Ludwig Van Beethoven began his musical studies prodded by his father who envisioned his son as the “New Mozart.” At his first public performance at the age of 7-1/2, his father introduced him as a six year old, giving the adoring crowd – and his son -- the impression that he was younger than he really was. Years later, Ludwig discovered his birth certificate but thought it must have been that of his deceased younger brother, Ludwig Maria.
By his mid teens, Ludwig was already a published composer and an organist for the court of Prince Maximilian. His progress however, was restrained by his compassion to take care of his younger brothers. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was dead.
During his 17th year, Maximilian sponsored him to travel to Vienna where he met Mozart who reportedly said of him, "Don't forget his name - you will hear it spoken often."
The woes of his youth formulated the temper, frustration, and cynicism that would define his adult personality. With deafness worsening at the age of 32, he wrote of his disgust at the unfairness of life, and even hinted at suicide.
But his drive for composing continued unabated and he wrote his third symphony, the “Eroica,” musically extolling Napoleon Bonaparte. However, after that Frenchman declared himself emperor, the enraged Beethoven furiously scratched out Napoleon’s name from his score.
In total, Beethoven wrote nine symphonies and had begun his tenth, but the most famous is the fifth with its repetitive and familiar “da-da-da-daaah, da-da-da-daaah.” During World War II, that musical phrase had special meaning – its timing coincidentally emulated the dots and dashes for the Morse code letter “V” for victory, and many American lips repeated its optimistic, musical vocalization.
By the time the elderly Beethoven had completed most of his later music, he was completely deaf. He composed while holding a stick between his teeth and touching it to the piano to sense the vibration of the strings through bone conduction.
Following a triumphant performance of the great Ninth Symphony which he was conducting, one of the soloists of the magnificent “Ode to Joy” gently turned him around so he could receive the exuberant tribute from his audience.
When Beethoven died at the age of 56 from complications of a cold, more than 10,000 mourners attended his funeral, including one very special pallbearer, Franz Schubert. A timid but intense admirer of Beethoven, he lived in the same town, but had never met the master. Schubert died the next year and is buried next to Beethoven.