Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) is arguably the most influential composer ever. He was born in Germany and displayed his musical talents early. At 21, he permanently relocated to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn. Famously cocky and hot-headed, his immense talent stunned Viennese society.

There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.
— Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven began to go deaf in his mid-20s. At age 32, he wrote a powerful letter to his brothers known as the Heiligenstadt Testament (pictured above). In it, he professes that art and virtue are the only things preventing him from committing suicide. He never sent the letter.

While grappling with his fate, he composed music that marked a pinnacle in human creation. His compositions stretched the boundaries of classical form and changed the course of European music forever.

Who can do anything after Beethoven?
— Franz Schubert


My father introduced me to Beethoven's early piano sonatas when I was six years old. These moments were the most musically profound in my life and compelled me to be a pianist.