Beethoven's history: 1813 - 1827

Part 3: Passion and Glory 1813 - 1827, Beethoven's final few years of his life were marred by family feuds and illness, but he still produced some of his best music, including his Ninth Symphony before his death

1813 Battle Symphony premiered

8 March: Karl Brentano born.
8 April: Minona von Stackelberg born.
12 April: Carl van Beethoven, seriously ill with consumption, declares that in the event of his death he wants Beethoven to be guardian of his son Karl.
21 June: The English army under Wellington defeats the French at the Battle of Vittoria in Spain. Mälzel persuades Beethoven to write a piece in celebration of the victory for his mechanical instrument, the panharmonicon. In return Mälzel constructs the first of several ear trumpets for Beethoven. The piece is later orchestrated and becomes known as the Battle Symphony op. 91.
July: Prince Lobkowitz, another of the signatories to Beethoven's annuity, leaves Vienna in disgrace after going bankrupt.
12 August: Austria declares war on France.
28 August: Gerhard von Breuning born.
16 October: Napoleon defeated by a combined army of Austrians, Prussians, Russians and Swedes at the Battle of Leipzig, the 'Battle of the Nations'.
8 December: Beethoven and Mälzel give a charity concert at the Hofburg at which the Battle Symphony and the Seventh Symphony are heard in public for the first time.

1814 Der glorreiche Augenblick

January: Beethoven agrees to revive his opera Leonore/Fidelio, asking Treitschke to provide a new libretto.
6 April Napoleon abdicates.
11 April: Beethoven gives the first public performance of the Archduke Trio op. 97 with Schuppanzigh and Linke; his deafness makes it a traumatic experience.
15 April: Beethoven's old patron Prince Lichnowsky dies.
18 July Fidelio performed for the first time in its final form.
26 September: Fidelio performed before several heads of state assembled for the Congress of Vienna.
Oct-Nov Beethoven composes a cantata, Der glorreiche Augenblick, for the Congress, and attends its first performance at the Hofburg on 29 November with the librettist, Weissenbach.
31 December: Count Razumovsky's magnificent palace destroyed by fire.

1815 Carl van Beethoven dies

1 March: Napoleon escapes from Elba.
May: Beethoven abandons attempts to compose a Sixth Piano Concerto.
June: Philharmonic Society of London commission three overtures from Beethoven for 75 guineas; he sends them the already composed opp. 113, 115 and 117.
18 June: Battle of Waterloo.
14 November: Beethoven's brother Carl, mortally ill, makes his will, appointing his wife Johanna and Beethoven co-guardians of his son Karl. Beethoven persuades him to delete Johanna's name. But Johanna pressures Carl in Beethoven's absence to add a codicil reinstating her as co-guardian.
15 November: Carl van Beethoven dies of consumption.
22 November: Carl's widow Johanna and Beethoven are appointed joint guardians of Karl, now aged nine.
28 November: Beethoven appeals to the Landrecht, the court of the nobility, to exclude his sister-in-law from the guardianship of Karl, her son, beginning a legal battle with twists and turns that is to last for several years.

1816 Beethoven fights for custody

9 January: The Landrecht rules in Beethoven's favour over the guardianship of Karl.
19 January: Beethoven is legally appointed sole guardian of Karl.
2 February: Karl is removed from his mother, and Beethoven enrols him in a boarding school run by Giannatasio del Rio.
April: Beethoven composes the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte.
Carl Czerny, on Beethoven's instructions, begins giving Karl piano lessons.
18 September: Karl undergoes a hernia operation. The Giannatasios take him to recuperate with Beethoven in Baden.
15 December: Prince Lobkowitz, one of the three signatories to Beethoven's annuity, who previously had to flee Vienna to escape his creditors, dies at his estate in Bohemia.

1817 Begins Hammerklavier Sonata, op. 106

Persistent ill-health and legal problems over the custody of Karl make this the least creative year musically of Beethoven's life.
9 June: Ferdinand Ries writes on behalf of the London Philharmonic Society, inviting Beethoven to London.
Beethoven begins work on what is to become the gigantic Hammerklavier Sonata, op. 106.
27 December: Thomas Broadwood, having met Beethoven in Vienna, dispatches to him a new grand piano with the heavier English action which particularly suits Beethoven -- and the new Sonata.

