The musical revolutionary pioneered Romanticism and composed 240 works which included symphonies, piano concertos, string quartets and an opera. Ludwig van Beethoven was a perfectionist with vision: posterity.
The third Ludwig van Beethoven and second musician in his family, he more than attained that goal on a global level. Over 200 years since his passing Beethoven is one of the most played; a revered improvisor and supreme composer. But there a few surprises in his personal history that shed a more complete light on this fascinating figure.
1. Beethoven Brushed Elbows with Mozart and Haydn
At seventeen, Beethoven performed for Mozart in Vienna who was apparently impressed with his talents. A feat, as Mozart himself was also a child prodigy and rarely impressed with other musicians. A few years later, Beethoven studied with Joseph Haydn and it’s believed the two didn’t get along.
2. He Was Unlucky in Love
Beethoven was a bit of a player, though often unlucky in love due to the class system of the time. He reportedly disliked giving piano lessons, unless the students were already musically inclined or beautiful young females. Beethoven never married, and it’s speculated that he wrote his most beloved piano piece, “Für Elise,” for the German opera singer Elisabeth Röckel and had even asked her to marry him.
3. He Was A Drama Queen
Beethoven passed away, most likely of liver disease, at age 56 fittingly during a thunderstorm. Though thousands joined his burial procession, his reputation was that of a crotchety old man in part due to his steady decline into deafness. Beethoven’s grouchy exterior even went so far as to cause his nephew, whom he took over raising after the passing of Beethoven’s brother, to attempt suicide as the young man wished to escape his uncle’s strict nature.
4. Beethoven Influenced The Modern CD
His Ninth Symphony based on Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” is not only famous and the European Union anthem, its running length of approximately 70 minutes served as the reason for the 80 minute standard for CDs. Conductor Herbert von Karajan reportedly stated during development that it should be possible for the entirety of the symphony to be enjoyed on just one CD.
5. His Hearing Loss Is Still A Mystery
Plagued by multiple disease throughout his life, the worst to afflict Beethoven was hearing loss. He suffered through tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, for years, and though the actual cause of his hearing loss is unknown, stories attribute it to either a childhood disease of some sort or typhus caught from a rat’s flea. Beethoven continued composing however, and his most famous piece, the ninth symphony premiered to thunderous applause Beethoven would never hear.
Though rumours abound and new information comes to light with each passing decade, one fact will always remain steadfast: Beethoven was a musical genius.