BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven is accepted by many as the greatest composer who ever lived. He was born in Bonn in December 1770, and his musical talents were obvious from an early age. He was taught at first by his father (who proved to be a hard task master – often reducing the lad to tears). He moved to Vienna in his early twenties to study under Haydn, and quickly established himself as a virtuoso pianist. In his earlier years he was happy studying and performing, but he turned to composition when he found himself going progressively deaf. Indeed he became little more than a recluse in later life because he feared ridicule. Nevertheless, he revolutionised classical composition, breaking many rules which had been sacrosanct for centuries, and he influenced every major composer who followed him.

His composition output was enormous with a huge number of very high quality pieces including symphonies and piano concertos, of which his 5th piano concerto and his 5th and 7th symphonies would be most people’s favourites.

Leonore No. 3 was his third attempt to write an overture for his only opera Fidelio. His first and subsequent attempts were criticised as too “heavy”, and, after three goes, he changed direction (he was reported as saying that he composed four overtures for one opera, while Rossini composed one overture for fifty opera! Whether true or not, Fidelio was not well received, and he withdrew the score after a few performances - he had been offered a sum of money for the rights, but regretted declining.) Leonore was the name of the heroine in the storyline. Nowadays, the opera is regularly performed, and Leonore No. 3 is often played on the concert circuit.