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Challenges of a Genius: My Letter to Ludwig Van Beethoven Musical Composer

Piano teacher extraordinaire, Audrey Hunt, performs publicly. She is inspired by the works of. Ludwig Van Beethoven and writes this letter.

Beethoven, One Of The Greatest Composers The World Has Ever Known

Ludwig Van Beethoven began to experience hearing loss in 1798.  In spite of his deafness he started producing volumes of music.

Ludwig Van Beethoven began to experience hearing loss in 1798. In spite of his deafness he started producing volumes of music.

" There is no real intelligence without kindness.

I don't recognize another greatness other than kindness." Ludwig Van Beethoven

My Letter To Ludwig Van Beethoven Master Of Music

Master Ludwig Van Beethoven,

I must have been about ten years old when I first heard your Symphony No.9. I also discovered that you, one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time, lived through endless, exhausting challenges. I'm not referring to musical challenges but personal and devastating physical challenges.

Even at a young age, my adoration for you gave birth, and I knew that I would be connected to you forever. The musical sounds that encased you created my very being, dear Ludwig Van Beethoven, my master of music. My heart became yours at that very moment.

Yearning to learn more about you, I wore out my piano teacher during my lessons, asking one question after the other. She tried to fill my hungry, prying, need as best she could. The small spurts of facts that she shared with me only made me that much more determined to seek out all that I possibly could about you, the man, and the composer.

Each day, after school, I hurried to the small, musty library. Excitement arose within me at the thought of losing myself in one book, followed by another. Each one described your life experiences and the challenges you were expected to live with and ultimately conquer. Like an arrow piercing my heart, drops of blood came in the form of tiny tears.

My heart ached with pain as my eyes scanned page after page:

  • The physical and emotional abuse from your father.
  • The high price you paid for your musical genius.
  • The tormenting love for your nephew.
  • How you impressed the great Mozart without the joy of hearing his praise.
  • Going deaf, the struggles and great embarrassment this caused you.
  • Letters to your "Immortal Beloved."
  • Your anger and great disappointment in General Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • The death of your mother.
  • Poor health was plaguing you all your life.

How I wish this could all have been avoided, but these experiences, no matter how painful, made you the person you are. Not were - but are, for you are still present and alive in every magnificent Piano Sonata as well as your brilliant and timeless Symphonies.

Beethoven at age 13

13 year old Beethoven.

13 year old Beethoven.

"A True Artist Has No Pride" - Ludwig Van Beethoven

Dearest Ludwig, your music envelopes my soul as it transcends me to another sphere. How can anyone not love you, the man, the composer of such glorious sounds of noble and expansive emotions? Even the angels bow to your magnificence.

Do you realize that the world is a better place because of you? Your music has brought hope to the masses and inspired many to become better people, including me. On July 17, 1812, you wrote to Emilie M., a fellow musician, " A true artist has no pride." These words have had an impact on me throughout my life.

Oh, how I marvel at your accomplishments despite your suffering with deafness and bipolar disorder. It breaks my heart that as you became older, the bipolar disease increased, leaving you depressed and considering suicide.

If only I could have been by your side to comfort you during those times.

Deafness Could Not Deter Beethoven From Composing Music

Portrait byJoseph Karl Stieler, 1820.  Published in the U.S. before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Portrait byJoseph Karl Stieler, 1820. Published in the U.S. before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Composing the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies On The Other Side Of Silence.

Oh, dear Ludwig ( forgive me for being too personal,) your deafness became so severe that people found conversing with you exhausting. You began to avoid the stares of strangers. They did not see what I saw in you. Your clamped lips and wrenched chin, your frown, and your eyes looking downcast are all they saw. But I know the pain and frustration that encompassed you.

Your struggle against this progressive, incurable deafness included how much you wanted to keep this a secret. How can a composer create music when he cannot hear? Yet you produced such towering masterpieces as the Fifth and Ninth symphonies. (As author Edmond Morris described, "on the other side of silence.")

I love the story of how you sawed the legs off of your piano and placed the piano on the floor, and then pressed your ear to the floor to hear the vibrations.

Brilliant! A lesson in persistence. Even your deafness and depression could not stop you from composing.


Beethoven's Abuse From The Hands Of His Father

Your childhood was tragic. You suffered abuse from your father, Johann Van Beethoven. He made it a habit to slam the piano keys cover on your little knuckles whenever you made a mistake. And he would wake you up in the middle of the night by hitting you in the head to get you to play the piano.

