Ludwig van Beethoven

Facts about Ludwig van Beethoven

We found 39 facts about Ludwig van Beethoven

For many, the most important composer in history

Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer and pianist, is one of the most recognized and admired composers in the history of music. His works are among the most frequently performed in the classical music repertoire. In his rather short life, despite the adversities of complete deafness, he created many brilliant works. Although he could not perform, he felt the music with every sense and heard it thanks to his musical imagination. His greatest work, the 9th Symphony, is a work widely known not only to music lovers because its final cantata is the anthem of the European Union.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist who lived from 1770 to 1827.

He remains one of the most admired composers in the history of music, his works are among the most frequently performed in the classical music repertoire.

He was the forerunner of romanticism in music.

His works cover the transition from the classical period to the romantic era in classical music.

Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 in a house at Bonnstrasse 20, where the Beethoven-Haus Museum is now located.

There is no authentic record of his date of birth, but a record of his baptism has been preserved, which shows the date of December 17. Beethoven himself believed that he was born on December 15, and since in the German church of that time it was customary to baptize children no later than 24 hours after birth, the composer's birthday was assumed to be December 16, which Beethoven himself agreed with.

Beethoven's ancestors were Catholic farmers from what is now Belgium (the prefix "van" is a typical element of common Dutch surnames, often derived from the name of a place).

The composer's grandfather, Ludwig Senior, came to Bonn from the city of Mechelen (then in the Austrian Duchy of Brabant, today Flemish Belgium) at the age of 21 and soon married a local girl, Maria Josepha Poll. He found employment as a bass singer at the court of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, Clemens August, and later became a bandmaster. This couple had an only son, Johann, who worked as a tenor in the same place as his father and also gave lessons on keyboards and violin.

Towards the end of his life, Ludwig senior had his portrait painted, which remained in his grandson's rooms as a talisman of his musical heritage.

Johann van Beethoven married Maria Magdalena Keverich, daughter of the chef at the court of the Archbishop of Trier. Of the seven children born from this marriage, only the second, Ludwig, and two younger brothers, Kasper Antoni Karl and Nikolaus Johann (commonly known as Johann), survived.

Since Ludwig showed musical talent from an early age, his father, following the example of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, wanted to turn him into a "child prodigy".

Johann, aware of Leopold Mozart's success in this field (with son Wolfgang and daughter Nannerl), attempted to promote his son as a child prodigy, claiming that Beethoven was six years old (he was seven) in the posters of his first public performance in March 1778 in Cologne. Little Ludwig's first music teacher was his father. Later he had other local teachers: the court organist Gilles van den Eeden, Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer - a family friend who taught him how to play keyboard instruments, Franz Rovantini - a relative who taught him violin and viola, and the court concertmaster Franz Anton Ries who taught him how to play on a violin.

Beethoven began learning music at the age of five, and because the study regime was strict and intense, it often reduced him to tears.

Pfeiffer, who often suffered from insomnia, organized late lessons by dragging his sleeping toddler out of bed.

Later, Ludwig's father hired better teachers.

The most important of them was the composer and organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, who introduced the young Beethoven to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and made him fall in love with this music. Beethoven knew Bach's cycle of preludes and fugues by heart.

Neefe taught Beethoven the composition. In March 1783, his first published work appeared - a set of variations for the keyboard.

Soon Beethoven began working with Neefe as assistant organist in the court chapel.

First, he did it free of charge (1782), and later he received remuneration (1784).

His first three piano sonatas, sometimes known as "Kurfürst" ("Elector") due to their dedication to the elector Maximilian Friedrich (1708-1784), were published in 1783.

In the same year, the first printed mention of Beethoven appeared in "Magazin der Musik".

Maximilian Friedrich's successor as Elector of Bonn, Maximilian Franz, appointed Beethoven as court organist and also paid for his visit to Vienna in 1792.

During these years, he was introduced to several people who became important in his life. He often visited the von Breuning family, whose children he taught piano, and the widowed Mrs. Breuning offered him motherly friendship. Here he also met Franz Wegeler, a young medical student who became his lifelong friend. In the von Breuning house, he also met Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, who became Beethoven's friend and financial helper during the Bonn period - in 1791 he commissioned his first work for the stage, the ballet "Music zu einem Ritterballett".

Family environment von Breuning's family environment provided an alternative to his home life.

Ludwig's father abused alcohol and was often aggressive towards his wife and children. Eventually, life in the family home became dominated by the father's decline. Ludwig's mother died in 1787. In 1789, Beethoven's father was forcibly dismissed from his job due to alcoholism and it was ordered that half of his pension be paid directly to Ludwig to support the family. He contributed to the family income (he did it reluctantly, as his friend Wegeler said) by giving lessons and playing the viola in the court orchestra.

