10 Interesting Facts About Beethoven you Might not Know

There is no mistake, Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the best composers of all time. His music has found its way everywhere from the stages of professional symphonies to commercials and animated kids’ programs. Whether it is realized or not, Beethoven’s music is recognizable by people, young and old. 

His impact on the music world is incredible. It doesn’t matter where you are on your musical journey, everyone ought to know a thing or two about Beethoven. Besides, his life was anything but boring. 

Just check out these 10 facts about Beethoven.

1. Beethoven was Forced to into Music

Beethoven’s father, Johann van Beethoven, knew his son enjoyed playing the piano so, he took it upon himself to try to create a prodigy – like Mozart.

It didn’t matter what time, night or day, Beethoven was forced to practice until he could reach the prodigy level.

Many of these times brought the young boy to tears. 

In fact, Beethoven’s date of birth has often been questioned.

He was baptized in 1770, but in his father’s pursuit to create a young prodigy, he may have changed this date somewhere along the way — making Beethoven seem more advanced for a younger age. 

2. Beethoven Composed Music He Couldn’t Hear

Many people know that Beethoven was deaf, but nobody really knows why.

But, he was not always unable to hear and it was not until he was about 26 years old when he started losing his hearing.

Little by little it would disappear over the next couple of decades. 

Speculation is that Beethoven’s hearing loss was likely caused by childhood diseases, such as smallpox or typhus. 

On his deathbed, one friend is said to have quoted Beethoven’s last words as, “I shall hear in heaven.”

3. Beethoven had Many Health Issues

It’s thought that the famous German composer was plagued by a number of health issues and it was rumored that he often drank heavily which left him with a damaged liver.

He was also said to have suffered from Manic Depressive episodes and erratic personality changes. 

In 2007, pieces of Beethoven’s hair were sampled and were discovered to have had unhealthy levels of lead.

This amount may not have killed someone healthy, but due to all his ailments, Beethoven may have actually died due to lead poisoning. 

4. Math was Not Beethoven’s Forte

Many people will tell you that math and music go hand in hand and you would assume someone as talented as Beethoven and who has written unbelievable compositions would have a strong math ability.

After all, compositions can be viewed as complex mathematical equations. 

But, Beethoven did not attend school after the age of 11 years, and while he learned some basic arithmetic he left before it got too advanced.

Some have even thought of him to have been dyslexic.

As a result of his lack of education – primarily math – he was terrible at managing his finances. 

5. Beethoven Had Control Over His Publicity

Beethoven was not fond of receiving negative feedback or criticism for his work.

He was, however, fond of maintaining control over his public image.

He apparently even informed the editor of the leading music journal at the time, Allgemein musikalische Zeitung (AMZ), that if they wanted to continue receiving his work, they need to halt negative comments. 

6. Beethoven’s Heart Just Wasn’t Lucky

Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

He loved with his heart, but he was never really lucky in love and sadly he never married or had a family.

His first admiration was Countess Giulietta Guicciardi who studied music under him and he became quite smitten with her.

He even had his Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor – also known as Moonlight Sonata – dedicated to her. 

Unfortunately, because he was a commoner, the two were never allowed to be together. 

Another countess, Josephine Brunswick, would tickle his fancy while giving her piano lessons, but, despite the love letters between them, her family forbade the relationship. 

7. Beethoven and Mozart Studied with the Same Teacher

Haydn

When you think of the most famous classical composers, Beethoven and Mozart will almost always make the top of the list.

They have both contributed amazing works to the world of music but would you have ever thought they studied with the same teacher? 

Just goes to show you how greatly talented their teacher Franz Joseph Hadyn was.

It’s no wonder why he has been referred to as the father of the symphony. 

When he was young, Beethoven had traveled to Vienna in an attempt to learn from Mozart – to no avail.

In his 20s, however, he returned and began his studies with Haydn. 

8. Beethoven Didn’t Like Teaching

Because of his fame and his talent in composing, many musicians sought after him for lessons.

However, Beethoven would have rather spent his time composing or doing anything but giving piano lessons. 

That is, of course, unless there was an exception.

If he felt that someone was a very talented student or an incredibly attractive young woman, Beethoven would make an exception and take on the role of a teacher.  

9. Beethoven Never Got Rich

In today’s world, you would assume someone as musically talented as Beethoven would have been wealthy and led a comfortable life.

But, that is not true at all.

He lived comfortably, yes, but that is because he worked hard for it.

He had to continuously work, either writing his own compositions, writing for the wealthy folks who commissioned it, or teaching piano.

10. Beethoven Died During a Thunderstorm

Beethoven lived until the age of 56 (in 1827) when he died from unknown causes.

Some assume that his death could have come from cirrhosis, lead poisoning, syphilis, or another infection. 

His powerful compositions filled with deep crashes with light melodies all coming together to create something truly magnificent is exactly how his life ended.

The beautiful bittersweet loss of an amazing musician during the loud rhythmic sounds of a discontented thunderstorm. 

With such a legacy to leave behind, it only seems fitting that the country of Vienna would join the procession to honor such a man at his burial.

Summing up Beethoven Facts

As you can see, there is a lot about the life and work of Beethoven that we don’t know.

Beethoven is often depicted as a rather tragic figure, but his music played an important role in the development of Western classical music.

His compositions were hugely influential and continue to be today.

We hope this article has given you some things to think about when listening to his music or studying him in your music history class.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.

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