After his return from Heiligenstadt, Beethoven's music
began creating a new musical world. In the summer of 1803 he
on his Third Symphony - the 'Eroica'. It was to be the paean of
to Napoleon Bonaparte and like its subject, it was revolutionary.
half as long as any previous symphony and its musical language
uncompromising that it set up resistance in its first audiences.
broke the symphonic mold, yet established new, logical and cogent
forms. This was the miracle Beethoven was to work many times.
Stephan von Breuning, with whom Beethoven shared rooms,
thunderous episode in connection with the 'Eroica' Symphony. In
December, 1804, the news arrived that Napoleon, that toiler for
rights of the common people, had proclaimed himself Emperor. In
Beethoven strode over to his copy of the Symphony, which bore a
dedication to Napoleon, and crossed out the "Bonaparte" name in
violence that the pen tore in the paper. "Is he, too, nothing
human?" he raged. "Now he will crush the rights of man. He will
For the next few years in Vienna, from 1804 to 1808,
in what might be described as a state of monotonous uproar. His
relationships suffered elemental rifts, his music grew ever
all the time he was in love with one women or another, usually
high-born, sometimes unattainable, always unattained. he never
His Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were completed by the summer
1808. The Fifth indeed takes fate by the throat; the Sixth
is a portrait of the countryside around Heilingenstadt. These
works spread his name and fame.
In July 1812 Beethoven wrote a letter to an unidentified lady
he addressed as The Immortal
Beloved. It was as eloquent of love as his 'Heiligenstadt
Testament' had been of despair. The following is a summary of
letter (follow the above link for more):
So moving an outpouring may well have resulted, at last, in
permanent arrangement - if the lady in question had been free,
the letter had been sent. It was discovered in a secret drawer
Beethoven's desk after his death.
My angel, my all, my very self - a few words only today, and |
in pencil (thine). Why such profound sorrow when necessity
speaks? Can our love endure but through sacrifice - but through
not demanding all - canst thou alter it that thou art not wholly
mine, I not wholly thine?
His brother Casper Carl died in November 1815. The
brought about something that neither the tragedy of deafness nor
Napoleon's guns could achieve: they almost stopped Beethoven
composing. Beethoven was appointed guardian of his brother's
nine-year-old son, Karl - a guardianship he shared with the boy's
Johanna. Beethoven took the appointment most seriously and was
that Johanna did not. He believed her to be immoral, and
began legal proceedings to get sole guardianship of his nephew.
lawsuit was painful and protracted and frequently abusive, with
asserting "How can a deaf, madman bachelor guard the boy's
Beethoven repeatedly fell ill because of the strain. He did not
secure custody of Karl until 1820, when the boy was 20.
The Ninth Symphony (Choral) was completed in 1823, by which
Beethoven was completely deaf. There was a poignant scene at the
performance. Despite his deafness, Beethoven insisted on
but unknown to him the real conductor sat out of his sight
As the last movement ended, Beethoven, unaware even that the
ceased, was also unaware of the tremendous burst of applause that
greeted it. One of the singers took him by the arm and turned
around so that he might actually see the ovation.