The masterful compositions in classical music are studied even hundreds of years after they are written. At times in the past when such musical ability was not as common, the public perception of such composers as Beethoven was nothing short of wonder and amazement. The composer’s first opus in the late 1700’s was immediately successful, and he played instruments from the time he was a young child. Symphony No. 5 is probably the most recognizable and utilized pieces in all of classical music. So, just what are the qualities that can define someone as a musical genius, as many proclaim this one to be?
Ludwig van Beethoven played from an early age, seemingly without any formal lessons. It is unusual for someone to be able to play an instrument and express their creativity without having extensive training. He even performed on the harpsichord at 8 years old. Despite being pressured by his father, this is still an amazing accomplishment. To perform so well at a young age, there must be some capability in the individual that is greater than what most people possess.
By the age of 16, he taught music lessons and was known for improvisational styling. Intense creativity is something that drives people to pursue talents, especially in music. The will to improvise certainly drives the mind to learn quickly by taking in all of the sounds and position of the notes in an instrument.
To be recognized, or even successful, a performer must also have the support of others. This was in spite of the great composer’s refusal to follow proper etiquette in court, although he was still respected by the aristocracy of the time. Audiences were amazed by his performances, even later in life when deafness threatened to end a career of music. People were on his side, but that does not account for how someone develops such an incredible ability.
Understanding just how Beethoven was able to accomplish what he did is a debate that continues on to this day and will continue in the future. There were no brain scans, intelligence tests, or any other physical or mental assessments at the time which could provide scientists with data on how an individual musical genius’ physiology is different. With no way to compare those traits to any in modern day composers and ordinary people, questions still remain as to how and why the composer was so different.
He was also able to play piano despite suffering from deafness later in life. Accounts say creativity and the passion of the audience drove him emotionally, but there must have been something special about Beethoven’s capability if he was able to master a performance without hearing the music. Despite the many hardships he faced in life, he resolved to pursue his art, so was the intense desire to create and perform what drove the composer to be so good, or was he in fact a genius?
There are many symphonies, concertos, and vocal pieces which have survived the test of time, so we all recognize them instantly and sometimes wonder what it took to have created them in the first place. People who heard them for the first time in the 18th and 19th centuries were wowed even more, without the exposure to historical composers. The musical instruments were first becoming advanced enough for such talent to be displayed.
As to whether was an actual musical genius and what qualifies somebody as one is a debate that will continue, but one thing for sure is that we can all appreciate the sophistication in his music that will always live on as well.