The child prodigy
The child prodigy, Ludwig van Beethoven, influenced many genres of music and helped usher in the advent of the Romantic era. Over time Beethoven’s work clearly inspired composers that followed. Beethoven’s influence can be heard in the way Stravinski and Berlioz among others compositions’ were created. His influence also inspired future cultures in the way they made and listened to music. As innovative as Beethoven was, even he was influenced by the great Mozart.
Beethoven experimented with various styles. In his Symphony No.3, also known as the Eroica Symphony, Beethoven used juxtaposing chords. Igor Stravinski used the idea of juxtaposition in his Russian Ballet. He used a similar concept in Petrushka. Berlioz, the master of orchestration in the Romantic era, wrote programmatic symphonies. These are symphonies that paint a picture or tell a story, like Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique Op. 14. Beethoven’s Symphony No.6, or, the Pastorale Symphony, was the first programmatic symphony. Without Beethoven’s innovative writing, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique would not have been possible. Beethoven made use of folk melodies, which influenced composers like Bartok and Kodaly. He also explored the vast possibilities of the piano concerto by using pedals. This paved the way for composers like Saint Saens, Chopin, and Liszt. It’s not just composers, however, that Beethoven has influenced.
Due to Beethoven’s many-layered compositions, he found it necessary to expand the orchestra. In Symphony No.9 and Missa Solemnis, he even included a choir. Brahms modelled his first symphony after Symphony No. 9. Wagner’s Overture to Tannhauser begins with 8 horns showing the massive scale required for his work. Due to the expanded orchestra, the art of conducting was born. The modern piano has the ability to be more flexible and to sustain sound because of Beethoven’s works. Even recording technology first had Beethoven in mind when in 1931 the first 33 ? R.P.M. record contained the 5th Symphony, and later the first-generation CDs were set to hold 75 minutes so the 9th Symphony could be played without interruption.
It’s true that the effects of Beethoven’s work can be heard in numerous parts and segments, rhythms and harmonies, and tempos and styles, however his influence reaches much further than just the composers that he inspired. The way some musical instruments are made, how orchestras are constructed, and even the way concert halls are designed show how far his influence has reached. Without Beethoven, some of the things that we know today would be very different. An indication of just how influential Beethoven’s music was is the simple fact that over 200 years later it is just as appreciated now as it was when it was written.