Ludwig’s father, a middling singer in the Elector’s court and a man too often in his cups, pulled the precocious child out of school at the age of ten in hopes of earning some money on the shoulders of his talent (as a result, his handwriting was so bad that musicologists still struggle to authenticate his signature). He lost two siblings prematurely, had to assume full responsibility for his family as a teenager, fell madly for unrequiting lovers twice, and, most famously, began losing his hearing at the peak of his career.
Beethoven’s 32 numbered piano sonatas make full use of the developing form of the piano, with its wider range and possibilities of dynamic contrast. Other sonatas not included in the 32 published by Beethoven are earlier works, dating from his years in Bonn. There are also interesting sets of variations, including a set based on ‘God Save the King’and another on ‘Rule, Britannia’, variations on a theme from the ‘Eroica’ Symphony, and a major work based on a relatively trivial theme by the publisher Diabelli. The best known of the sonatas are those that have earned themselves affectionate nicknames: the ‘Pathétique’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Waldstein’, ‘Appassionata’, ‘Les Adieux’ and ‘Hammerklavier’. Less substantial piano pieces include three sets of bagatelles, the all too well-known Für Elise , and the Rondo a capriccio , known in English as ‘Rage Over a Lost Penny’.