Career in Vienna

With the help of recommendations from his friend and patron Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, Beethoven was soon accepted into Vienna's aristocratic circles. He studied musical composition under Haydn until Haydn’s departure for London in early 1794, and then studied harmony and counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. In 1792, he had also begun studying vocal composition under Antonio Salieri. In just a short time, Beethoven had become a much sought-after composer in Vienna and, thanks to the support of his patrons, was now able to work as an independent composer.

Beethoven’s first public performance in Vienna was on March 29, 1795. He gave a piano concert, or Akademie, in Vienna's Burgtheater as part of an event organized by Joseph Haydn (probably Op. 15).

In these early years, Beethoven’s success as a composer was closely tied to his career and renown as a piano virtuoso. In just his first ten years in Vienna, he completed 20 of his 32 piano sonatas, including the Grande Sonate Pathetique Op. 13 in C minor and both Opus 27 sonatas, the second of which became famous as the “Moonlight” Sonata (not named by Beethoven himself). And Beethoven continued to cause a sensation with is incredible improvisational play.

In 1798, the young virtuoso went on a concert tour – a tremendous artistic and financial success – which included performances in Prague, Dresden and Berlin. Initiated by Prince Karl Lichnowsky, the tour tracked the route of the tour organized by Lichnowsky for Mozart back in 1789. 

Beethoven meets Mozart: Photo reproduction of a painting by August Borckmann

The first Beethoven compositions to appear in print were his three piano trios, written in 1794/95 and designated Opus 1. In the years that followed, Beethoven turned his attention to two of classical music’s other core genres:the string quartet and the symphony. Between 1798 and 1800, after closely studying the quartets of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven composed his first series of six quartets, Opus 18, which he dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. Shortly thereafter, in 1800 and 1802, Beethoven produced his first symphonies. His Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, was dedicated to Baron Gottfried van Swieten; Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36, was dedicated to Prince Lichnowsky. On April 2, 1800, Beethoven held his first own concert in Vienna – the world premiere of Symphony No. 1.