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Happy 250th Ludwig! Part 2

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Beethoven As Experienced Through Works From Across His Life: The Middle Period (1801 to 1814)

Crop of Joseph Willibrord Mähler's Beethoven Portrait 1804/05
Crop of Joseph Willibrord Mähler's Beethoven Portrait 1804/05

In this three part series, we are learning about Ludwig can Beethoven's life and music to celebrate his 250th birthday. Visit for part 1. Visit for part 3.

By the age of 30 in 1800, Beethoven had established his reputation as a renowned composer. During his Middle Period about 1800 to 1814, he composed some of his most famous works including the Third Symphony "Eroica," the Fifth Symphony, the three movement Violin Concerto in D, his only opera "Fidelio," Piano Sonatas Nos. 16 – 27, String Quartets No. 7 – 9, his last Piano Concerto, "Emperor," and the Piano Trio in B flat.

Descent into Deafness

During this very productive period, Beethoven began to realize his encroaching deafness. The struggle this caused him to grow as a composer, breaking further from the conventions of Classicism and creating bold, personal compositions. The pieces became longer and more harmonically complex as well. He also became interested in ideas of individual glory, the rights of the common man, and the heroic man. These two aspects have lead some musicologists to refer to his Middle Period, his "Heroic Period" as well.

Anonymous, Bridgetower, 1800
Anonymous, Bridgetower, 1800

For a few years, :Ludwig continued to play concertos, performing with other prominent musicians of the time including his friend Afro-European violinist virtuoso George Bridgetower (1779 –1860). Bridgetower was born to a Polish mother and a West Indian father. Beethoven originally dedicated his Violin Sonata known as a "Kreutzer Sonata" to Bridgetower. However, over a disagreement involving a lady and an off-color remark made while the two men were drinking, Beethoven retracted the dedication, instead dedicating the work to French violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer (Nov. 5, 1766 – Jan. 6, 1831).

In 1802, Beethoven revealed to those closest to him that he was loosing his hearing. He first began to notice hearing loss in 1798, but by 1802, the hardship was so much that he became depressed, even suicidal. He wrote the "Heiligenstadt Testament" a document intended to be read by his two brothers. It includes: