Ludwig van Beethoven


Early Life

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in Dec. 1770 (exact date not known, was baptized on Dec. 17—probably born on Dec. 15 or 16).


Bonn was a very small city, but was the seat of the archbishops of Cologne. The archbishop of Cologne was one of the seven original princes of the Holy Roman Empire. These princes were responsible for electing the Holy Roman Emperor. Therefore, the city had an importance far beyond its apparent provincialism.

The Elector of Cologne during Beethoven’s earliest years was Maximilian Friedrich (see illustration #1), who reigned from 1761-1784.  In 1784, the new Elector was Maximilian Franz (see illustration #2). These two men were important in Beethoven’s life, as they were the employer of not only Beethoven, but also Beethoven’s father and grandfather. Also, Maximilian Franz was the younger brother of Emperor Joseph II (the great reforming Emperor in Vienna), so there were many ties between Bonn and Vienna. This is one reason (out of many) that Beethoven was able to travel to Vienna and pursue his studies there.

Bonn had a very active musical life, including opera, orchestral, and chamber music. The musical reputation of Bonn was largely due to its orchestra. The orchestra boasted some of the most respected players of the era, such as:

          Franz Anton Ries (principal violinist)

          Bernhard Romberg (most famous cellist of his time)

          Nikolaus Siumrock  (horn player and later publisher of Beethoven’s music)

          Joseph Reicha (principal cellist and later court opera director in 1790)

The orchestra consisted of around 27 regular players, including eleven violins, three violas, two cellos, two basses, two flutes, four horns, three bassoons, plus trumpets and percussion as needed for special occasions.

The main rival to the Bonn musical establishment was the city of MANNHEIM, long famous for its orchestra, considered to be the finest in Europe.

Beethoven’s Early Period


Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn.  It is now a museum.

Maximilian Friedrich

(Illustration #1)

Maximilian Franz

(Illustration #2)