Franz Wegeler (1765-1848): Beethoven's first friend

Franz Wegeler, whom Beethoven met when they were both boys growing up in Bonn, was the first person he could call a friend.

Wegeler and Beethoven met as boys in Bonn and it was he who introduced him to the Breuning family. Wegeler studied medicine and became Rector of the University of Bonn. He followed Beethoven to Vienna in October 1794 where their friendship was rekindled. He returned to Bonn two years later and established a medical practice.

On 29th June 1801 Beethoven wrote a long letter from Vienna to his friend Wegeler in Bonn, in which for the first time he mentions a problem with his hearing.

In 1802 Wegeler married Beethoven's friend - and quite possibly the first girl Beethoven fell in love with - Eleonore von Breuning. After establishing a family they moved to Koblenz, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Wegeler wrote a touching letter to his boyhood friend in 1825, shortly after celebrating his 60th birthday. It talks of the old times they shared together. "Now I look up to you as a hero," Wegeler writes, "and am proud to be able to say: I was not without influence on his development; he confided in me his wishes and dreams; and when later he was so frequently misunderstood, I knew well what he wanted."

At the end of the letter he urges Beethoven to return home to see the Rhine. Eleonore adds a postscript imploring him to do the same.

But Beethoven never returned. In fact he never saw Wegeler again after his old friend returned to Bonn from Vienna in 1796.

In 1838 Wegeler published, with Ferdinand Ries, an important and reliable collection of reminiscences about Beethoven - Remembering Beethoven, Andre Deutsch 1988.