On 15 February 1819 the leading Dutch newspaperNederlandse staatscourant reported that Beethoven had been seriously wounded when he was run over by a carriage. The notice, a translation of a French report issued the day before, used strong language that implied that the internationally revered composer must have been hospitalized with broken bones or a concussion, and could be in mortal danger.
The report was an example of an international game of telephone—successive notices in various countries had piled on exaggerations to sensationalize the story. The earliest report, from the Frankfurter journal on 29 January 1819, was a much blander account:
(The composer van Beethoven, because of his weak hearing, suffered the misfortune of being knocked down and injured.)
It is possible that even this was an exaggerated version of a neighbor’s anecdote from around that time, in which the composer slipped and fell in the mud, and furiously refused to let the laughing bystanders help him to his feet.
This according to “Beethoven run over: A curious traffic accident in early 1819” by Jos van der Zanden (The Beethoven journal XXVI/1 [summer 2011] pp. 26–27).
Above, Beethoven as he often appeared on the streets of Vienna around 1819, depicted by the sculptor Johann Daniel Böhm (1794–1865), a friend of his at the time; below, Evgeny Kissin performs the Rondo a capriccio, op. 129 (“Rage over a lost penny”) as an encore.
Beethoven has long been considered a cultural hero in the West, but to become such a figure in China his persona had to be made to fit into Chinese cultural categories.
The Chinese transformation of Beethoven’s character—first into that of a Confucian intellectual, then a Romantic poet, and finally a universal and national cultural hero—took place from the 1920s through the 1940s. This development involved the reception not of Beethoven’s music per se, but of his moral image: He had to be seen as having suffered to achieve both the goal of individual perfection and the larger goal of serving humanity.
After Beethoven’s biographer and sometime secretary Anton Schindler (inset) was exposed as having forged certain entries in the composer’s conversation books, scholarly suspicions were raised regarding all of Schindler’s activities—not least, he was blamed for the 22-month gap in his collection of these books, from mid-September 1820 to June 1822. Since his forgeries had tended toward self-aggrandizement, many scholars assumed that Schindler had destroyed these priceless documents because they somehow undermined the image that he wanted to project.
An article in the Stuttgart Morgenblatt on 5 November 1823 absolves Schindler of this crime. In it, Johann Sporschil profiled the composer in glowing terms and added, by way of a human interest angle, that Beethoven had lost a great deal of his correspondence when he had recently moved from the country to the city. The gap in the missing correspondence exactly matches the gap in the conversation books, indicating that both sets of documents were lost in one or more of the trunks that the composer himself had, in a surviving letter, rued having had to transport.
Throughout the nineteenth century, parallels between the forms and contents of individual compositions and a variety of poems and prose tales were discussed. Liszt, Strauss, and other composers cited literary classics in the titles of their works and even published excerpts in their scores. As a consequence, certain critics came out in favor of musical programmism, while others advocated musical absolutism.
More recently, such discussions have been amplified by suggestions that certain works of fiction themselves employ musical structural principles, particularly sonata form. Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann (above) can be viewed in relation to Beethoven’s piano sonata op. 111, and several of Jane Austen’s novels can be compared with Mozart concerto movements. This approach suggests new ways in which musicologists might acquire a deeper understanding of such issues as musical representations of gender, the ways in which instrumental compositions may be said to embody character, and the problem of music and narrativity.
Generally, Festschriften fall into three categories: memorial volumes, issued shortly after the death of the honoree, and often comprising personal tributes and reminiscences; commemorative volumes, published to honor some milestone in the deceased dedicatee’s life; and Festschriften proper, presented to a living recipient on the occaision of a birthday, anniversary, or transitional event. For more about this publication type, see the Preface to RILM’s Liber amicorum, the first volume in our retrospective Festschriften project.
Above is a reproduction of the frontispiece for Beethoven-Album: Ein Gedenkbuch dankbarer Liebe und Verehrung für den grossen Todten, a commemorative volume published in 1846; the book includes poems and compositions dedicated to the composer, including works by Liszt, Meyerbeer, and Czerny.
Besides maintaining a museum in the house where the composer was born and keeping up with writings about him and his works, the organization offers an online digital archive where visitors can listen to Beethoven’s music and view manuscripts, correspondence, and images—over 5,000 documents on 26,000 scans and about 7,600 text files and 1,600 audio files.
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