In his later years, Beethoven never mentioned his father, but a portrait of his mother, whom he had great love for, always stood on his desk.

While playing in the court orchestra, Beethoven became familiar with a variety of operatic works, including works by Mozart, Gluck, and Paisiello.

He also became friends with Anton Reicha, nephew of the court orchestra conductor Josef Reicha, a composer, flutist, and violinist of approximately the same age.

During his first two-week visit to Vienna in 1787, he almost certainly met Mozart.

In the years 1790-1792, Beethoven composed several works, showing greater maturity in them - he did not publish any of them. He also received his first commissions (probably on Neef's orders) - the Bonn Literary Society commissioned him a cantata in 1790 on the occasion of the death of Joseph II, as well as another cantata to celebrate the subsequent accession of Leopold II as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. These two cantatas were never performed at the time and were lost until the 1880s, when Johannes Brahms described them as "Beethoven through and through", recognizing in them a prophetic style that distinguished his music as distinct from the classical tradition.

Beethoven was probably first introduced to Joseph Haydn in late 1790 when he, traveling to London, stopped over Christmas in Bonn.

A year and a half later, they met in Vienna, when Beethoven was playing in La Redoute Bonn Bad Godesberg.

He left for Vienna in November 1792 and soon after arriving, he learned of his father's death.

There was a widespread belief that Beethoven was the successor of the recently deceased Mozart - Ludwig studied his work and wrote works in a distinctly Mozart style.

He spent his stay in Vienna studying and did not immediately think about being a composer. He mainly studied the violin under Ignaz Schuppanzigh, and while working under Haydn, he also aimed to master counterpoint. He also began taking occasional lessons from Antonio Salieri, mainly in the Italian style of vocal composition.

Many wealthy Viennese noticed his abilities and offered him financial support, including Prince Joseph Franz Lobkowitz, Prince Charles Lichnowsky, and Baron Gottfried van Swieten.

Aided by contacts with Haydn and Waldstein, Beethoven began to gain a reputation as a performer and improviser in the salons of the Viennese nobility. By 1793 he had gained a reputation as a piano virtuoso in Vienna, but he withheld the publication of his works to give them greater importance.

He made his public debut in Vienna in 1795.

He gave three concerts, starting with one of his own piano concertos on March 29 at the Burgtheater and ending on March 31 with a Mozart concerto, probably Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor.

Shortly after his public debut, he published three piano trios, which he gave the opus number 1.

These works were dedicated to his patron, Prince Lichnowski, and were a financial success. Beethoven's profits were almost enough to cover his living expenses for a year. In 1800, his first concert took place, the proceeds of which were intended exclusively for him, and his First Symphony premiered there. The work was well received, although critics saw in it a desire for originality.

Beethoven took part in the so-called piano "duels".

The first one took place at the home of Baron Raimund Wetzlar, a former patron of Mozart, with the virtuoso Joseph Wölfl, and a year later in the salon of Count Moritz von Fries with Daniel Steibelt - he won both duels.

At the peak of his virtuoso fame, in the period 1796-1798, Beethoven experienced the first symptoms of deafness.

Initially, he treated it as a short-term indisposition of the body, but over time, he realized that deafness was irreversible. The cause was probably otosclerosis, possibly accompanied by degeneration of the auditory nerve. The composer broke down and in 1802, during his stay in Heiligenstadt near Vienna, he wrote a letter to his brothers (which he did not send), the so-called Heiligenstadt testament, in which the composer says that the only thing that stopped him from committing suicide is his art.

After several years of struggling with disability, Beethoven was forced to completely give up public performances and devote himself exclusively to composing.

It was a great blow to him, because concerts were an important source of income, and his deafness also contributed significantly to his withdrawal from social life. Beethoven could still hear speech and music until 1812, he never became completely deaf. In recent years, he was still able to distinguish between low tones and sudden loud sounds.

Beethoven's return from Heiligenstadt to Vienna was marked by a change in musical style and is now often referred to as the beginning of his middle (heroic) period.

Shortly after Beethoven's breakdown, one of his most joyful works, Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36. During this time, many original works were composed on a grand scale. An important work using this new style was Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, known as "Eroica". The composer created the piece, which he originally called "Bonaparte," because he was fascinated by the heroic leader of the revolution. However, when Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven scratched Napoleon's name from the title page of the manuscript and called it a Heroic Symphony (Eroica) written in memory of the great man. It was received with mixed feelings.

In 1810, Beethoven was hailed by the writer and composer Ernst Hoffmann in an influential review of the Allgemeinemusikalische Zeitung as the greatest of the three "Romantic" composers.

According to Hoffmann, he was ahead of Haydn and Mozart in this ranking. He wrote that in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony his music "sets in motion terror, fear, terror, pain and awakens the infinite longing that is the essence of romanticism."

