His father was an unstable, yetambitious man whose excessive drinking, rough temper and anxietysurprisingly did not diminish Beethovens love for music. He studiedand performed with great success, despite becoming the breadwinner ofhis household by the time he was 18 years old. His fathersincreasingly serious alcohol problem and the earlier death of hisgrandfather in 1773 sent his family into deepening poverty. At first, Beethoven made little impact on the musical society,despite his fathers hopes. When he turned 11, he left school andbecame an assistant organist to Christian Gottlob Neefe at the courtof Bonn, learning from him and other musicians. In 1783 he became thecontinuo player for the Bonn opera and accompanied their rehearsals onkeyboard.
In 1787, he was sent to Vienna to take further lessons fromMozart. Two months later, however, he was called back to Bonn by thedeath of his mother. He started to play the viola in the Opera Orchestra in 1789,while also teaching in composing. He met Haydn in 1790, who agreed toteach him in Vienna, and Beethoven then moved to Vienna permanently. He received financial support from Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to whom hededicated his Piano Sonata in C minor, better known as The Pathtique?. He performed publicly in Vienna in 1795 for the first time, andpublished his Op.
1 and Op. 2 piano sonatas. His works aretraditionally divided into three periods. The first is called theViennese Classical, the second is the Heroic, and the third is LateBeethoven.
In the first period, his individuality and style graduallydeveloped, as he used many methods from Haydn, including the use ofsilence. He composed mainly for the piano during this period. Theseworks include Symphony no. 1 in C (1800), his first six stringquartets, and the Pathtique (1799).
His Moonlight Sonata in C#minor (1801) is known as the first of Heroic Beethoven. Beethoven learned that he would become deaf in 1802 and sufferedsever depression. His composing skills were not affected by hisdeafness, but his ability to teach and perform was inhibited. It issaid that he became deaf from his habit of pouring cold water over hishead while composing, to refresh himself, and then not drying hismassive amounts of hair afterwards. He wrote his only opera, Fidelioin 1805. The main theme of the opera revolves around fidelity, whichreflects his personal desire to marry.
Other works in the Heroicperiod include the Kreuzer Sonata (1803), symphonies 3 7, the ViolinConcerto in D major (1806), the Razumovsky Quartets (1806), theEmperor Concerto (1809) and the Archduke Trio, Op. 97 (1811). After 1813, during his Late period, Beethoven composed inwardly. He was totally deaf, as this is sometimes known as the silentperiod.
Some say that Beethoven was composing music for a differentage. His life became more chaotic and he composed less and less. Inhis works, he used more miniaturization and expansion. The musicbegan to become odd as he began to experiment with the number ofmovements, contrast in volume and dynamics, harmonic predictability,sonata movements and trills in his works. Beethoven becameincreasingly argumentative as he was further tormented by hisdeafness. Goethe described his attitude as aggressive, and perhapsunderstandable, but not easy to live with.
He gave his lastperformance in 1814, on the piano, but continued to be a respectedcomposer in Viennese society. Some of his late achievements includethe Diabelli Variations (1820-1823), the last piano sonatas and sixstring quartets, the Mass in D major, Missa Solemnis (1823), theChoral Symphony, no. 9 (1824), in which he set Schillers Ode to Joyin the final movement. At Beethovens death in 1827, FranzGrillparzer best described him during his funeral address when hesaid: despite all these absurdities, there was something so touchingand ennobling about him that one could not help admiring him andfeeling drawn to him.