Prince Lobkowitz (1772-1816): Beethoven's improvisation contest and more

Prince Lobkowitz, a native of Bohemia, was a leading patron of the arts in Vienna - a great music-lover and enthusiastic and capable violinist.

He claimed his father forced him to learn the violin as a child to keep him still.

He was born with a withered hip (displasia?), which forced him to use a crutch all his life and caused him considerable pain.

He quickly befriended the young Beethoven and was second only to Prince Lichnowsky in his enthusiasm and patronage.

Lobkowitz sponsored Daniel Steibelt in the famous piano improvisation contest against Beethoven, which Beethoven - sponsored by Lichnowsky - so comprehensively won.

The event took place in Prince Lobkowitz's palace, opposite the Hofburg palace (pictured) in Michaelerplatz - where the palace still stands today.

Lobkowitz created a magnificent concert room on the first floor of his palace at great expense.

It was in this room that Beethoven conducted the first public performance of the Eroica Symphony - dedicated by Beethoven to Lobkowitz in gratitude, after he angrily withdrew the original dedication to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Beethoven also dedicated the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies to Prince Lobkowitz, as well as the opus 18 Quartets, the Triple Concerto, the opus 74 Quartet and the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte.

The war against France - coupled with the huge expense of creating his concert room and maintaining his own orchestra - bankrupted Lobkowitz, and he was forced to flee from Vienna to avoid his creditors.

Beethoven never contacted him again, and he died embittered and impoverished.