Ludwig van Beethoven

Considered greatest of German classical composers, Beethoven was baptized in Bonn. His exact birthdate is unknown. Biographers generally quote December 16.

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized December 16 (17), 1770 – March 26, 1827), was a German composer and pianist. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of music, a predominant figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music. 

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, to Johann van Beethoven and Magdalena Keverich van Beethoven. He was baptized on December 17, but his family and later teacher Johann Albrechtsberger celebrated his birthday on December 16. Beethoven's first music teacher was his father, a musician in the Electoral court at Bonn who was apparently a harsh and unpredictable instructor. Johann would often come home from a bar in the middle of the night and pull young Ludwig out of bed to play for him and his friend.

His talent was recognized at a very early age. His first notable teacher was Christian Gottlob Neefe. In 1787 young Beethoven traveled to Vienna for the first time. Planned to study under Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this did not materialize when he was summoned to his mother's deathbed who was dying of tubercolosis. She died when he was 16, shortly followed by his sister, and for several years he was responsible for raising his two younger brothers because of his father's worsening alcoholism. Later, when he moved to Vienna in 1792, Mozart had died the previous year.

He studied for a time with Joseph Haydn and quickly gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. 

In his late twenties he began to lose his hearing, and yet continued to produce notable masterpieces throughout his life in the face of this personal disaster. His reputation and genius have inspired generations of composers, musicians, and audiences.


Beethoven's Heiligenstadt Testament
Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" 
A favourite chamber music: Beethoven's Piano Trio in D major, Op. 70 No. 1 "Ghost" - performed by Barenboim, Du Pre and Zukerman.     

Suggested Reading: 

Beethoven by Maynard Solomon. Published by Cassell. London. 

Beethoven's Hair: An extraordinary historical odyssey and a musical mystery solved.  by Russell Martin. Published by Bloomsbury.

Video Credit:

Beethoven - Symphony No.9 "Choral" (Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra.)  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125, 'Choral' Anne McKnight - soprano; Jane Hobson - contralto; Erwin Dillon - tenor; Norman Scott - bass; Memebers of the Collegiate Chorale NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Toscanini Telecast: 3 April, 1948 at NBC Studio 8-H, New York City Producer: Don Gillis. Director: Hal Keith. Audio Engineer: Charles Grey. (YouTube, uploaded by 1Furtwangler. Accessed 16 December, 2013.)


Kennedy, Michael & Joyce, and Tim Rutherford-Johnson. Oxford: Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2007
Sadie, Stanley (Ed).  The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. London: Macmillan, 1994

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