Happy birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven

BeethovenGerman composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770, so it is likely he was born a few days prior to that date. As one of the most recognized composers in music history, his works are still some of the most frequently performed classical pieces to this day. Beethoven’s work spans the transition from the classical period into the romantic era.

“No composer left a mark on music quite like Ludwig van Beethoven. He took the popular forms of his time — symphony, string quartet, piano sonata, opera — and stretched them to their breaking points. He embodied the then-new ideal of the musician as passionate, politically engaged Romantic hero.”

The New York Times

Beethoven was born in Bonn, but moved to Vienna in young adulthood to study with Haydn. He spent some 35 years in Vienna, and yet a visit to Vienna, noted Michael Cooper, bombards the traveler with “the city’s Mozart-industrial complex.” Mozart spent his last decade in Vienna, a much shorter period of time than Beethoven. Both men were key influencers of their time. Cooper’s travel back to Beethoven’s roots yields some interesting observations.

Beethoven was almost completely deaf by 1814, but continued to compose masterpiece after masterpiece. It seems that he put every ounce of his being through his work. When Beethoven died March 26, 1827, apparently he gave more. Visitors cut locks of his hair for keepsakes. There are still strands of his hair available for auction to this day.

Learn more about Ludwig van Beethoven

From our collection


Playbill of the first performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera Fidelio (third and final version) on 23 May 1814 at the Theater am Kärntnertor

Listen to Fidelio, conducted January 29, 1978 by Leonard Bernstein.

Orchestra – Wiener Philharmoniker
Chorus – Wiener Staatsoper
Leonore – Gundula Janowitz
Florestan – René Kollo
Pizarro – Hans Sotin
Rocco – Manfred Jungwirth
Marzelline – Lucia Popp
Jaquino – Adolf Dallapozza
Fernando – Hans Helm
Erster Gefangene – Karl Terkal
Zweiter Gefangene – Alfred Sramek


Christus am Ölberge

Listen to Jodie Devos perform Preist des Erlösers Güte, written by Franz Xaver Huber and set by Ludwig van Beethoven

9th Symphony

Our entire collection of texts, both opera arias and art songs as set by Ludwig van Beethoven may be found here:


And finally, just for fun, a very modern take from the iPad Orchestra on Beethoven’s 5th: