Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the most significant and influential German composers in the history of music, and from a historical standpoint – a symbolic and exemplary figure of creation, success and mental fortitude.
Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany on December 16, 1770, the third generation in a musical family of meager means. Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he received his musical education from his father, Johann, who was determined to show the world that he too was a child prodigy.
However, while he indeed taught his son to play the piano and the violin, Beethoven’s father lacked the teaching abilities and parental capabilities of Mozart’s father. Beethoven’s lessons took place in a harsh rigid environment, based on meticulous practice. The family home was filled with sadness and devoid of any childlike atmosphere.
In 1779, Beethoven began studying with organ player Christian Gottlob Neefe who added a constructive and creative aspect to his education, thus changing the course of his musical development. Later events greatly affected him, especially when Mozart declared: “This young genius will amaze the entire world” after hearing him play, as well as studying with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven was a brilliant pianist and improviser. He moved to Vienna in 1792, where he was received with open arms by the city’s most influential circles, including the finest musicians and their patrons.
His personal life was rife with crises. A fire near his home, lack of family stability, the death of his mother in 1787, an additional meeting with Mozart that did not ultimately take place, loneliness and the inability to start a family, occasional depression due to his failed involvement in his nephew Karl’s life. And above all, the pall of deafness that was discovered in his youth and worsened over time. His personality was described as fluctuating between closedness and agitation; he displayed mood swings and lacked the social graces suited to his status.
As a man who believed in divine justice and his own internal forces, when Beethoven was faced with his destiny and the challenges of musical tradition, he created an innovative language of infinite precision and refinement that was ahead of its time and which would eventually take music into the future.
His works are characterized by a rich sonorous texture, double in length or more. Sonatas of four movements or two expanded movements were added to existing formats. He changed the structure and order of the movements in symphonies (minuet changed to scherzo), and expanded the familiar dynamics such as pianissimo in the soft range, fortissimo in the loud range and sforzando as an effect.
Beethoven greatly condensed his motifs – the short melodic or rhythmic sequence of notes that serves as the basis for the entire piece. The motif unifies ideas, measures and movements to form a comprehensive musical composition. The opening motif in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony consists of just two notes and the tempo describes his internal feelings regarding his impending deafness: “This is the sound of fate knocking at the door”.
The trajectory of Beethoven’s life and works is comparable to the Israeli experience of overcoming hurdles and crises, showing ambitiousness and uniqueness, creativity and innovation to create a country from scratch in a land with limited material and physical resources, marching forward with confidence and faith in the human spirit to become a leading force in the world.
Pianist, Music Teacher
Description of the Stamp and First Day Cover and Cancellation
The stamp features a portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven, exhibiting his typical stern, serious expression and burning gaze. To the left of the portrait is the score for the opening motif in his Symphony no.5 Op.67 1st movement - Allegro con brio.
The stamp tab displays the score for the second motif in the same movement, and a piano keyboard with the keys for the two notes that serve as the basis for the motif of the first movement – G and Eb – highlighted in red.
The cancellation features Beethoven’s signature and an illustration of a cello, one of the four instruments featured in a string quartet. This is the ensemble for which Beethoven wrote his loftiest works.
The First Day Cover shows the sound box of a grand piano including the keyboard, a silhouette of Beethoven and the first three bars of the Piano Sonata no. 14 in C-sharp Op. 27 no. 2, known as The Moonlight Sonata.