1818 Karl runs away

24 January: Karl leaves Giannatasio's boarding school and begins living with Beethoven, studying with a private tutor.
Beethoven's planned trip to London is cancelled; he blames poor health.
February: Beethoven begins to use conversation books, due to his increasing deafness.
Beethoven begins sketches for the Ninth Symphony.
19 May Beethoven takes Karl to Mödling for the summer months, enrolling him in the local school run by the village priest, Pater Fröhlich.
August: Beethoven completes the Hammerklavier Sonata.
18 September: Johanna van Beethoven petitions the Landrecht to obtain guardianship of Karl. Her petition is rejected.
Beethoven makes more sketches for a new symphony, which he decides will have voices.
3 October: Another appeal by Johanna is dismissed.
3 December: Karl runs away to his mother; Beethoven calls in the police to bring him back.
7 December: Johanna again petitions the Landrecht, using the fact that Karl ran away from his uncle as justification for regaining custody of him.
11 December: Beethoven admits to the Landrecht that he is not a member of the nobility. The Landrecht transfers the case to the lower court, the Magistrat.

1819 Works on Gloria

11 January: Beethoven loses guardianship of Karl
March: Beethoven begins a set of variations for the publisher Diabelli, based on a theme Diabelli has composed.
April: Beethoven begins the Missa Solemnis, intended for the enthronement of Archduke Rudolph as Archbishop of Olmütz the following year.
16 April: Just before publication of the Hammerklavier Sonata, Beethoven sends Ries in London an additional bar of two notes to be inserted at the start of the slow movement.
22 June: Karl enters Blöchlinger's institute.
2 August: Johann van Beethoven buys a large estate at Gneixendorf bei Krems on the Danube.
November: Beethoven works on the Gloria and Credo of the Missa Solemnis.


7 January: Beethoven, encouraged by Anton Schindler, petitions the Court of Appeal over the guardianship of Karl.
9 March: Archduke Rudolph is enthroned as Archbishop of Olmütz; the Missa Solemnis is not ready for the occasion.
8 April: The Court of Appeal makes a final ruling in Beethoven's favour over the guardianship of Karl; Johanna appeals directly to the Emperor, who refuses to intervene.
31 May: Beethoven agrees to compose three Piano Sonatas for the publisher Adolf Schlesinger; they are to become opp. 109-11.

1821 Falls ill

Beethoven falls seriously ill with rheumatic fever.
31 March: Josephine Deym-Stackelberg (née Brunsvik) dies.
July: Barely recovered from fever, Beethoven develops jaundice.
5 May: Napoleon Bonaparte dies in exile on the island of St Helena.
Beethoven completes the Missa Solemnis by the end of the year, though he is later to revise parts of it.


January: Beethoven again becomes unwell, suffering for several months with 'gout in the chest'.
Beethoven makes sketches setting Schiller's poem An die Freude to music for use in the new symphony with voices.
Autumn Beethoven meets the young Franz Liszt, a pupil of Czerny's, who plays for him. Beethoven is impressed and anoints him his 'successor'.
9 November: Prince Galitzin commissions three String Quartets from Beethoven; they are to become opp. 127/130/132.
10 November: The Philharmonic Society of London offers Beethoven £50 for a new symphony. Beethoven accepts the commission, intending to travel to London to conduct the first performance there of the new Ninth Symphony.
Beethoven is elected to the Royal Academy of Music of Sweden.


Spring Schuppanzigh returns to Vienna from Russia and resumes his friendship with Beethoven, who composes a canon, Falstefferel, to mark his return.
August: After a sudden deterioration in his health, Beethoven goes to stay in Baden, where he works intensively on the Ninth Symphony.
6 August: Wenzel Schlemmer, Beethoven favourite copyist - and one of the few who could decipher his manuscripts - dies.
29 August: Karl leaves Blöchlinger's institute and visits his uncle in Baden, before enrolling at the university in Vienna.

1824 Ninth Symphony completed

Beethoven makes plans for the first performance of the newly completed Ninth Symphony in Berlin.
Beethoven decides to dedicate the Diabelli Variations to Antonie Brentano.
February: Vienna's leading musical names petition Beethoven -- successfully -- to hold the first performance of the Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony in Vienna. But the censor bans any performance of the Missa, a religious work, in a theatre.
7 May: After a disagreement with Count Palffy at the Theater an der Wien, and a compromise over the ban, the Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony are given their premieres at the Kärntnertor theatre. Beethoven stands next to Umlauf on the podium giving him the beat. At the end of the Ninth Symphony, the contralto Karoline Unger turns Beethoven round so he can hear the applause.
May: Beethoven dismisses Schindler; Karl Holz, a young Chancellery official and violinist, takes his place.
May: Beethoven goes to Baden for the summer and turns his attention to Prince Galitzin's commission for three quartets.
June: Beethoven begins work on the String Quartet op. 127, and later in the year the String Quartet op. 132.

