Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, then an unknown small town. He came from a family of musicians. Father and grandfather were singers in the electoral orchestra. His father was very ambitious: he wanted to make his son a prodigy like Mozart. At the age of four, little Ludwig, sitting on a chair, had to play the piano. Often he was dragged to sleep by the drunk coming home father at night.
When Ludwig van Beethoven was 12 years old, the father had driven the family so far into ruin that Ludwig had to earn a living - first as assistant to his teacher, court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, then as electoral aid organist with 150 gulden monthly salary.
At the age of 17, Beethoven traveled to the Austrian capital Vienna, then the cultural and musical center of Europe. He is to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But the journey is not under a good star. To be sure, Mozart predicts a great future for him, but after only a few weeks Beethoven learns that his mother is terminally ill and returns to Bonn.
The mother dies. To grief over her death and the disappointment of the missed opportunity in Vienna is another burden added. Because his father is now completely consumed by alcohol, Beethoven has to take care of the family. Happiness in misfortune: He makes the acquaintance of a wealthy widow whose children he teaches and introduces to him influential personalities.
His extraordinary talent attracts the attention of the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, who invites him to Vienna in 1792. Beethoven accepts the offer and turns his back on Bonn forever.
In Vienna at the end of the eighteenth century, people were waiting only for someone like Beethoven. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had died in 1791 and the music lovers of the city needed a new idol. Beethoven quickly became a sought-after artist, and he was prepared to pay for his compositions, publications and lessons as he demanded.
As a celebrated star and about to gain international fame, Beethoven earned more than any other artist of his time. But a cloud obscures the horizon. Beethoven noticed how his hearing became worse and worse. He consulted a variety of physicians who made very different diagnoses but all predicted the same thing: the deafness was incurable and would progress to complete deafness. For Beethoven, a traumatic experience that drove him to the brink of suicide in 1802. He was grumpy and suspicious, tended more and more to pointless outbursts of anger and retired increasingly from the people back.
Beethoven remained a bachelor throughout his life. Although he often expressed the desire to marry, but then always frightened it back. At the age of 30, he fell in love with Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, but differences in status made marriage impossible. The countess married another. He was alleged to have courted her cousin Josephine for three years, but her family was against such a connection. Three years later it was Therese Malfatti, the daughter of one of his doctors, in whom he fell in love. But Beethoven was undecided and could not get through to any marriage proposal. Apart from a few glowing love letters to an 'immortal lover' written around 1812, it seems that he has come to terms with bachelor life.
The contact with his family in Bonn, however, had not broken off. In 1815 his brother Caspar died. He had transferred the guardianship for his 9-year-old son Karl to his wife Johanna and Beethoven. Beethoven, who did not particularly appreciate Johanna, tried to deprive her of her guardianship. After a three-year lawsuit, Johanna's guardianship was actually annulled. But Beethoven, who was alternately extremely strict and very indulgent, did not qualify as a guardian. Karl suffered from it, got on the wrong track and finally made a suicide attempt.
Although Beethoven earned an excellent living, he lived in a dilapidated house in Heiligenstadt near Vienna. Because of his deafness, he withdrew more and more from the people. Although he still conducted his own compositions. He could no longer hear the applause. He was still able to compose because he did not need an instrument for that. He had the sounds in his head. However, he took so much care of his compositions that he often completed them too late. The Missa Solemnis, a Mass for the enthronement of the Erbischof von Ölmütz 1820, was completed in 1823.
His last work, a string quartet, he completed in 1826. He died on March 26, 1827, probably liver cirrhosis. On the day of his funeral, the schools in Vienna remained closed. 20,000 people gave him his last escort.
Beethoven had been a rebel all his life. With his rebellion against the form and his concentration on the personal statement in music, he struck the bridge from classical to romantic.