Beethoven's friends: Stephan von Breuning (1774-1827)

Beethoven's friendship with Stephan von Breuning lasted - with several interruptions - for a lifetime.

Stephan von Breuning

Beethoven's friendship with Stephan von Breuning lasted - with several interruptions - for a lifetime. Beethoven first came into contact with the Breuning family as a boy growing up in Bonn - introduced to them by his friend Franz Wegeler. They were an enormously cultured family, and Stephan's mother Helene von Breuning instructed her servants to allow young Ludwig unlimited access to the house on Münsterplatz and its music room with piano.

Frau von Breuning - widowed by the fire at the elector's palace - employed Beethoven probably in 1784 to give her daughter Eleonore and son Lenz piano lessons. Ludwig instantly formed a close friendship with Stephan. Together they took lessons on the violin with Franz Ries.

Stephan moved to Vienna in 1801, renewing his childhood friendship with Beethoven. He had a job with the Teutonic Order.

For a short time in 1804 Beethoven lodged with Stephan in the Rothes Haus outside the city wall. But it was a stormy relationship - more on Beethoven's part than his friend's - and Beethoven moved out.

In 1806 Stephan revised Sonnleithner's original text for the second version of Beethoven's opera Leonore. Two years later Beethoven dedicated his Violin Concerto to Stephan, and the piano arrangement of it to Stephan's wife Julie.

Julie Vering was the daughter of Beethoven's doctor and Beethoven was very fond of her. Stephan adored Julie and was heartbroken when she died of "a haemorrhage of the lungs brought on by the imprudent use of cold foot baths" at the age of only 19 - after less than a year of marriage. Later Stephan married Constanze Ruschowitz; one of their children was Gerhard von Breuning, who knew Beethoven well in his final years and wrote an indispensable memoir of him.

Throughout his life Stephan was a loyal friend to Beethoven, putting up with his eccentricities and frequent mistreatment. It is fair to say he was the best friend Beethoven ever had.

He died barely two months after Beethoven's funeral. He had been ill with a liver condition and suffered a relapse, according to Gerhard, after the trauma of attending the auction of Beethoven's effects. Gerhard believed the strain of his father's friendship with Beethoven broke his health. He was just 52 when he died.