliebte sich trennen wolte (1806)
  • WoO 133: In questa tomba oscura (1807)
  • WoO 135: Die laute Klage (1814–15)
  • WoO 136: Andenken (1808)
  • WoO 137: Gesang aus der Ferne (1809)
  • WoO 138: Der Jüngling in der Fremde (1809)
  • WoO 139: Der Liebende (1809)
  • WoO 142: Der Bardengeist (1813)
  • WoO 145: Das Geheimnis (Liebe und Wahrheit) (1815)
  • WoO 146: Sehnsucht (late 1815)
  • WoO 147: Ruf vom Berge (December 1816)
  • WoO 149: Resignation (Winter 1817)
  • WoO 150: Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel (1820)
  • WoO 108: An einen Säugling (1783)
  • WoO 109: Erhebt das Glas mit froher Hand (Trinklied beim Abschied zu singen) (1791 or 1792)
  • WoO 110: Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels (?)
  • WoO 111: Punschlied (1791 or 1792)
  • WoO 112: An Laura (1792)
  • WoO 113: Klage (1790)
  • WoO 114: Ein Selbstgespräch (1793)
  • WoO 115: An Minna (1792)
  • WoO 116: Que le temps me dure (1st version hess129; 2nd version hess130)
  • WoO 117: Der freie Mann (1794 or 1795)
  • WoO 119: Oh care selve oh cara (1794 or 1795)
  • WoO 120: Man strebt die Flamme zu verhehlen (1800 or 1801)
  • WoO 121: Abschiedsgesang an Wiens Bürger (Nov. 1796)
  • WoO 122: Kriegslied der Österreicher (April 1797)
  • WoO 125: La tiranna (1798–99)
  • WoO 127: Neue Liebe neues Leben (1798–99)
  • WoO 128: Romance (1799)
  • WoO 130: Gedenke mein! (1820)
  • WoO 134: Sehnsucht (1st–5th setting, 1807–08)
  • WoO 140: An die Geliebte (2nd–3rd version, 1811)
  • WoO 141: Der Gesang der Nachtigall (1813)
  • WoO 143: Des Kriegers Abschied (1814)
  • WoO 144: Merkenstein (1st setting 1814)
  • WoO 148: So oder so (1816–17)
  • WoO 150: Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel (Spring 1820) (“The final contribution to the medium before writing the song of the songs, that symbiosis of vocal and instrumental music that forms the final movement of the Ninth Symphony”)
  • WoO 151: Der edle Mensch (1823?)
  • Hess 133: Das liebe Kätzchen (March 1820)
  • Hess 134: Der Knabe auf dem Berge (March 1820)

