Beethoven was baptised in Bonn, Germany on December 17th, 1770, and it is accepted that his birthday is probably this date also. Beethoven went to the Neugasse elementary school, then the Bonn cathedral school, and later to a school in the Bongasse. His father Johann was a singer (Court Tenor) in the electoral chapel at Bonn, and his grandfather was kapellmeister at the same chapel. When only four years old, Beethoven showed decided love for music, and his father began to instruct him on the piano and violin. In 1779 the boy was placed under the instruction of Tobias Pfeiffer. Beethoven's unusual talent was so evident that the Elector assumed the expense of his further musical training. Thus the court organist Van den Eeden became Ludwig's teacher on both organ and piano. After this teacher's death, in 1781, the new court organist, C.G. Neefe, continued to teach Beethoven and introduced him to J.S. Bach's music.
In 1787 Beethoven visited Vienna, at a time when Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart were living there. On that occasion the boy's masterly improvisation elicited those prophetic words from Mozart: "Keep your eyes on him; some day he will make a stir in the world."
Beethoven returned to Vienna in 1792. In his quality of court organist of the Elector of Cologne, an uncle of the reigning Emperor of Austria, Leopold II, and as the prot‚g‚ of Count Waldstein, Beethoven was immediately admitted to the most exclusive circles. Without delay he began his lessons with Haydn, but before long the critical pupil discovered that the famous composer was a poor teacher. As arrangements had been made by the Elector for Beethoven to study with Haydn personally, it was impossible to change teachers without giving offense. Therefore, Beethoven visited Haydn regularly, but secretly arranged with Johann Schenk for a thorough course in counterpoint. When in 1793 Haydn undertook his second journey to England, he sent his pupil to the famous theorist Albrechtsberger, with whom Beethoven studied for a year.
Then Beethoven began his public career. In March he appeared in one of Haydn's concerts with his own concerto for piano and orchestra in C, in the double role of virtuoso and composer, and in October his opus 1, three trios for piano, violin, and cello, appeared in print. With his friend and patron, Count Lichnowsky, Beethoven visited Prage in 1796 and played in the houses of the nobility. The flattering reception accorded to him in these circles induced him to visit also Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin. In the Prussian capital he played at court, and King Frederick William II was so impressed that he tried to induce the young master to settle in Berlin.
On April 2, 1800, Beethoven gave the first concert of his own compositions. Of the works that were then performed for the first time, the beautiful Septet, op. 20, and the First Symphony, op. 21, quickly found their way into the regular concert repertoire throughout Austria and Germany and spread the fame of their author. At comparatively short intervals one great work followed another.
In 1808 Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, sought to attach the famous Vienna master to his own court at Cassel by offering him 600 gold ducats and the title of Hofkapellmeister. No sooner did this news become known in Vienna than Archduke Rudolf and the counts Kinsky and Kobkowitz pledged themselves to the payment of 4000 florins annually if Beethoven would refuse the King's offer and remain in Vienna.
Up to that time the fame of Beethoven had been limited to circles of musicians and the more serious music lovers. A concert given on December 8, 1813, established the master also in the popular favor. In the following year Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio -- produced originally in 1805 without success -- was thoroughly revised. In this new form it was received with favor on May 23, and has since then maintained a place in operatic repertoire.
About the year 1817 Beethoven's health, which had never been robust, began gradually to decline. From about 1798 his hearing had begun to fail, and in 1819 he became totally deaf. He still continued to compose, however, and during this time wrote some of his greatest works, which he was unable to hear performed. His last years were spent in misery and ill health.
In March 26, 1827, Beethoven passed away. In 1845, a Beethoven monument was errected in Bonn to commemorate him.