Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
17 December 1770 - 26 March 1827 (age 56)

German 19th century classical composer and virtuoso pianist. Beethoven was one of the most influential composers of all time and one of the most popular.

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Portrait of Beethoven


Born: 17 December 1770, Bonn, Germany
Grandfather:  Lodewijk van Beethoven, Flemish. In 1733 emigrated from Flanders to Germany. Became Kappelmeister at the Court of Bonn. 
Father: Johann, a musician at the Court of Bonn. A weakness for alcohol.
Mother: Maria Magdalena Keverich. Quiet, gentle, kind woman. 
Siblings: There were 7 children but only 3 boys survived. Ludwig was the eldest.
Partners: None
Children: None. Co-guardian of his nephew Karl 
Death: 26 March 1827, Vienna, Austria.
cirrhosis, jaundice, liver failure. 
Grave: Zentralfriedhof, Vienna


The correct spelling of his name is Ludwig van Beethoven.

'von' instead of 'van' is incorrect. 
Common misspellings are Bethoven, Betoven, Betoben - all incorrect.


Grumpy old man. Irritable, manic depressive, disdainful of authority and social rank. Probably suffered from bipolar disorder. Short and stocky with a paunch, dishevelled. Red face, small piercing eyes, bushy eyebrows.
He had liaisons with several women but never managed to get one to marry him. 
He apparently also had problems with his various landlords and was continually having to move, together with his five legless pianos. Jonah Winters has written a book The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven 


Style/period: Late classical/Early Romantic

9 Symphonies

5 Piano Concertos

1 Violin Concerto

16 String Quartets

1 Opera

32 Piano Sonatas

Influenced by: JS Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Palestrina, Salieri
Influenced: every composer that followed!

Reviews of featured works:
Moonlight Sonata 

Beethoven in Art

A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.

A brief biography

- Childhood: his musician father was his first teacher, recognised his talent and tried to exploit his potential as a child prodigy like Mozart. 
- Age 7 : First public performance - age 9: began studies with Christian Gottlob Neefe the Court organist in Bonn. 
- age 12 : First published work
- Age 17 went to Vienna to study with Mozart but after a couple of weeks his mother was dying so he returned to Bonn where he looked after his two younger brothers for the next 5 years, his father having become an alcoholic.
- Age 22 Returned to Vienna to study under Haydn. They didn't get on together so he studied under others including Salieri. He was a virtuoso pianist and gave private recitals to the socialites of Vienna. He remained in Vienna for the rest of his life, travelling very little. 
-Age 25: First public performance at which he premiered one of his Piano Concertos. 
- Age 26: began to lose his hearing, suffering a severe form of tinnitus. 
- age 32 This marks the end of his 'Early Period' which was strongly influenced by Mozart and Haydn. It includes his first two symphonies, first two piano concertos and the first 12 piano sonatas. 
-Age 45 Marks the end of his 'Middle (Heroic) Period' characterised by large scale, powerful works describing struggle and heroism. It includes symphonies 3 - 8, piano concertos 3 - 5, his only opera Fidelio and several piano sonatas. 
- Age 45: Brother Carl died. Embroiled in a bitter and prolonged battle with his sister-in-law over the custody of his nephew Karl. This problematic family matter of course influenced his work and his health adversely.
- His 'Third Period' is complex, deep, imaginative and innovative. It includes his 9th symphony (commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of London), the Missa Solemnis and the last 5 piano sonatas. 
- Age 56: His declining health finally ended his life. 20,000 Viennese attended his funeral and Schubert was one of his pall bearers (he died the following year).

For more biographical information see Links below


- "To play without passion is inexcusable!"

- "Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth."

- "Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman."

Daniel Barenboim plays the Pathetique Sonata, 2nd movement

Ludwig on Amazon

Books and CDs on Amazon.com (USA) 

for UK go to Amazon.co.uk

Ludwig on facebook

Ludwig on FacebookShare your views and preferences with other Beethoven fans on his facebook page

Symphony No7 - Slow Movement + Hubble images

Treasures on ebay

On eBay you will find bargains galore but more interestingly there is a treasure chest of old items. Out of print books, old recordings no longer available, memorabilia and goods no longer sold on the High Street.To see what is currently on offer take a look at:
Beethoven on eBay - what's on now!

ClassicFM: Beethoven content curated by John Suchet the BBC newsreader who is also  an expert on Beethoven. 

a comprehensive site by Dominique Prévot 

The Beethoven Museum in Bonn

ClassicalNet - a brief biography

Beethoven at Favorite-composers.com a biography and essays on his music

ArtsAlive.ca - a lesson plan

National Arts Centre Teacher Resource Kit (pdf)

German Composers 
Other profiles of German composers here at 52composers.com

and of course Wikipedia

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