Not only were you beaten almost daily, but you were also locked up in the cellar. Your father would see to it that you rarely slept.

You loved your mother, Maria Magdelene van Beethoven, and when she died during your teen years, you were devastated. This comes from a boy neglected by his mother, never washing him or dressing him appropriately. But I suppose when comparing your mother's treatment to your father's, your mother's would indeed seem like love.

Bach's Well Tempered Clavier

Johann Sebastian Bach became a revelation to you as you perfected his difficult preludes and fugues. Lessons in counterpoint. I have only been able to play three of the 24 preludes and fugues well. My attempt to master even one of Bach's Inventions has taken me many months of practice.

From the beginning of your childhood, your unique gift for improvisation surprised others. Your father, however, disapproved of this, and he regularly punished you for your ability to improvise on any musical piece placed before you. How sad this is. Shame on your father!

Mozart's Prediction For Beethoven

Do you remember the following event? You made a trip to see Mozart filled with excitement at the prospect of showing what you can do when left to play with total freedom; you begged Mozart to give you a theme to improvise on.

You were brilliant beyond any pianist this famous and well-respected genius had ever heard. The musical master became more impressed as your capable hands flew over the piano keys, giving birth to one note after the other. With this, Mozart went into an adjoining room where a few friends were sitting. "Keep your eyes on him; someday, he (Beethoven) will give the world something to talk about."

Developing Musical Skills Through Beethoven's Works

Your immortal Moonlight Sonata is unlike any music ever written. Your insistent theme emerges from silence, almost inaudibly in the beginning, as if you were testing the limits of your once-phenomenal hearing. You even noted that both pedals of the piano should be held down nonstop, which exaggerates the sonority and reverberation of sound.

As empty octaves move with extreme slowness, the quiet undulations of C-sharp minor succeed one another while their overtones are mixing and dissolving. Please listen to the young lady featured in the video, doing her best to pay attention to your notes for interpretation.

I wonder if you know to what degree you've influenced the lives of pianists, both the young and the old. These are some of my thoughts on this:

  • Practice skills are elevated as pianists strive for excellence
  • The passion of those determined to overcome difficult passages in your music empowers pianists to make their mark.
  • Personal development and growth promote confidence and align the mind and spirit.
  • Humility is instilled within the student. Just when one begins to pride himself on mastering great leaps and difficult passages, there are more to come.
  • We learn to develop an extended appreciation for all arts and other artists.
  • We develop personal skills such as patience, discipline, and even integrity.
  • Your works have been a learning library for other composers riding high on your genius.
  • A remarkable capacity to bring inspiration is activated through classical music.

There is more to be added to this list. Bringing unlimited joy to all ages through your symphonies, sonatas, chamber compositions, and choral cantatas may give you some idea of your total contribution to humanity.

Premier of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony And His Deafness

I was brought to tears when I read the story of your attendance to the premiere of your 9th Symphony on May 7, 1824. You couldn't hear a note of this stunning masterpiece that you alone created because of your deafness. It was the first time you sat on a stage in twelve years, and your back was to the audience. You gazed at the orchestra, choir, and soloists.

As you sat in your chair, beating time to the conductor's movements, you didn't know how your massive audience responded to your 9th Symphony. Then a soloist, Caroline Unger, took your arm and faced you toward the crowd. You couldn't hear the roaring approval; however, you saw the clapping hands and smiling faces of an exuberant crowd. As you bowed deeply to the masses, it was then that you began to cry.

Although you didn't make much money from this concert, the reviews were spectacular. I hope you embraced complete joy.

Author Edmond Morris, Pulitzer Prize Winner

Numerous books have been written about you, dear Beethoven. I have read "Thayer's" enormous biography about you as well as the book "Beethoven" by Edmund Morris. It may interest you to know that Morris spent a half-century studying your life and musical works. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for writing "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt."

Morris, the author of three bestselling presidential biographies and a lifetime devotee of yourself, Beethoven, illuminates your life with sensitivity and insight.

Moonlight Sonata - Piano

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", Op 27 No. 2 - The Moonlight Sonata

Your Moonlight Sonata, known as Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi Una Fantasia," was completed in 1801 and is one of the most popular sonatas in all of your compositions. But could you not have chosen another key for this magical composition? I have never liked the key of C# minor, which causes me to practice this scale until my fingers hurt. (Or perhaps it is my pride that hurts.)

