Ludwig van Beethoven


Who: Ludwig van Beethoven

What: German composer and pianist.

Where: Born Bonn, Holy Roman Empire, died Vienna, Austria.

Why: Massively influential composer, helped to orchestrate (geddit) transition between Classical and Romantic eras. 

When: Born December 1770, baptised December 17, died March 26 1827.

“Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth.’ – Ludwig van Beethoven

Taking an interest in music at an early age, Ludwig van Beethoven was initially taught piano by his father, Johann, and almost immediately showed immeasurable talent in his craft. Giving his first public performance in Cologne aged 7; Ludwig soon outgrew his father’s fairly limited talents and was taught by the renowned musician Gottlob Neefe, publishing his first work aged 12: 9 Variations in C Minor for Piano. Appointed organist of the court of Maximillian Franz, Elector of Cologne in 1784, he was then sent to Vienna in 1787 by Franz to further his musical education, where he first met Mozart, and took lessons from Haydn, Albrechtsberger and Salieri, astounding the Viennese elite with his virtuosity. Around 1796 he began to go deaf, sending him into a deep depression and after a failed attempt to perform his own Piano Concert No. 5 in 1811, he retired from public performance altogether. Regarded as one of the preeminent composers of all time, he was a crucial figure in the transition from classicism to the romanticism that would dominate 19th Century classical music. His works were prolific: nine symphonies, seven concerti, thirty-two piano sonatas, ten violin sonatas, five cello sonatas and sixteen string quartets, along with dozens of pieces of occasional music, shorter pieces and other arrangements. Suffering from chronic abdominal pain starting in his twenties, he spent the last months of his life bedridden, and died aged 56 in Vienna, during a thunderstorm.

Portrait by Stieler, 1820

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