Beethoven Facts
Beethoven Facts

48 Musical Beethoven Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published September 29, 2020
  • Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn, Germany.[6]
  • Beethoven's father and grandfather were both performers in the state choir.[6]
  • When Beethoven was 17, he performed for Mozart in Vienna. While no one is sure what was said, Mozart (who famously was unimpressed with other musicians) reportedly said, "Keep your eyes on him; someday he'll give the world something to talk about."[6]
  • Beethoven took lessons from the father of the symphony, Joseph Haydn. The two became easily frustrated with each other, and they ultimately didn't like each other very much.[6]
  • By age 27, Beethoven heard constant buzzing in his ear. While he believed this was due to a fall, it was mostly likely due to a childhood disease, perhaps typhus or smallpox. Some scholars believe he suffered from Paget's disease of bone (a thickening of the skull) or lead poisoning.[6]
  • Beethoven initially admired Napoleon as a symbol of a new era and dedicated his third symphony to him. Later Beethoven would be disappointed that Napoleon crowned himself emperor.[6]
  • Beethoven Burial
    Beethoven died on March 26, 1827. His body was moved to three different grave sites, ultimately coming to rest at Vienna's Zentralfriedhof, where he is with other famous composers like Schubert and Brahms
  • Beethoven died at the age of 56 in 1827. He may have died from several diseases, such as cirrhosis, syphilis, lead poisoning or an infection. The exact cause is unknown.[6]
  • Beethoven's father was a failed singer, and he pushed his own hopes on a young Beethoven. His father would often beat him and force him to play for hours.[6]
  • Beethoven's father was an alcoholic. Like his father, Beethoven liked drinking, but historians don't believe he was an alcoholic.[6]
  • Beethoven dedicated his masterpiece "Moonlight Sonata" to his 16-year-old student Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. While Beethoven was in love with her, their romance never was realized.[5]
  • Beethoven's hearing started to decline around the age of 25, and by 27 years old, he heard constant buzzing. By the time he was 46, Beethoven was completely deaf.[6]
  • Beethoven's last words were "pity, pity, too late." A friend had brought him a few bottles of red wine as a gift, but Beethoven was already on his deathbed. According to other reports, Beethoven's last words were "applaud, my friends, the comedy is ended."[5]
  • Beethoven composed his first song when he was just 12 years old.[6]
  • Like many people in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Beethoven suffered from several illnesses, including chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, depression, alcohol abuse, respiratory problems, joint pain, eye inflammation, and cirrhosis of the  liver.[4]
  • Beethovens Walk
    Beethoven struggled with depression, mainly because of deafness

  • Beethoven was bedridden for months before he died. An autopsy revealed severe cirrhosis and dilatation of the auditory and other related nerves in the ear.[4]
  • Beethoven most likely died from liver and kidney failure, peritonitis, abdominal ascites, and encephalopathy.  An autopsy also revealed severe cirrhosis and dilatation of the auditory and other related nerves in the ear.[4]
  • Beethoven went completely deaf by the age of 47. Ear surgeons believe that Beethoven's chronic consumption of wine contaminated with lead might have caused his deafness. Beethoven most likely drank from a goblet containing lead, and wine at the time often contained lead as a sweetener.[4]
  • Beethoven is still popular, and modern movies still feature his music. His work can be found in movies such as Clockwork Orange, Dead Poets Society, Die Hard, Knowing, and Immortal Beloved.[4]
  • Beethoven's final complete symphony is Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. It is considered to be one of his greatest works and one of the most important achievements in Western music.[4]
  • Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.

    - Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Beethoven's first professional position was court organist to Elector Max Franz in 1784. He later played the viola in the court orchestra.[5]
  • Beethoven wrote only one full-length ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus.[4]
  • Beethoven wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament to his brothers Johann and Carl. This lengthy letter describes his thoughts of suicide due to increasing deafness and his resolution to keep living for his work.[4]
  • When Napoleon attacked Vienna in 1809, Beethoven hid in his brother's basement and covered his ears with pillows. He was worried the noise would destroy what little of his hearing remained.[4]
  • Beethoven had a dark complexion, and at school, he was nicknamed "The Spaniard."[3]
  • Beethoven never married, and he did not have any children. However, after his brother died, Beethoven took custody of his nephew, Karl.[3]
  • Beethoven once wrote an elegy for a poodle. The piece was called "Tod eines Pudels," or "Elegy on the Death of a Poodle."[3]
  • Even though Beethoven never married, by most accounts, he had a busy love life. His friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler wrote, "In Vienna, Beethoven was always involved in love affairs."[3]
  • Beethoven was notably messy. He often left the chamber pot under his piano unemptied and food scattered about.[3]
  • Beethoven was deaf when he wrote "Ode to Joy." The could not hear the thunderous applause when the symphony premiered on May 7, 1824.[3]
  • Beethoven's 9th Symphony served as the template for the 1970 worldwide hit "A Song of Joy."[3]
  • In 1982, the 80-minute standard for CDs was based on Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which runs 70 minutes. The famous conductor Herbert von Karajan said that a CD should have enough room for Beethoven's complete 9th Symphony.[3]
  • Attempts to heal Beethoven's increasing deafness were not only painful but also contributed to additional inflammation and, consequently, Beethoven's suffering.[3]
  • When Beethoven died, between 10,000 and 30,000 people attended his funeral at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Franz Schubert was a pallbearer at his funeral.[3]
  • Beethoven wrote his famous Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor ("Moonlight Sonata") for 16-year-old Giuletta Guicciardi. When he asked her parents for her hand in marriage, they refused, and they married her to another man instead.[3]
  • Beethoven originally titled his "Eroica Bonaparte" in honor of Napoleon. However, when Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven realized Napoleon was a tyrant and literally tore up the title page.[3]
  • Goethe and Beethoven
    Beethoven was a huge fan of Goethe, but when they met, they did not get along very well
  • Beethoven revered Goethe, and the two met in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz in 1812. Goethe wrote to his wife that Beethoven had an "absolutely uncontrolled personality," while Beethoven wrote to his publisher that Goethe delighted "far too much in the court atmosphere."[3]
  • The founder of the Roman Republic, Lucius Junius Brutus, was Beethoven's hero. A statuette of Brutus never left his desk.[2]
  • As his deafness worsened, Beethoven would clench a stick between his teeth and hold it against the piano to hear faint sounds.[2]
  • While Beethoven has a reputation for being grumpy in his later life, his personal letters reveal his true thoughts: "My poor hearing haunted me everywhere like a ghost and I have avoided all human society. I seem a misanthrope and yet am far from one."[2]
  • With his wild hair, disrespect for authority, and revolutionary music, Beethoven is often considered the world's first "rock star."[1]
  • Beethoven disliked authority and social rank. He was not afraid to stop playing if an aristocrat did not give him their full attention.[1]
  • In his final years, in his deafness and in his sadness, Beethoven composed the so-called "Late Quartets." They were ahead of his time, so audiences were not sure how to respond. Today, they are considered among the greatest musical works in history.[1]
  • Beethoven loved to walk in the woods, and his hikes inspired some of his greatest works, such as the Pastoral Symphony.[1]
  • The Voyager spacecraft carries a gold vinyl record that contains, among other great works, two pieces by Beethoven.[1]
  • Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is featured in the 1988 film Die Hard.[1]
  • The main tune of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (sung to the words: “Freude, schöne Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium”) is one of the best known tunes in the world.[2]
  • Beethoven's 9th Symphony includes the words to Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy,"  a poem that emphasizes universal peace and harmony.[2]
  • Before Schubert died, he asked to be buried next to his idol, Beethoven.[2]
  • Genius Beethoven Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Fun Beethoven Infographic

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