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Beethoven FAQs

Picture of BeethovenWho would win the award for “best classical composer” is debatable, but there’s no denying that Ludwig van Beethoven would win the “most famous” award (along with Mozart). His name is recognized worldwide among classical music enthusiasts and those who don’t know a thing about the genre. And those who know a little something about the man know that 2020 is a big year – it is the Beethoven anniversary! 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth and because of this, many orchestras are performing his works this year. The Parker Symphony Orchestra will be performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to mark the occasion.

Whether you need a conversation starter or simply want to more about this renowned composer, check out these Beethoven FAQs and answers below.

When was Beethoven born and when did he die?

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. He was baptized December 17, 1770. He died in Vienna, Austria on March 26, 1827. He is buried at the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Vienna.


Was Beethoven German or Austrian?

Beethoven was born in Germany and is considered a German composer even though he moved to Austria in his 20’s. Interestingly, his grandfather was of Flemish origin – hence the “van” in his family name as opposed to the German “von”.


What are Beethoven’s symphonies?

  • Symphony No. 1 (Op. 21) written 1799-1800
  • Symphony No. 2 (Op. 36) written 1801-1802
  • Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” (Op. 55) written 1803
  • Symphony No. 4 (Op. 60) written 1806
  • Symphony No. 5 (Op. 67) written 1807-1808
  • Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” (Op. 68) written 1808
  • Symphony No. 7 (Op. 92) written 1811-1812
  • Symphony No. 8 (Op. 93) written 1812
  • Symphony No. 9 “Choral” (Op. 125) written 1822-1824


Why are Beethoven’s symphonies important?

Beethoven’s music, especially his symphonies, changed the music world forever. They shook up the conventional structure, harmonies, and forms of the “classical” era and opened everything up to a world of endless possibilities. Beethoven’s symphonies are big – his 9th symphony was the biggest ever composed at the time. They are bold and revolutionary – his 3rd symphony opens with a crash-crash to let you know he means business and the work was originally dedicated to Napoleon. They are also romantic – his 6th symphony was directly inspired by his walks and features the sounds of babbling brooks and birds.


Are there any unfinished Beethoven works?

Through Beethoven’s letters, we know that the composer was working on a 10th symphony. A music professor at the University of Manchester in England assembled fragments into a so-called Tenth Symphony, but no one knows for sure if all of the fragments were intended for the same piece. In 2012, two reconstructed Beethoven works were given world premiers – a sketch of a piano sonata and a fragment of a hymn. Many scholars, however, think that it is a disservice to Beethoven to reconstruct his unfinished works.


Which Beethoven symphony has five movements?

Beethoven’s 6th symphony has five movements, rather than the four typical of the era. Beethoven wrote a programmatic title at the beginning of each movement to describe what the audience would hear:

  • First movement: Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside
  • Second movement: Scene by the brook
  • Third movement: Merry gathering of country folk
  • Fourth movement: Thunder, Storm
  • Fifth movement: Shepherd’s song. Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm


Which Beethoven symphony is in A Clockwork Orange?

That would be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The music was chosen for the movie because in the book, Alex carries on about “Ludwig van” and how the music gets him ready for “a malenky bit of the old ultraviolence”.

Other Beethoven symphonies in movies include:

  • The King’s Speech – Symphony No. 7
  • Fantasia 2000 – Symphony No. 5
  • Immortal Beloved – Symphony Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, 9
  • Dead Poet’s Society – Symphony No. 9
  • Fantasia – Symphony No. 6


Who taught Beethoven?

His first teacher was his father. After that, his music instructors included Franz Ries (for violin), Christian Gottlob Neefe (he most notably taught organ and composition), Franz Joseph Haydn, and Antonio Salieri (who taught him singing for the opera).


Who was Elise in Beethoven’s life?

This is the most often asked question about Beethoven’s Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, otherwise known as “Für Elise”. Interestingly, Beethoven did include a dedication on the original manuscript, but it was “Für Therese”. It is widely agreed upon that Therese is Therese Malfatti, a woman to whom Beethoven proposed and the owner of the manuscript. The dedication on the published work is where the change occurred. Researchers suggest Elise could have been a German soprano named Elisabeth Röckel who performed in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. There is another theory that Elise could have been a friend of Beethoven’s named Elise Barensfeld who was a student of Therese Malfatti and he was doing Therese a favor by writing Elise an easy bagatelle.


What’s the deal with Beethoven and coffee?

Beethoven developed obssessive tendencies thanks to severe punishments and disciplinary actions by his father. One tendency was his religious consumption of coffee – and not just coffee, but a cup that was so strong it would melt teeth. He would count exactly 60 coffee beans and prepare them in his glass coffee-maker. Coffee enthusiasts may note that this is 10 beans less than the average cup of coffee today. However, since Beethoven wasn’t doing anything other than grinding them and pouring boiling water over the top, his coffee had far more caffeine than today’s processed java. Learn more about coffee’s connections with classical music.


Why did Beethoven never marry?

It’s not known why Beethoven didn’t marry, but the fact remains that he did not. That’s not to say, however, that he wasn’t romantic. As mentioned before, he asked the German opera singer Elisabeth Röckel to marry him. He left behind love letters to an unknown lady who has become known as the Immortal Beloved. Some speculate that the letters were to Antonie Brentano, a noblewoman who was married. There is even a claim that her final child, Karl Josef, may be Beethoven’s and not her husband’s.


How did Beethoven become deaf?

Beethoven began to lose his hearing around 1801. It started off as a form of tinnitus and became worse over time. The cause is unknown but has been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, or typhus. Because of his hearing loss, however, we have a unique historical record that gives us insight into his thoughts. Beethoven kept conversation books discussing music and other issues that reveals how he felt his music should be performed.


Who did Beethoven influence?

Numerous people. In the classical music world, notable people he influenced include Brahms and Mahler. Beethoven’s symphonies remolded the understanding of what a symphony is and what is symphonic form. Brahms and Mahler sought to continue that exploration and experiment with new styles and harmonies that challenged convention. Other composers influenced by Beethoven include Schumann who was a deep studier of Beethoven and Schubert. In fact, Schubert once said that he doubted “anyone can do anything after Beethoven”.


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