Beethoven Facts: A Look Into This Brilliant Composer’s Life

History is full of colorful characters and people who significantly changed the direction of the world. And Ludwig van Beethoven certainly ranks up there with some of the most interesting people in history. But if you ask most people who recognize his name, they are clueless when it comes to Beethoven facts.

Let’s clear that up now as we highlight some of the Beethoven facts, scandals, and mysteries that surround this musical genius.

Who Was Beethoven?

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer who changed the course of music. He trained with some musical greats such as Mozart and Hydan, and he composed some of this greatest works after he went deaf.

But when you look at Beethoven facts, you quickly realize that he did not reach this level of success because he came from a good family. He also did not live comfortably due to royalties from his music.

The truth is the Beethoven facts show he was poor, came from a messed up family, and frequently suffered from his health.

In the Beginning

Beethoven’s father was a court musician who dreamed that his son would be the next child prodigy. While Beethoven did show musical talent on the piano, his father pushed him hard.

Beethoven went to Bonn in 1787 where he worked as a court musician just like his father. He was lucky enough to study under both Mozart and Haydn during this period. But the experience was not satisfying for Beethoven.

beethoven classic painting

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Five years later, the Beethoven facts show him moving to Vienna and staying there until 1800. He worked as a pianist and gained popularity. Beethoven became known as a virtuoso pianist, and he used that fame to get in with the noble class. He so wanted to be a part of that society that he temporarily changed his name from Van, which is a common title, to Von, which indicates nobility.

During the early years, the Beethoven facts record mainly piano works like the Pathetique Sonata. Although Beethoven is now known as the father of the romantic era, he mainly composed classical arrangements during this period just like his mentors had.

Beethoven’s hearing began to fail at this time in his life, and he was known for using a long horn-like instrument to help him hear.

But he only used it around people he trusted. He tried to hide his failing hearing from everyone else.

He Came Out of His Box

Shortly afterward, Beethoven said “I am not very well satisfied with the work I have done thus far. From this day on I shall take a new way.” And that’ exactly what he did.

Beethoven sketched image

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He stopped writing the classical productions and took a turn toward the romantic. And then he began using instruments other than the piano. During this time, the Beethoven facts show that he created masterpieces such as Eroica, the Tempest, and the 5th Piano Concerto called Emperor.

This period, which lasted until 1809, was his greatest, and he produced the most amount of music during it. During this time, he received an offer for a position of music director as Kassel, Germany. His wealthy Viennese friends panicked and guaranteed him a salary of 1,400 florins if he would agree to stay in Vienna. He did.

But then in 1809, he began composing fewer arrangements. Many historians believe this was due to his declining health, including his lack of hearing. His mental state also began to decline at this time.

The Affair That Drove Him Mad

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Then he had an affair with his “Immortal Beloved.” No one is sure who the woman was, but many believe it to be Josephine, Countess Deymnee von Brunswick. The affair left Beethoven depressed and contemplating suicide.

Beethoven met Josephine when she visited Vienna with her sister and mother. She married later in the year, but her husband died five years later. During that time, Beethoven wrote 13 letters to her, urging her to have a physical affair with him, but she turned him down.

He wrote a song for her — An die Hoffnung (To Hope) and a Prince noticed it lying on his table and believed Beethoven wrote the song for her. When Josephine found out, she was upset and berated Beethoven for being so careless.

She married again but separated soon because the marriage became disastrous. Her husband went back to Estonia, taking her children with him and leaving her distraught.

Then a few years later, she had another child named Minona. Historians believe that this was Beethoven’s child. And if you spell the child’s name backward, it means “the child with no name.”

Josephine’s mental health declined, and she died when Minona was only seven years old.

The Nephew

This lack of luster lasted until 1818. A family tragedy occurred where Beethoven lost his only brother, who left behind a son, Karl. Beethoven did not believe Karl’s mother was capable of raising him, so he went to court to fight for custody of the boy. He even used his influence with the nobles to win the case.

