Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany on or around
December 16, 1770. His early instruction was provided by his father and other
local musicians. As a teenager, he served as an assistant to his teacher,
Christian Gottlob Neefe. Beethoven played viola in various orchestras, becoming
friends with other players and making his initial efforts at composition. As a
member of the court chapel orchestra, he was able to travel and meet nobility,
one of whom, Count Ferdinand Waldstein, would become a great friend and patron
to him. In 1792, Beethoven moved to Vienna to study with Haydn. Despite personal
differences, Haydn was a profound influence upon Beethoven's style. In 1794,
Beethoven fully focused his career as a pianist and composer, his work supported
by the patronage of others.
Around 1800, Beethoven began to notice his gradually encroaching deafness.
The knowledge of his imminent deafness furthered Beethoven's anti-social
tendencies. However, his Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") of 1803 began a fertile
period of creativity. He produced a series of groundbreaking works, even as his
hearing disappeared and he was forced to communicate with others by having them
write their words down for him. Beethoven's personal life continued to spiral
downward, with a string of failed romances and a bitter custody dispute over his
nephew, Karl. The period from 1811 to 1817 saw Beethoven lay creatively fallow,
but he re-emerged in his final decade and crafted more lasting works.
Beethoven's late efforts, especially the last five of his 16 string quartets and
the last four of his 32 piano sonatas, were some of his most revered. Beethoven
died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. Although famed as a composer, Beethoven is
also remarkable for his tutelage of Carl Czerny, a pianist whose instruction
went on to impact generations of pianists.
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Donald Manildi, Curator
International Piano Archives at Maryland
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
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University of Maryland
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