Folksong Arrangements

  • Opus 108: 25 Scottish Songs
    • No. 1 Music, love and wine
    • No. 2 Sunset
    • No. 3 O sweet were the hours
    • No. 4 The Maid of Isla
    • No. 5 The sweetest lad was Jamie
    • No. 6 Dim, dim is my eye
    • No. 7 Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie
    • No. 8 The lovely lass of Inverness
    • No. 9 Behold, my Love, how Green The Groves
    • No. 10 Sympathy
    • No. 11 Oh! thou art the lad of my heart, Willy
    • No. 12 Oh, had my fate been join’d with thine
    • No. 13 Come fill, fill, my good fellow!
    • No. 14 O, how can I be blithe and glad
    • No. 15 O cruel was my father
    • No. 16 Could this ill world have been contriv’d
    • No. 17 O Mary, at thy window be
    • No. 18 Enchantress, farewell
    • No. 19 O swiftly glides the bonny boat
    • No. 20 Faithfu’ Johnie
    • No. 21 Jeanie’s Distress
    • No. 22 The Highland Watch
    • No. 23 The Shepherd’s Song
    • No. 24 Again, my lyre, yet once again
    • No. 25 Sally in our Alley
  • WoO 152: 25 Irish Songs
    • No. 1 The Return to Ulster
    • No. 2 Sweet Power of Song!
    • No. 3 Once more I hail thee
    • No. 4 The morning air plays on my face
    • No. 5 On the Massacre of Glencoe
    • No. 6 What shall I do to shew how much I love her?
    • No. 7 His boat comes on the sunny tide
    • No. 8 Come draw we round a cheerful ring
    • No. 9 Our bugles sung truce; or The Soldier’s Dream
    • No. 10 The Deserter
    • No. 11 Thou emblem of Faith (Upon returning a ring)
    • No. 12 English Bulls; or, The Irishman in London
    • No. 13 Musing on the roaring ocean
    • No. 14 Dermot and shelah
    • No. 15 Let brain-spinning swains
    • No. 16 Hide not thy anguish
    • No. 17 In vain to this desert my fate I deplore
    • No. 18 They bid me slight my Dermot Dear
    • No. 19 Wife, Children and Friends
    • No. 20 Farewell bliss and farewell Nancy
    • No. 21 Morning a cruel turmoiler is
    • No. 22 From Garyone, my happy home
    • No. 23 A wand’ring gypsey, Sirs, am I
    • No. 24 The Traugh Welcome
    • No. 25 O harp of Erin
  • WoO 153: 20 Irish Songs
    • No. 1 When Eve’s last rays in twilight die
    • No. 2 No riches from his scanty store
    • No. 3 The British Light Dragoons; or The Plain of Badajos
    • No. 4 Since greybeards inform us that youth will decay
    • No. 5 I dreamd I lay where flow’rs were springing
    • No. 6 Sad and luckless was the season
    • No. 7 O soothe me, my lyre
    • No. 8 Farewell mirth and hilarity: Norah of Balamagairy
    • No. 9 The kiss, dear maid, thy lip has left
    • No. 10 Oh! Thou hapless soldier
    • No. 11 When far from the home
    • No. 12 I’ll praise the saints with early song
    • No. 13 ’Tis sunshine at last
    • No. 14 Paddy O’Rafferty
    • No. 15 ’Tis but in vain, for nothing thrives
    • No. 16 O might I but my Patrick love!
    • No. 17 Come, Darby dear! easy be easy
    • No. 19 Judy, lovely matchless creature
    • No. 18 No more, my Mary, I sigh for splendour
    • No. 20 Thy ship must sail, my Henry dear
  • WoO 154: 12 Irish Songs
    • No. 1 The Elfin Fairies
    • No. 2 O Harp of Erin
    • No. 3 The Farewell Song
    • No. 4 The pulse of an Irishman
    • No. 5 O who, my dear Dermot
    • No. 6 Put round the bright wine
    • No. 7 From Garyon, my happy home
    • No. 8 Save me from the grave and wise
