Beethoven & Romanticism, Essay Example
Usually classified as a Classical composer, many music historians and theorists argue that he should be considered a Romantic composer. The argument is not without merit considering that many of Beethoven’s works were either considered romances or he titled them as such himself. For example, Beethoven’s Romance no.1 for Violin in G, Romance no.2 for Violin in F, Opus 40 and 50, were all recognized as romances by the public and Beethoven due to their light tone and natural seductive delivery (Artsalive.ca., 2012). These mentioned works were also made between 1798 and 1802, which is considered to be the start of the Romantic period. In 1798, Beethoven was 28 years old, the years between 1800 and 1811 are largely considered Beethoven’s prime years as a composer and the Romantic era is documented as happening between 1798 and 1832 (Melanie, 2009). Another fact that puts Beethoven in the place of this artistic shift between Classicism and Romanticism is the fact that he originally stemmed from Germany. Despite what many might assume about the correlation between the Romantic era and the countries of the romance languages, Romanticism originated in England and Germany, Beethoven’s stomping grounds. The fact that Romanticism started in the same vicinity of Beethoven’s upbringing implies, he started it himself, contributed to its culmination, or was influenced by the movement.
Ludwig van Beethoven is undoubtedly one of the few authentic genius classical musicians, but it could be argued he composed Romantic music in classical style. Throughout his career, Beethoven composed 32 piano sonatas and 5 piano concertos, 9 symphonies, 10 violin sonatas, many string quartets, not forgetting many other works (Melanie, 2009). The reason why Beethoven must be viewed as a Romantic composer is because his works broke away from classical style. This is especially true when looking at his symphonies. “Beethoven’s movement away from Classicism and toward Romanticism is clearest in his symphonies. Before Beethoven, symphonies, originating in courtly dances like the minuet, had conformed to the ideals of Classicism with rigid structure and rational form (Artsalive.ca., 2012).” Beethoven’s music adopted a more liberating free spirited tone that was fluid and transitional and largely the reason why his works have survived to this day. The confines of Classicism did not allow for such freedom, and in order for the musicians and artists near the close of the 1700’s to progress into the next era new ground had to be set. The author goes on to note that, “Beethoven’s Romantic symphonies broke out of those confines and became large, sometimes epic structures that told a story and plumbed emotional depths (Artsalive.ca, 2012).” The emotional drive of his work is the epitome of what the Romantic era was about. The feeling that one should break away from structural norms and run free with emotions and passions, was considered a natural sentiment. It became a natural sentiment during the time, largely because of the works of Beethoven.
In sum, in order for one to pose the argument that Beethoven was not a Romantic composer but a Classical one, they must first make the point that one of the most renowned genius composers of all time, played no part in contributing to the most significant artistic movement of his generation that originated in his homeland during the prime of his professional life. It’s possible, but it’s a very hard sell.
Artsalive.ca. (2012). Retrieved from http://artsalive.ca/pdf/mus/beethoven_all_e.pdf
Melani, L. (2009, February 12). Brooklyn college. Retrieved from http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/rom.html
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