Beethoven character jug produced by Giffen Porcelain of Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1970. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is universally recognized as one of the greatest composers of the Western European tradition. Ludwig gave his first performance as a pianist when he was eight years old. He studied under Haydn and Salieri, and by 1795 he had earned a name for himself as a pianist of great fantasy and verve, capable of brilliant improvisation. Before long the aristocracy was offering Beethoven their patronage, providing an annuity that enabled him to live as a freelance composer without financial worries. At about twenty-eight years of age, Beethoven began suffering from a hearing disorder which left him completely deaf by 1817, but not without creative ability. Beethovens most famous works include the Piano Concertos No. 4 and 5; the Rzumovsky Quartets; his fourth through eighth symphonies; numerous sonatas (including the Moonlight Sonata); his sole opera, Fidelio; the Grosse Fuge for string quartet; and his monumental Ninth Symphony.