2020 is the year we celebrate the 250th birthday of our favorite non-Austrian Viennese guy! That’s right, Ludwig van Beethoven turns 250 this year…well…. if he was still alive!
We all know some of the greatest hits of the big virtuoso, but what about his life? For example, did you ever know that he spent most of his life in Vienna? And have you ever sat down and googled how Beethoven liked his coffee? No? Well, we did.
Here are 13 fun facts about the fascinating life Ludwig van Beethoven lived in Vienna:
1. Beethoven travelled twice to Vienna. After the second time, he never left.
Beethoven was only 17 years old when he first travelled to Vienna. Many musicians were drawn to Vienna at this time He was supposed to become a student of Mozart’s, but had to leave after a few weeks because his mother got severely ill.
However, when he was 22, he traveled to Vienna again, this time to be taught by Joseph Haydn. This time, he stayed for the remaining 35 years of his life.
2. Beethoven didn’t know his exact age for years.
Beethoven was somehow under the belief for a long time that he was born in 1772, even though his birth year was actually 1770. Rumour has it that it was his father that had Beethoven believe this and his reasoning for this was PR. To give the impression that his son was super talented, he wanted people to think he was even younger.
3. The Austrian monarch, Prince Lichnowsky, was Beethoven’s most important patron aka. sponsor
Beethoven was sponsored by a number of patrons during his initial years in Vienna, however this guy called Prince Lichnowsky, who was apparently a massive music aficionado, was the the guy sending most money Beethoven’s way. It was said that he actually treated Beethoven like a son, which reportedly made young Ludwig very uncomfortable. This led to a personal crisis for Beethoven – he could use the cash the Monarch was sending his way, but at the same time, he wanted to remain free and independent.
4. Beethoven changed his apartment in Vienna every couple of weeks in Vienna
Ok, so at this time in history, it was common to change your residence frequently, however by the standards of these times, Beethoven changed his address extraordinarily often. During his time in Vienna he apparently moved over 40 times! This was partly due to him being a pain in the ass tenant. Must have been all those WG parties he was hosting to all hours of the morning. It does make sense that a pianist was considered a bad tenant in a city that cals the cops if you’re making any noise after 10pm, right?
5. Beethoven was very quirky individual, especially when it came to his morning coffee ritual
Every single morning, he counted exactly 60 coffee beans for his morning coffee. No more, not less. 60. Imagine making such request to a Viennese waiter today! We might give it a go, just for kicks.
6. Beethoven was known for being a very difficult personality
So there are many accounts in history of people’s difficulty with Beethoven. Apparently, he tried to justify it by blaming it on his hearing defect, which already began to set in when he was only 27 years of age. Fair enough, we would be pissed too if we were able to compose such fancy-sounding music, but couldn’t enjoy it ourselves.
7. He tried to seek help and a cure for his gradual deafness in Heiligenstadt
The irony, right? One of the greatest composers ever loses his hearing. Beethoven suffered tragically when encroaching deafness began to set in. He sought out treatment at the health resort in Heiligenstadt, which is now the Beethoven Museum.
It was here he penned a letter to his brother, which he never sent, the “Heiligenstädter Testament.” This letter became a well-known reference that spoke of the deep sorrow Beethoven felt for his worsening deafness. It was also in this place that he went to work on some of his most notable works, like the Piano Sonata, The Tempest, and Prometheus.
8. Beethoven’s deafness didn’t stop him from producing amazing music
Beethoven’s deafness led to a personal crisis, however, even when he went completely deaf, he kept composing music! How inspiring is that!
The amount of his work decreased, but he was able to write some of his most famous works while deaf, including the beautiful, Symphony Nr.9!
9. Beethoven was very unlucky in love
Beethoven never got married, and he had his heart broken many times. So not only was his life in general a sad story (besides the music, of course) his love life was no fun either. This has been the subject of infinite fascination for biographers, with many documenting how many times he fell in love and experienced unrequited love many times. Also, apparently, he had a thing for women whose social or marital status – often both – placed them safely beyond reach. There’s a letter he reportedly wrote in 1812 to an unidentified woman, whom he called his ‘immortal beloved.’ Every creative needs a muse, right?
Beethoven’s love life kinda’ makes us sad.
10. Beethoven provided the soundtrack for coffeehouse guests in Vienna’s 1st district
If you want to feel close to Beethoven, go find seat at the charming coffeehouse, Cafe Frauenhuber, close your eyes and imagine him playing you a tune. OK, so Beethoven didn’t play table music at this actual coffeehouse, however, he did play the piano for guests at a restaurant that used to house the exact same house in which this cafe is located today.
11. If aliens exist, they might be enjoying Beethoven’s symphonies in outer space
Even though there is supposedly no sound in outer space, data discs with audio and video material of Beethoven’s Symphony Nr.5 were installed on interstellar orbiters. Why you ask? In order to show aliens how culturally badass earthlings are!
12. Beethoven died because of his high alcohol consumption
Beethoven was a drinker. If you’ve read the facts above, you’d understand why. Reportedly, it was his high consumption of alcohol that led to him getting hepatic cirrhosis when he was 56.
13. Beethoven’s last words before his death were ‘pity, pity, too late’
So the story goes that a publisher had brought Beethoven 12 bottles of wine as a gift. Sadly though, they had arrived too late for Beethoven to enjoy, which he was obviously quite disappointing for Beethoven, which led to these last words. So the words weren’t referring to the fact that he was dying, but rather that all of the good wine would go to waste.
14. 20.000 people went to his funeral and Viennese schools remained closed on the day
It was, of course, a big deal.