Deafness, Personal Problems, and Searching for a New Way

Course video 17 of 52

From 1793 until 1809, Beethoven composed at a steady pace. But for the next several years, he stalled dramatically, as he dealt with the onset of his deafness, severely trying personal circumstances, and the struggle to find what would become his late style, which to a remarkable degree involved the total reinvention of his musical language. This lecture examines the intersection of these three issues, and of his life and music more generally. Works discussed come from this comparatively fallow period and will include the Fantasy, Op. 77, which exemplifies the vital role improvisation played in all of Beethoven’s music, and the Sonatas Op. 78, and 81a, the “Lebewohl.” The last of these is one of Beethoven’s only serious experiments with program music, which made it an important reference point for many 19th-century composers. Another topic will be the ways in which the works of this period seem to manipulate time, which was always one of Beethoven’s key fascinations, and becomes ever more critical moving into the late period.

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