For some truly and astonishingly wretched Beethoven one can do no worse than listen to the horrid arrangements of folksongs that he made between 1809-1820 for George Thompson of the Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Art and Manufacture in Scotland. He made about one hundred and forty of these...things. (Ludwig would do anything for money).

Highlights? "Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie." Quite quite bad. "Sally In Our Alley." Much much worse. "Farewell Bliss and Farewell Nancy." Faugh, fie, feh. Taken all in all, the nether regions of Ludwig's body of work.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, and studied music from an early age firstly through his father (a court singer and alcoholic - see dead beat dad) and then with various other teachers of little talent. His father continued to encourage Ludwig's development (mostly to supplement his own income) and by the age of 16 young Beethoven had gained the patronage of Count Waldstein, playing the viola in the court orchestra as well as working on some compositions. In 1792 Franz Josef Haydn was visiting Bonn and was shown some of Beethoven's early compositions – Haydn was so impressed he invited Beethoven to study with him in Vienna.

His reputation through this period started to grow thanks to his incredible talents of improvising at the keyboard – a common practise was to have improvising 'duels' where two pianists were given the same piece of musical material to develop and ornament and would play one after another to give a direct comparison of their skills. Beethoven's skill was unmatched and he would often mimic and poke fun at his opponents within his improvisations. Beethoven soon became disillusioned with Haydn's teaching and moved to have theory lessons with Johannes Schenck, although he was later to have lessons from both Johann Albrechtsberger and Antonio Salieri.

His compositions gradually became better known, although his works often caused controversy. His 3rd Symphony (the 'Eroica') represents a landmark in the development of the symphony, and the nine symphonies he left after his death made such an impression that the symphony for many years afterwards was considered the ultimate outlet for a composer's musical ideas. Not only did he revolutionise the symphony, virtually every form he worked with (with the possible exception of Opera) he changed fundamentally. Beethoven died in 1827, aged 57 and totally deaf, although this had not stopped him from writing his most forward looking and most emotional works in his dying years. His funeral was a national occasion, despite the increasing inability of the public to understand his works. Franz Schubert – perhaps one of the only composers in the 50 years immediately after his death to understand him fully – was among the pall bearers.

Notable works include:

Symphony No. 3 in Eb (Eroica)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor
Symphony No. 6 in F (Pastoral)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral, incorporating 'Ode to Joy')

Piano Sonata Op. 27 No. 1 in C# minor (Moonlight)
Piano Sonata Op. 106 in Bb (Hammerklavier)
Piano Sonata Op. 111

Fidelio (Opera)

Just about everything else - particularly all the Symphonies, Piano concertos, Piano sonatas and String Quartets.

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