Ludwig van Beethoven ( (listen); German: [ˈluːtvɪç fan ˈbeːthoːfn̩] (listen); baptised 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 recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.
Beethoven was born in Bonn, the capital of the Electorate of Cologne, and part of the Holy Roman Empire. He displayed his musical talents at an early age and was vigorously taught by his father Johann van Beethoven, and was later taught by composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe. At age 21, he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven then gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and was soon courted by Prince Lichnowsky for compositions, which resulted in Opus 1 in 1795.
The piece was a great critical and commercial success, and was followed by Symphony No. 1 in 1800. This composition was distinguished for its frequent use of sforzandi, as well as sudden shifts in tonal centers that were uncommon for traditional symphonic form, and the prominent, more independent use of wind instruments. In 1801, he also gained notoriety for his six String Quartets and for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. During this period, his hearing began to deteriorate, but he continued to conduct, premiering his third and fifth symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. His condition worsened to almost complete deafness by 1811, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public.
During this period of self exile, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works; his seventh symphony premiered in 1813, with its second movement, Allegretto, achieving widespread critical acclaim. He composed the piece Missa Solemnis for a number of years until it premiered 1824, which preceded his ninth symphony, with the latter gaining fame for being among the first examples of a choral symphony. In 1826, his fourteenth String Quartet was noted for having seven linked movements played without a break, and is considered the final major piece performed before his death a year later.
Considered among the greatest musicians of all time, his career 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. During his life, he composed nine symphonies; five piano concertos; one violin concerto; thirty-two piano sonatas; sixteen string quartets; a mass; and the opera, Fidelio. Other works, like Für Elise, were discovered after his death, and are also considered historical musical achievements. Beethoven's legacy is characterized for his innovative compositions, namely through the combinations of vocals and instruments, and also for widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto, and quartet, while he is also noted for his troublesome relationship with his contemporaries.