March 28

Beethoven: Anecdotes and Illustrations

Proposed by Marten Noorduin

Here are a few amusing reflections from the musical press about Ludwig van Beethoven.

La Chronique musicale, vol. 10 no. 58 (15 November 1875): [1p] 166/67.

The American periodical Dwight’s Journal of Music featured an anecdote about Beethoven that was originally published in the 1860 autobiography of German composer, violinist, and conductor, Louis Spohr:

Dwight’s Journal of Music, vol. 18 no. 22 (2 March 1861): 392.

Many music journals published illustrations of the composer. The Baton, for example, depicted Beethoven and Schubert enjoying an imaginary musical evening together in the company of the Viennese artistic society.

The Baton, vol. VII no. 2 (April, 1928): 13.

However, not all illustrations related to Beethoven strike such a reverential tone. The Spanish language periodical, La Música Ilustrada Hispano-Americana, published five cartoons in which each movement title of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony No. 6 is treated to a visual narrative. In the table below, we cite the original German text and a translation in English of the movement titles, just in case … !


La Música Ilustrada Hispano-Americana, vol. II no. 10 (10 May 1899): 10.


Finally, on the left is a depiction of Beethoven that appeared in the French illustrated newsweekly L’Illustration in 1893, 66 years after his death; on the right is German caricaturist Franz Eder’s Beethoven depiction in 2009, imagining what the composer would have looked like had he been born two centuries later. The similarities—the brow, the penetrating gaze, the unkempt hair, the menacing frown—are striking!

L’Illustration, Vol. CI (27 May 1893): 431; Franz Eber, 2009.


RIPM search tip: Searching “Beethoven” as a keyword in both RIPM’s Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals with Full Text and Preservation Series: European and North American Music Periodicals reveals that his name appears at least once in an astounding 118,041 records!

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RIPM is an international non-profit organization preserving and providing access to music periodicals published in more than twenty countries between approximately 1760 and 1966, from Bach to Bernstein. Functioning under the auspices of the International Musicological Society, and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres, RIPM produces four electronic publications: Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals, Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals with Full Text, European and North American Music Periodicals (Preservation Series), and RIPM Jazz Periodicals (Preservation Series, forthcoming).


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Posted March 28, 2018 by John Ehrenburg in category "Curios and Chronicles