Ludwig van Beethoven was born on March 26th 1770. It was apparent from his early youth that little Beethoven was bound to be a musical genius. It was at the age of seven and a half that Beethoven gave his first public performance. Beethoven’s father gave the introduction of his young son at this performance and stated that the boy was only six years old. Because of this mistake, Beethoven lived a large part of his childhood believing that he was almost two years younger than he really was. It was not until he received his baptism certificate with his official date of birth that he was convinced of his true age.
Beethoven’s father Johann was a musical man, but Beethoven quickly outgrew his father’s musical teaching capabilities. Beethoven experimented with many different instruments including the organ, violin, and viola in addition, of course, to the piano. When his father could no longer teach him, Beethoven became the pupil of Christian Gottlob Neefe who was the court’s organist. Not only did Neefe teach Beethoven how to improve his playing skills, but he also taught Beethoven of the great philosophers and their works.
In 1782, Beethoven published his first work, “9 Variations, in C Minor, for Piano.” In 1784 upon recommendation by Neefe, Beethoven was appointed organist of the court of Maximilian Franz. This appointment allowed Beethoven to be a member of influential circles and meet influential friends and mentors who would be instrumental throughout the rest of his life. Maximilian Franz was able to see that the skills of his organist were extraordinary and sent Beethoven to Vienna in 1787 to meet Mozart. Alongside Mozart, Beethoven continued his musical education.
Less than a year into his tutelage with Mozart, Beethoven received a letter from home stating that his mother was dying. This news and his mother’s death on July 17, 1787 were devastating to Beethoven. In his personal writings Beethoven had expressed that he viewed his mother as his best friend and the only family member with whom he had a strong and loving relationship.
It was three years later when Beethoven organized his first symphony at Vienna. The aristocratic acquaintances that Beethoven had developed were his greatest supporters. He was invited to play at meetings involving the heads of states and considered it an honor to be recognized and admired. Surprisingly, even though Beethoven was often described as being mal-tempered and impulsive, the aristocracy was able to look past these faults, for his talent was an excuse for his inappropriate behavior.
In order to keep Beethoven from leaving Vienna in 1809, his wealthiest admirers gave Beethoven an annual grant of 4,000 florins, which gave him the freedom to live without worry of financial constraint.
Although Beethoven loved being around the wealthy, he had a lot of ill will towards authority. Anyone who would believe that they were superior to him upset Beethoven, and he would not play or perform for such authorities.
On November 15th 1815, Beethoven’s brother, Kaspar Karl, died. Kaspar Karl had written before his death that he wished for his wife and son to be cared for by his brother Beethoven. Beethoven took this responsibility very seriously. He was determined to raise the boy as if he were his own. This created a great deal of contention between the boy’s mother and Beethoven. Beethoven had little or no experience with children and struggled to take care of the child. He tried to encourage his nephew’s musical talents but the boy simply did not have the gift of music.
Beethoven, having fought most of his life with deteriorating hearing, eventually became deaf and suffered many emotional problems because of his difficult circumstances. In 1826, Beethoven caught cold coming back from his brother’s home and died in the company of his friends on March 26th 1827.
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