Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th Birthday: An Ode to Passion and Perseverance
Could you ever imagine becoming a musician without being able to listen?
250 years ago, the world saw the birth of a musical “wunderkind”: Beethoven, undoubtedly the most famous composer of all times. His composition “Ode to Joy” has been adopted as the European anthem. In fact, the 9th Symphony is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
We know that he was a gifted pianist. But what lay beyond his natural genius? Beethoven was born on 16th or 17th December 1770 (the exact date is unknown) in Bonn to musicians’ family. His success story is full of struggle and one that runs despite several health issues and family troubles. Even after 250 years, his life and legacy continue to teach us several lessons.
Music was Beethoven’s only formal education. His father, a mediocre courthouse musician, was a strict teacher and someone who demanded much more than a 5-year-old child standing on a footstool could handle. Young Beethoven was passionate about music, endured his father’s demands, and put in long hours to practice.
He gave his first public performance at 7, and at the age of 14, became the court’s second organist.
For me, what matters here is that Beethoven could not have persevered at music for so many years, despite all the pressures, if he did not truly love pursuing it.
Beethoven’s father, though tyrannical, identified his son’s talent and exposed him to a network of renowned teachers and musicians. Late in 1786, Beethoven moved to Vienna to study under Mozart and lived there from January through April 1787.
His teacher, Mozart, reportedly said about Beethoven: “Watch this young man; he will yet make a noise in the world.” Beethoven also studied under the renowned classical composer Haydn in Vienna. His life in Vienna exposed him to the world of grand concerts with aristocrats and their families.
In 1798, the young virtuoso went on a concert tour, which included Prague, Dresden, and Berlin performances. This tour was critical and won him fame and fortune. In just a short time, Beethoven had become a successful and independent composer in Vienna.
He earned financial rewards through paid positions with the court, publishing contracts, and concert revenue.
Being in the city of Vienna opened several options for Beethoven to pursue his passion and share his music with his patrons.
Beginning in 1812, Beethoven’s life situation began to deteriorate dramatically. He suffered personal losses, family problems, ill-health. He began to lose his hearing. This culmination of personal crisis led him to focus on composing piano sonatas and, later, Symphonies.
The world premiere of his 9th Symphony, Op. 125, came on May 7, 1824. This “late period” is also where he produced some of his finest work. Beethoven had to make choices- his situations had changed, and so did his priorities.
Throughout his lifetime, he has given the world more than 650 compositions.
His legacy lives on as a composer and incredible artist who persevered to make beautiful music for all of us to hear even though he could not hear his own notes.
Beethoven is one example of how passion, options, roadmap and attitude can make your life and career meaningful.
This article is part of a personal project I am working on called “What Matters.” It is a series of four YoutTube videos about career, passion, options and success that aim to help young professionals and those facing unprecedented professional challenges during the current times. You can access the series here.
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