Goethe relates a telling anecdote about the indomitable spirit of Ludwig van Beethoven – whose 250th birthday is still being marked this year after the pandemic led to the cancellation of a number of events in 2020. Witnessing Beethoven fail to step aside for passing nobles, Goethe asked why he was so disrespectful. “There are countless nobles, but only two of us,” replied the cocksure composer.
Guided by “the light of genius”, Goethe also wrote, Beethoven rose from troubled beginnings (his father was an alcoholic and his mother died prematurely) to arguably become classical music’s greatest composer. Born in Bonn in 1770 and having given his first public piano recital aged six, he set off for Vienna in 1792, where he lived his remaining 35 years, producing nine thunderous symphonies, an opera, and timeless piano concertos and sonatas.