Biography of Classical Composer Ludwig van Beethoven Part 1

About the famous German classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven, biography and history of the musician.


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). In each of the arts, there are a few figures who loom imposingly over all others. In music, Ludwig van Beethoven is one of those, and practically every composer who lived after him has had to pay homage in one way or another to his genius.

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. His family was musical and there was no doubt that the young Ludwig would receive adequate training for the profession. He showed early promise as a composer, and by 1782 had some compositions published. In 1787, he had occasion to meet and perform for Mozart. After the session, Mozart prophetically stated, "Keep your eyes on him. Someday, he will give the world something to talk about." A few years later, Beethoven moved to Vienna (where he would stay for the rest of his life) and for a year studied composition with Haydn. He was an unsatisfactory student for all his teachers in Vienna, moving one of them to remark with a great lack of perception that "he has learned nothing, and will never do anything properly."

The greatest of Beethoven's works came from a period that began about 1804. He had been in Vienna for 10 years, and had established himself as a composer and pianist of considerable repute. The compositions prior to this time reflect too many of his teachers' rules, and too much of the classic-era style that prevailed then. Beginning with the 3rd Symphony and the works that immediately followed it, Beethoven took a distinct giant step away from the past and moved into his own, establishing once and for all his identity as a truly original composer. His music was in turn both praised and castigated. Some called it the music of the future, while others considered it cacophonous and not fit to be played. Whether they liked his music or not, however, music critics generally agreed that they had a genius in their midst.

Beethoven moved easily among the nobility and aristocracy, and often times was paid greater respect than he in turn gave. But this was only in the earlier years, for as Beethoven aged, a progressive deafness (which became complete by 1820) altered his personality and behavior. In his last years, he was darkly moody and eccentric, and spent many long periods in brooding solitude.

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