    • No. 9 O would I were but that sweet linnet!
    • No. 10 The hero may perish
    • No. 11 The soldier in A Foreign Land
    • No. 12 He promised me at parting
  • WoO 157: 12 Songs Of Various Nationalities
    • No. 1 God save the King
    • No. 2 The Soldier
    • No. 3 Charlie is my darling
    • No. 4 O sanctissima
    • No. 5 The Miller of Dee
    • No. 6 A health to the brave
    • No. 7 Robin Adair
    • No. 8 By the side of the Shannon
    • No. 9 Highlander’s Lament
    • No. 10 Sir Johnnie Cope
    • No. 11 The wandering minstrel
    • No. 12 La gondoletta
  • WoO 155: 26 Welsh Songs
    • No. 1 Sion, The Son of Evan
    • No. 2 The Monks of Bangor’s March
    • No. 3 The Cottage Maid
    • No. 4 Love without hope
    • No. 5 The Golden Robe
    • No. 6 The Fair Maid of Mona
    • No. 7 O let the night my blushes hide
    • No. 8 Farewell, thou noisy town
    • No. 9 To the Aeolian Harp
    • No. 10 Ned Pugh’s Farewell
    • No. 11 Merch Megan; or, Peggy’s Daughter
    • No. 12 Waken, lords and ladies gay
    • No. 13 Helpless Woman
    • No. 14 The Dream
    • No. 15 When mortals all to rest retire
    • No. 16 The Damsels of Cardigan
    • No. 17 The Dairy House
    • No. 18 Sweet Richard
    • No. 19 The Vale of Clwyd
    • No. 20 To the Blackbird
    • No. 21 Cupid’s kindness
    • No. 22 Constancy
    • No. 23 The Old Strain
    • No. 24 Three Hundred Pounds
    • No. 25 The Parting Kiss
    • No. 26 Good Night
  • WoO 156: 12 Scottish Songs
    • No. 1 The Banner of Buccleuch
    • No. 2 Duncan Grey
    • No. 3 Up! quit thy bower
    • No. 4 Ye shepherds of this pleasant vale
    • No. 5 Cease your funning
    • No. 6 Highland Harry
    • No. 7 Polly Stewart
    • No. 8 Womankind
    • No. 9 Lochnagar
    • No. 10 Glencoe
    • No. 11 Auld Lang Syne
    • No. 12 The Quaker’s Wife
  • WoO 158b: 7 British Songs
    • No. 1 Adieu, my Lov’d harp
    • No. 2 Castle O’Neill
    • No. 3 O was not I a weary wight! (Oh ono chri!)
    • No. 4 Red gleams the sun on yon hill tap
    • No. 5 Erin! O Erin!
    • No. 6 O Mary, yes be clad in silk
    • No. 7 Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill
  • WoO 158c: 6 Songs Of Various Nationalities
    • No. 1 When my hero in court appears
    • No. 2 Non, non, Colette n’est point trompeuse
    • No. 3 Mark yonder pomp of costly fashion
    • No. 4 Bonnie wee thing
    • No. 5 From thee, Eliza, I must go
    • No. 6 Untitled
  • WoO 158a: 23 Songs Of Various Nationalities
    • No. 1 Ridder Stigs Runer
    • No. 2 Horch auf, mein Liebchen
    • No. 3 Wegen meiner bleib d’Fraula
    • No. 4 Wann i in der Früh aufsteh
    • No. 5 Teppichkramer-Lied
    • No. 6 A Madel, ja a madel
    • No. 7 Wer solche Buema afipackt
    • No. 8 Ih mag di nit nehma
    • No. 9 Oj, oj upilem sie w karczmie
    • No. 10 Poszla baba po popiol
    • No. 11 Yo no quiero embarcarme
    • No. 12 Seus lindos olhos
    • No. 13 Vo lesocke komarockov mnogo urodilos’
    • No. 14 Akh, Rrecen’ki recen’ki
    • No. 15 Kak posli nasi podruzki
    • No. 16 Schone Minka, ich muss scheiden
    • No. 17 Lilla Car (Vaggvisa)
    • No. 18 An ä Bergli bin i gesasse
    • No. 19 Una paloma blanca
    • No. 20 Como la mariposa soy
    • No. 21 Tiranilla Espanola
    • No. 22 Edes kinos emlekezet (Magyar Szuretölö Enek)
    • No. 23 Da brava, Catina

