Ludvig Van Beethoven
Ludvig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, December 16, 1770.
He was the son of Johann van Beethoven, a tenor singer in the Electoral choir. When Ludwig was but four years old his father, a man of rude temper and scant income, began to teach him music, hoping to reap early advantages from his abilities. Later he studied under Van den Eeden and Neefe, making rapid progress with violin, organ, and pianoforte. In 1784 he was appointed assistant of Neefe, the court organist, and three years later Max Franz, the Elector of Cologne, sent him to Vienna, where he greatly impressed Mozart by his proficiency in piano playing. He soon returned to his position in Bonn, where he remained for five years.
In 1792 the Elector again sent Beethoven to Vienna, where he studied with Haydn, Albrechtsberger, and Schuppanzigh. From the preoccupied Haydn he declared that he had learned nothing; Albrechtsberger appears not to have understood his requirements; and while he worked better with Schuppanzigh, the original and self willed pupil was too much addicted to his own methods to prove a tractable learner. “He preferred acquiring by his own toilsome experience what it would have been easier to accept on the authority of others. This autodidactic vein, inherent, it seems, in all artistic genius, was of immense importance in the development of Beethoven’s ideas and mode of expression.”
Some minor successes in drawing room music were followed by Beethoven’s public appearance as a composer at Vienna in 1795. In that year he published the three trios, “Opus I”, played at the house of one of his noble patrons, Prince Lichnowski. Thereafter his works appeared with comparative regularity, and his fame steadily increased. Among his compositions, comprising 138 opus numbers and some 70 unnumbered works, the following may be mentioned: The beautiful song “Adalaide” (1795); three piano sonatas (1796); “First Symphony” (1802); “Moonlight Sonata” (1802); “Second Symphony” (1802); “Prometheus” (1802); “Mount of Olives” (1802); “Kreutzer Sonata” (1803); “Eroica Symphony” (1804); “Fidelio” (1805-1806, rewritten 1814); “Fourth Symphony” (1806); “Coriolanus Overture” (1807); “Mass in C” (1807); “Fifth Symphony” (1808); “Sixth Symphony” (1808); “Seventh Symphony” (1812); “Eigth Symphony” (1812); “Battle Symphony” (1813); “Ninth Symphony” (1824). The “Ninth Symphony” has been called an “unequaled masterpiece of symphonic art”. Other sonatas, the overtures, the “Missa Solemnis”, the quintets, and the “marvelous quartets” should also be noted. According to the critics of our time, the influence of Beethoven in the history of music is so vast as not even yet to have been completely measured.
From about his twenty-eighth year Beethoven had difficulty of hearing, and increasing deafness made him irritable and morose; but it is regarded as wonderful that he, who could not listen to his own compositions, should have poured forth the lonely aspirations of his soul in works of unsurpassed sublimity. The story of his life, vexed with many troubles and crowned with noble achievements, is at once heroic and pitiful. His closing years were passed mainly in retirement, but his interest in his art did not cease till near the end of his days. His last words are said to have been, “I shall hear in heaven”.
He died in Vienna, March 26, 1827.