Johann van Beethoven
Ludwig's father was the son of Louis van Beethoven. Known as "the old man", this musician of Dutch origin was well respected and reasonably well off. He had been appointed "Kapelmeister" at the court of the Elector of Cologne and received a salary of 400 florins, which was not an inconsiderable sum at that time. To certain extent, Johann is the link between grandfather and grandson, between two musicians of prestige, separated in time by a generation.
Johann himself began his studies as a chorister in the church of the Elector at the age of twelve. At sixteen he was appointed "Hofmusikant", an appointment, which had no doubt much to do with the teaching and preparation, he received from his father Louis.
Johann fell in love with a young girl called Maria Magdalena. her father, who had died, had been Head chief at the castle of Ehrenbreitstein. When Johann decided to get married to her, his father Louis, "the old man", was vehemently opposed to the idea at the beginning. Although the nobility at that time made no distinction between members of the lower orders and musicians were also viewed as servants, Louis thought otherwise. He felt there was a class difference and that he belonged to a different social order, a feeling, incidentally, that his grandson would inherit. Finally, however, he gave his consent to the marriage.
Louis died suddenly on 24th December 1773 when Ludwig was only three years old. From then on things did not get too well for the Beethoven family. Johann sought his father's position at court but the Elector refused his request.
Maria Magdalena Keverich
Ludwig's mother died on 17th July 1787. She was only forty-one. She died of tuberculosis due to poor nutrition, as the family at this time were beset by economic problems. Johann, her husband, having been rejected by the Elector after the death of his father Louis, had taken to drinking, spending what little money he earned in local taverns. His family, deserted and destitute, were left to fend for themselves. Little wonder that Ludwig and his brothers and sister had less than a happy childhood.