Introduction

 

‘..we stand weeping over the broken strings of an instrument now silenced…’ These were words written by the poet Franz Grillparzer and spoken at the funeral of perhaps the greatest composer of them all; Ludwig van Beethoven, ‘the master’.

A life of illness and tragedy; a life of lovelessness and the slow descent into the silence of deafness; a brilliant composer taken to the edge of the abyss and, in a single document, drawn back by his incredible desire to conquer the fates and express himself in his music.

For a composer to leave such a legacy of beautiful music which is still studied and revered throughout the world, is a testimony to his greatness and perseverance. Reading his letters reveals just how wretched his life really was. Never driven by money or prestige, but reliant on both for strength, he became ever more powerful as the effects of his deafness closed in. Beethoven’s painful withdrawal from the society he craved simply powered his genius to greater heights.

Music was Beethoven’s language. Known to stare at listeners when he played as if attempting to communicate directly to them through his music, his music was him – it was what he believed.

Biographies of ‘the master’ tell us the lurid details of his life but somehow seem to forget the man. Musicologists that analyse the scores and detail the subtle expressions, can leave us cold with their bland assessments of form and phrase. But Beethoven was a real person who lived every day of his life. There are copious comments from people who met him and who spent time which him which are perhaps more revealing of the man than his letters could ever be.

These 101 facts attempt to show the man as he was; what did he think of others; who influenced him; what did other people think of him.

Beethoven the man, the composer, the master.