Secular Vocal Works

  • Opus 65: Ah! Perfido
  • Opus 116: Tremate empi tremate
  • Opus 118: Elegiac Song
  • Opus 121b: Sacrificial Song
  • Opus 122: Song of Fellowship
  • WoO 89: Prüfung des Küssens
  • WoO 92: Mit Mädeln sich vertragen
  • WoO 92: Primo amore
  • WoO 92a: No non turbarti
  • WoO 93: Ne giorni tuoi felici
  • WoO 95: Chor for the Allied Princes
  • WoO 99
    • No. 1 Bei labbri che amore (Hess 211)
    • No. 2 Chi mai di questo core Hess 214)
    • No. 3a Fra tutte le pene
    • No. 3b Fra tutte le pene (Hess 225)
    • No. 3c Fra tutte le pene (1st version)
    • No. 4a Gia la notte savvicina (Hess 222)
    • No. 4b Gia la notte savvicina (Hess 223)
    • No. 5a Giura il nocchier (Hess 221) (2nd version)
    • No. 5b Giura il nocchier (Hess 227)
    • No. 6 Ma tu tremi (Hess 212)
    • No. 7a Nei campi e nelle selve (Hess 217) (1st version)
    • No. 7a Nei campi e nelle selve (Hess 217) (2nd version)
    • No. 9 Per te d’amico aprile (Hess 216)
    • No. 10a Quella cetra ah pur tu sei (Hess 213) (1st version)
    • No. 10b Quella cetra ah pur tu sei (Hess 218)
    • No. 10c Quella cetra ah pur tu sei (Hess 219) (2nd version)
    • No. 11 Scrivo in te (Hess 215)
  • WoO 102: Song of Farewell
  • WoO 103: Rural Cantata
  • WoO 104: The Monks Song
  • WoO 105: Wedding Song
  • WoO 106: Lobkowitz-Kantate
  • WoO 100: Lob auf den Dicken
  • WoO 101: Graf, liebster Graf
  • WoO 159: Im Arm der Liebe ruht sich’s wohl
  • WoO 161: Ewig Dein
  • WoO 163: Kurz ist der Schmerz
  • WoO 164: Freundschaft ist die Quelle wahrer Glückseligkeit
  • WoO 165: Gluck zum neuen Jahr!
  • WoO 166: Kurz ist der Schmerz
  • WoO 167: Brauchle Linke
  • WoO 168/2: Das Schweigen
  • WoO 168/2: Das Reden
  • WoO 169: Ich küsse sie
  • WoO 170: Ars longa, vita brevis
  • WoO 172: Ich bitt’ dich, schreib mir die es-skala auf
  • WoO 173: Hol euch der Teufel! B’hüt euch Gott!
  • WoO 174: Glaube und Hoffe!
  • WoO 175: Sankt Petrus war ein Fels!
  • WoO 176: Glück zum neuen Jahr!
  • WoO 177: Bester Magistrat, Ihr friert!
  • WoO 178: Signor Abate!
  • WoO 179: Alles Gute
  • WoO 180: Hoffman, sei ja kein Hofmann
  • WoO 182: O Tobias!
  • WoO 183: Bester Herr Graf, Sie sind ein Schaf!
  • WoO 184: Falstafferel, lass dich sehen!
  • WoO 185: Edel sei der Mensch
  • WoO 186: Te solo adoro
  • WoO 187: Schwenke dich ohne Schwanke!
  • WoO 188: Gott ist eine feste Burg
  • WoO 189: Doktor, sperrt das Tor dem Tod
  • WoO 190: Ich war hier Doktor, Ich war hier
  • WoO 191: Kühl, nicht Lau
  • WoO 192: Ars longa, vita brevis
  • WoO 193: Ars longa, vita brevis
  • WoO 194: Si non per portas, per muros
  • WoO 195: Freu dich des Lebens!
  • WoO 196: Es muss sein!
  • WoO 197: Da ist das Werk
  • WoO 198: Wir irren allesamt
  • WoO 202: Das Schöne zum Guten!
  • WoO 203: Das Schöne zu dem Guten!
  • Hess 231: Sei mio ben
  • Hess 228: Salvo tu vuoi lo sposo?
  • Hess 210: Fra tutte le pene (2nd version)
  • Hess 230: Giura il nocchier (1st version)
  • Hess 276: Herr Graf, ich komme zu fragen
  • Hess 277: Esel aller Esel

Music for Wind Band

List of works by number

The following is a list of Beethoven’s works, sorted by Opus number, followed by works listed as WoO in the Kinsky-Halm catalog, and then works listed in the appendix of that catalog, which are given “Anh” numbers, whose composition by Beethoven has since been verified. These are followed by additional works listed in the catalog of Willy Hess that are not otherwise listed in the Kinsky-Halm catalog. The chronologically comprehensive Biamonti Catalogue is not listed here.

