Today is the 193rd anniversary of Beethoven’s death, but I think that it is important that we remember his accomplishments during his life. Beethoven became a musical genius very early in life due in large part to the rigorous instruction of his Father. His music became well-known early and he was considered a youth protege. He went on to compose many very popular pieces and play at the courts of nobles and monarchs, thus further increasing his notoriety. His contributions to music are almost unparalleled, his work having been a crucial part of the transition between the Classical and Romantic periods. He thus had a great deal of influence on German and more broadly on European cultural history.
Few people today know many classical musicians. Even names like Handel and List will often illicit no more than a confused expression when mentioned to even educated people. It is rare, though, to find someone from the Western Hemisphere who does not show at least some recognition when the name Beethoven is mentioned. One of history’s most famous composers, Beethoven is one of the few who has remained in the popular consciousness and is still featured in things as mundane as TV commercials. He is remembered not only for his music, but also for his personality and physical traits, something nearly unique among composers from his time. Although his isolation and later in life deafness may often be objects of mockery, they still show that Beethoven is remembered in a variety of ways today. That being said, his music is the thing he is most remembered for, and many of his pieces, like his nine symphonies and many concertos, are still played and feature in a great deal of cinema.
While I may not be able to convince the reader to listen to more Beethoven, I do hope that I can convince the reader to learn more about German cultural history. German cultural history is as important as its political history, and Beethoven is as major a part of the former as Bismarck or Frederick the Great are of the latter.