Ludwig van Beethoven
World-Famous Composerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
On December 16, 1770, one of the most influential characters in music was born in Bonn Germany. Beethoven is most well known for his amazing musical compositions and piano playing, but what most people miss about Beethoven is what he believed about God. Though Beethoven never claimed to be a part of any religion; one can see that he did believe in an personal creator.
Beethoven began his musical training through his father at a young age. However, Beethoven was most influenced by one specific music teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe. Neefe encouraged the young musician and assisted Beethoven in publishing his first work. At age 16, Beethoven had aspirations to study under Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Beethoven traveled to Vienna in 1787 but soon left due to concern for his mother who had fallen ill. Soon after returning, his mother died. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Joseph Haydn. He Also received counsel from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Antonio Salieri.1 By 1973, Beethoven had become well known in Vienna. Two years later, his first works as a composer, a set of three piano trios, appeared. Because he could not find a consistent paying job, Beethoven relied on piece work from customers. As these patrons passed away, Beethoven struggled financially even more. Slowly, he fell into debt. Finally, in 1808, Beethoven was offered a position as chapel maestro at the court of Jerome Bonaparte, the king of Westphalia, which he quickly accepted. In effort to persuade him to stay in Vienna, three friends of Beethoven offered him a pension. However, only one actually paid it on the agreed date. By September 1811, all three friends had died or stopped paying the pension. Beethoven relied on a smaller pension and selling composition rights for financial support.1
In 1796, Beethoven began losing his hearing. No exact reason for his loss of hearing has been discovered though many blame it on syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, or possibly even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake. 2 Depression came in 1802 and Beethoven even considered committing suicide. In this time period, he lived in a small Austrian town named Heiligenstadt. Here, he wrote Heiligenstadt Testament in which he determined to live through his trials because of his love for music. Beethoven attempted to perform his "Emperor" Concerto, but his mediocre hearing lead to embarrassment. Beethoven would never perform in public again. By 1814, Beethoven was completely deaf. Due to his inability to hear, exclusive records of Beethoven's beliefs and feelings were recorded. Because he could not participate in normal conversation, Beethoven's friends created conversation books. His friends would write down what they desired to say in a notebook and Beethoven would either reply orally or in the book. By the time of his death, there were over 400 of these conversation books. In an effort to disguise how Beethoven truly lived, Beethoven's biographer, Anton Schindler, destroyed nearly half of these precious records. Beethoven faced many challenges through the rest of his life. He struggled through romantic relationships and battled for the custody of his nephew, but he always had a few close friends who stuck with him. On March 26, 1827, during a thunderstorm, Ludwig van Beethoven died. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people united in front of the Schwarzspanierhaus for his funeral.3
Beethoven's religion has been debated for hundreds of years. He was raised a Catholic, but never attended church and had a major distrust of priests. The people who believe that Beethoven was a pantheist use a few of his lyrics as proof, but when examined, one can see that these conclusions are ill-informed. Beethoven did believe in a Sovereign God, as evidenced in this letter to a friend just prior to his death:
"I was operated on for the fourth time on the 27th of February, and now symptoms evidently exist which show that I must expect a fifth operation. What is to be done? What is to become of me if this lasts much longer? Mine has indeed been a hard doom; but I resign myself to the decrees of fate, and only constantly pray to God that His holy will may ordain that while thus condemned to suffer death in life, I may be shielded from want. The Almighty will give me strength to endure my lot, however severe and terrible, with resignation to His will."Clearly, Beethoven knew that there was a God who was in control. An important theme in Beethoven's conversation books is that of God. His references to a singel God would lead one to believe that he leaned towards Christianity. Beethoven's faith has never been completely revealed even as mankind continues to enjoy his beautiful, some say divine, music.