Beethoven's Ascent to Greatness

In July 1792 the renowned composer Haydn passed through Bonn on his way to Vienna.

He met Beethoven and was impressed, and perhaps disturbed, by his work. Clearly, he felt, this young man's talents needed to be controlled before it could be developed. Consequently Beethoven left Bonn for good early in November 1792 to study composition with Haydn in Vienna. Beethoven's music strode towards the next century, heavily influenced by the strenuous political and social tensions that ravaged Europe in the wake of the French Revolution. Haydn, who had been a musical trend setter himself in youth, found that Beethoven was advancing implacably along the same radical path. After realizing that Haydn was not the master he was looking for, Beethoven moved onto Albrechtsberger, another prestigious musician who called him an "excited musical free-thinker".

Those first weeks in Vienna were hard for Beethoven. Opportunities were not forthcoming; expectations were unfulfilled.

Impetuosity was also a feature of his piano playing at this time. In those days pianists were pitted against each other. Beethoven's rivals always retired, bloodied, from such combat. While he made enemies of many pianists in Vienna, the nobility flocked to hear him. Personally and professionally his future looked bright. Compositions poured from him and he gave concerts in Vienna as well as Berlin, Prague, and other important centers. He was the first composer to become a freelance by choice, as opposed to depending on patrons. However, it was his skill as a pianist rather than as a composer that brought him recognition during his twenties. He was one of Vienna's dominant music personalities surrounded by aristocrats and famous musicians. Until the coming of his deafness, he had five principle resources: Pianoforte Playing, Teaching, Composition, Dedications, and Concert-giving.

The first concert of his own responsibility occurred on April 2, 1800 he launched his first Symphony and introduced his world famous Septet op. 20. However, one year later in 1801 his deafness began to hit Beethoven, causing great turmoil in his life.

With the Elector's help, Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792. He was probably first introduced to Joseph Haydn in late 1790, when the latter was traveling to London and stopped in Bonn around Christmas time. They definitely met in Bonn on Haydn's return trip from London to Vienna in July 1792, and it is likely that arrangements were made at that time for Beethoven to study with the old master. In the intervening years, Beethoven composed a significant number of works (none were published at the time, and most are now listed as works without opus) that demonstrated a growing range and maturity of style.

Beethoven did not immediately set out to establish himself as a composer. He, instead, studied under a number of different instructors and, by 1793, established a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso and improviser.

Beethoven spent much of 1794 composing, and apparently withheld works from publication so that their publication in 1795 would have greater impact. Beethoven's first public performance in Vienna was in March 1795, a concert in which he debuted a piano concerto. It is uncertain whether this was the First or Second, as documentary evidence is unclear, and both concertos were in a similar state of near-completion (neither was completed or published for several years). Shortly after this performance, he arranged for the publication of the first of his compositions to which he assigned an opus number, the piano trios of Opus 1. These works were dedicated to his patron Prince Lichnowsky, and were a financial success; Beethoven's profits were nearly sufficient to cover his living expenses for a year.