In search of Beethoven in Bonn, Vienna, and beyond

Posted on: February 26, 2020

Beethoven exhibition in the State Hall of Vienna’s Austrian National Library. Photo by Andreas Meichsner / New York Times

“Even the most casual visitor to Vienna can’t help but be bombarded by the city’s Mozart-industrial complex,” writes Michael Cooper in Monday’s (2/24) New York Times. “What about Beethoven? … It was in Vienna that he wrote or premiered most of his major works … yet … he is far less visible…. The time seemed ripe for a pilgrimage in search of Beethoven, the man. Starting out in the house in Bonn, Germany, where he was born to a family of downwardly mobile court musicians, I set out on a Beethoven odyssey … to the places in and around Vienna where he lived and worked, despaired and triumphed.… There were … moments of wonder: Standing in the frescoed hall of the Viennese palace where his revolutionary Third Symphony, the ‘Eroica,’ is believed to have had its first run-through, and imagining how shocked those first listeners must have been.” Cooper’s “pilgrimage” includes the Beethoven-Haus museum in Bonn; Heiligenstadt, a town outside Vienna where Beethoven wrote what became known as the Heiligenstadt Testament; the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies were premiered; and Klimt’s 1902 “Beethoven Frieze” at the Secession Museum. Read Symphony magazine’s cover story about the meaning of Beethoven today.