Works with opus numbers

Works without opus numbers

Works with WoO numbers

The numbers and categories used below are from the Kinsky catalog of 1955. WoO is an abbreviation of “Werke ohne Opuszahl”, German for “Works without Opus number”.

Instrumental works: WoO 1–86
Orchestral works

Orchestra alone

  • WoO 1: Musik zu einem Ritterballett (Music for a ballet on horseback) – eight movements
  • WoO 2a: Triumphal March for orchestra for Christoph Kuffner‘s tragedy Tarpeja (1813)
  • WoO 2b: Prelude to Act II of Tarpeja (1813)
  • WoO 3: “Gratulations-Menuett”, minuet for orchestra



  • WoO 7: Twelve minuets for orchestra
  • WoO 8: Twelve German Dances for orchestra (later arranged for piano)
  • WoO 9: Six minuets for two violins and cello
  • WoO 10: Six minuets for orchestra (original version lost, only an arrangement for piano is extant)
  • WoO 11: Seven Ländler for two violins and cello (original version lost, only an arrangement for piano is extant)
  • WoO 12: Twelve minuets for orchestra (probably spurious, actually by Beethoven’s brother Carl)
  • WoO 13: Twelve German Dances for orchestra (only a version for piano is extant)
  • WoO 14: Twelve contredanses for orchestra
  • WoO 15: Six Ländler for two violins and cello (also arranged for piano)
  • WoO 16: Twelve Écossaises for orchestra (probably spurious)
  • WoO 17: Eleven “Mödlinger Tänze” for seven instruments (probably spurious)

Marches and dances for winds

  • WoO 18: March for Military Band “For the Bohemian Ward” (trio added later)
  • WoO 19: March for Military Band (trio added later)
  • WoO 20: March for Military Band “Zapfenstreich” (trio added later)
  • WoO 21: Polonaise for Military Band
  • WoO 22: Écossaise for Military Band
  • WoO 23: Écossaise for Military Band (only a piano arrangement by Carl Czerny is extant)
  • WoO 24: March for Military Band
Chamber works

Without piano

  • WoO 25: Rondo for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons (original finale of the Octet, opus 103) (1792)
  • WoO 26: Duo for two flutes
  • WoO 27: Three duets for clarinet and bassoon (possibly spurious)
  • WoO 28: Variations for two oboes and cor anglais on “Là ci darem la mano” from Mozart‘s opera Don Giovanni
  • WoO 29: March for Wind Sextet in E-flat (2 clarinets, 2 horns & 2 bassoons)
  • WoO 30: Three Equale for four trombones – Vocal arrangements of these were performed at Beethoven’s funeral.
  • WoO 31: Fugue for organ
  • WoO 32: Duo for viola and cello, “mit zwei obligaten Augengläsern” (“with two obbligato eyeglasses”)
  • WoO 33: Five pieces for mechanical clock or flute
  • WoO 34: Duet for two violins
  • WoO 35: Canon for two violins

With piano

Piano works for 2 or 4 hands

Sonatas and single-movement works

  • WoO 47: Three piano sonatas (E-flat major, F minor, D major) (“Kurfürsten Sonatas”) (1783)
  • WoO 48: Rondo for piano in C major (1783)
  • WoO 49: Rondo for piano in A major (1783)
  • WoO 50: Piano Sonata in F major (1790–92)
  • WoO 51: Piano Sonata in C major (1797–98, fragment) completed Ferdinand Ries, 1830
  • WoO 52: Presto (Bagatelle) for piano in C minor (1795, rev. 1798 and 1822)
  • WoO 53: Allegretto (Bagatelle) for piano in C minor (1796–97)
  • WoO 54: Lustig-Traurig (Bagatelle) for piano in C major (1802)
  • WoO 55: Prelude for piano in F minor (1803)
  • WoO 56: Allegretto (Bagatelle) for piano in C major (1803, rev. 1822))
  • WoO 57: Andante Favori – original middle movement from Piano Sonata No. 21 (Waldstein) (1805)
  • WoO 58: Cadenzas for 1st and 3rd movements of Mozart’s D minor Piano Concerto (K. 466)
  • WoO 59: Poco moto (Bagatelle) for piano in A minor, “Für Elise” (c. 1810))
  • WoO 60: Ziemlich lebhaft (Bagatelle) for piano in B-flat major (1818))
  • WoO 61: Allegretto for piano in B minor (1821)
  • WoO 61a: Allegretto quasi andante for piano in G minor (1825)
  • WoO 62: String Quintet in C major (Fragment, Piano Transcription)



