Beethoven, Ludwig van
b Bonn, Germany 1770, d Vienna, Austria 1827. For his indomitable ‘solitary greatness’ (G T Ferris) he was ‘the Shakespeare of music’. From a musical family, and in spite of an early distaste for music which his father tried to whip out of him, he showed great early promise; at 13 a star harpsichordist at court in Bonn. He was briefly tutored in Vienna, where he settled, by Mozart and Haydn who both recognised his genius. Until 1809, when he received a small pension, he was dogged by poverty and illness; increasing deafness in his 30s eventually became total, accentuating his depression, feverishness, bitterness and suspicion of others, but failing to halt either his music or his generosity as he moved from one lodging to another. Tellingly, he loved to be out in wild and stormy weather. His greatest creative years were 1805 to 1808, but his last 4 were filled with distress until at the age of 56 he went, as he had said 25 years earlier, ‘to meet death with joy…Do not quite forget me’. He is remembered as the supreme and original composer of the 9 symphonies, the ‘Choral’ being their final pinnacle; the overtures, string quartets, chamber music, piano sonatas and songs, and the oratorio The Mount of Olives. From these and his opera Fidelio others have extracted or adapted his tunes. Nos.66, 98A.