figure in the history of classical music. His influence on the
last 150 years of music is unequalled; while generally
member of the Classicist fold, he was in fact the first
Romantic, and pre-figured virtually all music that followed the
Romantic era as well. Perhaps no other composer in history
wrote music of such exhilarating power and expressiveness;
certainly no other composer did so against greater odds.
Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. His father, a music
enthusiast, dreamed of molding his son into the next Mozart.
Beethoven never exhibited the astonishing prodigy
characteristics of his predecessor, but he was unusually
talented, learning the piano, organ and violin at an early age.
At 14, he was already proficient enough on the organ to
receive a professional appointment. His family life was
chaotic; his father was an alcoholic, and his mother died
suddenly when he was only 17. After that tragedy, his
domestic situation declined even more, and this condition -
combined with support from Haydn - compelled him to leave
home in 1790 and travel to Vienna to study composition. In
Vienna, Beethoven first studied with Haydn, but eventually
became frustrated with that great composer's teaching
methods, moving on to study with other composers. He
performed frequently in salons of wealthy nobility, but
strangely enough, did not perform in public until he was 25.
But from this point onward, he was embraced by both the
common folk and the aristocracy of Vienna, so much so that
he never had to rely on court appointments or private patrons
for his livelihood. He did receive stipends from admirers and
friends, but he remained independent of the shackles of
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