Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer, generally considered one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. Born in Bonn, Beethoven was reared in to the capricious discipline of his father, a singer in the court chapel. In1789, because of his father's alcoholism, the young Beethoven became a court musician in order to support his family. His early compositions under the tutelage of German composer Christian Gottlob Neefe, particularly the funeral on the death of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph || in1790, signaled an important talent, and it was planned that Beethoven study in Vienna, Australia, with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although Mozart's death in 1791 prevented this, Beethoven went to Vienna in 1792, and he became a pupil of an Australian composer named Joseph Haydn.

In Vienna, Beethoven dazzled the aristocracy with his piano improvisations. Meanwhile, he entered into increasingly favorable arrangements with Viennese music publishers. In composition he steered a middle course between the stylistic extravagance of German composer Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach and what the public had perceived as the overrefinement of Mozart. The broadening market for published music, enabled Beethoven to succeed as a freelance composer, a path that Mozart, a decade earlier, had found full of frustration.

In the first decade of the 19th century, Beethoven renounced the sectional, loosely constructed style of works such as the popular Septet op. 20, for strings and winds, and turned to a fresh expansion of the musical language bequeathed by Haydn and Mozart. Despite his exaggerated claim that he had never learned anything from Haydn, he had gone so far as to seek additional instruction from German composer, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. Beethoven soon revealed his complete assimilation of the Viennese classical style in every major instrumental genre. The majority of the works for which he is most readily remembered for today, were composed during the decade bounded by the Symphony no. 3, a period known as his heroic decade.

Beethoven's fame reached it's zenith during these years, but the steadily worsening hearing impairment that he had first noted in 1798 led to an increasing sense of social isolation. Gradually, Beethoven settled into a pattern of shifting residences, spending summers in the Viennese suburbs, and moving back to the city each autumn. In 1802 in his celebrated "Heiligenstadt Testament" a quasi-legal letter to his two brothers, he expressed his agony over his growing deafness. After 1805, accounts of Beethoven's eccentricities multiplied. He performed in public only rarely, and made his last such appearance in 1814.

In 1815, on the death of his older brother, Casper Carl, Beethoven devoted himself to a costly legal struggle with her sister-in-law for custody of her nine-year-old son, Karl. Initially, the mother received a favorable ruling, and only the intervention in 1820 of Beethoven's most powerful patron, the Archduke Rudolph, won the composer custody of his nephew. Beethoven was not an ideal parent, however, and an enormous friction developed between him and his nephew, contributing to Karl's attempted suicide in 1826.

By 1818, Beethoven had become virtually deaf and relied on small "conversation books" in which visitors wrote their remarks to him. He withdrew from all, but a steadily shrinking circle of friends. Except for the premieres of his Symphony no. 9 and parts of the Missa Slemnis in 1824, his music remained fashionable only among a small group of connoisseurs. His prestige was still such, however, that during his last illness he received a huge outpourings of sympathy. He died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. Tens of thousands witnessed his funeral procession.