But it turns out that Beethoven was not a fit father. He tried to teach Karl music, but the boy wasn’t talented or interested. Karl became so despairing because he lived with Beethoven instead of his mother he attempted to take his life several times. One time, he ran away to his mother’s house, and Beethoven called the police and had him forcefully brought back home.

When Karl informed Beethoven that he planned to join the army, Beethoven went into a rage. But that didn’t stop his nephew from carrying out his plans. He joined the army, and when he said goodbye to Beethoven, it would the last time he ever saw him.

What Did You Say?

beethoven memoire

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At the age of 26, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. It began with a buzzing and ringing in his ears, and over time became so bad he could hardly hear people when they spoke.

He had a childhood friend who was a doctor, and he wrote him a letter about his hearing. He said:

For the last three years my hearing has grown steadily weaker. I can give you some idea of this peculiar deafness when I must tell you that in the theatre I have to get very close to the orchestra to understand the performers and that from a distance I do not hear the high notes of the instruments and the singers’ voices… Sometimes too I hardly hear people who speak softly. The sound I can hear it is true, but not the words. And yet if anyone shouts I can’t bear it.

But this didn’t stop Beethoven from composing.

What caused it?

No one knows for sure why Beethoven went deaf, but he blamed the condition on a few things. He told a story of becoming enraged one time because someone interrupted him while he was working. Beethoven said he fell over, and when he stood up, he was deaf.

He also blamed his deafness on gastrointestinal problems. But after he died, doctors did an autopsy on Beethoven and found that his inner ear distended with lesions on it.

He tried to solve it

Beethoven was so desperate to get rid of the ringing and buzzing in his ears that he tried a few unconventional treatments. For instance, at one point, he became convinced that lukewarm baths would improve his hearing. They didn’t.

Then he tried strapping wet bark to his upper arms. But that didn’t cure the deafness. Instead, it caused blisters on his arms so painful that he couldn’t play the piano for two weeks.

He finally resorted to using the hearings aids — called hearing trumpets — we described above.

How did he do it?

Beethoven lived for music and was very familiar with how instruments sounded, and that’s why he composed masterpieces while he was deaf.

But he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

For example, his housekeeper told a story of Beethoven sitting at the piano with a pencil in his mouth. As he played the notes, he touched the end of the pencil on the soundboard to feel the note’s vibration.

He also began to compose differently. He couldn’t hear the high notes as well, so his compositions began to take on a darker feel. That is evident in pieces like Moonlight Sonata.

And while he continued to perform, he had trouble because he kept ruining pianos. That’s because he had to lean on the pianos so hard to hear the notes he crushed them.

In the end, he acted as conductor for the premiere of his Ninth Symphony. At the finale of the performance, the audience burst into thunderous applause, but Beethoven couldn’t hear them. So, Carolina Unger, a contralto, walked up to him and turned him around so he could witness the standing ovation.

The Mystery Surrounding Beethoven’s Death

There is a lot of mystery surrounding Beethoven’s death. Some of the rumors say that he died of alcohol poisoning, hepatitis, syphilis, and lead poisoning.

But doctor’s confirmed his death on March 26, 1827, due to liver failure. A severe thunderstorm raged in the night as he lay dying.

And though the theories are still raging, one seems to have a lot of merits.

A doctor treated his stomach problems by puncturing his abdomen several times to let out the excess fluid. But to close up the puncture, he used a cream full of lead. And since the Beethoven facts and history shows that he suffered the symptoms of lead poisoning, many people believe that these treatments led to his death.

Beethoven Facts Exposed

Historical figures are fascinating. We can look back in history and come to learn about their lives, accomplishments, and deaths just by reading an article like this. We hope you have learned a little more about this important composer from these Beethoven facts.

Are you a Beethoven fan? If so, did we miss anything important about his life? If so, please tell us about it in the comments below!

Featured Image via Pixabay