Playing the violin is so hard that even one of the best musicians there ever was, Beethoven, couldn’t do it well, so if you want your child to be able to play this instrument, be patient and check out this article on the best violins for kids. If you need accessories, we recommend Phantom shoulder rests, and we’ve also written an article on that.
Early playing career
Surprisingly enough, the man that composed one of the best concertos for violin wasn’t really a great violin player. Ludwig van Beethoven was able to play the instrument, as history shows, but his way of touching the strings was not spectacular and it was probably common.
As a young boy, his teacher was his father, who was a musician that excelled at bass singing. His father, named Johann, also gave lessons for piano and violin and that helped with giving young Beethoven the musical education needed.
Johann van Beethoven was a harsh father and a harsher instructor and that’s why Ludwig cried a lot when he had to practice with him. But he also learned violin from other local teachers including one Franz Rovantini who was a relative and introduced the young man to the sound of viola and violin.
Thus Beethoven didn’t have an easy childhood and he had to face harsh conditions, including being wakened up in the middle of the night to practice. He had a lot of talent and, witnessing the success of Mozart, his father Johann wanted to promote Beethoven as a prodigy too and reap the benefits.
Learning more about the violin
After he left his hometown Bonn for Vienna in 1792, Beethoven found out that his father died and that Mozart had passed away too. Because he received a lot of praise for his work, people associated him with the late Mozart and thought he could become something similar. So he started studying Mozart’s work and writing music with a similar style.
In order to better understand the creation of great composers like Mozart and Haydn, he decided to take some lessons from great musicians. He devoted to studying and performing and was lucky to study under the guidance of Haydn, who helped him master counterpoint.
He also started studying violin with Ignaz Schuppanzigh, a great violinist who would go on to premiere many of Beethoven’s string quartets. The quartet founded by Schuppanzigh was the first professional string one. Until then this kind of music was played by amateurs or professionals at ad hoc gatherings.
It is clear thus that Beethoven had a lot to learn from this professional violinist. He also studied vocal composition styles guided by the Italian Antonio Salieri and that’s why during this period he learned a great deal about music and how to compose.
However, he didn’t excel at playing the instruments, except for the piano which he was great at. He took these lessons just to have a better understanding of how each instrument and voice work, in order to enhance his musical compositions.
Did he play his own compositions?
Although there aren’t many historical sources to show this, Beethoven probably didn’t ever try to play one of his violin sonatas, his violin concertos or string quartets. He was excellent at the piano and could play probably anything, but when it came to violin he was mediocre.
This is why Beethoven took lessons from professional violin players, to understand what stringed instruments can do and what they can’t. He never wanted to master the instrument, but he needed to know how it worked.
It can be said that Schuppanzigh took the talented pianist and composer as a pupil not because he was good at violin, or because he had a chance of becoming good. The violinist virtuoso enjoyed developing a relationship with a talented composer, one that he knew could leave a mark on music history.
As the years passed and Schuppanzigh played most of the violin part in Beethoven’s music, the violinist complained that actually managing to play the desired notes was getting more and more difficult, almost impossible. Of course, Beethoven couldn’t demonstrate how to play the violin parts.
His talent was immense, but he was also known for his arrogance, so he told Schuppanzigh that he doesn’t care for his “miserable fiddle” when the muse strikes. Beethoven once showed his own music on violin and in doing so he was half a tone flat and clumsy.
His violin concerto
In 1806 Beethoven composed one of the best violin concertos that are still played today. It is thus surprising that a person that couldn’t really play the violin well managed to do this thing. What’s even more astonishing is that he composed his Violin Concerto in D major while his hearing was getting worse by the day.
At first, however, the concerto wasn’t a great success and when it was premiered it attracted little praise. The man who played it for the first time in an official event was Franz Clement, a great violinist of that day that had also given Beethoven some advice on the violin beforehand.
Showcasing his arrogance and great composing ability at the same time, Beethoven finished the solo part of the concerto right before the performance begun. It was so late that Clement had to play some parts of the concerto without having seen them before. Out of frustration, he interrupted the show with a composition of his own and started the concerto again afterward.
The violin concerto was far from a success but in 1844, long after Beethoven had died, the composition started to be appreciated. And it has since been one of the most important works by a classical composer. It is one of the most appreciated, performed, and recorded compositions today.
This serves to show that although the remarkable composer wasn’t great when playing the violin with his hands, he certainly was astonishing when he played it in his own head and wrote it on paper.
How many instruments did Beethoven play?
As a young child, Ludwig van Beethoven learned to play the piano, the organ, and the violin. His very first job was as a court organist, and there are many accounts saying that he also used to make money by playing the viola in the court orchestra. So, what instruments did Ludwig van Beethoven play as an adult?
The violin and the piano were the two instruments that the composer spent most of his time playing. However, it wasn’t the violin that made him a formidable player but rather the piano. Despite being taught violin and piano by his father from a young age, his true love and the instrument he played the best was the piano.
Even at a young age, Beethoven showed formidable gifts of improvisation when playing the piano, and most of his composition was written for himself to play. One of his most impressive writing is his Piano Concerti that takes full advantage of his virtuosity and mastery of the instrument.
In his 32 piano sonatas, Beethoven took everything he knew as a piano virtuoso and used it to expand the possibilities of the instrument. To say that Beethoven was a master of the piano would be an understatement.
So when did Beethoven start playing the piano? The answer is at the age of 5, but he started with a harpsichord since, at that time, the piano was still a new, not fully developed instrument.
His writing helped prepare the way for the developments that happened during the romantic period of musical arts. Many other composers, such as Chopin and Liszt, owe a lot to Beethoven and his love for the piano.
