Ludwig van Beethoven
Born on December 17, 1770 in Bonn, Germany
Died on March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria
From a very young age, Ludwig van Beethoven was taught piano and violin. He acquired orchestral player skills as a violist in the orchestra of the court in Bonn, his hometown. He settled in Vienna in 1792. Three years prior to his installation in the Austrian capital, he had briefly met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Shortly after his arrival, Beethoven became one of Franz Joseph Haydn’s (1732-1809) pupil. Even though a deep mutual professional respect was always tangible, the teacher/student relationship was disappointing.
Beethoven became rapidly a respected musician on the Viennese scene. In 1801 he first mentioned to a friend that he was suffering of hear loss. It is around that period that he started pulling out from social life. After his death, the 1802 Heiligenstadt Testament was found, a touching testimonial from a turmoiled man who knows deafness will not spare him. His withdrawal from the society along with an increasing openness to new ideals will lead him towards musical horizons never explored before. His Third Symphony will shock the world by breaking the classical mold while the programmatic qualities of the Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, will disturb the establishment. Beethoven will bring such varied styles as the string quartet or the piano sonata to new heights of creativity.
With Mozart and Haydn, Beethoven is now considered as one of the most representative composers of the Viennese Classicism. His compositions marked all the styles he approached: symphonies, chamber music, choral works or the piano repertoire. Beethoven’s later oeuvre draws a bridge with the romantic era, by its structure as much as its message. Beethoven’s quest for an ideal of humanity is probably what defines him the best.