Training hours a day allowed young Ludwig to surpass even his father’s musical talent very early. Turning to a man who could challenge his growing ability, Gottlob Neefe, accepted the position of tutor. Neefe schooled his student rigorously, in not only music but also philosophy and literature. His mentor saw that Beethoven was destined to become one of the greats, and suggested to one of his aristocrat acquaintances he make the 14-year-old prodigy his court organist. In Ludwig’s early life, the comparisons to Mozart were constant. While Beethoven was a teenager ascending to popularity, Mozart’s success was weakening.
Vienna was the definitive epicenter of music and culture at that time in the same way Americans gravitate toward New York, the French to Paris, and the English to London. Months after Mozart’s death in 1791, Beethoven travelled to this musical metropolis to continue perfecting his art under the guidance of Joseph Haydn and Antonio Salieri; both were composing masters.
Entrepreneurship was always one of Beethoven’s strong suits; selling his music, giving lessons, and composing private pieces, even after he began to lose his hearing in 1801. His predecessors were hired by aristocrats to act as entertainers, writing and performing for their employers; this standard changed with Beethoven. Anna Marie Erdody and other contributors granted Ludwig a salary of 4,000 Florins (roughly $120,000) to stay in Vienna as an independent composer and work on anything he chose. During this time, he could live well and focus entirely on his music. Sadly, this agreement didn’t last and only a few years from its start benefactors withdrew their funding.
Karl, Beethoven’s nephew, was left without a father at the age of 9; Ludwig had never married or had children of his own, but was listed as co-guardian of Karl and took this responsibility very seriously. Attempts were made to kindle the young boy’s musical talent, but his capabilities were far from superb. Nevertheless, Beethoven adjusted well to his role as a father and caretaker for Karl.
As a storm broke out in March of 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven died from complications after catching a cold. There were nearly 20,000 attendees at his funeral; admirers from the far reaches of Europe made the journey to pay their respects. Even Franz Schubert, a contemporary, was one of his coffin-bearers and later would be buried next to his grave. Although readers tend to enjoy biographies with drama, filled with men who challenge society, Beethoven always appeared to be more focused on his music. His life was enveloped in creating the symphonies and sonatas we remember him for today. His gravestone simply reads: “BEETHOVEN.”
Photos: 1. Joseph Karl Stieler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
References: 1. Biography: Beethoven's life - Ludwig van Beethoven's website. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lvbeethoven.com/Bio/BiographyLudwig.html 2. http://mentalfloss.com/article/58297/19-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-beethoven 3. Ludwig van Beethoven Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/ludwig-van-beethoven-9204862