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Ludwig van Beethoven

(1770-1827)

Beethoven’s Early Period  (Cont.)

COMMENTARY

Early Life (cont.)

LIFE IN BONN

Key Points:

     •  Beethoven studied clavier with his father

     •  First publi c appearance was in 1778 (age 8 years)

     •  Had lessons on violin and viola as well as keyboards

     •  IMPORTANT: arrival in 1779 of Christian Gottlob Neefe


Christian Gottlob Neefe:

Neefe arrived in Bonn in 1779 as the head of an operatic troupe, and settled in Bonn. In 1781 he became the Court Organist. He was a fine teacher (his background included time in Leipzig, so he was very much attuned to the music of J.S. Bach). Neefe was the first important composition teacher of Beethoven.

Recall the famous quote of Beethoven (in a letter to Neefe written shortly before he left for Vienna in 1792)—“I thank you for the advice you have very often given me about making progress in my divine art. If I ever become a great man, you too will have a share in my success.”  


Neefe introduced Beethoven to the Well-Tempered Clavier of J.S. Bach, and gave Beethoven a thorough grounding in theory and composition. Neefe was also a member of the Illuminati, which was a group of radical Freemasons who advanced liberal and progressive ideas throughout Germany. It is likely that at least some of these ideas influenced Beethoven.

Beethoven's most important teacher: Neefe

Critical Year: 1792

  • Haydn passes through Bonn on his return from his first London trip, listens to a Cantata of Beethoven's (probably the Joseph Cantata, see Audio Files), and accepts Beethoven as a student.
  • Beethoven moves to Vienna, arriving in November 1792.
  • Beethoven's father dies on December 18 in Bonn.