Eponym L. v. Beethoven

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Beethoven, Bonn and the piano


Photo © Michael Sondermann © Michael Sondermann

Bonn is the city in which Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 and where he spent the first 22 years of his life. Like his father Johann van Beethoven, who was a musician at the court of the Elector-Archbishop, singing as a tenor, and his grandfather Ludwig van Beethoven, director of music at the court, the young Beethoven was also employed at the electoral court, playing the organ when he was 14 years old. The piano has a central place in Beethoven’s legacy. He spent forty years of his life working on the sonata, that important form of piano music which only started being developed in the second half of the eighteenth century, into the format still recognised today. His first three piano sonatas, the so-called ‘Kurfürsten-Sonaten’ or ‘Prince-Elector’s Sonatas’, were composed in Bonn in 1782/83; his last piano sonata op. 111 was composed in 1821.

The only other musical genres to receive so much attention were the string quartet and the symphony.
It is the piano, however, that was closest to Beethoven’ heart, and even if string quartet and symphony closely rival his piano repertoire, one can hear in Beethoven’s piano music that personal voice that comes from knowing one’s own instrument. He gave public performances as a pianist, organist and extemporiser until he turned deaf – playing music that has reached far into the future. The International Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn has devoted itself to Beethoven’s piano legacy since 2005, and keeps this musical inheritance alive in his native city.