A History of Western Music

By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

THE COMPOSER AND HIS MUSIC

In 1792 George Washington was president of the United States; Goethe, at Weimar, was directing the ducal theater and publishing studies in the science of optics; Haydn was at the height of his fame; and Mozart had been dead since the previous December. Early in November, an ambitious young composer and pianist named Ludwig van Beethoven, then just under twenty-two years of age, traveled from the city of Bonn on the Rhine to Vienna, a five-hundred‐ mile journey that took a week by stagecoach. He ran short of money and for a while kept a detailed account of his finances. One of his notebook entries records an expenditure of twenty-five groschen for "coffee for Haidn and me."

Haydn had stopped off at Bonn on his way to London in December 1790. He must have heard some of Beethoven's compositions because he urged the archbishop elector of Cologne to send his young charge to Vienna for further study. Beethoven's lessons with Haydn continued from late 1792 until Haydn left in 1794 on his second visit to London. Meanwhile, Beethoven also received help from Johann Schenk (1753-1836), a popular Viennese composer of Singspiele. After 1794, Beethoven studied counterpoint for a year with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809), the author of a famous treatise on composition and one of the leading teachers of his day. Beethoven also received informal lessons in vocal composition from Antonio Salieri, who had been living in Vienna since 1766. But his earliest music teacher was his father, a singer in the chapel at Bonn, who pushed the boy's progress in the hope of making a second Mozart of him. When he was seventeen, Beethoven actually played for Mozart, who prophesied a bright future for him. Also, before going to Vienna,

Studies with Haydn

Other teachers

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