Historical Period: Late Classical – Early Romantic
Born: December 16, 1770, Bonn, Germany
Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna, Austria
Contemporaries: Franz Josef Haydn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
What’s Happening in History?
In America, the colonists are fighting for liberty from Britain. Jane Austen publishes her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1811. Napoleon Bonaparte conquers much of Europe. In France, the peasants revolt against King Louis, and thousands of people are murdered on the guillotine. Mozart is still giving concerts as a young man.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 16, 1770 to Johann and Maria van Beethoven. (Maria’s father was a chef at the court of an archbishop.) Little Ludwig was first taught music by his father. Some people say that Ludwig’s father was a harsh teacher, but we don’t know that for a fact. What is true is that Johann van Beethoven tried to exploit his son’s talent perhaps for money, and make him famous like Mozart. Johann even pretended that Ludwig was six instead of seven in the advertisements for Ludwig’s concerts. Around that time, Ludwig was also taught by friends of the family and relatives.
Soon after, Ludwig had the opportunity to study composition with an important teacher in Bonn named Christian Gottleb Neefe. Even though Ludwig did not get much education besides music, he became very interested in philosophy and literature. His interest was spurred on by the fact that Bonn was a place where people discussed new ideas constantly.
In March 1783, Ludwig had one of his compositions published and began working for Christian Neefe as an assistant organist. The Variations in C Minor on a march by Earnst Christoph Dressler is the first works he composed and published. Around this time, Ludwig was introduced to several important people who liked his music and some of them became his patrons later. A few years later, in March 1787, Ludwig traveled to Vienna to take lessons with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We do not know if they actually met, because after just two months in Vienna, Ludwig received the news that his mother was dying, so he rushed back to Bonn.
Come back next week for Part 2!