LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN was born at Bonn, probably on December 16, 1770. There is some doubt about the day, while Beethoven himself used to assert that his birth-year was 1772. He was of Belgian descent, his grandfather having come from Antwerp to the Electoral Chapel at Bonn in 1733. His father was a singer in the chapel. His mother was of low degree, being the daughter of a cook; but she was much more useful in the household than her shiftless husband.
Mozart's precocity and childish success served as an example which other fathers desired to see their sons emulate. This was the case in the Beethoven family, as well as in Weber's. But Beethoven was scarcely a child-prodigy; and his father was certainly not the man to develop one. The father was dissipated and worthless, and his efforts to train the child were irregular and severe. With a boon companion named Pfeiffer, he would rout out the youngster at all hours of the day or night, and force him roughly to the keyboard. Visitors sometimes saw him shedding tears at the piano; and it is a wonder that his father's harshness did not drive him to hate music. He did play in public when eight years old, and he composed at ten; but he was not the money-making prodigy that his indigent father desired.
At twelve Beethoven began taking lessons of his first good teacher, the court organist, Neefe. That worthy pedagogue gave his pupil an excellent training in Bach's works, and inspired him with a real love of good music. At this time he composed some early sonatas, and an admirable two-voiced fugue. In the next year the young Beethoven became cembalist at the theatre, leading the orchestra from the keyboard in the usual fashion of the time. A year later he was made assistant organist.
In 1787 the Elector sent Beethoven to Vienna for a time. There he met Mozart, who was astounded at his power of improvisation,