You would be upset to learn that your most famous piano piece has been transposed into more accessible keys such as A minor and D minor for beginning pianists. Ah, however, the original key of C# minor blending the rich overtones within this scale cannot be duplicated.

It was the sound of Chopin-specifically his Nocturne in the same key, right down to the minor ninths. The astounding thing is, you composed the Moonlight Sonata ten years before Chopin was born!

Generations to come would be indebted to the Brunswick family for allowing you to compose this beautiful sonata. In the year 1802, this masterpiece was dedicated to your student and love, 17-year-old Countess Giulietta Gucciardi, in Hungary.

You had no intention of connecting this musical theme to moonlight or romance. You were sitting with a friend, as he was dying prematurely, when this motif found its way to your mind and heart.

The idea of moonlight came from the remarks of the German poet and music critic, Rellstab. In 1832, five years after your death, Rellstab thought the first movement sounded like moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne. It became known as the Moonlight Sonata during the nineteenth century and still goes by that name today. I do hope you are not offended by this turn of events.

Beethoven's Sonatas Reveal Passion

Author, Audrey Hunt, plays Beethoven in Nashville Tennessee.

Author, Audrey Hunt, plays Beethoven in Nashville Tennessee.

My Birthday Gift - Thank You My Son

On February 22, 2011, my son, Randy, surprised me with an unforgettable birthday gift. The Nashville Tennessee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus were presenting your Ninth Symphony to a sold-out house. As Randy approached the ticket window, he asked for two of the best seats in the house, which I'm sure must have cost him two weeks' salary. As you remember, even professional musicians are dreadfully underpaid.

The only tickets left were two seats on the third balcony in the very back row, and these seats weren't together. Randy accepted them and told me not to be disappointed because he had a plan. Yep - this is my son. He always finds a way to achieve his dream.

We were led to our seats, sat down, and I longingly looked at the empty seats in the orchestra section located on the main floor. As the 'late-comers were seated in their reserved section, which is the best in the house, Randy stood up, grabbed my hand, and said, "follow me, mom."

We ran down three flights of stairs to the main floor. In just minutes, the concert would be starting, and the first violinist would be tuning the orchestra to the musical sound of "A." Without knowing what my son had in mind, I obediently followed him to the third-row-center where he gallantly seated first myself, then himself in the best section and seats-in-the-house.

So you see, dear Ludwig, your music even influences the younger generation in such a way that those like my son become heroes to their mothers.

Location - Schermerhorn Symphony Center


Nashville Tn.

A Little Bit of the 'Testament of Heiligenstadt' (1802)

"Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you. From childhood on my heart and soul have been full of the tender feeling of goodwill, and I was ever inclined to
accomplish great things. [...] With joy I hasten to meet death. -If it comes before I have had the chance to develop all my artistic capacities, it will still be coming too soon despite my harsh fate, and I should probably wish it later - yet even so I should be happy, for would it not free me from a state of
endless suffering? - Come when thou wilt, I shall meet thee bravely. - Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead [...]"

We thank this noble endeavor which was called Ludwig van Beethoven, which continues to rejoice us more and more ...

My Favorite Sculpture of Beethoven Sits on my Piano

This bronze sculpture rests on my grand piano inspiring me to practice the masters' 32 piano sonatas.

This bronze sculpture rests on my grand piano inspiring me to practice the masters' 32 piano sonatas.

I am a servant of humanity.

Ludwig van Beethoven

In Closing - Immortal Beloved

I can think of no better way to close my letter to you, dearest Ludwig Van Beethoven, than by using your own precious words found in a letter you wrote to your immortal beloved, Countess Josephine Von Brunswick, known as Josephine Deym :

"... I hope that wherever I happen to be, your image will always follow me - as it is the whole course of my life ..."


Thank You My Readers

Thank you for being here to share my letter to Ludwig Van Beethoven. So much more can be written about this genius and the challenges he endured. I welcome your thoughts and comments and look forward to each one.

Audrey Hunt


The Universal Composer Beethoven by Edmund Morris - Harper Collins Publisher

Interesting facts about the Schermerhorn Symphony Center

© 2015 Audrey Hunt

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