Beethoven: The Genius who came to stay

This year the music world celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven. The great composer also had close links with the Josefstadt.

Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1870, Ludwig van Beethoven came to Vienna at the age of 22 to study composition with Joseph Haydn – and stayed in Austria’s imperial capital until his death in 1827.

Beethoven was notorious for getting into dis- putes with his neighbours, often because he would play the piano until late into the night – going increasingly deaf, he didn’t regard it as loud. And things weren’t all quiet on the family front, either.

Beethoven’s brother Kaspar died in 1815 and made Ludwig the guardian of his 9-year-old son Karl. A bitter custody battle with Karl’s mother en- sued, which only ended in 1820 when custody was granted to Beethoven.

In order to be near his nephew, whom he had enrolled at the ‘New Educational Institute for Boys’ in Josefstädter Straße, Beethoven also moved to the 8th district. Records show that in 1819 he lived on the corner of Trautsongasse and Auersperg- straße; here he composed the Credo of his Missa solemnis (1818-23), which he himself considered his most accomplished work.

In 1822, he conducted his overture ‘The Consecration of the House’ at the opening of the Theater in der Josefstadt’s new building.

His final years were spent in Schwarzspanierstraße 15, then still part of the 8th district, where he wrote his last string quartets, most notably the Große Fuge, and parts of his unfinished 10th sym- phony. He died there on 26 March 1827.

Over 20,000 people gathered to accompany the coffin to the Trinitarian Church on Alser Straße. The military had to be called in to avoid a panic, and even the schools were closed. 60 years later, in 1888, Beethoven’s remains were moved to a grave of honour in Vienna’s Central Cemetery.

issue 02/2020