Why do musicians leave their careers

Seven famous composers: their fate, their music

1. Deaf for the rest of life: Ludwig van Beethoven

When Ludwig van Beethoven premiered his fifth symphony in 1808, he was already hard of hearing and suffered from ringing in the ears. In 1814 he completely lost his hearing. Desperate about his deafness and the impending end of his career as a pianist, he wrote in his will as early as 1802 during a cure in Heiligenstadt: "Little was missing, and I ended my life myself - only art, it held me back".

Contemporaries found this symphony in C minor to be gloomy and powerful. It went down in music history as the "fate symphony". Beethoven is said to have said to his secretary Anton Schindler about the famous opening motif: "So fate knocks on my door." Researchers doubt that, because Beethoven was not resigned to fate. At the same time he was composing his "Pastorale" with fresh, happy sounds. Beethoven wrote to a childhood friend: "I want to grab fate by the throat - it shouldn't bring me down completely." When his famous Ninth Symphony premiered in 1824, Beethoven had been completely deaf for 10 years.

2. First child prodigy, then poor and sick: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did not have it easy as an adult

At the age of six, the child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the piano in front of enthusiastic nobles and composed small pieces. When he was 13, the Archbishop of Salzburg brought him in as concertmaster. But the young Mozart wanted to remain independent, resigned and moved to Vienna. There he lived more badly than right with his wife Constanze. Money was always tight.

When he composed his penultimate symphony, the great G minor symphony, in 1788, he was already suffering from existential fears and paranoia. He spoke to friends of "black thoughts" that plagued him. The great G minor, sometimes gloomy, sometimes cheerful in sound, was already considered the "symphony of all symphonies" in the 19th century and is still one of the most popular works of classical music today. The adult Mozart never experienced this recognition. He died in 1791 at the age of 35 from a mysterious fever. The cause of this fever has not really been clarified to this day.

3. Torn between love and loyalty: Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was madly in love with Clara Schumann, 15 years his senior, the wife of his friend and patron Robert Schumann. Torn between hopeless love and his loyalty to his friend, he began in 1855 with his piano quartet in C minor, op. 60. The motif of sighs at the beginning suggests his suffering.

Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms always remained good friends

Brahms has been working on the quartet for over 20 years, at times plagued by thoughts of suicide. In the last sentence, which he wrote in 1875 in the year of publication, Brahms quotes the "fateful motif" from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He wrote to his publisher Fritz Simrock for the music edition: "You can also put a portrait on the title page! A head with the gun in front of it. Now you can get an idea of ​​the music. I will send you my photograph for this purpose!" "This earned the work the nickname" Werther Quartet ", after Goethe's hero of the same name, who took his own life after an unhappy love. Even after Robert Schumann died in 1856, Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann never became a real couple. The composer remained a bachelor throughout his life.

4. Forsaken by all senses: Robert Schumann

What Brahms only had in mind, the composer and music critic Robert Schumann put into practice. Plagued by depression, he jumped into the Rhine in 1854 to kill himself, but was saved. Mentally deranged, he spent the last two years in a mental hospital until his death in 1856. In his depressive phase he had written his last orchestral work, the Violin Concerto in D minor.

To this day, opinions differ as to whether it is the work of a madman or a genius. The violin solo seemed unplayable. Clara Schumann and her descendants considered this complicated work to be a "testimony to spiritual disruption". They decreed not to perform the violin concerto for 100 years.

The grave of Clara and Robert Schumann in the Bonn cemetery

More than 80 years after its creation, on November 26, 1937, the violin concerto was premiered with the Berlin Philharmonic under Karl Böhm against the will of Schumann's daughter Eugenie. The solo part was heavily edited and simplified by the composer Paul Hindemith. It is said that the National Socialists demanded a replacement for a planned piece by the Jewish-born composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Today the work is valued by well-known violin virtuosos and is reproduced as faithfully as possible.

5. The eternal struggle in the shadow of Beethoven: Franz Schubert

Only after 1945 was Schubert's work properly appreciated in Germany

The composer Franz Schubert emulated his great role model Ludwig van Beethoven all his life and at the same time tried in vain to step out of his shadow. Schubert wrote 21 piano sonatas alone in his short life; with Beethoven it was 32. In 1828 Schubert composed the last three sonatas, as with Beethoven laid out as a triad. The sonatas are linked to one another via themes and motifs. With the Sonata in B flat major, his last completed work, Schubert breaks away from the usual form of his time. He plays with individual motifs. "Musically and vocally, it trickles from side to side, interrupted here and there by individual violent movements", wrote the composer and music critic Robert Schumann in his 1838 review.

The last three sonatas are seen as a liberation from Beethoven. Franz Schubert, composer of the song cycle "Die Winterreise", had just established himself in the music business, found publishers for his scores and appeared in public. But for years he had suffered from syphilis and alcohol addiction. In 1823 he wrote in the hospital: "I feel like the most unhappy, most miserable person in the world". The B flat major sonata was his last. Schubert was 31 years old and composed over 1,000 works in his short life.

6. Music in captivity: Olivier Messiaen

The French composer Olivier Messiaen is considered a pioneer of atonal music. In 1940 he was captured by Germany during World War II. However, the camp commanders let him compose and even got a piano. In the prison camp, Messiaen wrote his "Quartuor pour la fin du temps" (Quartet from the end of time). Instruments are provided that inmates could play on site: clarinet, violin, cello and piano. The premiere took place in the camp.

Memorial stone in the former Stalag VIIIA prison camp. This is exactly where the world premiere of Olivier Messiaen's "Quatuor pour la fin du temps" took place.

In 1941 Messiaen was able to return to Paris. The war left its mark on his music. The biographer Theo Hirsbrunner describes it as follows: "His music suddenly takes on an even greater seriousness, which set in during the months of suffering and produced apocalyptic visions." His quartet takes up the apocalyptic visions from the biblical revelation of John. The sentence headings take up this language: "Vortex of the rainbows for the angel who proclaims the end of time" or "Dance of wrath for the seven trumpets".

7. Fear of Stalin: Dmitri Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote commissioned works for the Stalinist regime, including an anthem in 1927 for the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Anyone who listened carefully to his work found subliminal scorn and ridicule against his clients. For this, the Russian composer was ostracized at times, because Stalin had also listened carefully. Performance bans and targeted bad reviews drove him into depression and even thought of suicide. Throughout his life he suffered from fear of the Russian secret service.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote for the regime and yet remained critically aloof

After the Second World War, Shostakovich achieved world fame. Although his early works were rehabilitated in the Soviet Union, fears overcame him again and again: "Waiting for the execution is one of the subjects that have tortured me all my life, many aspects of my music speak of it." So also the 15th Symphony in A major op. 141 from 1971, Shostakovich's last symphony.

Musically he quotes from his own works and those of other composers, such as the scene of the proclamation of death from Wagner's "Die Walküre". The symphony is a look back at his life between fear and loyalty to the socialist rulers. A Moscow weekly newspaper wrote: "To relive the history of our country between 1930 and 1970, it is sufficient to hear Shostakovich's symphonies". Dmitri Shostakovich died of a heart attack in 1975.

All of the composers mentioned are present with their "works of fate" at this year's Beethovenfest in Bonn from August 31 to September 23. To be heard in 2018.