Ludwig van Beethoven
Video: two-minute Beethoven biography
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist, who is arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in December 1770, but no-one is completely sure on which date. He was baptized on the 17th.
- The earliest recorded piece that Beethoven composed is a set of nine piano variations, composed in 1782.
- Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792, where he met influential composers like Haydn and began to compose in earnest.
- By 1796, he had begun to suffer from tinnitus and was losing his hearing.
- Beethoven composed his Piano Sonata No. 14 ('Moonlight') in 1802.
- The Third Symphony, known as the 'Eroica', was completed in 1804. It went on to redefine the symphony as a genre.
- The opening motif to the Fifth Symphony from 1808 is one of the most famous musical excerpts in history.
- The 'middle period' of Beethoven's career also saw him compose piano works like the Waldstein and Apassionata sonatas, as well as his only opera, Fidelio, which went through countless rewrites and revisions.
- Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the 'Choral' from 1824, is another work of his that has remained infinitely popular. It was the first time that a composer had used choral voices in a major symphony.
- Ill health and increasing deafness caused a drop in productivity at the end of Beethoven's life, but he still managed to produce important works like his 'Late Quartets' in 1825, which were wildly inventive for the time.
- Beethoven died in Vienna on the 26th March 1827 after a long illness that has variously been attributed to alcohol, hepatitis, cirrhosis and pneumonia.
Did you know?
Beethoven composed only one opera, Fidelio, which took years to get right. He re-wrote one aria no fewer than 18 times and came up with four different overtures before deciding upon the one he liked.
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From the experimental Symphony No. 1 to the 'Choral' Symphony No. 9, symphonic music doesn't get much bigger, better or more important than Beethoven
Find out more about Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
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Find out more about Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23, 'Appassionata'. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
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Top Beethoven Pieces
Fidelio - Overture
- Conductor: Daniel Harding
- Ensemble: German Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
- Record Label: Virgin
- Catalog: VC 5453642
- Conductor: Ivan Fischer
- Ensemble: Budapest Festival Orchestra
- Soloists: Richard Goode
- Record Label: Nonesuch
- Catalog: 7559 799283
Symphony No.4 in Bb major Opus 60 (4)
- Conductor: Simon Rattle
- Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
- Soloists: A.C. Green
- Record Label: EMI
- Catalog: 7243 5574452
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