Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most influential composers of all time, was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. His father and grandfather were both musicians, with his grandfather holding the post of Kapellmeister in Bonn, and his father having lesser accomplishments. There were seven children born to his parents, but only three survived, and of these, he was the eldest.
Beethoven received piano and violin lessons at a young age, but his father seems to have been a tyrannical teacher, if the stories of young Ludwig standing at the piano in tears are true. His first public performance was at age seven on the clavier. He subsequently had more keyboard instruction, as well as music theory, as well as violin and viola lessons, but his general schooling did not extend past elementary school.
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By 1782, when Beethoven was 11 and a half, he was already a published composer and substituting for the court organist, from whom he was also receiving instruction in piano and composition and who predicted that he was potentially a second Mozart. His next published work, three piano sonatas dedicated to Emperor Maximilian Friedrich and considered his first noteworthy compositions, were in print before he turned 13.
In 1789, at age 18, Beethoven petitioned for half his father’s salary to be turned over to him to be used primarily for the support of his brothers, and with the granting of this request, he became, in effect, the head of his family. In 1792, he moved to Vienna, where he would make his home until his death, in order to be instructed by (Franz) Joseph Haydn.
In around 1796, intimations of the deafness that would later become quite severe began to manifest. By 1802, despite the intervention of doctors, Beethoven’s deafness was pronounced. This affliction had a decided affect on the course of Beethoven’s life. His work is generally divided into 3 periods. The first period is 1794–1800. The second period is 1801–1814. The final period is 1814 until his death in 1827.
Beethoven is considered the transitional figure between Classical composers Haydn and Mozart on the one hand, and the Romantics on the other. His innovations included his construction of his Sixth Symphony (The Pastoral) as program music and his expansion of the quartet, concerto, sonata, and symphony forms. And these are some of the forms he is best known for. He wrote nine symphonies, 17 string quartets, 32 sonatas, 5 piano concerti, a violin concerto, and a triple concerto, as well as an opera, a ballet, incidental music, and overtures. Many people recognize by sound, if not by name, his Fifth Symphony, his Ninth (Choral) Symphony, and the Emperor Concerto.