As far as the instruments that Beethoven owned, it is believed that he had at least six, and all of them were string instruments: a viola, two cellos, and three violins. The most famous Beethoven instruments are his quartet, which consisted of two violins, a viola, and a cello that were gifted to him by Prince Lichnowsky.
It is not known where the additional cello and violin originated from, but there are some theories saying that he either must have bought them for himself or they could have been given to him by another patron.
The history of Beethoven’s quartet is a tumultuous one since, during the 20th century, the set was thought to be made up of forgeries. Even now, there are conflicting reports since the violin that’s labeled as the Guarneri 1718 is believed to be from the second half of the 18th century, and experts haven’t come to an agreement regarding its country of origin.
The violin known as Amati 1676 is considered to be from the second half of the 18th century and the German school. The Rugeri-labeled viola is ascribed to Johann Anton Gelder, and the 1712 Guarneri cello doesn’t have a definite attribution.
Even though their history is still shrouded in mystery, it is safe to say that looking at them from a historical viewpoint, the instruments that make up Beethoven’s quartet are priceless. They are believed to be the hand tools that the composer used to create the compositions that have changed the face of music forever.
Moreover, the instruments were recently reunited at the Beethoven-Haus museum in Bonn, where they’re displayed for everyone to see. It’s fascinating that despite being known for his mastery of the piano and considered by many an average violin player, the quartet of stringed instruments remains the composer’s most treasured possessions.
How old was Beethoven when he started playing music?
Because he was born into a family of musicians, with his grandfather, who was also called Ludwig, being a very talented singer, Beethoven’s introduction to music began from a very young age. While his grandfather was a talented singer, his father didn’t inherit the same talent even though he made his living from music.
Beethoven’s musical education started at an early age, as was the case in most musician families at that time. He started playing the keyboard at the age of 5, and because at that time, the piano wasn’t yet fully developed, the instrument he played on was the harpsichord.
Unlike the piano, the harpsichord had strings that were not hit by hammers. Instead, they were plucked, and this caused the instrument to have a very limited dynamic audio range compared to the piano.
Ludwig van Beethoven was a good musician from an early age, but the lessons with his father were anything but pleasant since he was known to be severe and sometimes downright brutal. Every little mistake that Beethoven made was met with fury and punishment by his father, who also had a drinking problem on top of it.
Despite starting playing music in such an unpleasant environment, Beethoven learned to cope with this hardship and focus on his love for music and the keyboard. His main interest even at that young age was in improvisation, something that his father didn’t approve of.
Beethoven performed his first concert at the age of 8 in 1778. However, his father lied about the boy’s age, telling everyone that he was born in 1770, not 1772 and that he was only 6 years old. The reason for the lie was that the father wanted Beethoven to become the second Mozart.
This didn’t work out since, despite being a child prodigy, Beethoven didn’t shine as much as Mozart in his childhood. He was a very talented musician but by no means the Wunderkind that Mozart was.
Despite his obvious talent, his musical career as a young artist didn’t impress that much. It took years until he reached his twenties that his full talent and potential got revealed and he took the music world by storm.
What was Beethoven’s first song?
The first document composition was written by Beethoven when he was only 12 years. This incredible composition is called “Nine Variations on a March by Dressler” and it is a beautiful piece even when compared to his other compositions, but what makes it even more impressive is the fact that not only was it his first, but it was also written as such a young age.
There are not many 12-years-olds, even among music prodigies, that can compose songs that are as dense and that have layered variants and themes as this one. Looking at his early compositions, it is hard to understand why people weren’t as impressed with his work since, even though he wasn’t as extroverted as Mozart, it is clear that his compositions were just as ingenious.
This first song includes beautiful melodic phrasing, clever harmonies, and it foreshadows his later stormy musical character. If you’re familiar with Beethoven’s work as an adult, then you should be able to identify all the hallmarks of his style in this one.
Writing about it doesn’t do it justice, so if you have the time, you should definitely search for Beethoven’s 9 Variations on a March by Dressler and give it a listen as you’ll certainly be impressed.
So when did Beethoven start writing music? While 9 Variations on a March by Dressler is indeed the first documented piece that Beethoven composed, it is very likely that he started writing music earlier than that, considering his love for improvisation. However, the only answer we can give to this question is 1782, since that’s the year that his first composition was dated.
How many pieces did Beethoven write? If there’s one thing we can say about Beethoven is that he never stopped writing, even after losing his hearing. Throughout his career, he composed 772 works over the span of 45 years, with the earliest being written in 1782 and the oldest in 1827, just before his death.
In 2012, a new piece of music composed by Beethoven was discovered, so who knows what the future might hold, and his library of compositions may expand if new discoveries are made. As a prolific composer, he wrote for many wealthy patrons, so other pieces can be out there just waiting to be discovered.
How old was Beethoven when he wrote his first symphony?
Beethoven’s first symphony was written just at the cusp of a new century, between the years 1799 and 1800. He was only 29 years old, and he dedicated the First Symphony to Baron Gottfried Van Swieten.
At this time, Beethoven had already experimented with most of the instrumental genres, and the symphony was one of the few important genres that he hadn’t tried. Beethoven’s First Symphony was an instant success, and contemporaries called it a masterpiece and praised it for its originality.
Another interesting fact is that his first symphony was composed just a year before the crisis that inevitably led to his gradual loss of hearing. The First Symphony premiered at Ludwig’s first benefit concert in Vienna, at the Burgtheater, on April 2nd, 1800. Interestingly enough, it is also on this day that it is believed that he began work on Symphony No. 2.