Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer who wrote music for symphony orchestras, opera halls and smaller instrumental ensembles. Major historical and personal events shaped the life and music of Beethoven. Although he was largely deaf by the end of his career, his compositions have withstood the test of time and become staples in the classical repertory. His amazing life story is appealing to adults and children alike.
Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany. His primary music teacher and educator was his father, Johann van Beethoven. Ludwig was initially trained on the keyboard and displayed talent from an early age. Beethoven gave his first public concert at the age of 8. In his teenage years, Beethoven became the assistant organist at the Court Chapel in Bonn. Although Beethoven eventually left this position to travel to Vienna in hopes of studying music with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was forced to return due to family issues. He returned to Vienna in 1792 with financial support from admirers in Bonn.
Life in Vienna
Beethoven's reputation and career began taking shape after he moved to Vienna at the age of 22. Although he eventually became a famed composer, Beethoven initially supported himself by playing piano in court salons and concert halls. Beethoven continued his study of music with Franz Joseph Haydn and Antonio Salieri. Beethoven performed his first original composition in 1795, where he debuted a piano concerto he had written. In 1796, Beethoven began losing his hearing. During the next several years, Beethoven composed some of his most famous works, including many of his piano concertos and symphonies.
Beethoven composed his most advanced works during the final years of his life. His last five string quartets are among the most respected works in the genre by any composer. In 1824, Beethoven composed his final symphony, a work that is well-known for its jubilant choral finale. Beethoven died in 1827 from an undiagnosed illness.
Listening to Beethoven
Symphony orchestras and string quartets around the world have recorded Beethoven's music. Each of his nine symphonies are popular orchestral works. Many adults and children will recognise the dramatic four-note introduction to his "Symphony No. 5." Beethoven rewards listeners who pay close attention to his music: themes and melodies consistently appear in a variety of entertaining and artistic variations.