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Ludwig van Beethoven: the great visionary from the Rhine

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) has a reputation as the angry Titan of the Classical music period. But Bonn's most famous son, writer of the momentous Fifth Symphony, also composed the touching piano piece Für Elise. His Ode to Joy has been the European anthem since 1972.

Both Beethoven's father and grandfather were singers at the Elector of Cologne's court in Bonn, and it was that orchestra's members who gave Ludwig his musical education. He first performed as a pianist at the age of seven in Bonn. The court kapellmeister himself called the boy a 'second Mozart'.

In 1792 Beethoven left his home to study with Joseph Haydn in Vienna. The Austrian capital was where he composed all his famous works, for instance the nine symphonies, the five piano concertos, the 32 piano sonatas, the 16 string quartets and his opera Fidelio. Because Beethoven never held a post at a royal court, he was hailed as a civil society figurehead and visionary. His determined, often heroic music is still today interpreted as the expression of a revolutionary humanism. Not for nothing is his only opera about the liberation of a people's hero from a tyrant's control.

In Bonn, the city of his birth, Beethoven is everywhere. The Beethoven House, where he was born, is one of the city's main attractions. There's also the Beethoven statue on Münsterplatz, the 'Beethoven' concrete sculpture, the annual Beethoven Festival and the Beethoven Orchestra, all celebrating the great composer. And, no surprises, Bonn's concert hall is called the Beethoven Hall. Koblenz also has a Beethoven museum in the house where his mother was born.