Ludwig van Beethoven was born into a musical family in Bonn, Germany in 1770. Beginning at the age of five, Beethoven's father, Johann van Beethoven, taught him the piano. Beethoven had other teachers as well, one of which would come late at night, upon which young Beethoven would be dragged from his bed to the piano. Johann wanted Beethoven to be a child prodigy like Mozart, but he was not really successful with this endeavor.
Throughout his early career as a musician and composer, Beethoven was introduced to several important musicians, including Joseph Hayden. In 1792, Beethoven moved to Vienna. During his initial time there, he performed his own piano pieces, composed a lot of music (including his famous Moonlight Sonata and Pathétique Sonata), and taught piano lessons.
In 1802, Beethoven started to lose his hearing. This did not stop him from composing music, but it made playing at concerts difficult, and he began to socially withdraw. During this time, described as Beethoven's "heroic" period, he composed works on a grand scale, including his third and fifth symphonies, among other orchestral, chamber, and piano works.
In his final years, Beethoven began to look back on older music, including works by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, and composed many pieces in this style, including his famous Ninth Symphony, Missa Solemnis, multiple string quartets, and more piano sonatas. Beethoven died on March 26th, 1827 at the age of 56.
Listen to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Pathétique sonata here
Listen to the 1st movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 here
Listen to the 4th movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 here
Do you recognize the main theme in his Ninth Symphony? (Hint: it starts at 3:10 in the recording)
Beethoven wrote many of his most famous and loved pieces while going deaf. How did he do this? Watch the video below to learn how Beethoven used mathematics to convey emotion and creativity in his music, using his famous piano piece, Moonlight Sonata.