The composer of some of the most influential pieces of music

ever written, Ludwig van Beethoven created a bridge between the 18th-

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century classical period and the new beginnings of Romanticism. His

greatest breakthroughs in composition came in his instrumental work,

including his symphonies. Unlike his predecessor Wolfgang Amadeus

Mozart, for whom writing music seemed to come easily, Beethoven always

struggled to perfect his work.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, and was baptized on

Dec. 17, 1770. (There is no record of his birth date.) His father and

grandfather worked as court musicians in Bonn. Ludwig’s father, a

singer, gave him his early musical training. Although he had only

meager academic schooling, he studied piano, violin, and French horn,

and before he was 12 years old he became a court organist. Ludwig’s

first important teacher of composition was Christian Gottlob Neefe. In

1787 he studied briefly with Mozart, and five years later he left Bonn

permanently and went to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn and later

with Antonio Salieri.

Beethoven’sfirst public appearance in Vienna was on March 29, 1795,

as a soloist in one of his piano concerti. Even before he left Bonn, he

had developed a reputation for fine performances. In Vienna young

Beethoven soon had a long list of aristocratic patrons who loved music

and were eager to help him.

In the late 1700s Beethoven began to suffer from early symptoms of

deafness. The cause of his disability is still uncertain. By 1802

Beethoven was convinced that the condition not only was permanent, but

was getting progressively worse. He spent that summer in the country

and wrote what has become known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament.” In

the document, apparently intended for his two brothers, Beethoven

expressed his humiliation and despair. For the rest of his life he



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