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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven's grandfather Ludwig van Beethoven (1712-1773) is appointed to the Bonn electoral choir, first of all as a bass, then in 1761 as the court musical director (Kapellmeister).

Beethoven's father Johann (c. 1740-1792) helps out in the court choir. From 1764 he receives a post as tenor.

Ludwig van Beethoven is baptized on 17 December.

Public appearance as a piano-playing child prodigy on 26 March in Cologne.

First publication: Nine Variations on a March by Dressler (WoO 63). Occasionally stands in as court organist, without pay.

Beethoven dedicates three Piano Sonatas (WoO 47) to his employer, the Elector Maximilian Friedrich.

Appointed deputy court organist.

End of the year journey to Vienna in order to have lessons with Mozart. Between January and April 1787 Beethoven spends some weeks at Vienna, a meeting with Mozart may have been arranged, but is not documented. On his way home Beethoven received the news that his mother was dying.

Beethoven becomes a member of the Bonn court chappell as violist.

Composes a cantata on the death of the Emperor Joseph II (a brother of the Bonn Elector Maximilian Franz), and a cantata for the coronation of Leopold II. Joseph Haydn visits Bonn on his way to London and in 1792 on his way back to Vienna; Beethoven is introduced to him.

In November Beethoven goes to Vienna to study with Haydn. He later also takes lessons with Albrechtsberger and Salieri.

French troops occupy the Rhineland. The Electorate in Cologne is dissolved and the Elector flees. Beethoven thus loses his post in Bonn; what was to have been a study trip to Vienna now becomes a permanent move.

On 29 March first public appearance in Vienna. Beethoven plays a piano concerto (probably op. 15) in the Hofburg Theatre in an academy organized by Joseph Haydn. In July printed copies of Beethoven's Opus 1 (three Piano Trios) are distributed on a subscription basis.

Only longer concert tour: via Prague (February to April), Dresden and Leipzig to Berlin (May to July).

Piano Sonata op. 13 "Pathétique".

On 2 April first concert for his own benefit in Vienna with the première of the First Symphony. Thus Beethoven had now composed a work for the third instrumental musical genre which had been given so much importance by Haydn and Mozart in the Viennese Classical period, the other genres being piano sonata (op. 2, 1795) and string quartet (op. 18, 1798 – 1800).

"Heiligenstadt Testament" - a resigned monologue on his increasing deafness.

Academy in the Theater an der Wien on 5 April: première of the Second Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto and the Oratorio "Christus on the Mount of Olives".
"Kreutzer Sonata" op. 47.

On 18 April Napoleon proclaims himself Emperor of France. Deeply disappointed by this Beethoven does not name the Third Symphony "Bonaparte" as originally planned.

French troops occupy Vienna for the first time. The nobility leaves the city. The première of "Fidelio" (first version under the title "Leonore") on 20 November is not a success.

From August to October Beethoven stays with Prince Lichnowsky, one of Beethoven's important patrons, at his castle in Grätz (Silesia). He returns to Vienna following a dispute with Lichnowsky.
Première of the Violin Concerto.
String Quartets op. 59 commissioned by Count Rasumowsky.

Mass in C Major op. 86 for Prince Esterhazy in Eisenstadt.

Academy in the Theater an der Wien on 22 December: première of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasia, op. 80.

Archduke Rudolph, Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Kinsky guarantee Beethoven an annuity. In return he promises to stay in Vienna and rejects the post of court musical director in Kassel, which Napoleon's brother Jérome had offered him.
On 4 May the Emperor's family leaves Vienna due to the occupation of the city once again by French troops. The departure of Archduke Rudolph occasions him to write the Piano Sonata op. 81a "Das Lebewohl".

Music for Goethe's "Egmont".

Goes to Teplitz on account of his health. Letter to the "Immortal Beloved", whose identity is unknown. Meets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. On the return journey he pays his brother Johann, who has a pharmacy in Linz, a longer visit.

Beethoven composes "Wellington's Victory or the Battle of Vittoria" op. 91 on a decisive victory over Napoleon. It was first perfomed together with the Seventh Symphony on 8 December.

The Vienna Congress opens in September. Beethoven enjoys great success with occasional works (Congress Cantata "The glorious moment"), performances of his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies and the new Version of "Fidelio" due to the interest shown by the international high society.

Probably Beethoven's last performance as pianist.
Following the death of his brother Kaspar Karl on 15 November, Beethoven assumes custody of his nephew Karl.
In the years that follow there are legal disputes over custody between Beethoven and his sister-in-law Johanna van Beethoven.

Song cycle "An die ferne Geliebte".

Conversation books become necessary: people now have to communicate with Beethoven in writing on account of his deafness.
"Hammerklavier Sonata" op. 106.

In March the Archduke Rudolph is enthroned as the Archbishop of Olmütz. Beethoven writes the Missa solemnis for this occasion, but he only completes in 1823.

The last Piano Sonata: op. 111.

"Diabelli Variations".

7 May: première of the Ninth Symphony.
Following this, Beethoven begins work on the last String Quartets, very important late works.

His nephew Karl attempts suicide on 6 August. Last completed work: new Finale for the String Quartet op. 130.

Beethoven dies on 26 March in the "Schwarzspanierhaus" in Vienna.


Beethoven-Denkmal auf dem Münsterplatz in Bonn

Video "Beethoven and Bonn"

Film/Multimedia (34 MB)