Composer of the Week: Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced “Lood-vig fawn bay-toe-ven”) was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. Beethoven’s father was a professional singer and music instructor, though he never made more than a passable living. His mother was Chef for a wealthy family. His parents had seven children, though only Ludwig and two others survived. Beethoven’s father was his first music teacher, though he also took lessons from other local composers and teachers.
Beethoven wished to study with Wolfgang Mozart, though it’s not clear the two ever actually met. He did meet Franz Joseph Haydn in London, eventually studying under him in Vienna, Austria. It was in Vienna that Beethoven started to reach his potential as a composer. By 1800, he was publishing his first symphonies. It was also around this time that Beethoven started to lose his hearing. By 1814, he was almost completely deaf. Despite this, he wrote 9 symphonies, countless string quartets and piano sonatas, an opera, and more. In fact, he is the most important composer of the time period (the transition between the Classical and Romantic music periods).
Beethoven was depressed not just by his hearing, but by his physical and emotional health. He had fallen in love with a woman named Josephine Brunsvik. Even though she felt the same way, she was of a higher class than Beethoven, and the two did not marry. Beethoven also had become sick several times in the early 1800’s. Overall, these problems made him an unhappy man, especially during the last ten years of his life. The cause of Beethoven’s death in 1827 is not clear, though there has been evidence found indicating he may have been an alcoholic, or may have had some sort of infection. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral in Vienna.
Map of Bonn, Germany