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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.