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  • WoO 81: Allemande for piano in A major
  • WoO 82: Minuet for piano in E-flat major
  • WoO 83: Six Écossaises for piano and orchestra in E-flat major
  • WoO 84: Waltz for piano in E-flat major
  • WoO 85: Waltz for piano in D major
  • WoO 86: Écossaise for piano in E-flat major
Vocal works: WoO 87–205
Cantatas, choruses and arias with orchestra
  • WoO 87: Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II
  • WoO 88: Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II
  • WoO 89: Aria “Prüfung des Küssens”
  • WoO 90: Aria “Mit Mädeln sich vertragen”
  • WoO 91: Two arias for Die Schöne Schusterin (1795)
  • WoO 92: Aria “Primo Amore”
  • WoO 92a: Aria “No, non turbati”
  • WoO 93: Duet “Nei giorni tuoi felice”
  • WoO 94: “Germania,” aria with chorus in B-flat major (1814)
  • WoO 95: Chorus for the Congress of Vienna
  • WoO 96: Incidental Music to Leonore Prohaska (1815)
  • WoO 97: “Es ist vollbracht” for Die Ehrenpforten (1815)
  • WoO 98: “Wo sich die Pulse,” chorus for The Consecration of the House
Works for multiple voices with piano accompaniment, or unaccompanied
  • WoO 99: Italian Partsongs
  • WoO 100: Musical joke for three voices “Lob auf den Dicken”
  • WoO 101: Musical joke for three voices and chorus “Graf, Graf, liebster Graf”
  • WoO 102: Chorus for male voices “Abschiedsgesang”
  • WoO 103: Cantata Un lieto Brindisi
  • WoO 104: “Gesang der Mönche” from Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell for three male voices
  • WoO 105: Song for solo voice, chorus and piano “Hochzeitslied”
  • WoO 106: Birthday Cantata for Prince Lobkowitz
Lieder and songs for solo voice and piano
  • WoO 107–130: Twenty-four songs
  • WoO 131: Unfinshed song “Erlkönig”
  • WoO 132: Song “Als die Geliebte sich trennen wollte”
  • WoO 133: Song “In questa tomba oscura”
  • WoO 134: Song “Sehnsucht” in four settings
  • WoO 135–151: Seventeen Songs
Folksong arrangements for one or more voices, with piano trio accompaniment
  • WoO 152: Twenty-five Irish folksongs
  • WoO 153: Twenty Irish folksongs
  • WoO 154: Twelve Irish folksongs
  • WoO 155: Twenty-six Welsh folksongs
  • WoO 156: Twelve Scottish folksongs
  • WoO 157: Twelve folksongs of various nationalities
  • WoO 158a: Twenty-three continental folksongs
  • WoO 158b: Seven British folksongs
  • WoO 158c: Six assorted folksongs
  • WoO 158d: “Air Français”
Vocal canons
  • WoO 159–198: Forty-three Canons
Musical jokes, quips, and dedications
  • WoO 199: Musical joke “Ich bin der Herr von zu”
  • WoO 200: Piano Exercise “O Hoffnung!”
  • WoO 201: Musical joke “Ich bin bereit!”
  • WoO 202: Riddle canon “Das Schöne zu dem Guten” (first version)
  • WoO 203: Riddle canon “Das Schöne zu dem Guten” (second version)
  • WoO 204: Musical joke “Holz, Holz, Geigt die Quartette So”
  • WoO 205: Ten musical quips (Kinsky’s word is “Notenscherze”) from Beethoven’s letters

Works with Anhang (Anh) numbers

These are works from the Appendix (Anhang in German) of Kinsky’s catalog that were attributed to Beethoven at the time the catalog was compiled, but might not have been written by him.

