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Beethoven Facts: Interesting Things You May Not Know

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most iconic composers in history, but how much do you know about this man? We’re going to tell you a lot of Beethoven facts: interesting things you may not know, so keep reading to find out all about him! 

He Was Born In Germany 

May 28, 2012 – Ludwig van Beethoven Monument in Münsterplatz, Bonn, Germany. Image source: Turgidson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, on December 16, 1770, and died on March 26, 1827, in Vienna, Austria. 

His Brother Died Six Days After He Was Born 

Beethoven had an older brother who sadly passed away just six days after he was born.

Beethoven Was Really Ludwig The III 

Unknown – Ludwig van Beethoven. Image source: E. H. Schroeder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The composer we know as Beethoven was really the third in his family with the name Ludwig. His grandpa was the first, his older brother was the second, and he was the third three.

He Had Seven Siblings But Five Of Them Didn’t Survive To Become Adults 

He initially grew up with seven other siblings and had five brothers and two sisters, but four out of the seven didn’t survive to become adults. 

Beethoven’s Age Was Wrong 

1841 – Illustration from Ludwig van Beethoven, or the Little Chapel Master. Image source: AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beethoven learned later in life that his age wasn’t right because his father had lied and said he was two years younger than he was so that people would think he was younger. 

His Father Forced Him To Practice Piano 

His father, Johann, was adamant that he play the piano every day because he knew that while Beethoven loved the piano, he wouldn’t become famous unless he practiced it all of the time. He wanted his son to be like Mozart, so he forced him to continue practicing the piano whether it was nighttime or daytime and whether he wanted to or not. 

Beethoven Was Eight When He Had His First Recital 

Beethoven’s father put together a piano recital for Beethoven when he was only eight years old, which was on March 26, 1778. However, his father was adamant that he would tell everyone he was six years old to make it more appealing. He was so proud of Beethoven’s ability and talent that he went above and beyond to promote the piano recital. Even though Beethoven himself was very reserved and was known to be a shy kid, he enjoyed all of the attention the recital got him and his family. 

Beethoven Didn’t Lose His Hearing Until His Mid-20s 

1913 – Ludwig van Beethoven, aged 26. Image source: Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t until Beethoven was around age 26 that he started losing his hearing, so he didn’t become fully deaf until he was in his 40s. There’s no real known cause for his deafness, but speculation is that he suffered from some disease as a child that led to him going deaf, such as having smallpox.  

Beethoven’s Father Was an Alcoholic 

Beethoven’s father was an alcoholic, which led to a lot of issues at home, including his father’s tortuous piano lessons. He ended up losing his job as a court singer because the alcohol destroyed his voice. 

His Last Words Mentioned His Belief Of Hearing In The Afterlife

Late 17th-century – The Reign of Heavens. Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A friend of his said that when he was on his deathbed, he mentioned that he would hear while in heaven, so he had a belief that in the afterlife he’d get his hearing back. 

Beethoven Dropped Out Of School At Age 11 

He had to drop out of school when he was just 11 years old because his family needed him to work instead. 

He Got A Job As A Court Organist at 13

Unknown – The organ of the Minim church in Bonn, on which Ludwig van Beethoven trained as an organist. Image source: s:fr:Auteur:Vincent d’Indy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beethoven began working as the court organist when he was only 13, this was to help provide income for his family after his father had been fired from the singing gig he had at the court due to alcoholism and losing his voice. Since he was the oldest sibling still alive at the time, he felt it was his responsibility to provide for his family since they had no other income. 

He Was Bad At Math 

Beethoven wasn’t very good at math, which likely was caused by the fact he dropped out of school when he was only 11. He couldn’t divide or multiply and only knew how to add or subtract. 

Beethoven Performed At Age 17 For Mozart

Mozart was who his father wanted him to be like, so Beethoven managed to perform for the composer when he was just 17, and this would be his first trip to Vienna. Mozart was the biggest composer at that time and was known for not really finding other musicians interesting. However, rumor had it that once Mozart heard Beethoven play, he told everyone to keep their eye on him and that he’d be something one day. 

He moved to Vienna And Began Taking Lessons From Joseph Haydn

1791 – Portrait of Joseph Haydn. Image source: Thomas Hardy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beethoven moved to Vienna, Austria, when he was in his 20s, and that’s when Joseph Haydn started giving him lessons. Haydn was known as the Father of the Symphony, and the two men didn’t get along too well. Haydn and Beethoven often would become frustrated with one another, and it wasn’t easy for them to be around each other.  

Beethoven Had Been Sick On and Off His Whole Life 

One of the things people don’t know about Beethoven is that he was sick on and off his entire life, from childhood until he died. There were a lot of health issues that plagued him such as infections, rheumatic fever, skin conditions, colitis, abscesses, jaundice, hepatitis, deafness, degeneration and inflammation of arteries, and cirrhosis of the liver. Without the help of medicine we have now, he would spend weeks or months suffering from various health issues. 

He Never Got Married Or Had a Family 

Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata (FULL)

Beethoven never got married and never had a family, and he often struck out when it came to women for one reason or another. He fell for a woman who studied under him named Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, even writing Moonlight Sonata for her, but she wasn’t allowed to be with him because he was just a commoner. Another woman, Josephine Brusvik, took piano lessons from him, but her family wouldn’t let them be together.

