Beethoven was born in Bonn on December 17, 1770. At the time, Germany was not a unified country but a loose grouping of some 250 states, each of which had its own laws, army, taxes, and to a large extent, customs (see Period Map at the bottom of the page). Beethoven came from a musical family. His father, an alcoholic tyrant prone to bouts of violence, was a singer in the Archbishop’s chapel, the Elector of Cologne (the “state” of which Bonn was the capital). He was also a rather unimpressive piano and violin teacher. Beethoven’s mother was a cook in the summer palace where his father worked. His grandfather, also called Ludwig, was a trained musician, who had been elected Archbishop’s Kapellmeister in 1773.
Beethoven developed his knowledge and skill of music very quickly. In 1787 (at the age of 17), he traveled to Vienna to meet Mozart who, impressed by his improvisation skills allegedly said: “Watch this young man; he will give the world something worth listening to.”
After his father’s death in 1792, and encouraged by Haydn who had also noticed his immense musical talent, Beethoven moved to Vienna. There, he quickly gained a reputation as a remarkable keyboard-player and composer of great originality.
Beethoven’s tragic loss of hearing began at the age of 32, in 1802. By 1815, his increasing deafness made public performance as a pianist or conductor impossible. He was already considered rather eccentric and difficult to get along with; his mounting deafness only made matters worse. By 1817, Beethoven had gone completely deaf. During the last three years of his life, he devoted himself to writing a series of string quartets considered by many to be among his greatest works, but, at the same time, the most difficult to…
…ber music includes a number of trios for violin, cello and piano. The cello sonatas and sets of Variations for cello and piano are a valuable part of any cellist’s repertoire. One set is based on Handel’s See Here the Conquering Hero Comes and others on operatic themes from Mozart. Beethoven also wrote chamber music for wind instruments and piano.
Beethoven’s 32 numbered piano sonatas make full use of the developing piano, with its wider range and possibilities of dynamic contrast. There are also interesting sets of variations, including a set based on God Save the King and another on Rule, Britannia. The best known of the sonatas are those that have nicknames not always given by the composer, such as the Pathetique, Op. 13 with its 3rd movement in Rondo form, and Moonlight, Op. 27/2. Less substantial piano pieces include the well known Fur Elise.