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Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)
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The composer came of a musical family; for his grandfather was Kapellmeister, and his father, a tenor singer, filled a small musical post at Cologne. He was born at Bonn in December 1770. His father had become a confirmed toper, and the boy suffered in consequence. The father had heard of the prodigy Mozart, and the money he had brought his parents, and he conceived the notion of exploiting his own son in the same way. Thus he kept him slaving at the piano and thrashed him when he did not practice long enough. There are stories of the sot coming home late and dragging the little fellow out of bed to go to the keyboard. This degraded specimen ended his life by his own hand, but not before his conduct had cast a gloom over his son’s youth which greatly affected his after years.
Beethoven seems to have had no regular course of instruction in Bonn, but when he was seventeen he went to Vienna and had some lessons from Mozart. Later on, he had lessons from Haydn; but the two did not get on well together, their natures being totally different. Beethoven finally left Bonn when he was twenty-two, and settled in Vienna, where he gradually made a name for himself. He began to appear in public as a player and in 1796 played before the King in Berlin, but he soon gave up playing for composing.
His first works were roundly abused by the critics—even some that we now regard as among his. greatest creations. Weber said of the Seventh Symphony that its composer was “quite ripe for the madhouse”. Then, when deafness came upon him—the tragedy of his life—the sapient fellows found that the “horrors of sound” in his works were due to the fact that he could not hear them himself. When “Fidelio” was first performed, it was said that never before had anything so incoherent, coarse, wild, and ear-splitting been heard! Of course, the deafness had nothing to do with it. Beethoven, like all really great composers, was simply before his time.
But the deafness had a great deal to do with Beethoven himself. It turned him into a wretched misanthrope and well-nigh caused him to end his life. Indirectly it prevented him from marrying. In the theatre, he had to lay his ears close to the orchestra in order to understand the actors, and the higher notes of the instruments and voices he could not hear at as when only a little distance away. “Fidelio’ was begun in 1804 and the affliction, first evidenced in 1798, had become acute four years before that. We need not dwell on it. From the time of his deafness onwards, he was constantly adding to the world’s stores of the best in music. His humour was of the sardonic kind, as when he sent a tuft of hair from a goat’s bearded to a lady admirer, who had asked for a strand from his own leonine locks. When lying on his death-bed he had to be tapped. “Better water from the body than from the pen,” he observed to the doctor. When he realized that his end was near, he said to those around him: “Clap hands, friends; the play is over.” And so, on the 26th of March, 1827, this great master of tone went out to the darkness of the Silent Land.
1. On the basis of your reading of the above passage, complete the following statements briefly:
(a) Beethoven’s father _____________
(b) The father ended his life by
(c) The effect it had on Beethoven’s youth was _____________
(d) The response to Fidelio was _____________
2.Answer the following questions briefly:
(a) What effect did Beethoven’s deafness have on him?
(b) What kind of a person Beethoven was?
3. Find words from the passage which mean the same as the words given below:
(a) Great musician (para 1)
(b) Scornful or bitter (para 4)
1.(a) had become a confirmed topper
(b) committing suicide
(c) that he became morose and cynic
(d) totally negative and it was viewed as incoherent, coarse, wild and ear-splitting
2.(a) It resulted in his creating very loud sounds in his musical compositions.
(b) He was a misanthrope.
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