About this Recording

Chill with Beethoven

Beethoven is often portrayed as an angry, wild and passionate figure whose music exemplifies the antithesis of all things calm, peaceful and contemplative. Chill with Beethoven is a collection of some of the most beautiful, wistful and romantic melodies ever penned by a classical composer. Beethoven was a giant in the history of western classical music, and his compositions (including nine symphonies, five piano concertos, ten violin sonatas, thirty-two piano sonatas) are often seen as the bridge between the restrained delicate music of the Classical period he inherited from Haydn and Mozart to the stormy Romantic music that was to follow with composers such as Brahms, Bruckner and Schumann.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne, and the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinguished musical reputation lived on in the family. In 1789, his mother now dead, young Ludwig van Beethoven took over responsibility for the family and his two younger brothers.

At home Beethoven had received erratic practical training in music, but was able to follow a more consistent course of study from 1781 with the court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe. In 1784 he entered the service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist and playing the viola in the court orchestra, as occasion demanded. In 1788 he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart, but was recalled to Bonn by news of his mother's final illness. In 1792 he went to Vienna once more, this time to study with Haydn. He remained there for the rest of his life.

Beethoven established himself in Vienna at first as a virtuoso keyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisation at the keyboard and composition. He was helped by lessons from Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. His lessons from Haydn proved less satisfactory. Armed with suitable introductions, he was able to make influential friends among the aristocracy and it was with their support that he continued his career in Vienna, even when increasing deafness made performance at first difficult and eventually impossible.

It is a tribute to the discernment of Beethoven's patrons that they perceived his genius, in spite of his wildness and increasing eccentricities of character partially due to the frustrations of his deafness. In Vienna, Beethoven lived through turbulent times. He died in March 1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a long familiar figure whose like the city was not to see again.

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