30 September 2020
Ludwig van Beethoven 250th Birth Anniversary
Date of Issue: 30.09.2020
Quantity Printed: 160.000
Type of printing: Offset and hot stamping
Design: Karin Klier
Vienna was the focal point of Ludwig van Beethoven’s life for more than 35 years. The traces of the composer are manifold: from a large Beethoven Museum, homes and memorials, places of his triumph and doubt, monuments and Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze through to the Beethoven wine tavern.
Born in Bonn in 1770, Beethoven was 17 years old when he first traveled to Vienna to study under Mozart. Yet scarcely had he arrived when he had to return to be by his mother’s deathbed. Aged 22, he returned to Vienna again, this time as the pupil of Joseph Haydn – Mozart had died in the meantime. This time, he stayed forever: for 35 years until his death in 1827.
Vienna and music – they belong together. The focus in 2020 is on those artists and institutions that make Vienna the world capital of music. International stars such as Billy Joel, Hans Zimmer, Yuja Wang and Joshua Bell all rave about Vienna. They are Viennese by choice, just like Beethoven who once came to Vienna to stay and would have celebrated his 250th birthday in 2020.
The existing 40 m² Beethoven apartment at Probusgasse 6 in Heiligenstadt, in the 19th district, has been extended to create a 265 m² Beethoven Museum in 2017.
A fascinating, modern exhibition leads through 14 rooms. The illuminated themed areas include the history of the house, Beethoven’s move from Bonn to Vienna, his stay here in Heiligenstadt – a trendy spa town at the time – the nature, the composing, the moneymaking, performance-giving at the time and his legacy.
Exhibits include ear pipes (an early kind of hearing device) and a prompt box (that was placed on Beethoven’s grand piano to amplify the sound). There are also some bizarre items: Eggs symbolize the quick-tempered character of the composer – he is said to have thrown them. In 1875, a company called Liebig started adding collectible pictures to the product packaging of its meat extracts in order to increase its sales, which it did with success; the exhibited edition recounts the content of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. Beethoven’s dwindling hearing can be recreated at listening stations.
In this house, the 32 year-old Beethoven wrote his “Heiligenstadt Testament” in a state of deep despair. He wrote this letter to his brother, which was never sent, when he learned that there would be no remedy for his deafness. At the same time, he worked at Probusgasse on major works, including the three piano sonatas Opus 31, the oratorio “Christ on the Mount of Olives” and the “Eroica” symphony.
Heiligenstadt was situated far outside the city walls back then; today, it is part of the smart 19th district (Döbling). Just a few steps away is the heuriger (wine tavern) Mayer am Pfarrplatz, located in an atmospheric house which Beethoven lived in for a while in 1817. There are excellent Viennese wines here. Another tip: Ten minutes’ walk up Eroicagasse, a path leads along a stream – the Beethovengang often visited by the maestro.
Beethoven fans will find the apartment in the Beethoven Museum as well as another unchanged apartment in Vienna – nowadays a memorial site containing many personal objects and music listening stations.
Beethoven lived in the Pasqualati House (named after its owner) in the center of Vienna on several occasions between 1804 and 1815. The composer worked here on his opera “Fidelio” and on piano pieces such as the well-known “Für Elise”. The view of the Ringstrasse boulevard and the University from the fourth-floor apartment is spectacular.
Triumphal Beethoven premieres were held all over Vienna: in the Eroica Hall of the Austrian Theatre Museum, in the Grand Redouten Hall of the Spanish Riding School and in the Festival Hall of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The Theater an der Wien was the stage for the premiere of the opera “Fidelio”, and Beethoven even lived there for a while.
In Beethoven Park, opposite the Vienna Konzerthaus, you’ll come across two bronze depictions of Beethoven: Caspar Zumbusch’s sculpture erected in 1880 and the colorful, contemporary monument by Markus Lüpertz from 2017.
Vienna’s museum of sound, the House of Music, naturally also presents Beethoven in detail. A room focusing on his 67 changes of residence within Vienna is dedicated to him in the apartment of the Viennese maestro.
The concert series RESOUND BEETHOVEN by Martin Haselböck and the Orchester Wiener Akademie is something very special: The musicians play Beethoven on the instruments of his time, with the same number of musicians and in the same rooms in which the composer himself performed his music.
Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” hangs in the Secession. Beethoven’s grave of honor can be found in a prominent spot at Vienna’s Central Cemetery.