DEAD: Ludwig van Beethoven

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

Ludwig van Beethoven (aged 56)
German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven (17 December 1770 –26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognised and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies; 5 piano concertos; 1 violin concerto; 32 piano sonatas; 16 string quartets; a mass, the Missa solemnis; and an opera, Fidelio. His career as a composer is conventionally divided into early, middle, and late periods; the “early” period is typically seen to last until 1802, the “middle” period from 1802 to 1812, and the “late” period from 1812 to his death in 1827.

DEATH: Beethoven was bedridden for most of his remaining months, and many friends came to visit. He died on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56 during a thunderstorm. His friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, said that there was a peal of thunder at the moment of death. An autopsy revealed significant liver damage, which may have been due to heavy alcohol consumption. It also revealed considerable dilation of the auditory and other related nerves.

Beethoven’s funeral procession on 29 March 1827 was attended by an estimated 20,000 people. Franz Schubert, who died the following year and was buried next to him, was one of the torchbearers. He was buried in a dedicated grave in the Währing cemetery, north-west of Vienna, after a requiem mass at the church of the Holy Trinity (Dreifaltigkeitskirche). His remains were exhumed for study in 1862, and moved in 1888 to Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof. In 2012, his crypt was checked to see if his teeth had been stolen during a series of grave robberies of other famous Viennese composers.

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