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Home>Life of Beethoven>Beethoven's Childhood

Beethoven's childhood. 1770-1792

Beethoven's Birth and Family

Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn, in a family of musicians at the royal court of Cologne. His name was given after his grandfather, who was Flemish and who settled in Bonn in 1732. He was a bass player at court, and later, starting with 1761, he became maestro of the chapel.
     Beethoven’s father, Johann, left many unpleasant memories in his son’s existence. Undoubtedly talented, Johann was not only incapable of being a positive influence on his genius son’s education, but, at times, he was outright prejudicial. In 1767 Johann marries Maria-Magdalena Kewerich the daughter of the chief cook at the Coblenz court, a 19-year-old widow. Her first husband had been a butler at court. Maria-Magdalena was one of the most radiant figures in Beethoven's childhood. Her kind, affectionate and gentle character did not stop her from manifesting great self-restraint, amazing will and extraordinary wit if the situation called for it. She had remarkable tact in dealing with her loved ones as well as with strangers.
     In December 1770 Maria-Magdalena gives birth to a baby boy whom she names Ludwig. The exact date of birth is unknown; however the records show that the baptising took place on December 17th 1770 so the most probable date of birth is December 16th.

The First Years in Bonn

Ludwig spent the first years of his childhood with his family, in a harmonious and fruitful atmosphere. Johann Beethoven had a good financial situation at the time, although somewhat moderate. Old Ludwig, the composer’s grandfather, was supporting the weak and feeble Johann both morally and financially.
     When Ludwig turned five, the Beethoven family moved to Rhine Street, in the house of a baker named Fischer. The Rhine’s right bank revealed itself before the windows of the house, with its small villages and fields as well as the seven mountains rising ahead. Little Ludwig was sometimes completely captured in a deep meditation upon looking at the marvelous river. One could hardly get him out of this state.
      Even as a child he stood apart through a rare capacity to focus and through his introvert nature. However, one must not picture little Ludwig as a self-encased melancholic. On the contrary, he was a vigorous youngster not much different from other scoundrels his age. At least this is the image portrayed by Fischer’s manuscript (the baker’s son, Ludwig’s youngest friend, left some indications about Beethoven’s childhood, although not very accurate). Ludwig’s hot temper manifested itself in his passionate affection or, on the contrary, his direct repulsion towards certain people, or in his attitude towards the events of everyday life, in his sense of humor, in his disposition to laugh as much as he could.
THe house in which Beethoven was born on the 16th of December 1770      Until the age of ten, Ludwig went to primary school, but the years he actually spent in school gave him little knowledge. He could not further his studies due to his family’s poor financial status. We could say that until this period, Beethoven's childhood was that of any normal child of his age.

Little Mozart

Becoming aware of his son’s extraordinary talent, Johann thinks of turning young Beethoven into a new Mozart (whose childhood success was still vivid in people’s minds). In this respect, he tries to provide Ludwig with a musical education that might enhance his remarkable abilities. In fact, from this point on, Beethoven's childhood will be marked by his father's cruel attempts to transform him into a music genius.
     Until the age of 12 his studies lacked any systematic organization. Among his teachers there was one of the court’s musicians, a certain Eden, followed by actor Tobias Pfeifer and Franciscan monk Willibald Koch.
     In March 1778, Johann forces Ludwig to hold a concert in Koeln. At that time Beethoven was 8 years old.
Christian-Gottlob Neefe, Beethoven's first teacher.

The First Teacher

In 1782, Beethoven finds his first real teacher – Christian-Gottlob Neefe, the musical director of the national theatre in Bonn. As a true scholar, Neefe became a mentor for Beethoven, showing him the advanced ideas of his century. In 1783, Neefe wrote about Beethoven in a musical magazine: " This young genius deserves to be supported in his artistic endeavors. If he continues in the same manner he started, he is sure to become a second Wolfgang-Amadeus Mozart ". Neefe was Ludwig’s devoted friend for many years, including his childhood. Beethoven held the highest esteem for him, so, in 1793 he wrote to him: "If I ever will amount to anything, this will undoubtedly be your merit. "

    Continue to Beethoven's Childhood Part II of the analisys.

 

Read more about Beethoven's Life


Best 5 Beethoven Books

  1. Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris; Eminent Lives (October 4, 2005).
  2. Beethoven by Maynard Solomon; Schirmer Books; 2nd Rev edition (September 1, 2001).
  3. Beetoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood;W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 30, 2005).
  4. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination by Maynard Solomon; University of California Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2004).
  5. Beethoven as I Knew Him by Anton Felix Schindler; Dover Publications; n.e.of "Beethoven as I Knew Him: A Biography" edition (September 3, 1996).
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  Best 5 Beethoven Books on Amazon

1. Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris;

2. Beethoven by Maynard Solomon;

3. Beetoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood;

4. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination by Maynard Solomon;

5. Beethoven as I Knew Him by Anton Felix Schindler;

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