17 January 2020
By Ellie Palmer
How much do you know about the composer? Test yourself...
1. Beethoven thought he was younger than he was
Beethoven aged 13. © Classic FM
For many years, Beethoven believed he was born in 1772, not 1770.
His father Johann van Beethoven, who was responsible for his piano learning as a child, told others his son was actually two years younger in order to make him seem like more of a child prodigy than he was. Some say it was to draw comparisons to Mozart, who himself was somewhat of a child prodigy.
2. A rather small, big star
The average height of a man in Beethoven's era was 5"4. ©Science Daily
Not many are aware that Beethoven was actually just 5 feet and 3 inches tall. That may seem small to us in the modern day, but the average height for a man in Beethoven’s era was 5 feet and 4 inches. So, in reality, he would have fit right in.
Not that his height mattered in the end; he did all his talking through his piano playing!
3. Unlucky in love
He may have been one of the most prolific pianists and composers in music history, but even that didn’t help him find love.
As a young 21-year-old pianist and teacher in Vienna, many young women flocked to be taught by him. He fell in love with many of them, but at the time, Beethoven was simply a ‘commoner’. The women he taught were aristocratic, and were thereforth not interested in him.
This was the story of his love life for a good few years. He fell for another student, Countess Julie Guicciardi, but she preferred to marry a fellow count. The same thing happened soon after, when he fell in love with Guicciardi’s cousin, Countess Josephine Brunswick. She was simply not interested.
Despite falling in love with so many women, none of them were Beethoven’s greatest love. That title belongs to Antonie Brentano. His bad luck continued: Antonie was already married.
Beethoven died alone, and unmarried.
4. Beethoven’s rumoured superstition was…
Beethoven composing. © Interlude
Throwing water over his head before he composed.
Fellow musicologists and pianists in the industry have claimed over the years that Beethoven would dunk his head in a bucket of cold water either before he sat down to composer, or before he slept (in an effort to dream up new music).
If true, he wouldn’t be the first genius to find luck in strange ways. Writer Charles Dickens once said his bed always had to face the North Pole because its magnetic forces helped him to create new stories.
It’s important we clarify that this has not been proven. Is this true? Is it not? Decide for yourself…
5. Where was he when he died?
Karl Van Beethoven
Whilst we know that Beethoven’s death was somewhat inconclusive, not many of us will know how he fell ill in the first place. It was a very unfortunate situation for Beethoven.
His nephew Karl, whom Beethoven was the legal guardian of at this time, had just attempted suicide. Beethoven took Karl to stay with Beethoven’s brother whilst he recovered. Tempers flared and Beethoven left early, commencing his 2-day trip back home in anger. He took the journey during winter on an open wagon and returned to Vienna so ill he never fully recovered.
We went a little Beethoven-crazy in issue 112 of Pianist. Fulfill all your Beethoven needs and download the issue here.