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Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven

born: 1770
died: 26 March 1827
country: Germany

Beethoven showed early musical promise and the boy pianist attracted the support of the Prince-Archbishop Maximilian Franz, who supported his studies with leading musicians at the Bonn court. By the early 1780s Beethoven had completed his first compositions, all of which were for keyboard. With the decline of his alcoholic father, Ludwig became the family breadwinner as a musician at court. Encouraged by the Prince-Archbishop, Beethoven travelled to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn. He fell out with his renowned mentor when the latter discovered Beethoven was secretly taking lessons from several other teachers. Although Maximilian Franz withdrew payments for Beethoven’s Viennese education, the talented musician had already attracted support from some of the city’s wealthiest arts patrons. His public performances in 1795 were well received, and he shrewdly negotiated a contract with Artaria & Co, the largest music publisher in Vienna. He was soon able to devote his time to composition or the performance of his own works.

In 1800 Beethoven began to complain bitterly of deafness, but despite suffering the distress and pain of tinnitus, chronic stomach ailments, liver problems and an embittered legal case for the guardianship of his nephew, he created a series of remarkable new works, including the Missa solemnis and his late symphonies, string quartets and piano sonatas. It is thought that around 10,000 people followed his funeral procession on 29 March 1827. Certainly, his posthumous reputation developed to influence successive generations of composers and other artists inspired by the heroic aspects of Beethoven’s character and the profound humanity of his music.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2005

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