Beethoven’s Biography: The Middle Years 1808-1814

War and inner turmoil are at the heart of Beethoven's works.

• He finishes work on the most imperiously commanding of his piano concertos – the Emperor – in 1809, just as the walls of Vienna are collapsing under the inexorable might of Napoleon’s invading armies. 

• Beethoven is reported to be tying pillows to his head in his cellar against the noise of the battle in order to protect what is left of his hearing. Sadly to little avail – he will soon be forced to give up public performing. 

• In order to escape the turmoil, without and within, Beethoven focuses his energies on the majestic key of E flat via three 1809 masterworks: the Emperor Concerto, Harp Quartet and Les Adieux Sonata. 

• Turning the coin over, he produces two last pieces in his “sturm und drang”, “victory in the face of adversity” style, both in F minor: the incidental music to Goethe’s five-act melodrama Egmont and the Serioso Quartet. 

• Following the Seventh (1811) and Eighth (1812) Symphonies and Archduke Piano Trio (1811), despondency at his condition – noted as the “detestation of the world around him”– begins to intensify. 

• Exacerbated by problems in his private life – unrequited love, ungrateful relatives and dwindling financial resources – between 1813 and 1821 Beethoven completes only half-a-dozen major works. 

• Just as Mozart at the height of his powers was reduced to writing music for a toy clock, so Beethoven composes a “symphony” celebrating Wellington’s victory over Napoleon for a device called the “panharmonicon”.