You’ve heard of Beethoven, but do you know what his favorite food was, or why his friends wouldn’t stop stealing his clothes? Get ready for 12 facts about this famous composer!
1. The Man
Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced: LOOD-vig vahn BAY-toe-ven) was born in December 1770 in Bonn, Germany. He died of liver disease on March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria.
2. As a child
His father started giving him piano lessons when he was four. By age 12, Beethoven was an organist at court, already publishing his own compositions and supporting his family.
3. Connections with other composers
Beethoven studied for a short time with Franz Joseph Haydn, and met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a teenager. As the legend goes, after hearing the young Beethoven play the piano, Mozart said, “Watch out for that boy. Someday he will give the world something to talk about.”
4. What was he like as a person?
Beethoven was known to be loud, rude, and disorderly. His hair was thick and wild, and his clothes were often dirty. His friends would sometimes steal his dirty clothes at night and replace them with new, clean clothes. Beethoven never noticed the difference.
Beethoven was often inspired by nature. His Sixth Symphony, nicknamed “The Pastoral Symphony,” has musical imagery of bird songs, thunderstorms, and shepherd’s flutes.
6. Favorite food
Today, Beethoven would order off the kids menu – his favorite food was macaroni with Parmesan cheese! Back in his time, mac ‘n’ cheese would have been very expensive. Macaroni cost three times as much as rice, and the cheese had to be imported from Italy! He also loved coffee and would brew exactly 60 beans for one cup.
7. Who he worked for
Beethoven worked for princes throughout his life, but was rarely polite to them. He once told a prince, “There are and there will be thousands of princes. There is only one Beethoven.”
8. Going deaf
In his late 20s, Beethoven started to lose his hearing. By his 40s, he was functionally deaf. For a long time, he tried to hide the fact that he couldn’t hear. After all, what’s a musician who can’t hear music? However, even when people found out, they still loved his music – and he kept composing. He composed Ode to Joy (part of his Ninth Symphony) near the end of his life, when he was almost completely deaf! How did he do it? Well, Beethoven had played and written music since he was a little boy. By the time he started slowly going deaf, he was already very good at writing the music he heard in his mind.
9. In and out of love
Beethoven fell in love many times during his life, but never married. One of his most famous piano pieces, Für Elise, might have been written for one of his love interests. He also once wrote a long letter to an unnamed “Immortal Beloved,” but the letter was never sent and no one knows who it was for.
10. A lasting impression
Although Beethoven was difficult to get along with, his music inspired and amazed many people. When he died, thousands of people attended his funeral in Vienna. He changed western Classical music forever and proved that musicians could be as influential as, if not more than, any king or prince.
11. A revolutionary
Beethoven wasn’t just a mover and shaker in the music world. He also believed in political change and supported democracy in Europe. He was once an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and originally dedicated his third symphony to him. However, when Napoleon declared himself emperor, Beethoven was devastated. He tore the title page in half, throwing away the part that had Napoleon’s name on it. Later, he renamed the symphony the “Eroica,” meaning “heroic.”
12. The Curse of the Ninth
Beethoven wrote a total of 9 symphonies. It’s said that after he died, there was a “curse” that composers would never again write more than nine symphonies in their lifetimes! The composer Gustav Mahler came close: he wrote a 10th symphony in 1910, but he died before it was fully orchestrated or performable.