Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most celebrated composers in the history of classical music, left an indelible mark on the world through his extraordinary compositions and a life filled with triumphs and tribulations. From the moment he entered this world in December 1770, to his last notes composed amidst deafness and turmoil, Beethoven’s journey is nothing short of a captivating chronicle. In this article, we embark on a journey through time, exploring the intricate tapestry of Beethoven’s life. We will unravel the pivotal moments, artistic evolution, and personal challenges that shaped the genius behind timeless masterpieces like the Ninth Symphony and the Moonlight Sonata. Join us as we delve deep into the chronology of Beethoven’s life, discovering the man behind the music and the enduring legacy he left behind.
|When was Beethoven born? December 16th uncertain in Bonn, Germany
December 17th: Baptized at Bonn
April 8th: Baptism of his brother Caspar Anton Carl
October 2nd: Baptism of his brother Nikolaus Johann
March 26th: Ludwig’s first known public performance, at Cologne
|February 23rd: Baptism of his sister Anna Maria Franziska (died four days later)
October: Neefe pursues Ludwig’s musical training
|January 17th: Baptism of his brother Franz Georg (died two years later)
|Publication of first work in Beethoven life known as the Dressler Variations
|October 14th: Publication of three sonatas and other works
June: Ludwig is appointed organist to the Choir of Maximilian Franz. He is 14 year old.
|May 5th: Baptism of his sister Maria Margaretha (died one year later)
Visited Vienna, studied with Mozart
Played for four seasons as violinist at the Opera of Bonn
|December 5th: Death of Mozart
|November 2nd: Left for Vienna
November 10th: Arrived at Vienna
Musical studies with Haydn
December 18th: Death of his father
|May: His brother Carl arrives at Vienna
January 19th: Haydn returns to London. Ludwig studies with Albrechtsberger
Composition of his first major work: Trios for Piano (opus 1)
March 29th: First public appearance at Vienna; he played his own works
Numerous Beethoven compositions and a concert given at Prague
|Probably the year of a serious illness, which triggered his deafness
Composition and publication of works
|Instruction by Salieri
Began composing the first symphony
Concert at Vienna, playing of his first symphony
February: Finished his second symphony
|January: Ludwig became the composer of the Theatre of Vienna, where he lived with his brother Carl
June-October: Composed the Eroica symphony
August 6th: The piano maker Sébastien Erard sent him a new piano, as a present. This allowed for bigger intervals – like the pianos we have today.
|April: His contract with the theatre finishes
April 7th: First public performance of the Eroica symphony
|May 25th: Marriage of his brother Caspar Carl
Journey with the Prince Lichnowsky, and composition of the fourth symphony
|Composition of the Coriolan Overture
March: First performance of the fourth symphony
Autumn: Composition of the fifth symphony
Spring-Summer: Composition of the sixth symphony – The Pastoral
|April 9th: War is declared against France
May 10th: French army surrounds Vienna
May 11th-12th: France takes possession of Vienna
Beethoven teaches music to Archduke Rudolphe
|April 27th: Beethoven presents ‘The Letter for Elise’ to Thérèse Malfatti
|October: Beethoven begins writing the seventh symphony
March 2nd: Presentation of ‘To the Beloved’ to Antonie Brentano
|December 8th: First public presentation of the eighth symphony
|February 27th: Playing of the eighth symphony
May 23rd: First presentation of Fidelio
|November 15th: Ludwig’s brother, Carl, dies. After several court cases, Ludwig is given guardianship of his nephew.
|October: Beethoven becomes ill
|Beginning of the year: Beethoven is still ill
September 10th: Writing of the first bars of the ninth symphony
|February 14th: Beethoven and Salieri recommend the metronome in the Viennese press.
February: Beethoven’s deafness is such that he has to use a notebook and pencil to converse with visitors.
December 3rd: Karl runs away to his mother’s home, but Beethoven demands that the police bring him back.
|January 11th: The guardianship of Karl is taken away from Beethoven on grounds of his deafness.
November: Composition of ‘Missa Solemnis’
|April 8th: Beethoven becomes Karl’s tutor again, with Karl Peters.
|January and the following months: Beethoven becomes regularly ill
|October: Pursues the composition of the ninth symphony and the beginnings of the tenth
|March 6th: Beethoven names Karl as his heir
Works on the ninth symphony
|Works on the tenth symphony (only the first movement was written in detail)
February: Finished writing the ninth symphony
May 7th: Public playing of the ninth symphony
|May 7th-October 15th: Beethoven installs himself at Baden
|August 6th: Karl attempts suicide by shooting himself in the head. He’s only injured.
December: Beethoven’s health starts to decline. He undergoes an operation.
He undergoes three further operations in the first two months of the year…
Frequently Asked Questions About the Chronology of Beethoven's life
Ludwig van Beethoven was born on December 16 or 17, 1770 (the exact date is debated) in Bonn, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire and is now located in Germany. He was baptized on December 17, making that date more commonly associated with his birth. Beethoven’s birthplace, a house in Bonn, has been preserved as a museum dedicated to his life and work. This historic city on the banks of the Rhine River played a significant role in his early musical education.
Beethoven’s birth marked the beginning of a life that would be immersed in music, eventually leading him to become one of the most influential composers of all time. His early exposure to music in Bonn laid the foundation for his remarkable career, which would see him create groundbreaking compositions and revolutionize classical music.
Beethoven’s formative years were marked by his growing passion for music and his early musical education. His father, Johann van Beethoven, recognized his talent and began teaching him the piano and violin at a young age. Beethoven’s natural abilities soon became evident, and he started composing music at the age of 12.
In his late teens, Beethoven embarked on a journey to Vienna, the musical capital of Europe, in 1787. This move was significant as it allowed him to study under the guidance of prominent composers such as Joseph Haydn and gain exposure to the thriving musical scene in Vienna. Vienna would become Beethoven’s home for most of his life, and it was here that he honed his skills, developed his unique style, and composed some of his most iconic works.
Beethoven’s early compositions reflect his growth as a composer during his formative years in Bonn and Vienna. Some of his notable early works include piano sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies. His “Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor” composed in 1795 is an example of his early mastery of the piano. This period also saw the composition of his first symphony, “Symphony No. 1 in C Major,” which showcased his talent for orchestration.
Beethoven’s compositions from this time already displayed elements of innovation and originality, setting him apart from his contemporaries. These early works laid the groundwork for the revolutionary compositions he would produce in the years to come.
Beethoven’s struggle with hearing problems began in his late twenties, and it would become a defining challenge in his life. Around 1798, he started noticing symptoms of hearing loss, including tinnitus and difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. This condition gradually worsened over the years, leading to profound deafness.
Beethoven’s hearing impairment posed a tremendous obstacle for a composer and musician, but his determination and passion for music kept him from abandoning his craft. He continued to compose and perform, relying on the vibrations he could feel through his piano and by using conversation books to communicate with others.
Beethoven’s life and career are often divided into three main periods: the Early Period, the Middle Period, and the Late Period. The Middle Period, also known as the “Heroic Period,” encompasses the years roughly from 1803 to 1814. During this time, Beethoven’s compositions took on a more revolutionary and emotionally intense character.
Some of the key compositions from Beethoven’s Middle Period include the iconic “Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major,” also known as the “Eroica Symphony,” which was initially dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte before Beethoven withdrew the dedication due to political reasons. Other notable works from this period include the “Symphony No. 5 in C minor,” the “Emperor Concerto” (Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major), and the “Appassionata” Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor). These compositions marked a significant departure from classical conventions, showcasing Beethoven’s innovative spirit and emotional depth.