Ludwig van Beethoven is the closest rival of Johann Sebastian Bach for the title “The Greatest German Composer of All Time”. The great man, on whose life we are going to shed some light in the paragraphs below, was baptized on December 17th, 1770.
The exact date of his birth is unknown to this day. However, there are reliable records of that Beethoven was born in the city of Bonn. As well as a prolific composer, Beethoven was also a virtuoso pianist. His lifetime marks the transition between the classical and the romantic period in German music.
Ludwig van Beethoven Facts
1. He made his first steps in music under the guidance of his father
His talent became evident when Beethoven was just four or five years of age, an interesting Beethoven fact. His first feeble steps in the field of music were made under the harsh and intense guiding of his father Johann van Beethoven, who saw a second Mozart in his son. The man who was instrumental in the formation of Beethoven’s musical technique was German composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe, who agreed to take him under his wing.
2. At 21, Beethoven moved to Vienna, where his talent flourished
When Ludwig turned 21, he moved to Vienna to study advanced musical composition under the great Joseph Haydn. In Austria’s capital, Beethoven confirmed his reputation as a virtuoso pianist that he had gained in Germany. When Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky, agreed to become his benefactor, Beethoven had the financial stability to fully give himself to composing music.
And the result was the magnificent Opus 1 that was published in 1795. The piece had an outstanding critical and commercial success. Five years later, it was followed by Symphony No. 1 – one of Beethoven’s most emblematic works. This composition is characterized by sudden and unexpected shifts in the tonal centers, as well as ample use of wind instruments.
3. In 1801, Beethoven’s hearing started to deteriorate
1801 was a good year for Ludwig van Beethoven. His six String Quartets for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus became an instant success. Unfortunately, at some time during that same year, Beethoven started experiencing hearing difficulties for the first time in his life.
When he presented his Third Symphony in 1804, he was already partially deaf. Remarkably, the quality of his music did not suffer in the least. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony appeared in 1808 and was also highly acclaimed. However, by 1811 the great composer was almost totally deaf.
4. Beethoven hid from the world to compose his greatest works
An interesting fact about Beethoven is that he composed some of his greatest works in complete silence. This was a difficult period of the great composer and pianist’s life. He hid from the world and dedicated all of his time to writing music. Being deaf, he could no longer give piano concerts.
Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was published in 1813 and was mostly praised for its second movement, Allegretto. Beethoven’s Ninth and final, symphony appeared in 1824. It is said to be his masterpiece, and one of the earliest examples of a choral symphony in Europe.
5. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was inspired by a star-crossed love
In the late autumn of 1801, Beethoven met a young and attractive countess by the name of Julie Guicciardi, who belonged to the prominent Brunsvik family. At that time, Beethoven was the piano teacher of Giulietta’s cousin, Josephine.
In a heartfelt letter to his old friend Franz Wegeler, Ludwig mentioned that although he had been deeply infatuated with Julie for quite some time, he could not even think of officially proposing to her, because the class barrier between them was too significant.
In 1802, Beethoven wrote a piece titled Sonata quasi una Fantasia, dedicated to Giulietta Guicciardi. Later, it became commonly known as the Moonlight Sonata, an interesting Beethoven fact. At some time in 1804, Beethoven became braver and started writing long love letters to his young countess. Until 1809, he had written and sent a total of fifteen poem-like letters.
Her answer, however, was not in his favor. She confessed that she, too, had strong feelings for him, but could not follow her heart. If she had married him, she would have lost the custody over her noble children from the late Count Joseph Deym.
6. Beethoven dedicated a symphony to Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Vitoria
In June 1813, coalition armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington defeated one of Napoleon’s Armies at Vitoria in Spain. Until then, the Great Emperor had been considered invincible. The news was so significant that Beethoven felt a sudden urge to commemorate the event in a heavy battle symphony.
The piece did not take long to write. The Wellington’s Victory was presented in concert at the beginning of December that year along with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. It sounded rather straightforward and therefore drew a big crowd of fans.
7. Beethoven wedged fierce court battle for custody on his Nephew
After Ludwig’s brother Kaspar died on 15 November 1815, Beethoven immediately filed a claim against Kaspar’s wife Johanna, in which he challenged her parental rights over their son Karl. He accused her of being a woman of low morals, who was financially incapable of providing for her son, an interesting fact about Beethoven.
The case was finally resolved in 1820 when Johanna’s appeal to the Austrian Emperor was turned down. Having won the court battle against Karl’s mother, Beethoven turned out to be an unbearably overbearing guardian. In a desperate attempt to escape the suffocating guardianship of his uncle, Karl tried to shoot himself in the head on the last day of July 1826. He survived, but was rushed to his mother’s home to recuperate, and never came back to his uncle.
Being deprived of his natural ability to hear due to a progressing illness, Beethoven nonetheless succeeded in making his voice heard by means of his immortal and incredibly moving compositions. All in all, he composed nine symphonies, sixteen string quartets, many sonatas, five piano concertos, and one opera, Fidelio.
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