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Sterba, R. Sterba, E. (1952). Beethoven and his Nephew. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:470-478.

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:470-478

Beethoven and his Nephew

Richard Sterba and Editha Sterba

The vast and still growing literature about Beethoven deals not only with the musical creations of the great composer but to an amazing extent also with his personality. The fascinating impact of this unique, powerful, bizarre, and wilful man affects us to this very day. When Sigmund Freud remarks in Moses and Monotheism that great men move us to acknowledge them such by something beyond the admiration of their grandiose creations, he mentions three examples: Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, and Beethoven. The psychologist faces no easy task in attempting to apply his knowledge to such a great figure. Hero worship and glorification have deposited layers of distortion even within himself, and he must remove these in order to recognize the emotional strivings and defences which motivate the great man just as they do ordinary human beings.

We know little of Beethoven's childhood. His father, who conducted his early musical education, was a very harsh and severe man who drank heavily. His mother was a quiet, somewhat disillusioned, even-tempered woman who seemingly did not try too hard to protect her son from his father's tyranny and ill-treatment. She died of consumption when Beethoven was seventeen. Those who knew the child Ludwig describe him as an introverted, brooding, and wilful boy who seemed deeply attached to his mother.

Beethoven had two brothers, Karl four years and Johann, six years his junior. Soon after his mother's death his father was dismissed from his post as a court musician at Bonn for disorderly conduct, and his pension was paid to his son Ludwig, who was also a court musician of the Elector.

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