The musicians’ platform became the stage of an invisible drama, the temple of a sonic revelation.
Above all, Beethoven shaped the identity of what came to be known as classical music.
Although he expected that posterity would take an interest in him—otherwise he would not have saved so many of his sketches—he did not picture himself in the magniloquent terms employed by Hoffmann and others.
“Everything I do apart from music is badly done and stupid,” he once wrote.
Weber sees an 1807 Leipzig performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the titanic, turbulent “Eroica,” as a turning point: the work was brought back a week later, “by demand,” taking a place of honor at the end of the program.
Likewise, a critic wrote of the Second Symphony, “It demands to be played again, and yet again, by even the most accomplished orchestra.” More than anything, it was the mesmerizing intricacy of Beethoven’s constructions—his way of building large structures from the obsessive development of curt motifs—that made the repertory culture of classical music possible.
This is not to say that Beethoven’s predecessors, giants on the order of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, fail to reward repeated listening with their cerebral games of variation.
In the case of Beethoven, though, the process becomes addictive, irresistible. Beethoven’s music sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain. Music is being accorded powers at once transcendent and transformative: it hovers far above the ordinary world, yet it also reaches down and alters the course of human events.
is a singularity in the history of art—a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force.
He not only left his mark on all subsequent composers but also molded entire institutions.