Beethoven’s 250th Symphony

As music became an art for all the people of Europe, Ludwig van Beethoven, born 250 years ago this year, became the hero and the symbol of an aspiring German nation.

Silhouette of Beethoven, by Schlipmann, 1903 © Getty Images.

The funeral of Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna on 29 March 1827 was a grand affair. So great was the crowd that the cortège took 90 minutes to struggle its way from his last residence to the Church of the Holy Trinity in the Alsergasse. From there the procession moved on to the Währing cemetery, where Heinrich Anschütz, the leading actor of the day, delivered an oration written by Austria’s most eminent dramatist, Franz Grillparzer. Short but eloquent, it had two striking features. First, it made no reference to a Christian God. The only deity it associated with the deceased was ‘the sister and peer of the Good and the True, the balm of wounded hearts, heaven-born Art!’ Second, it claimed Beethoven for the German nation in the name of ‘the whole German people’.

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