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Ludwig van Beethoven

(Classical - Romantic)
Ludwig van Beethoven

Born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany, died in 1827 in Vienna, Austria.

A musician himself his father started Beethoven’s early musical education, nurturing the ambition of educating a child prodigy.

When Ludwig van Beethoven was 12 years old his father had almost ruined the family because of his severe alcoholism. Ludwig had to work to support the family, first as an assistant to his teacher, court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, then as an assistant organist earning a salary of 150 guilders. At the age of 17 Beethoven traveled to Vienna, at that time the cultural and musical center of Europe, taking up studies with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who predicted him a successful future. After only a few weeks Beethoven was informed that his mother was critically ill and he returned to Bonn. The grief about his mother’s death and the disappointment about the missed chance in Vienna was further aggravated as in the meantime the father had gone bankrupt and Beethoven had now to provide for the family alone.

Nevertheless his unusual talent called the attention of Austrian composer Joseph Haydn who invited him back to Vienna. Beethoven arrived in Vienna in 1792 and studied with Haydn for about one year. The arrangement proved to be a disappointment to Beethoven, so he turned to other teachers when Haydn went on a trip to London. Beethoven quickly established a very good reputation and the Viennese were ready to pay for his compositions and his lessons whatever he asked.

Slowly Beethoven noted that his hearing became worse. The verdict of the doctors he consulted was unanimous: The illness was incurable and would result in complete deafness. A traumatic prospect for a composer that nearly drove him to suicide in 1802. Beethoven became sullen and distrustful, more and more inclined to pointless fits of anger, and withdrew increasingly from people. In 1809, at the invitation of Jérome Bonaparte, Beethoven wanted to leave Vienna. His friend of many years, the Countess Anna Marie Erdödy, kept him at Vienna with the help of his wealthiest admirers: the Archbishop Rudolph, the Prince Lobkowitz and the Prince Kinsky. These men gave Beethoven an annual grant of 4,000 florins, allowing him to live without financial constraint. The only condition was that Beethoven was not to leave Vienna which he accepted. This grant made Beethoven the first independent composer, free to write what he wanted, when he wanted, just as he pleased. Organized by Bettina Brentano Beethoven met Goethe at the end of July 1812. These two great men admired but did not understand each other. The composer found the poet too servile, and the poet thought Beethoven "completely untamed".

Despite his deafness he still conducted his own compositions even though he was not able to even hear the applause. With all the music in his head the deafness did not prevent him from composing many of his best known masterpieces.

Beethoven died on March 26th 1827. On the day of his burial 20,000 people gave him his last escort. Along with other musicians Franz Schubert, a huge admirer of Beethoven, was one of the coffin bearers.

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