Ludwig van Beethoven—a music appreciation lesson for kids


Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven in 1820
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist. He is one of the most famous composers of all time. His musical style was in between the classical period and the romantic.

Beethoven was a virtuoso (really good) pianist. He composed a lot of piano music, and of course he performed his own music. His 32 piano sonatas are specially famous. You may have heard about the Moonlight sonata, the Appassionata, or the Pathétique.

When Beethoven wasn't yet quite 30 years old, his hearing began to grow worse. Eventually he begame totally deaf and could not hear a thing! However, because he knew how music sounded like, he was able to "hear" the music in his mind even when he didn't hear it physically. So, he was able to continue to compose music until his death, but he could not perform as well as before. The last time he performed in public was in 1811, when he tried (but failed) to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the "Emperor").

Beethoven composed nine symphonies, the most famous being the fifth symphony. He also composed one opera called Fidelio, string quartets, concertos for solo instruments, string trios, and more.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven in 1803

Beethoven never married, although he tried to propose marriage to some women. It appears that several women turned him down because of him being a "common" person, and not of nobility. He also had some interesting personality traits. For example, he stopped performing at the piano if the audience chatted amongst themselves, or gave him less than their full attention. Archduke Rudolph said that the usual rules of court etiquette did not apply to Beethoven. Stomach problems and increasing deafness also made him irritable.

Videos of Beethoven's music

Beethoven's music is full of emotions: it can be angry and stormy, or peaceful and beautiful. Use the resources below to listen to at least two pieces of Beethoven's music. When you listen, imagine and try to visualize (see) in your mind what the music is depicting. What can you see or feel when listening to the music? How might have Beethoven felt when he composed this -- angry, joyous, passionate, calm, fearful, loving, etc. etc.?

You can also draw on paper what you see in your mind. Compare your thoughts and feelings with those around you.

Für Elise (For Elise) is a relatively easy piece for piano, so most piano students know it. Performed here by a 9-year-old Brandon.
Listen to Beethoven's famous Moonlight Sonata. It is a very peaceful piece. (Sonata #14, Movement 2, Adagio sostenuto)
The FAMOUS fifth symphony, 1st movement! Its opening theme is very well-known. Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel
Yehudi Menuhin plays Beethoven violin concerto (sampler), and an excerpt from a violin and piano sonata by Beethoven with Glenn Gould.
Beethoven Sonata No. 23, 1st movement, performed by Valentina Lisitsa. This sonata was nicknamed Appassionata after Beethoven's death. It was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata—until he composed another sonata titled Hammerklavier.
A sample of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, performed by Takacs Quartet. A quartet means there are FOUR players. The string instruments in a string quartet are two violins, a viola, and a cello.
Ode to Joy — part of Beethoven's ninth symphony. Performed by the Philharmonia Chorus.

Audios of Beethoven's music

Symphony No 5, first movement, performed by DHS Symphony Orchestra:

Sonata No. 14 "Moonlight", Adagio Sostenuto (first movement), performed by Paul Pitman:

Sonata No. 8 "Pathetique", Rondo Allegro (first movement), performed by Paul Pitman:

Violin concerto, Rondo (third movement), performed by Marine Chamber Orchestra:

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