Creator: Ludwig van Beethoven

"Duh duh duh DUH!"
Excerpt from the "Fifth Symphony", which everyone on Earth knows

German Composer (c. 17 December 1770 - 26 March 1827) of Classical Music, generally considered one of the most talented and influential of all time.

Born in Bonn to a family of Flemish origin (that's why it's van Beethoven, not von, and he's not a nobleman—Dutch "van" is no indication of nobility), he moved to Vienna in the 1790s, at first attracting attention for his virtuoso piano performances. His earlier compositions were accomplished but derivative pieces (on the surface, at least) in the Classical Era style of Joseph Haydn and Mozart.

Then he started to go deaf, and everything changed. He began to compose dramatic, emotional works on a scale far larger than anything most musicians had worked on before. These would eventually lay the foundation for the Romantic Era of music.

Beethoven wrote music in a wide variety of genres, including a single opera, Fidelio. He is most famous, however, for his symphonies. His Fifth Symphony is filled with spectacular moments. His epic and inspirational Ninth Symphony, first performed in 1824 when Beethoven was almost completely deaf, has become one of the world's most famous musical works, eventually becoming the anthem of The European Union. Thanks to Popcultural Osmosis you probably know the "Ode to Joy" from the fourth movement even if you've never heard the rest of the symphony.

Throughout the ninteenth century, Beethoven's works were upheld among even the greatest composers as the impossibly-high standard one should always try to strive to match, even if one could never succeed in doing so. Franz Schubert went into a kind of compositional paralysis after he heard a Beethoven symphony, believing much of his own work was no longer worth pursuing when something that great was out there. Richard Wagner, whose ego was nearly as large as Germany itself and who would never hesitate to tell everyone how great he was, could only bring himself to proclaim that he was the successor to Beethoven, not Beethoven's equal or better.

Beethoven may have been an alien spy. Or possibly a Time Lord. Or maybe even you!

Tropes present in his work:

  • Deaf Composer: He counts as at least the honorary Trope Codifier.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: The overture "Wellington's Victory" calls for groups of muskets and cannons to exchange fire, depicting the battle rather literally.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The opening theme of the fifth symphony ("da da da DUM") coincidentally matches the Morse Code for the letter "V," so it was popularly played by the Allies during World War II to signify "Victory."
  • Hero-Worshipper: The story behind Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 was that he created it with the life of Napoleon Bonaparte in mind. The main reason was Beethoven viewed Napoleon as a rebel hero during The French Revolution. When the Frenchman went all A God Am I and declared himself emperor, Beethoven lost it - he seized the title page of his work and tore it in half before throwing it to the floor - and renamed the symphony "Eroica" instead of "Bonaparte". He re-dedicated it as "[A] Heroic Symphony, written to celebrate the memory of a great man", which might be read as Beethoven declaring that Bonaparte was Dead to him, but when Bonaparte actually died, Beethoven remarked "I wrote the music for this sad event seventeen years ago", referring to the second movement of the symphony - the Funeral March.
  • Let's See You Do Better: Wellington's Victory is typically seen as absolutely horrible, especially by Beethoven's standards. His response to all the criticism was, "What I shit is better than anything you could think up!" He was probably right.
  • Music of Note: Ask any person on the street to name a great composer; odds are very good that the first name they think of will be "Beethoven." And they'll probably also know that he wrote "Da da da DUM" and the "Ode to Joy" and....
  • Money, Dear Boy: The notorious "Wellington's Victory" was hardly his greatest work, but Beethoven took the commission knowing the martial theme would be a popular hit and help pay the bills.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: A large set of arrangements of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh folk songs leave some critics scratching their heads, but he took a lot of time and care over them (of course the generous commission didn't hurt either). In fact, the trope might even be inverted considering that by the numbers, he wrote more folk song arrangements than any other genre.
  • Orchestral Bombing: Much of his music, especially the symphonies, has a grand and heroic sound that works very well for this trope.
  • The Perfectionist: Beethoven's scores and sketches are famously filled with violently scrawled crossings-out and corrections in search of the exact right notes. Naturally, it paid off.
  • Romanticism: Regarded as a Trope Codifier.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: Described in poignant detail in his "Heiligenstadt Testament." He reveals that as he progressively lost his hearing he was nearly Driven to Suicide, but fortunately for everyone, he finally resolved to keep composing anyway.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Unlike his teacher, Haydn, who wrote more than a hundred symphonies, and the person who he wanted to study under, Mozart, who wrote a few dozen, good ol' Ludwig only wrote a symphony when he was inspired to, and, in effect, only wrote nine. Most musical historians say that his symphonies were also the pinnacle of western music.
  • Standard Snippet:
    • There is recent recognition that the introduction to Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" falls under this category.
    • His Fifth Symphony. During World War II, the first measure was an Allied Leit Motif, its four notes matching the Morse Code for "V" (for Victory). And the irony of using Germany's greatest composer against the Germans.
    • Moonlight Sonata. The first movement is probably best known to 8-bit-era gamers as "the Jet Set Willy theme".
    • Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony is the official anthem of the European Union.
    • Fr Elise

Beethoven in popular culture

Alternative Title(s):

Ludwig Van Beethoven