Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a German composer and pianist, was a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras of Western art music. He still remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets.
Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father Johann van Beethoven and Christian Gottlob Neefe. During his first 22 years in Bonn, Beethoven intended to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and befriended Joseph Haydn. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Haydn, quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. He lived in Vienna until his death in 1827.
As early as 1801, Beethoven wrote to friends describing his hearing-loss symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings. Beethoven, on the advice of his doctor, lived in the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, from April to October 1802 in an attempt to come to terms with his hearing loss. There he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide due to his growing deafness and records his resolution to continue living for and through his art.
Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music; he is occasionally referred to as one of the “three Bs” (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomize that tradition. He was also a pivotal figure in the transition from the 18th century musical classicism to 19th century romanticism, and his influence on subsequent generations of composers was profound. His music features twice on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of the images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth, sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.
Various movies and television miniseries have portrayed this iconic figure.
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