Count Waldstein (1762 - 1823) and Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata opus 53

Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein was the young Beethoven's first great patron in Bonn - and his name will live for ever as the dedicatee of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata opus 53.

19th century Vienna

Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein was the young Beethoven's first great patron in Bonn - and his name will live for ever as the dedicatee of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata opus 53.

The youngest son of one of Vienna's most aristocratic families, he was dispatched to Bonn, since he already knew the Elector, Maximilian Franz , and had a great interest in the arts.

The young prodigy Ludwig van Beethoven was quickly brought to his attention and he took him under his wing.

Although Count Waldstein had not arrived in Bonn when the young Beethoven travelled to Vienna in 1787 to meet Mozart, and therefore could have had no hand in it, it was certainly through his intervention that the Elector released Beethoven to go to Vienna for the second - and final - time in 1792.

In 1791 Beethoven composed the music for a ballet Count Waldstein was producing, Ritterballet ( WoO 1), and allowed the Count to pass it off as his own. Beethoven will certainly have used this as a bargaining tool in his persistence to return to Vienna - it could well have been the reason he agreed to it in the first place. (Musicologists did not establish that the piece was composed by Beethoven until late in the last century!)

Proof of Waldstein's faith and prophetic belief in Beethoven was the message he wrote in the young man's autograph book, signed by his friends when he left for Vienna to study with Haydn in November 1792.

Waldstein wrote: "May you receive the spirit of Mozart through the hands of Haydn."

Count Waldstein had a chequered life, and ultimately an unhappy one, after Beethoven left Bonn. He believed passionately in Austria's ability - and duty - to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte's Revolutionary Army.

He frequently travelled to Vienna in fruitless attempts to persuade the Emperor to declare war. Finally, the Emperor, out of frustration and even anger, dismissed Waldstein from Imperial service and banished him from Vienna.

Waldstein tried to raise his own army to fight the French - bankrupting himself in the process. In 1805 he was reported to be back in Vienna, but in disguise to escape his creditors. In this year Beethoven - no doubt hearing of his misfortune - dedicated the opus 53 Piano Sonata to him.

He married a wealthy woman, but spent all her money too in what became an obsession - no doubt contributing to her early death.

Count Waldstein ended his life ignominiously, in a home for the destitute outside Vienna. On the day of his death a letter arrived informing him of the death of his elder brother - and that he was now to inherit the family fortune.