Johann Andreas (1761-1833) and Nanette Streicher (1769-1833): Beethoven's surrogate parents

Acclaimed piano builder Johann Andreas Streicher's wife Nanette, a great pianist herself, was like a surrogate mother to Beethoven in his early days in Vienna.

Johann Andreas Streicher

Beethoven first met Nanette Streicher, née Stein, when he was a boy of 16, returning from his abortive trip to Vienna in 1787 to see Mozart.

Nanette was the daughter of a renowned piano and organ builder, Johann Andreas Stein. The family lived in Augsburg, where Beethoven stopped on his return to Bonn.

They had a shared experience to talk about. Nanette was herself a highly talented pianist, and - as Ludwig had just done - had played for Mozart in Vienna.

Mozart wrote to his father in 1777 making fun of Nanette's mannerisms, but also describing her as a very talented pianist who might one day become a great pianist.

Nanette married the piano builder Johann Andreas Streicher (1761-1833) (pictured) - in 1794.

They immediately moved to Vienna, where they established a piano factory in the Landstrasse suburb of the city. The Streichers made many pianos for Beethoven, who was highly complimentary about them.

Their house became a centre for musical events, which took place on Monday mornings and were frequented by Vienna's leading musicians. It is beyond doubt that Beethoven will have performed there on many occasions.

Nanette acted as a kind of surrogate mother to Beethoven. She would frequently find him new lodgings after he had been thrown out for pounding on the piano and the walls in the middle of the night. She would get a key cut, let herself in, tidy his lodgings, remove uneaten food, even take his clothes home and launder and press them.

She was always on hand to look after him during his frequent bouts of illness, and Beethoven turned to her regularly for advice on domestic matters -- particularly after he had become guardian of his nephew, Karl.

Nanette and her husband died in the same year after 39 years of marriage. They are buried together in the musicians' quarter of the Zentralfriedhof - main cemetery - south of Vienna. Their grave is facing Beethoven's.

"There you are," I said to my wife Bonnie when we found the Streicher grave," she's still looking after him."