1825 London Ninth Symphony debut

21 March: First London performance of the Ninth Symphony, directed by Sir George Smart. Ill health forced Beethoven to cancel his intended trip to London to conduct the performance.
April: Beethoven falls ill with a serious abdominal complaint; he is attended by Doktor Braunhofer, who prescribes a strict diet.
Karl: informs his uncle of his decision to join the army.
May: Beethoven, in Baden again, works on the Galitzin Quartets, composing the Heiliger Dankgesang, the Holy Song of Thanks, for op. 132 as his health appears to improve.
June: Beethoven begins work on the String Quartet op. 130.
July: String Quartet op. 132 completed.
23 August: Beethoven begins work on the Grosse Fuge, intended as the finale for op. 130 but later published separately as op. 133.
Beethoven learns that Karl is secretly seeing his mother, which puts a strain on their relationship.
Johann van Beethoven invites Ludwig and Karl to stay at his estate in Gneixendorf.
Distraught at learning that Karl is now living with his mother, and suffering from a marked worsening of his health, Beethoven composes the Cavatina of op. 130. He later said no piece of music he had ever composed had brought forth from him such tears of grief.
15 October: Beethoven moves to his final lodgings in Vienna, the Schwarzspanierhaus.
Beethoven attempts a reconciliation with Karl, informing him he has purchased bank shares in his name.
15 December: Beethoven begins work on String Quartet op. 131.


21 March: Schuppanzigh and his quartet give the first public performance of the String Quartet op. 130. Beethoven agrees to compose a new final movement to replace the Grosse Fuge.
Johann again invites Beethoven and Karl to stay at Gneixendorf.
27 July: Karl buys a pistol intending to commit suicide. His intentions become known to his landlord, who contacts Beethoven.
29 July: Karl pawns his watch to buy another pistol and disappears with it.
30 July: Karl climbs to the Rauhenstein ruins in the Helenthal valley outside Baden -- where he has so often climbed with his uncle -- loads both barrels and puts the gun to his head. The first time his misses; the second shot grazes his head. He is found -- and taken to his mother to recuperate.
July: Beethoven begins his last String Quartet, op. 135.
7 August: Karl is admitted to hospital for further treatment; as a potential suicide, he is forced to undergo religious instruction.
August: Ninth Symphony is published.
25 September: Karl leaves hospital.
28 September: Beethoven and Karl leave Vienna to stay with Johann at Gneixendorf.
In Gneixendorf Beethoven composes a new finale for op. 130.
1 December: After a furious row with Johann, Beethoven and Karl leave in the middle of the night in an open-top carriage for Vienna. Beethoven falls ill in a cold village tavern where they spend the night en route.
Back in Vienna, Beethoven is attended by Doktor Wawruch.
20 December: Beethoven undergoes an operation to reduce his abdominal swelling.

1827 Beethoven's death

2 January: Karl departs for military service in Iglau in Bohemia.
8 January: Beethoven undergoes a second operation to drain fluid.
2 February: A third operation, as Beethoven's health rapidly deteriorates.
27 February: A fourth operation, by which time the wound in Beethoven's side has become infected.
March: Beethoven makes sketches for a Tenth Symphony.
22 March: Beethoven receives the last rites.
24 March: Beethoven receives a case of wine from the Mainz publisher, Schott. "Pity, pity, too late," he says. They are his final words.
26 March Beethoven dies.
29 March: Beethoven's funeral. Twenty thousand people line the streets of Vienna as the cortege processes to the Währinger cemetery, more than have ever been seen on the streets of the city. At the gates of the cemetery the funeral oration, written by Franz Grillparzer, is delivered by the actor Heinrich Anschütz.
4 June: Stephan von Breuning dies.
5 November: Beethoven's musical effects are auctioned. His total estate is estimated at 9885 florins and 18 kreuzer, approximately £988 / $1620.