After Beethoven's father started drinking, the income his young son generated was the family's main source of support. The days were dark, and dreadful, for the young musician.
Sometimes rousing his child from sleep - to perform for his own friends - Beethoven's father could seem more like a fan than a parent.
"You have nothing more to teach me," an exasperated, impertinent Beethoven once told his father.
When her son experienced such personal torment, Ludwig’s mother (according to the maestro’s biographers) did not step-in to help. That, at least, was the case while her son was present.
Escaping the turmoil in his own house, Beethoven found peace at the home of friends - Eleonore and Stephan von Breuning - whose mother (Helene) understood the growing child was fragile, needing protection. "It's our job," she would say, "to keep the insects off the flower."
In Vienna, to further his studies, Beethoven was summoned back to Bonn. His mother was gravely ill. When she died, Beethoven lost his best friend.
Music lessons in Vienna were put on hold as Beethoven remained in Bonn (where his father's drinking-problem worsened). In order to keep Johann from wasting all his earnings, Ludwig - by now in his late teens - persuaded his father's employer to pay half-salary to him. With those funds, Beethoven kept the family's finances in reasonable shape.
By 1790, Bonn's leaders knew about Beethoven's skills. They selected him to write a cantata commemorating the death of Joseph II, the popular Hapsburg emperor.
The young musician was on his way.
Online, via BBC Worldwide Channel at YouTube. Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved. Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.
Key Cast Members:
Ludwig van Beethoven
Countess Giulietta Guicciardi
Stephan von Breuning
Johanna van Beethoven
Himself - Presenter
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