That one quote, perfectly shows the origins of The Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, also known as the “Waldstein”, completed in the summer of 1804. The sonata was inspired by Beethoven’s friendship with Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of Vienna, his first protector in Bonn and close friend; however we should remember that there are other compositions dedicated to him. He was his patron, the one who arranged for Beethoven to study with Hadyn in Vienna. “Waldestein” is also known as ‘L’Aurora’ (The Dawn) in Italian, for the sonority of the opening chords of the third movement, which conjures an image of daybreak or for the aesthetical significations of the work meaning light and serenity. The all work has three movements: the first one called “allegro con brio”, the second one named “Introduzione. Adagio molto – attacca” and the last one “Rondo. Allegretto moderato – Prestissimo”. The movements of the sonata can be interpreted as different moments of a day: the first movement is a pleasant yet noisy and roaring day, the second movement can be interpreted as a calm night while the third movement is the ardent dawn of a new day.
Allegro con Brio, contains an element of novelty for the time in which was written, namely the introduction of the B major tonality early on from the fith measure, which is surprising if we take into account the fact that the initial tonality of the sonata is C major, whereas instead Introduzione, Adagio molto/Rondo, Allegretto moderato replaces the F major movement that Beethoven initially intended to use. Apparently, the composer renounced at this part since it was to lengthy, even though he published the movement separately, as the Andante Favori, WoO 57 (it seems that the Andante Favori was the subject of a fight between the composer and his friend Ferdinand Ries). Last but not least, the Introduzione is the perfect introduction for the Rondo, which is based on a theme of great artistic expression.
As already said, Waldstein is the figure between Beethoven’s departure for Vienna, he believed in his talent more than anybody else and his words not only show kindness and friendship, but most importantly respect: “Dear Beethoven! You go to realise a long-desired wish : the genius of Mozart is still in mourning and weeps for the death of its disciple. (…) By incessant application, receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands.”
Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn on December 16, 1770; he had two younger brothers who survived into adulthood, Caspar, born in 1774, and Johann, born in 1776. Beethoven’s mother, Maria Magdalena van Beethoven was a moralistic woman. His father, Johann van Beethoven, was a mediocre court singer better known for his alcoholism than any musical ability. His family hardly accepted his musical ability, however he started composing from an early age (he was the so-called “enfant prodige”) and was soon protected by noblemen in Vienna who heard him playing at court. He studied with Haydn but completed his studies with high society and maintained professional relationships with famous personalities such as Waldestein, Lichnowsky and Lobkowitz. With Haydn he was able to study piano, while with Antonio Salieri he dedicated his time to vocal composition and then focused on counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger. Unfortunately he gradually became deaf, he went through a crysis that almost led him to suicide and then died unhappy at 57 years old. His music is characterized by his life and his feelings, in particular the hearing loss and the affection he deeply missed. When in Vienna he presented himself as a revolutionary, he adopted the democratic’s ideals of the French revolution as well as human rights. He tried to make his work through the autocritic research, the joy and the creative effort becoming mission. Several years later he didn’t lose his “relationship” with France: in fact, he was still around when Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed himself First Consul, and later Emperor, of France. Beethoven admired, hated and even identified himself with Napoleon, a great man with incredible qualities who was only one year older than the composer and like him, was also of obscure birth.
In 1804, only weeks after Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor, Beethoven debuted his Symphony No. 3 in Napoleon’s honor, later renamed the “Eroica Symphony” because Beethoven grew disillusioned with Napoleon; it was such an original work that nobody was able to play it correctly. A reviewer even said that his work was “one of the most original, most sublime, and most profound products that the entire genre of music has ever exhibited.”
Beethoven died on March 26, 1827: an autopsy revealed that the immediate cause of death was post-hepatitic cirrhosis of the liver, it also provided clues to the origins of his deafness. While his quick temper, chronic diarrhea and deafness are consistent with arterial disease, a competing theory traces Beethoven’s deafness to contracting typhus in the summer of 1796. Recently, scientists analyzing a remaining fragment of Beethoven’s skull noticed high levels of lead and hypothesized lead poisoning as a potential cause of death, but that theory has been largely discredited.
No matter how much he suffered, he was a great composer and his work is considered unique and beautiful while his amazing abilities are still remembered with admiration and delight as someone recalled: “…And the fact Beethoven composed his most beautiful and extraordinary music while deaf is an almost superhuman feat of creative genius, perhaps only paralleled in the history of artistic achievement by John Milton writing Paradise Lost while blind.”
Written by Ludovica Buda
Check out the video below if you want to listen “Waldstein”: