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Beethoven, His Brothers, and Their Tragically Rocky Relationship – Lyric Say

Generally, it’s tempting to think about Ludwig van Beethoven as somebody who simply emerged from a god’s brow, a la Athena.

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven

However in actuality, Beethoven got here from a really human household, similar to everybody else – and a deeply dysfunctional one, at that.

At the moment, we’re taking a look at Beethoven’s household, and particularly his fraught relationships along with his two brothers, Kaspar van Beethoven and Johann van Beethoven.

The Beethoven Children’ Mother and father

Bonn courtroom musician Johann van Beethoven and the widow Maria Magdalena Keverich Leym have been married in November 1767.

The Beethoven facet of the household wasn’t eager on Maria Magdalena; they felt her social standing was too low. However the marriage went forward anyway.

The couple had seven kids. Three survived into maturity.

Ludwig was the eldest, born in December 1770. Kaspar Anton Carl van Beethoven adopted in 1774, and Nicolaus Johann van Beethoven in 1776.

Beethoven’s Tragic Childhood

Ludwig van Beethoven's parents

Beethoven’s dad and mom

Ludwig confirmed musical expertise early. Sadly, Johann was an abusive instructor who beat Ludwig or locked him within the cellar if he didn’t play one thing accurately.

Johann additionally was wrestling with alcoholism that turned worse via the 1780s, and naturally, that made all the pieces worse.

In 1787, Ludwig lastly escaped the family and set out for Vienna to review or begin his profession. However that very same yr, Maria Magdalena fell in poor health with tuberculosis. Ludwig got here residence to Bonn – a beneficiant patroness paid for his return – and his mom died quickly after. Ludwig was simply sixteen.

Predictably, the stress and the grief worsened Johann’s habit. Issues received so dangerous that when Ludwig turned 18, he petitioned the authorities to have half of his father’s paycheck rerouted to him, in order that it wouldn’t be spent on alcohol.

In 1792, Ludwig escaped once more, figuring out he wanted to make a dwelling and that Vienna could be the most effective place for a musician to attempt to take action. He was 21. Weeks after his departure, his father died.

Kaspar von Beethoven

Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven, Beethoven's brother

Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven, Beethoven’s brother

Kaspar, the brother closest to Ludwig in age, got here to Vienna the yr he turned twenty.

He taught piano part-time, coasting off Ludwig’s fame since he wasn’t significantly musically gifted, and likewise took a authorities job in finance.

He additionally labored as Beethoven’s secretary, serving as a liaison between Ludwig and his publishers. He was horrible at this job. At one level, he provided one set of items to at least one writer when Ludwig provided the identical set to a different writer. Their frustration with one another grew so heated that they ultimately received right into a bodily combat.

Finally, Kaspar moved on to a different job. (Sensible.)

Kaspar’s Disastrous Marriage

In 1806, Kaspar married a youthful girl named Johanna, who was six months pregnant with Kaspar’s child.

Ludwig regarded down on her and gave her the catty nickname “The Queen of the Night” after the villainous character in Mozart’s opera.

The Magic Flute – Queen of the Evening aria (Mozart; Diana Damrau, The Royal Opera)

In July 1811, Johanna turned concerned in a scheme to steal an especially costly pearl necklace. She was set to rearrange a sale of the necklace and obtain a fee. However she staged a theft and framed her maid for the crime.

Quickly, the maid was launched for lack of proof, and the case stalled. However then Johanna made the mystifying determination to put on the costly pearl necklace in public, and she or he was caught.

She was almost imprisoned underneath very harsh circumstances for a yr, however Kaspar was capable of negotiate a sentence of time served.

In 1812, Kaspar developed tuberculosis, the identical sickness that killed their mom, and he died in 1815. Towards the tip of his life, he and Johanna relied on Ludwig’s monetary assist.

Karl van Beethoven, Beethoven's nephew

Karl van Beethoven, Beethoven’s nephew

The day earlier than his demise, Karl Sr. appointed each Johanna and Ludwig co-guardians of his son six-year-old Karl, Jr., writing, “The best of harmony does not exist between my brother and my wife. God permit them to be harmonious for the sake of the child’s welfare. This is the last wish of the dying husband and father.”

As you may think about, the final want was not fulfilled, and Johanna and Ludwig got into a major court battle. However that’s a protracted story of its personal.

Johann van Beethoven, Pharmacist

Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven

Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven

Ludwig’s different brother, Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven, turned a pharmacist.

In 1795, the yr he turned nineteen, he additionally moved to Vienna to be along with his older brothers. Round this time, he additionally began going by the title Johann in honor of his father. Some historians have recommended that this was triggering to Ludwig, who presumably didn’t need any extra reminders of the childhood abuse he’d suffered.

In 1808 Johann moved to Linz to begin his personal pharmacy. He was no enterprise genius, and the pharmacy would have gone underneath fairly shortly, aside from the truth that Napoleon invaded Austria in 1809. It seems that French forces wanted medication, and by sheer dumb luck, Johann was ready to prosper. That mentioned, his native fame deteriorated, as these round him seen him as a little bit of a traitor for aiding the French and cashing in on invasion.

Johann van Beethoven, Landowner

In 1812, Johann received married. His new spouse was his former housekeeper. Ludwig was appalled and tried to cease the marriage, however to no avail. Ultimately, it was by no means a very blissful marriage. They by no means had kids.

In 1819, Johann had earned sufficient cash to purchase an property. There’s a well-known story that after the sale was closed, Johann signed a letter to Ludwig with “From your brother Johann, landowner.” Ludwig, unimpressed, responded with the signature, “From your brother Ludwig, brain owner.”

Regardless of any prickliness between the 2, in late 1826, Ludwig came visiting Johann’s property, and he introduced Karl Jr. Whereas there, Ludwig wrote the final music he’d ever write: a alternative finale for his String Quartet Op. 130, since his publishers didn’t just like the Grosse Fugue.

Solem Quartet: Beethoven op.130

Ludwig died in March 1827.

Johann had by no means been very inquisitive about his brother’s music, however after his demise, he took a brand new curiosity within the topic. He turned well-known for sitting within the entrance row at concert events and annoying folks by yelling bravo. Johann van Beethoven died 20 years later, in 1848.

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