Six facts about Beethoven in his 250th year

Bath is joining in the worldwide celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with a series of six concerts of the composer’s entire cycle of sixteen string quartets.

The Bath Festivals Beethoven String Quartets cycle will be performed by the Carducci String Quartet in March and the Heath Quartet in May, two of the finest string quartets in the world. The six concerts will be augmented by an illuminating talk about the music and its composer, by Classic FM broadcaster John Suchet, author of Beethoven: The Man Revealed.

In anticipation of these very special events, here are a few fun facts about the world’s best known composer!


1. You can’t sing happy birthday to Beethoven

Nobody knows the exact date that baby Ludwig was born. He was the son of a court musician based in Bonn, Germany but he was baptised on 17 December 1770, so was probably born within 24 hours of that, ie on 16 December.

2. He was a young achiever

From a very early age Beethoven was a talented pianist, playing his first public performance aged eight.

3. A city he called home

He spent much of his adult life in Vienna, where he died after a long decline (probably partly as a result of alcohol) on 26 March 1827 aged 56.

4. The heroic period

His earliest recorded compositions date from when he was 12. But his most productive period was in his 30s. From 1803 and 1812 he composed an opera (Fidelio), six symphonies, four solo concerti, five string quartets, six string sonatas, seven piano sonatas, five sets of piano variations, four overtures, four trios, two sextets and 72 songs. Phew! No wonder this was known as his heroic period.

5. He composed stunning music when he was profoundly deaf

His deafness began with tinnitus and got progressively worse, which meant he avoided social gatherings because he found it hard to communicate. It is astonishing that his late quartets were written when he was profoundly deaf, producing music that was a mixture of grandeur, intimacy, beauty and a sense of human frailty.

6. A monumental legacy

His legacy to classical music is as great as that of Shakespeare’s is to the written word. His music is played and recognised the world over, from the four stirring ‘da da da dum’ of the 5th Symphony to the lilting beauty of the Pastoral, which was inspired by Beethoven’s love of walking in the countryside. The pretty Fur Elise has been played by many a piano student and his haunting Moonlight Sonata is also much played. The European Union’s official anthem is based on Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Learn more about the life of Beethoven at Beethoven: The Man Revealed With John Suchet on Saturday 28 March at the Guildhall. 

To book tickets for The Complete Beethoven String Quartets, click here.

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