Composer and pianist Ludwig Van Beethoven, widely considered the greatest composer of all time, was born on or about December 16, 1770 in the city of Bonn in the Electorate of Cologne, a principality of the Holy Roman Empire. Although his exact date of birth is uncertain, Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770.
Since as a matter of law and custom, babies were baptized within 24 hours of birth, December 16 is his most likely birthdate. However, Beethoven himself mistakenly believed that he was born two years later, in 1772, and he stubbornly insisted on the incorrect date even when presented with official papers that proved beyond any reasonable doubt that 1770 was his true birth year.
Beethoven had two younger brothers who survived into adulthood, Caspar, born in 1774, and Johann, born in 1776. Beethoven's mother, Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, was a slender, genteel, and deeply moralistic woman. His father, Johann van Beethoven, was a mediocre court singer better known for his alcoholism than any musical ability. However, Beethoven's grandfather, godfather and namesake, Kapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven, was Bonn's most prosperous and eminent musician, a source of endless pride for young Ludwig.
Sometime between the births of his two younger brothers, Beethoven's father began teaching him music with an extraordinary rigor and brutality that affected him for the rest of his life. Neighbors provided accounts of the small boy weeping while he played the clavier, standing atop a footstool to reach the keys, his father beating him for each hesitation or mistake.
On a near daily basis, Beethoven was flogged, locked in the cellar and deprived of sleep for extra hours of practice. He…