(baptized Dec. 17, 1770, Bonn, archbishopric of Colognedied March 26, 1827, Vienna, Austria) German composer. Born to a musical family, he was a precociously gifted pianist and violist. After nine years as a court musician in Bonn, he moved to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn and remained there for the rest of his life. He was soon well known as both a virtuoso and a composer, and he became the first important composer to earn a successful living while forsaking employment in the church or court. He uniquely straddled the Classical and Romantic eras. Rooted in the traditions of Haydn and Mozart, his art also encompassed the new spirit of humanism expressed in the works of German Romantic writers as well as in the ideals of the French Revolution, with its passionate concern for the freedom and dignity of the individual. His astonishing Third (Eroica) Symphony (1804) was the thunderclap that announced the Romantic century, and it embodies the titanic but rigorously controlled energy that was the hallmark of his style. He began to lose his hearing from 1795; by 1819 he was totally deaf. For his last 15 years he was unrivaled as the world's most famous composer. In musical form he was a considerable innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto, and string quartet. His greatest achievement was to raise instrumental music, hitherto considered inferior to vocal, to the highest plane of art. His works include the celebrated 9 symphonies; 16 string quartets; 32 piano sonatas; the opera Fidelio (1805, rev. 1814); 2 masses, including the Missa Solemnis (1823); 5 piano concertos; a violin concerto (1806); 6 piano trios; 10 violin sonatas; 5 cello sonatas; and several concert overtures.