Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s father decided to encourage his son’s talent by ensuring that he received a solid musical education from a succession of music-teachers. As early as 26th March 1778 Beethoven made his first appearance as a keyboard prodigy in Cologne, and at the age of eleven he played the organ during services. In 1874 he was appointed court organist – his first paying job. The Elector and Archbishop Maximilian Franz von Habsburg, who had employed Beethoven to play harpsichord, organ and viola, sent him to Vienna in 1876 to study under Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But Beethoven soon had to return to Bonn on account of his mother’s becoming seriously ill. After the death of his mother Beethoven was responsible for supporting his entire family. When Joseph Haydn stopped off in Bonn on his way back from England in 1792 a new period of study in Vienna was arranged. With the death of Mozart, the plan was that Beethoven would study under Haydn; and in consequence he set off for Vienna in the same year. Haydn had a deep influence on his student’s musical development.
Beethoven’s burgeoning success was undermined from 1798 onwards by a hearing problem which got much worse in the course of a few years. None the less the following years were amongst the most productive of his career; he composed numerous string-quartets, symphonies, violin- and piano-concertos. After his career reached its high-water mark, with certain concerts during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, every aspect of Beethoven’s life began to decline as a consequence of his illness. It is true that the composer’s last years were distinguished by his most monumental works, e.g. Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony, but they were also marked by deafness and cirrhosis of the liver, and Beethoven died in Vienna on 26th March 1827. Ludwig van Beethoven is acknowledged to have perfected Viennese classicism and to have pioneered Romantic music.
There is no evidence that Beethoven ever engaged intensively with Shakespeare, but Arnold Schering, in his Beethoven in neuer Deutung, suggests an association between certain works by Beethoven and scenes out of Shakespeare, and affirms that such an association was intended by the composer himself.
- Streichquartett, op. 18 No. 1 [MS 1799-1800]. Apparently Beethoven had the crypt scene from Romeo and Juliette in mind while composing it.
- Klaviersonate Nr. 17, op. 31 No. 2 [MS 1802]. Referred to as the ‘Storm Sonata’, in the light of the fact that Beethoven, apparently after a performance of it, along with Sonata op.57, said that Shakespeare’s The Tempest was the key to both works.
- Fidelio, op. 3933, Oper [Urfassung 1805]. It has often been said that this opera was influenced by Shakespeare’s Cymbeline).
- Ouverture de Coriolan, op. 62 [MS 1807]. Though based, in fact, on Heinrich von Collin’s tragedy Coriolan, and not on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
- Macbett, WoO, [MS 1808-1811]. Incomplete opera after a libretto by Heinrich Joseph Collin – who, however, died before finishing it.
- 5 part chorus; WoO. [MS 1823]. There are references in the text to Henry IV: ‘Falstafferel <br />[…] Falstaf lass dich sehen’ [MS 1823]
Further Shakespeare Adaptations (according to Arnold Schering)
- Sonata quasi una Fantasia per il Clavicembalo o Piano-Forte, op. 27, No. 2; [MS 1801]. After Shakespeare's King Lear.
- Grande Sonate pour le Pianoforte, op. 28 [MS 1802]. After Shakespeare's Winter’s Tale.
- Klaviersonate Nr. 17, op. 31 No. 1; [MS 1802]. After Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
- Klaviersonate Nr. 17, d moll, op. 31, No. 3 [MS 1802]. After Shakespeare's As You Like It.
- Sonata quasi una Fantasia per il Clavicembalo o Piano-Forte, op.27, No. 1; [MS 1802]. After Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.
- LIme Sonate pour le Pianoforte, op. 54 [MS 1804]. After Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing.
- LVIme Sonate, op. 57 [MS 1804-1805]. After Shakespeare's Macbeth.
- Quatuor pour Deux Violons, Viola et Violoncelle, op. 74 [MS 1809]. After Shakespeare's Romeo und Julia.
- Elftes Quartett für zwey Violinen, Bratsche und Violoncelle, op. 95 [MS 1810]. After Shakespeare's Othello.
- Sonate pour le Piano Forte, op. 111 [MS 1821-1822]. After Shakespeare's Henry VIII.
- Grand Quatuor en Partition pour deux Violons, Alto, et Violoncelle, op. 127 [MS 1823-1824]. After Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
- Troisième Quatuor pour 2 Violons, Alte & Violoncelle des Quatuors, op. 130 [MS 1825-1826]. After Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- Grand Quatuor en Partition pour deux Violons, Alto, et Violoncelle, op. 131 [MS 1826]. After Shakespeare's Hamlet.
- Albrecht, Theodore: „Beethoven and Shakespeare's ‘Tempest’: new light on an old allusion“, Beethoven Forum, 1 (1992). Pp. 81-92.
- Gooch/Thatcher: Vol. I 2001, 2403, 2878, 4265, 4501, 5239, 6180, Vol. II 6736, 7240, 7585, 8781, 9258, 9264, 10946, 11650, 12534, 13558, 14189, 14190, 14688, Vol. III 16234, 19148.
- Hermand, Jost: Beethoven. Werk und Wirkung. Köln, 2003.
- Höyng, Peter: „`Shakespeare's Bruder´. Beethovens Shakespeare-Rezeption und ihre unerhörten Folgen“. In: Shakespeare im 18. Jahrhundert. Ed. Roger Paulin. Göttingen 2007. Pp. 119-139.
- Kramer, Lawrence: „The strange case of Beethoven's Coriolan: Romantic aesthetics, modern subjectivity, and the cult“, Musical Quarterly, 79 (1995). Pp. 256-280.
- Kropfinger, Klaus: Beethoven. Kassel, 2001.
- Schering, Arnold: Beethoven in neuer Deutung. Leipzig, 1934.
- Titcomb, Caldwell: „Beethoven and Shakespeare“. In: Critica Musica. Essays in Honor of Paul Brainard. Ed. John Knowles. Amsterdam 1996. Pp. 429-460.
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Citation and Licence
Beethoven, Ludwig van, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: http://www.shakespearealbum.de/uri/gnd/118508288. (Accessed on 25.09.2023)
This text is published under the following licence: CC BY-ND 3.0 DE. Digitzed media reproduced with the permission of the library of Birmingham.