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Beethoven Would Only Give Piano Lessons To Specific People 

Beethoven was not a fan of teaching people the piano and hated giving lessons unless it was a pretty woman whom he liked, even if they didn’t know much about the piano. Otherwise, lessons were reserved for people who had a lot of talent. 

He Ensured His Public Image Was Positive 

He did not like to have negative critiques of his work published, and he was very much in control of his image publicly. Beethoven would tell the editor of Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, the biggest musical journal of the time, that he would no longer get copies of his work if he didn’t stop the negative feedback. 

Beethoven’s Only Opera Took 10 Years to Perfect 

Fidelio - Overture

While Beethoven might have had hundreds of compositions, he only wrote one opera in his lifetime, which was called Fidelio. This opera would take him around 10 years to complete, so it’s sort of clear why he only managed to write one. The first version of this opera was dubbed Lenora, and you can still hear this version played sometimes on stage today. 

He Would Use Conversation Books To Communicate With Friends 

Beethoven may have been going deaf beginning in his 20s, but he didn’t let that stop him from communicating with his friends. He would use conversation books to communicate with his friends, and they’d write to each other in these books. This would be how he’d communicate when he went completely deaf at around age 45 or 46 and continued until his death in 1827. 

Beethoven Was Never Wealthy 

1892 – Ludwig van Beethoven. Image source: Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

While Beethoven did live a comfortable lifestyle, he was never wealthy and had to work to keep the wealth that he did have. He always worked, whether it was writing for the actual rich people who would hire him, giving piano lessons, or writing compositions of his own. 

He Was a Loner And Didn’t Have a Lot of Friends 

Beethoven was a loner throughout his life and didn’t have many friends, which may have been due to his health issues and slowly losing his hearing. He was socially inept in situations and wasn’t the best to be around because he was known for his short temper. He had trust issues and would have outbursts, so not many people wanted to be around him. 

It Took Multiple Symphonies Before He Would Include Singers 

Symphony No. 9, Op. 125: I. Allegro ma non Troppo - Un poco Maestoso (Remastered)

He didn’t compose a symphony that included singers until his Ninth Symphony, although we have no clue why it took him this long to add singers to his compositions. 

Beethoven Was Very Short And Not Considered Attractive 

1804 to 1805 – Ludwig van Beethoven with a lyre-guitar. Image source: Joseph Willibrord Mähler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

One reason why he may have struck out with the ladies quite often was because he wasn’t a very attractive man and was only 5 feet 3 inches tall! Most people would not have thought of him as being cute. 

He Was Arrested During a Drunken Night Out 

There was one night when Beethoven got really drunk while out on the town, and he ended up getting arrested because the policeman, not knowing who he was, thought he was some type of tramp. He had a knack for drinking so much he’d pass out, which is why the thought of him being arrested while drinking isn’t that bizarre. 

Beethoven And Prince Lichnowsky Got Into A Heated Argument 

Speaking a little more about his temper, Beethoven and Prince Linchnowsky got into a heated argument one day even though he considered Linchnowsky to be his friend. He once tried to whack him with a chair in the head during an argument, and then called him a donkey. 

He Would Stay Awake Through Ice Water Dips

There are reports that Beethoven had an unusual way of keeping himself awake, which was to grab a bucket of ice-cold water and dip his head into it. 

Beethoven Composed Over 700 Musical Pieces Throughout His Life 

Beethoven spent 45 years making music, and throughout this time, he composed around 722 different musical pieces, which is highly impressive. 

His Death Happened When It Was Storming Outside 

March 27, 1827 – Ludwig van Beethoven on his deathbed. Image source: Josef Danhauser, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was storming outside on the day that Beethoven died, which was March 26, 1827. One of his only friends, Stephan von Breuning, likened it to how Beethoven wrote his symphonies, with there being a ton of crashes outside because of the loud thunder. He was only 56 years old when he died, and it’s not known specifically what killed him. There were many health issues that could have caused his death including cirrhosis of the liver or some kind of infection. 

Beethoven Often Combined Romantic And Classical Styles For His Music 

Beethoven usually combined Romantic and Classical music together to create his music, which was what made his compositions so different and popular for that time. 

His Attitude Almost Caused His Nephew To Kill Himself 

November 5, 1831 – Daguerreotype of Karl van Beethoven, nephew of Ludwig van Beethoven. Image source: Ludwig van Beethoven, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With Beethoven getting older and his hearing getting worse, he became a horrible person to be around and was often angry, grumpy, and upset. When he got custody of his nephew after his brother’s death, his nephew quickly saw how angry Beethoven had become. He had tried to kill himself to get away from Beethoven and his anger issues. 

Beethoven Had Thousands of People Show Up For His Burial 

Even though Beethoven wasn’t a pleasure to be around in his later years, he still had thousands of people come out for his procession on the day of his funeral in Vienna, Austria. There were regular citizens there as well as other composers, poets, and playwrights. 

His Headstone Simply Reads Beethoven 

August 26, 2021 – Grave of Ludwig van Beethoven at Vienna Central Cemetery. Image source: Afifa Afrin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may think that Beethoven would have a headstone or monument that was large and grandiose, but that’s not the case at all. His headstone simply reads “Beethoven” with nothing else written on it, such as his first name or anything about his famous compositions. His headstone reads much like his life, which is to the point and without much fanfare.

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