During this trip to Bonn, I’ve visited the house where Beethoven was born (Beethoven-Haus Bonn), his baptismal font (at St. Remigius Church), and the 1845 statue by Ernst Julius Hähnel in the Münsterplatz; I’ve read Lisa Tunbridge’s Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces and watched a fascinating documentary called “Beethoven’s Ninth: Symphony for the World” (filmed in Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Osaka, Kinshasa, Barcelona, and Bonn, and available on Netflix in Germany, but not, alas, in Canada); and I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of the many Beethovens who appear in shop windows, outside restaurants, and sometimes in the windows of private homes. Some of these are reproductions of the 700 statues created by Ottmar Hörl for his installation “Ludwig van Beethoven – Ode an die Freude [Ode to Joy],” in the Münsterplatz in 2019.
“Freedom, going further—this is the only goal in the world of art, as in all of grand creation.”
St. Remigius Church
Beethoven-Haus Bonn (and the courtyard behind the house)
My favourite room in the museum gathers together several portraits of Beethoven, including the famous one by Joseph Stieler of Beethoven with the manuscript of the Missa solemnis, and screens that display quotations from Beethoven’s contemporaries about his appearance and personality: “very proud, non-descript, magnificent mind, rushing, ugly and red-faced with pock marks, grumpy.”
On May 6th, Coronation Day in the UK, I attended a wonderful concert by Pèter Köcsky at Beethoven’s house, and my brother-in-law reminded me of Beethoven’s famous words to Prince Karl Lichnowsky:
“Prince, what you are, you are by circumstance and birth; what I am, I am through myself. There are, and there always will be, thousands of princes; but there is only one Beethoven.”
(“Fürst, was Sie sind, sind Sie durch Zufall und Geburt, was ich bin, bin ich durch mich; Fürsten hat es und wird es noch Tausend geben; Beethoven gibt’s nur einen.” From a letter Beethoven wrote to the Prince in October 1806; translated in David Wyn Jones’s The Life of Beethoven, quoted by Tunbridge.)
When I attended a performance of Tom Allen’s splendid chamber musical “The Missing Pages” in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia at the end of April—the story of the only Canadian who met Beethoven—I borrowed my daughter’s “Ludwig Lives” t-shirt for the occasion. On this trip to Bonn, I decided to buy a t-shirt of my own.
Bonn University Botanic Gardens
I spent a few glorious days in Amsterdam earlier this week, and—as you might imagine—I took lots of photos. I’ll put some of those together for a future blog post. I’m very happy to be back in Bonn now with my sister and her family. My brother, Tom, and his daughter have just arrived from Nova Scotia, and yesterday we visited Burg Drachenfels, a ruined castle that was built in the 12th century, and Schloss Drachenburg, a neogothic castle built in 1882. In the castle, we found one of the Beethoven statues by Ottmar Hörl, along with a stained glass window featuring Beethoven.
Tom and Beethoven
The view from Drachenfels
“True art remains imperishable, and the true artist takes inward delight at great products of the mind.”
While I was writing this blog post, my ten-year-old niece was playing with her sister, and also making up a song as she watched me write, singing about how I was typing—“typey, typey, typey, that’s what you do”—and reading, turning the pages, taking a sip of coffee. “I can see you over there, typing again … my job’s to sing about what you do.”
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Such HISTORY! I love the photo of the subject behind the window. You made some art yourself! Bravo!
Sarah Emsley said:
Thanks so much for your kind words!
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Jill E MacLean said:
A wonderful post, Sarah, so interesting and so well illustrated. I’ll check on that biography. Thank you and continue to enjoy your travels.
Sarah Emsley said:
Thank you, Jill! I had a wonderful visit with my siblings and their families, and we enjoyed exploring Beethoven-related sites in Bonn and along the Rhine.