  • Anh 1: Symphony in C major (“Jena“) – now attributed to Friedrich Witt
  • Anh 2: Six string quartets
  • Anh 3: Piano Trio in D major
  • Anh 4: Flute Sonata in B-flat major
  • Anh 5: Two Piano Sonatinas: Sonatina in G major and Sonatina in F major
  • Anh 6: Rondo for piano in B-flat major

Anh 7 through 18 are works known by Kinsky to not have been written by Beethoven, but that were previously falsely attributed to him.

Selected works with Hess (H) numbers

These works have numbers that were assigned by Willy Hess. Many of the works in the Hess catalog also have WoO numbers; those entries are not listed here.

  • H 12: Oboe Concerto in F (lost; only incipits and draft of 2nd movement extant)
  • H 13: Romance in E minor for 3 soloists and orchestra
  • H 15: Piano Concerto No. 6 in D major (unfinished)
  • H 19: Wind quintet in E-flat major
  • H 28: Movement in A-flat major for string trio
  • H 29: Prelude and Fugue for String Quartet
  • H 30: Prelude and Fugue for String Quartet (1794–95)
  • H 31: Prelude and Fugue for String Quartet (1794–95)
  • H 32: String Quartet in F major (1799)
  • H 33: Minuet for string quartet (1790–92)
  • H 34: String Quartet arrangement of Opus 14 No. 1 (1801–02)
  • H 36: Handel Fugue arranged for String Quartet (1798)
  • H 38: Bach Fugue arranged for String Quartet
  • H 39: String Quintet in F major (lost)
  • H 40: Movement in D minor for String Quintet
  • H 46: Violin Sonata in A major
  • H 48: Allegretto in E-flat major for piano trio

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  • H 61: Anglaise in D major for Piano
  • H 64: Fugue for keyboard
  • H 65: Concerto excerpt (arrangement of Opus 37)
  • H 68: Ländler in C minor
  • H 69: Bagatelle in C minor for piano
  • H 87: March for piano (arrangement of WoO 29)
  • H 88: Minuet for piano (arrangement of Hess 33)
  • H 89: Musik zu einem Ritterballett (Music for a ballet of knights) (piano arrangement of WoO 1)
  • H 90: The Creatures of Prometheus (piano arrangement of Opus 43)
  • H 91: Opferlied (piano arrangement of Opus 121b)
  • H 92: Bundeslied (piano arrangement of Opus 122)
  • H 93: “Freudvoll” (piano accompaniment for Opus 84)
  • H 97: Wellington’s Victory (“Battle Symphony”) (piano arrangement of Opus 91)
  • H 99: March for piano (arrangement of WoO 18)
  • H 107: Grenadier’s March
  • H 108: Wellington’s Victory (“Battle Symphony”) (panharmonicon arrangement of Opus 91)
  • H 115: Vestas Feuer (unfinished Opera) (1803)
  • H 118: Music for The Consecration of the House (from Opus 113)
  • H 133: Folksong
  • H 134: Folksong
  • H 137: Song “Ich wiege dich” (lost)
  • H 139: Song “Minnesold” (lost)
  • H 143: Song “An die Freude” (lost)
  • H 152–207: Folksong settings
  • H 208–232: Italian partsongs
  • H 233–246: Counterpoint exercises
  • H 274–277: Four Canons
  • H 297: Adagio for three horns
  • H 300–301: Two Canons

Works with Biamonti Numbers

  • B838: Overture to Macbeth
  • Beethoven is believed to have intended to write the opera Macbeth; a performing version of possible sketches was assembled by Albert Willem Holsbergen between 1999–2001. The premiere performance of the Beethoven Macbeth Overture was by the National Symphony Orchestra on September 20–22, 2001, under the direction of Leonard Slatkin