Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798): Beethoven's first teacher

Gottlob Neefe was Beethoven's first full-time teacher, but he would never know of his pupil's great fame and success.

Gottlob Neefe was Beethoven's first full-time teacher. He was a composer and musician in his own right, becoming Court Organist in 1781. He quickly recognised Beethoven's prodigious talent and secured for him the position of assistant Court Organist.

Thus Beethoven - standing in for Neefe when he was away with the Grossman touring opera company- acquired experience of playing in public from a very early age.

Neefe schooled Beethoven in both piano playing and basic composition, introducing him to the works of J.S. Bach -- especially the Well-Tempered Klavier - C.P.E. Bach and Mozart. In Cramer's 'Magazin der Musik' on 2nd March 1787, Neefe wrote prophetically of the young Beethoven:

This youthful genius is deserving of help to enable him to travel. He would surely become a second Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were he to continue as he has begun.

Beethoven wrote to Neefe from Vienna in the autumn of 1793: "Should I ever become a great man, you too will have a share in my success."

When the French armies invaded the Rhineland in 1794, Neefe lost his position at court and became a municipal official under the French.

Unhappy and short of money, he moved with his young family to Dessau where he took a job as conductor. His wife fell seriously ill, and he died in early 1798 - too young to know of the remarkable career his young pupil had embarked on in Vienna.