Beethoven's income during this period came from the publication of his works, from their performances, and from patrons for whom he performed private concerts and exclusive copies of the works they commissioned before their publication.

Some of his patrons, including Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Lichnovsky, gave him annual stipends in addition to commissioning works and purchasing published works. Perhaps his most important aristocratic patron was Archduke Rudolf of Austria, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II, who began studying piano and composition with him. This led to a friendship that lasted continuously until 1824. Beethoven dedicated 14 compositions to Rudolf, including some of his most important works - the Archduke Trio, Op. 97 and Missa Solemnis op. 123.

In the fall of 1808, after turning down a position at the Royal Theater, Beethoven was offered a well-paid position as bandmaster at the court of Cassel by Napoleon's brother, Jerome Bonaparte, then king of Westphalia.

To persuade Beethoven to stay in Vienna, Archduke Rudolf and his other patrons agreed to pay him an annuity of 4000 florins per year. Only Rudolf fulfilled his obligation, so the composer was forced to resort to the law.

In 1806, Beethoven visited Count Franz von Oppersdorff in his castle in Głogówek near Prudnik.

The castle orchestra welcomed him with a concert, performing his Symphony No. 2 in D major. Beethoven promised the Count that he would give him his Symphony No. 5 in C minor, which he had been working on, and received an advance of 500 florins from the Count. However, he dedicated the symphony to Count A.K. Razumowski, while Opersdorff received the rights to the 6th symphony.

The years 1804-1810 were the period of exceptional creative fertility of the composer.

At that time, four symphonies, four concertos, five quartets, trios, sonatas, and overtures were created.

After the death of his brother Kasper, Beethoven tried hard to take care of his son Karl, because he believed that his widow, Johanna, was too promiscuous to take care of the child.

Unfortunately, Ludwig was completely unsuitable for raising his nephew, he did not lead a stable life and was not consistent in his upbringing. His protégé even tried to take his own life, which completely devastated the master. His professional activity also declined, and in the years 1817-1819 he created only one work (considered a masterpiece) - the Great Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier".

The master's complete deafness prevented him from contact with the surroundings.

Communication took place using the so-called conversation notebooks (Konversationshefte), which constitute a unique historical record containing discussions not only on musical topics. Some of them (138 out of 400) have survived to this day thanks to his first biographer and friend, Anton Schindler. Unfortunately, they are not completely authentic, because Schindler made many changes to them in order to lie and mythologize the composer's life.

Towards the end of his life, Beethoven received many tokens of recognition.

Among other things, he became a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and received a gold medal from Louis XVIII for his Solemn Mass (Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123). He also enjoyed great fame among the Viennese.

Beethoven worked a lot, led a destructive lifestyle, lived in poor conditions, had many personal problems, and, in addition, suffered from numerous diseases - this led to very severe exhaustion of his body.

He struggled with intestinal disease throughout his life, including dropsy and cirrhosis of the liver, which led to the composer's death. However, the latest research shows that the main cause of the composer's poor health and, as a result, death, was the lead treatment conducted by his doctor, Andreas Wawruch (he used compresses containing lead). Leads were also influenced by vessels used by Beethoven, as well as medicinal waters containing lead.

Ludwig van Beethoven died on March 26, 1827, at the age of 56.

Beethoven's death was attended by his friend Anselm Huttenbrenner and probably his sister-in-law, Johanna van Beethoven.

According to Huttenbrenner, around 5 p.m. there was a flash of lightning and thunder: "Beethoven opened his eyes, raised his right hand and looked up for a few seconds with a clenched fist...".

The composer was originally buried at the St. Marx cemetery in Vienna, from which in 1888 the remains of the deceased were moved to the newly established Central Cemetery in Vienna, where they were placed in a grave adjacent to Schubert's.

Beethoven's funeral took place on March 29, 1827, attended by over 10.000 people. Viennese (the city had approximately 200.000 inhabitants at that time). They walked in the funeral procession carrying torches, including Franz Schubert and violinist Joseph Mayseder. The funeral speech of the poet Franz Grillparzer was read by actor Heinrich Anschutz.

Beethoven never married.

However, the names of the women he loved, often with reciprocity, are known. These women generally came from the aristocracy, and since the composer did not boast of noble origins, he could not marry any of them at that time. He dedicated his works to many women. One of them was Giulietta Guicciardi, whose name he immortalized in the piano sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2, called "Moonlight Sonata". Beethoven was even engaged to her, but her father did not agree to the wedding.

There were many women with whom he maintained friendly relations, one of them was Bettina Brentano (also Goethe's friend), Therese Malfatti, and the Hungarian aristocrat Anna Maria Erdody, whom the composer called his confessor.

After the master's death, a letter to the Immortal Beloved was found in a hidden drawer of the desk (found together with, among others, the Heiligenstadt Testament).

