The Life of Ludwig Van BeethovenThe rise of Ludwig van Beethoven into the ranks of history’s greatestcomposers was paralleled by and in some ways a consequence of his ownpersonal tragedy and despair. Beginning in the late 1790’s, the increasingbuzzing and humming in his ears sent Beethoven into a panic, searching fora cure from doctor to doctor. By October 1802 he had written theHeiligenstadt Testament confessing the certainty of his growing deafness,his consequent despair, and suicidal considerations. Yet, despite thepersonal tragedy caused by the “infirmity in the one sense which ought tobe more perfect in [him] than in others, a sense which [he] once possessedin the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in [his] professionenjoy,” it also served as a motivating force in that it challenged him totry and conquer the fate that was handed him. He would not surrender tothat “jealous demon, my wretched health” before proving to himself and theworld the extent of his skill. Thus, faced with su!ch great impending loss,Beethoven, keeping faith in his art and ability, states in hisHeiligenstadt Testament a promise of his greatness yet to be proven in thedevelopment of his heroic style.
By about 1800, Beethoven was mastering the Viennese High-Classic style.Although the style had been first perfected by Mozart, Beethoven did extendit to some degree. He had unprecedently composed sonatas for the cellowhich in combination with the piano opened the era of the Classic-Romanticcello sonata. In addition, his sonatas for violin and piano became thecornerstone of the sonata duo repertory. His experimentation with additionsto the standard forms likewise made it apparent that he had reached thelimits of the high-Classic style. Having displayed the extended range ofhis piano writing he was also begining to forge a new voice for the violin.In 1800, Beethoven was additionally combining the sonata form with a fullorchestra in his First Symphony, op. 2. In the arena of piano sonata, hehad also gone beyond the three-movement design of Haydn and Mozart,applying sometimes the four-movement design reserved for symphonies andquartets through the addition of a minuet or scherzo. Having confidentlyproven the high-Classic phase of his sonata development with the “GrandeSonate,” op. 22, Beethoven moved on to the fantasy sonata to allow himselffreer expression. By 1802, he had evidently succeeded in mastering thehigh-Classic style within each of its major instrumental genres-the pianotrio, string trio, string quartet and quintet, Classic piano concerto, duosonata, piano sonata, and symphony. Having reached the end of the great