But 1787 was memorable for Ludwig in more chilling ways: in July his much-loved mother died of consumption, the illness accelerated by her escalating alcoholism. In November of the same year his young sister died. During the following two years Ludwig broadened his circle of friends to include Count Waldstein, a music-loving nobleman eager to help the young composer financially and spiritually, and the Countess of Hatzfield, the recipient of Ludwig's dedication in his variations on Vincenzo Righini's Venni Amore. In 1788 the Elector Max Franz reorganized his musical establishment, appointing as its director and moving Neefe to the position of pianist and stage manager. Beethoven played second violin as well as keeping up his duties as organist. The new company performed most of the best operas of the day, including Mozart's. Son now overtook father both within the family and the Court: with Johann now an alcoholic and his singing voice gone, the family was so poverty-stricken that the Elector decided to pay the greater part of Johann's salary to young Ludwig, thus ensuring that the family would at least eat and be clothed. At the age of 17 Ludwig had become the sole reliable source of income for the Beethoven family. The only other event of note between then and Beethoven's departure for Vienna in 1792 was a visit by Haydn on his return from London, during which Ludwig presented his Funeral Cantata, which was duly praised by the great man.
Due to the relative frequency with which Beethoven was engaged by the nobility to give recitals in their houses, this situation did not prove as taxing as it might have done. Prince Lichnowksy and his wife, both former pupils of Mozart, invited him to live at their Viennese house; it is a measure of Beethoven's rapid acceptance in Viennese aristocratic circles that such an offer was made to a young man with much still to prove. For the next few years he made his way by his skill as a performer and by the strength of his personality, a magnetic and charismatic one whose brutal side had quite as compelling a quality as did its philosophical and charming one. In 1796 his First Piano Concerto appeared, and in 1797, with Napoleon on the rampage through Europe, Beethoven produced one of his first thoroughly original works, Sonata for Piano in E Flat major, Op. 7. Between then and spring 1800 Beethoven's most impressive music was written for the piano, his Op. 10 and Op. 14 sonatas being outstanding, while the Op. 12 sonatas for violin and piano showed his mastery of composition for both instruments. A major step into more adventurous composition came in 1800 with his First Symphony receiving publication, together with the septet and the first six string quartets (Op. 18). Later the same year his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.3 appeared. Beethoven now turned from performance to concentrate on composition. He moved from Prince Lichnowsky's and took his first summer holiday in the country – a practice which was to become increasingly important to him in the future.
25 Irish Songs, WoO 152 (Beethoven, Ludwig van) - …
The next five years contained the most extraordinary outpouring of masterpieces: his Second Symphony was published in 1804, but by then the Eroica was well under way (he had been mulling it over since 1798), while his ballet Prometheus and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives had been premiered in 1801 and 1803 respectively. By this time Beethoven had also experienced the vicissitudes of getting his music published in an accurate and acceptable form: his rages, brought on by the number of mistakes he found at proofing stage, became legendary, particularly when, in 1803, he found that one Zurich publisher had not only amended idiosyncrasies in one of his piano sonatas, but had had the effrontery to add four bars to make one passage more palatable to a conservative ear. One later printed work that Beethoven corrected received this tirade: "I have passed the whole morning today – and yesterday afternoon – in correcting these two pieces, and am quite hoarse with stamping and swearing".
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The disastrous effect of the Napoleonic wars on the Austrian economy meant that by the end of 1810 the true value of Beethoven's annuity had shrunk to a tenth of its value. A reorganization of the Austrian currency only made the position worse, but Archduke Rudolf continued to support Beethoven, as did Lobkowitz. But with Kinsky he was less fortunate: the Prince had removed to Prague, dying in 1812 before making arrangements for Beethoven's revised payments. Undeterred, Beethoven sued Kinsky's heirs, and after three years of dogged legal action, secured not only a proper restitution of his annuity, but also payment in arrears. This success followed a year of triumphs, for 1814 had been in many ways a public culmination of Beethoven's career: Fidelio finally saw the light of day, his Seventh Symphony was premiered, and he was commissioned to write new music and mount concerts for the Congress of Vienna. Two concerts were held, and Beethoven was presented by the Archduke to all the visiting royalty and potentates, including the Empress of Russia.