Unfortunately, it was not possible to determine who the mysterious addressee of the letter was, nor is it known where the letter was addressed to, when it was written, and whether the author sent it at all. There are speculations that this beloved was Dorothea von Ertmann.

Beethoven's compositional achievements are usually divided into three periods: early (classical), middle (heroic), and late (romantic).
  • In this earliest period, the composer followed in the footsteps of his great predecessors, Haydn and Mozart. From this period come, among others, 1st and 2nd symphonies, the first 6 string quartets, the first three piano concertos, and several piano sonatas, including the so-called "Pathetique" and "Lunar"
  • The middle period began in a period of personal crisis caused by progressive deafness. At that time, he preferred large forms carrying the idea of heroism and fighting against fate. Six symphonies come from this period, the Piano Concerto, the Triple Concerto, the Violin Concerto, and piano sonatas, among others. the so-called "Waldsteinian and "Appassionata", the "Kreutzerian" violin sonata, and the composer's only opera "Fidelio"
  • The Romantic (late) period began around 1815 when his works began to be characterized by great intellectual depth and strong personal expression. From this period comes, for example, the String Quartet op. 131, composed of seven interconnected parts, and in the finale of the Ninth Symphony, the orchestra is joined by a quartet of soloists and a mixed choir. Other works from this period include the symphonic mass Missa Solemnis, "Golitsyn Quartets and the Great Fugue" and the last five piano sonatas, including "Hammerklavier"
Currently, Beethoven is recognized mainly as the author of the Ninth Symphony, which he composed in 1824.

The composer spent over 30 years in Vienna, where the premieres of all his symphonies took place, including the Ninth Symphony, completed in 1824. Beethoven was already completely deaf at that time, he could not conduct himself, but he stood next to the conductor with his back to the audience and "conducted" too - with his hands, his arms, his whole body. After the song ended, when there was applause, one of the performers turned the master towards the audience, so that he could at least see the hall and the audience's admiration. Beethoven had this music in his head, he heard it through his musical imagination.

The Ninth Symphony was something revolutionary, something that had never happened before in the history of music, the history of symphony.

The author introduced vocal parts into the last, fourth part - a quite large choir and four soloists.

A fragment of the symphony, the final cantata became the anthem of the European Union (in 1972, the final cantata of the Ninth Symphony, known as "Ode to Joy", in an instrumental version created by Herbert von Karajan, was adopted as the EU anthem by the Council of Europe and the European Community).

"Ode to Joy" is a poem by Friedrich Schiller written in November 1785 - the final author's version comes from 1803.

Already in a sketchbook from 1789, Beethoven wrote down a phrase from the first part of the chorus, intending to write music to Schiller's work. Based on the project from 1812, it is known that it was initially intended to be an overture for choir and orchestra. While working on the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven incorporated the text into its final movement.

A work inspired by Schiller's poem is "Ode to Youth" by Adam Mickiewicz, considered an enthusiastic praise of youth in the spirit of Philomath.

Hungry for more facts?

Latest topics

42 facts about Kyshtym disaster
42 facts about Kyshtym disaster
The first nuclear accident in Earth's history
Before information about it saw the light of day, the Soviets hid it for over 30 years. The explosion at the Mayak combine was the first nuclear accid ...
37 facts about Saint Petersburg
37 facts about Saint Petersburg
A city of many names
It was a dream and a matter of prestige for the Romanov dynasty to gain access to the Baltic Sea and build a metropolis to testify to Russia's emergin ...
32 facts about Peter the Great
32 facts about Peter the Great
The first Emperor of all Russia
Peter the Great is considered one of Russia's greatest rulers. He was a great reformer, strategist, and builder who was the first of the tsars to trav ...
39 facts about Dyatlov Pass incident
39 facts about Dyatlov Pass incident
Mysterious tragedy in the Ural mountains
The case of a group of students at the Ural Polytechnical Institute in Sverdlovsk continues to arouse great interest and raise many questions. A group ...
11 facts about Brooklyn Bridge
11 facts about Brooklyn Bridge
The first steel suspension bridge in the world
It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It connects Brooklyn with Manhattan, runs over the East River, and was completed in 1883. ...
31 facts about Brazil
31 facts about Brazil
South America's largest country
Brazil is the largest and most populous country in South America and one of the largest and most populous countries in the world. A former Portuguese ...
44 facts about Ghent
44 facts about Ghent
City of three towers
Ghent is one of Belgium's most visited cities by tourists. This beautiful old Flanders city combines dignity, beauty, culture, and creativity. It is a ...
31 facts about Thailand
31 facts about Thailand
A country on the Indochinese Peninsula
Thailand is an Asian country located in its south-eastern part, famous for its interesting culture and religious architecture. This exotic country, wh ...

Similar topics