All About Ludwig van Beethoven

Information on Beethoven, his life, his music and classical sheet music

Best 5 Beethoven Books on Amazon

1.Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris

2.Beethoven by Maynard Solomon

3.Beethoven: 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

Classical Sheet Music Downloads at Virtual Sheet Music

Beethoven's Last Years (1815-1827)

Beethoven's nephew, Karl

The last 12 years of Beethoven’s life were marked, at least in the first part, by his struggle with the wife of his brother Karl-Kaspar who died in late 1815, for the custody of their son Karl. This boy caused Beethoven many troubles. Apparently, even though he was a gifted child, Karl had two major faults: he was lazy and dishonest. Beethoven’s fight with Johanna (Karl-Kaspar’s wife) went on for 5 years. In the end, he gained custody of Karl.

Financial troubles still haunted the composer, who struggled to find a viable solution. As determined and bold as he was in his creation and in political issues, he was just as weak in every day matters. Devoted friends tried their best to help him. English pianist, Charles Neate, who met Beethoven in 1815, together with Ferdinand Ries, established in London, advised the composer to hold a concert in the capital of England. Here, he had a certain reputation, which might have insured him a large income. Beethoven, who had wanted to hold a concert for a long time, burned with desire to visit London. The British Philharmonic sent him an official invitation. The conditions were marvelous. But, at the last minute Beethoven was still undecided due to his illness and to the fact that he felt he could not let his nephew alone for too long, so he declined the so generous invitation.

The Grand Academy

Another important event of this period is Beethoven’s grand "Academy" during which Symphony No.9 and three movements of the Missa solemnis were first performed. The "Academy" took place on May 7th 1824 at the Karntnertor Theater and it was repeated on May 23rd in the great hall of the Fort. The conductor was Umlauf; at the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. The success was smashing. Despite the obvious negligence of the interpreters who had been gathered in a rush, Beethoven’s compositions left a memorable impression on his audience. The soprano and alto parts were interpreted by two famous young singers: Henriette Sonntag and Caroline Unger.

Standing Ovations

At the end of the "Academy", Beethoven received standing ovations. But word has it that he had his back to the public, plunged in deep thought in the silence caused by his deafness and could not see the audience. So, then, Caroline Unger took the composer’s hand and turned him to the public. The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. The theatre house had never seen such enthusiasm in applause.

At that time, it was customary that the imperial couple be greeted with three ovations at their entrance in the hall. The fact that a private person, who wasn’t even employed by the state, and all the more, was a musician (class of people who had been perceived as lackeys at court), received five ovations, was in itself inadmissible, almost indecent. Police agents present at the concert had to break off this spontaneous explosion of ovations. Beethoven left the concert deeply moved.

Even so, the hard part was yet to come: the "Academy" raised a total of 2000 guldens, but the net gaining barely reached 420 guldens. Thus Beethoven gained practically nothing as a result of his success. The hard earned money was spent on treatments and on the raising of his nephew.

In the beginning of 1826, Beethoven’s medical condition worsened when Karl attempted suicide as a result of serious gambling debts. His adored nephew’s reckless gesture aged Beethoven even more. He never recovered from this absurd blow, unlike Karl who soon went back to normal. Seeing that he cannot handle raising Karl alone, he asked his brother, Johann, to promise him that after his death, he would take care of the child.

The Last Days

In his last days, Beethoven’s friends, Schindler, Hutenbrenner and Stephan Breuring, stood by his side. He spent these last days in a shabby room, in an unsuitable atmosphere for a sick person, far from his beloved nephew and haunted by his misfortune. His physical state was more than deplorable; at night he suffered from insomnia and the gray sad mornings brought him no joy in the silent world he lived. His situation was worse by the day.

Just before his death he received a large amount of money from the London Philharmonic Society at the intervention of his student Moscheles. Schindler wrote that "Upon receiving this money, Beethoven could buy his favorite food and a comfortable armchair. Until then, he would deny himself even basic things he needed so as not to touch the stock he wanted to leave as inheritance to his nephew Karl. Beethoven was very happy upon receiving this gift and he still hoped he could somehow return the favor." In his last letter to Moscheles from March 18th (a week before his death) he pledged to offer the Philharmonic Society a new symphony.

Best 5 Beethoven Books

  1. Beethoven: The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris; Eminent Lives (October 4, 2005).
  2. Beethoven by Maynard Solomon; 2nd Rev edition (September 1, 2001).
  3. Beethoven: 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; 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).