Classical Keyboard Composers



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      Composer Example: Beethoven

We have produced a 312 page book that covers 17 of the greatest classical keyboard composers in history. For each composer we give a historical sketch of the composer, commentary on their style, commentary on their more important works and sample sheet music they have produced. We follow this with a comprehensive list of all their works so if you like what a composer is like you can instantly go order some or all of their sheet music.

In this discussion, we will give you a sample of the presentation we do for each composer.

Beethoven - pic

Ludwig van Beethoven

Baptized in Bonn, Germany,
December 17, 1770
Died in Vienna, Austria,
March 26, 1827,
Age 57 years

Historical Sketch

Beethoven’s genius survived an abnormal childhood ruled by a despotic father. Johann Beethoven demanded hours of daily piano playing from his son and often waked him in the middle of the night for further practice. The only softening influence in the home was provided by Beethoven’s gentle and affectionate mother. At 11, after lessons with various undistinguished teachers, Beethoven came in contact with the organist and pianist Christian Neefe, a thorough musician and enlightened teacher. Requiring Beethoven to study Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Neefe laid the musical foundation which enabled Beethoven to win the admiration of later Viennese audiences. At 13, Beethoven became harpsichordist in the Court Theatre Orchestra. The following nine years saw his mother’s death, his father’s decline, and his own assumption of family responsibility. His father’s influence disappeared, and he was able to transform youthful misery into an enduring crusade for freedom and self-respect. His active musical life included appointment as violist in the Bonn Court Chapel and Court Theatre. Here he associated with established musicians at the center of Bonn’s intellectual and social life.

Count Waldstein, an influential member of royalty and Beethoven’s life-long friend, was decisive in Beethoven’s moving to Vienna in 1792. At 22, Beethoven was already a recognized virtuoso pianist whose ability Mozart prophesied would bring Beethoven world recognition. Beethoven arranged to take lessons with the elderly Haydn. But his uncompromising ideas kept him from accepting Haydn’s method of teaching, and the lessons generally were not successful.

Except for Haydn and Mozart, few musicians at the start of Beethoven’s career acknowledged his genius as a composer. His often violent expression of emotion was unlike anything previously composed; his novel ideas coupled with fierce independence of temperament cut him off from immediate public acceptance.

A few years after his arrival in Vienna, he began to appear in concerts as a composervirtuoso, and in 1796 his three Sonatas of Op. 2 (dedicated to Haydn) were published commercially. His integrity made him a favorite among families of nobility whose names appeared frequently in his dedications, Count Waldstein, the von Bruenings, Prince Lichnowsky, and the Archduke Rudolph. Rudolph became his greatest patron and in 1809 signed an agreement to make annual payments to Beethoven provided he lived in Vienna. Beethoven left Rudolph an overwhelming legacy of dedications which include Opp. 58, 73, 81a, 96, 97, 106, 111, 133, and 134.1

When he was 30, Beethoven began his greatest compositions. This period also marked the onset of deafness which in time became complete. As he himself revealed in the Heiligenstadt Testament,….


A facet of Beethoven’s greatness was the translation of idealism into music with daring musical innovations which depicted struggle and exalted beauty. Its finest pianistic expression came in the Sonatas which show the entire development of his genius up to the last String Quartets.4 Consistently superior in architecture, emotional range, and innovation without repetition, Beethoven’s Sonatas surpassed all previous works in this form.

The ways Beethoven developed the Sonata were complex. He explored the smallest segment of each theme, producing an endless variety of musical ideas. He employed contrast of key, a cornerstone of sonata form, in surprising and unconventional ways, and introduced an irregular number of movements as needed for expressiveness — two, three, or four. At the end of movements he expanded a familiar closing device, the Coda, which in his hands became a further commentary on preceding material or the introduction of an entirely new thought. Beethoven’s general technical means were varied and original. He used massed chords as melodic phrases and produced unprecedented power by adding the damper pedal to chordal sound…..


The three periods in which Beethoven’s Sonatas are commonly grouped are defined by the dates: 1795-1800, 1800-1814, and 1816-1822.5 The works of the first period (Opus 2 to 22) follow rules of the sonata as developed by Haydn and Mozart. They contain the only traces among Beethoven’s Sonatas of virtuoso display for its own sake, but as in the Pathétique of Op. 13, they foreshadow the inner drama of the later periods.

Sonata Op. 13 in C minor (Pathétique) (1798)

Dedicated to Count Carl Lichnowsky The Pathétique Sonata, written four years before the Heiligenstadt Testament, expresses Beethoven’s awareness of advancing deafness. Beethoven’s own description, Pathétique, apples to the Sonata from the passionate slow Introduction of the first movement Allegro, through the.....

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