Finding Beethoven Part I | 4 Ways to Start the Anniversary Year

Beethoven was a “Wahlwiener,” a Viennese by choice. During this 250th anniversary year of his birth, his adopted city has pulled out all the stops on this great organ of musical life, to bring him alive in sounds­­­­, sights and special events.

You have to hand it to the Austrians, goes the old joke: They’ve managed to pass Hitler off as a German while claiming Beethoven as their own! 

But come on! Let’s be fair! At least as far as Beethoven is concerned, they have a strong case. Born in Bonn, young Ludwig first came to Vienna in 1786 at the age of 16, hoping to study with Mozart. He may have – there are no records – but he was forced to return home a year later as his mother was dying of tuberculosis. He stayed for five years, until fortune intervened again, when he met Joseph Haydn, who stopped in Bonn in July 1792 on his way home from England and agreed to take him on as a pupil. Thus it was that in November, Ludwig van Beethoven, now 22, left for Vienna, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

So Beethoven was a “Wahlwiener,” a Viennese by choice – like most of us, in fact. And this, we claim, is fair enough. So during this 250th anniversary year of his birth in 1770, his adopted city has pulled out all the stops on this great organ of musical life, to bring him alive in sounds­­­­, sights, and special events. This year it’s “all Beethoven, all the time!”

The music! The music!

Of course, most important is the music and this week, alone, you can find Beethoven in concert almost every night, and sometimes in two or three locations.

  1. We recommend starting tonight, at the ORF Radio Kulturhaus with the students of the University of Music and Art (MUK) performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, op 56, which they are describing as a “lively competition” (for attention, presumably) between the violin, cello and piano soloists and the orchestra. 

Radio Kulturhaus: Argentinierstraße 30a, 1040 Wien

2. Or tomorrow, you could head for the Goldener Saal of the Musikverein to hear star pianist Jewgenij Kissin, playing solo masterpieces, including the Pathétique and the Waldstein sonatas and the great Eroica Variations


Musikverein, Musikvereinsplatz 1, 1010 Wien

3. Or Saturday at the Staatsoper, where you can hear chamber musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic. But there is something almost every night, so check the schedule at WIENBEETHOVEN2020 to find a match. 

Wiener Staatsoper, Opernring 2, 1010 Wien;,

The Evidence

But sometimes you want to get closer to the palpable reality, something you can see and almost touch. For this…

4. … head over to the Prunksaal of the National Library, on Josefsplatz behind the Hofburg on Augustinerstrasse. Here you can see the originals of some of his letters, revealing his self-confidence and a sparkling wit, that may surprise you after all the growly representations in portrait and sculpture. There are also exchanges with women where he reveals a tenderness we know from the music, had to be there, under the deafness that cut him off from normal social life for the later years of his life.

And if you set there before the end of February, you can also feast your eyes on the pages of his original manuscript for the 9th Symphony, with the Schiller text: “Freude, schöne Götterfunken” (Joy, the fairest spark of divinity), adopted as the official European Hymn by the EU Parliament in 1972. If anyone walked through life “feuertrunken,” drunk with fire, it was Beethoven.

Austrian National Library: Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Wien Di–So: 10–18 Uhr, Do: 10–21 Uhr

So this gets you started. But much more to come. Watch this space!

(Foto: Herbert Frank; Wikipedia)

Dardis McNamee
Dardis McNamee is the Editor in Chief of METROPOLE. Over a long career in journalism she has written for The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler in New York, the Wall Street Journal Europe and Die Zeit in Vienna, as well as having been a speechwriter to two US ambassadors to Austria. She was awarded the 2007 Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work at the Department of Media Communications for Webster University Worldwide. In 2010, she was granted Austrian Citizenship of Honor (Ehrenstaatsbürgerschaft) for outstanding contributions to the Austrian Republic


You like local independent journalism in English? So do we!

To keep providing you with current news, insights, opinion and Schmäh about our shared hometown, we need your help.
We chose to provide our daily coverage for free, because we believe in equal access to information. And we want to be independent from our advertisers, so we can deliver the news that you want. With your help, we can keep giving you the open, independent journalism you deserve.

Don’t let the advertisers win!


If you’re able, please support Metropole today from as little as €1
or choose an amount:

RECENT Articles

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” of Austria

Better known by her nickname “Sissi,” she has captured the hearts of the public ever since she was immortalized by actress Romy Schneider in a trilogy of 1950s romantic comedies.

Donald Tusk’s Clear Voice

Welcoming to Scotland, the perennial European is not about to leave the political stage.

“Mein Fall” | Austrian Writer Tells of Sexual Abuse

As a choirboy at the Zwettl Monastery in the 1960s, novelist Josef Haslinger was regularly assaulted by his superiors. Now he wrote about it.

Passing the Baton

The Vienna Theatre Project meditates on MLK’s last night on earth in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop.”

5 Anti-Valentine’s Day Movies | It’s Difficult to Love

If the most saccharine of holidays is starting to get to you, here are five sobering – some would say more realistic – portrayals of human emotion.

Keeping It Together

Ken Loach takes on the human cost of the gig economy in his latest film, "Sorry We Missed You".

Doskozil’s Big Win For the SPÖ in Burgenland

After a disappointing year, the Social Democrats won a whopping 50% of the vote in last week’s state elections.

2019 Was a Record-Breaking Year in Vienna Tourism

Visitors are pleased with Vienna as a travel destination, with 9 out of 10 stating they would recommend it to others.