From his earliest days as a prodigy in Bonn, Ludwig van Beethoven's great ambition had been to travel to Vienna to meet - and take lessons with - the man he knew was the greatest living composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Ludwig van Beethoven
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.
Beethoven: 20 facts about the great composer
He reinvented the symphony, and redefined piano sonatas - but there's much more to learn about Ludwig van Beethoven, the man who changed music forever
Beethoven's family were a powerful influence on him, helping to create both the tension as well as the passion that underlie his greatest music.
Given the relatively small number of compositions by Beethoven – compared to the output of his two great contemporaries Haydn and Mozart – they stand as the greatest body of music ever composed, says John Suchet.
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
Beethoven completed five Piano Concertos in under 20 years, but from the age of 38 he would never finish one again as his deafness stopped him from performing
Opera in outer space? Classic FM's resident Beethoven expert John Suchet reviews Opéra de Lyon's unusual production of Fidelio
Sporting legend claims the Moonlight Sonata calms him down, has been playing piano for a year
Beautiful Beethoven with a personal touch, performed by Chinese pianist Yundi. Album of the Week, 18 March 2013
Two of Beethoven's great pieces on this album commemorating conductor Kurt Masur's 85th birthday. Drive Featured Album, 7 January 2013.
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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