What is a musical genius to do? Ludwig van Beethoven had been composing piano sonatas with his own technical prowess in mind since he was eleven years old, and thirty five years later he hits a brick wall.
The new ideas and experimentation that stimulated so much of his music wasn't happening. This was the situation Beethoven found himself in 1816. The composer was a crotchety and difficult man at the best of times and after 1815 his physical problems and lack of energy brought his compositional growth to a standstill.
Context is everything. Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his 26th piano sonata to Archduke Rudolph of Austria. The nickname of the sonata is "Les Adieux" or "Farewell," and I've heard speculation on the supposed relationship between the composer and his patron and friend.
Just knowing the title page on the first edition helps clarify some facts: "On the departure of his imperial highness, for the Archduke Rudolph, in admiration."
What a difference there was between Mozart and Beethoven. Where the former was often forced to wear livery and eat with the servants, Beethoven hobnobbed with nobility and taught some of them music and piano.
When he didn't feel he was getting what he deserved, the composer, in 1808, put out the rumor that he was considering a position with a Napoleon brother and would leave for Westphalia.
We learn from others, or as Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Beethoven took this advice and borrowed from Mozart and Haydn, but quickly progressed.
Where some would borrow a sonata development or structure, Beethoven would take the layout, hacksaw it off and replace it with an invention of his own, or invert something and swap parts around, much like car nuts did in the early days of Hot Rod building.
But the composer's days of modifying others' ideas was over.
YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) are usually on the move, but this weekend, they hope you will join them in a 5k/10k fun run. This is the second year the group has led a "Beat Beethoven's Fifth" race and they are joined by Fleet Feet Sports San Antonio, as well as Texas Public Radio, for the event Saturday morning.