By Beethoven-House Bonn
Eventful history through the centuries
For Beethoven's anniversary year 2020, the house where the Bonn composer was born was lavishly restored and now shines in new splendour. The building in Bonngasse has already had an eventful history.
The Beethoven House in Bonn's Rheingasse, around 1840 by AnonymusBeethoven-House Bonn
The most important question: Where was Beethoven born?
In 1885, there were still two places in Bonn that were called "Beethoven's birthplace". One was the house in the Bonngasse, where Beethoven was born; the other was a house in the Rheingasse, to which Beethoven's family moved a few years after his birth.
Rheingasse 7 (Fischer's House), 1837 (1837) by AnonymusBeethoven-House Bonn
A critic creates clarity
The influential music critic Eduard Hanslick visited Bonn and was horrified: "The city magistrate of Bonn should finally confiscate the memorial plaque from one of the two houses. It is certain for all time that Beethoven was born in house no. 515 in Bonngasse".
A nasty dive
Where people from all over the world visit the museum today, there was still a dance hall in Hanslick's time: in the eyes of the city, this was a disgraceful state in which the birthplace of their great son was located.
Appeal of the Beethoven-Haus Society in the Bonner Zeitung of May 31, 1889Beethoven-House Bonn
An association for the rescue of the birthplace
Five citizens of Bonn did not want to accept the conditions. They bought the house and restored it to what it must have looked like at the time of Beethoven's birth - the birth of the "Beethoven-Haus Bonn" association.
Joseph Joachim (1831-1907)Beethoven-House Bonn
A prominent honorary president
A prominent artist at the top should bring attention to the association. The board persuaded the famous violinist Joseph Joachim to become honorary president. A coup, because more celebrities joined the association: Prince Bismarck, Giuseppe Verdi and Johannes Brahms.
Alfredo Piatti, Carl Reinecke and Joseph Joachim at the Bonn Beethoven celebration in 1890Beethoven-House Bonn
In 1890 the association began to organize chamber music festivals. To this day they are a firm tradition in the Beethoven-Haus. Thanks to the musical direction of Joseph Joachim (until his death in 1907) Bonn soon became a "Mecca of chamber music".
The former archive rooms in house 18 "Im MohrenBeethoven-House Bonn
A place for Beethoven research
Initially the association collected only manuscripts, pictures, busts and relics. However, it soon became apparent that there was a need for action in Beethoven research. And so, the Beethoven Archive was founded in 1927 as a research and documentation institute.
Rod fire bomb, dropped on the Beethoven House on October 18, 1944Beethoven-House Bonn
Firestorm from the air
On October 18, 1944, the English Air Force bombed Beethoven's birthplace. This stick fire bomb landed on the roof of Beethoven House. Janitor Heinrich Hasselbach swept the incendiary device into the courtyard, where it was extinguished.
Prohibition sign at Beethoven HouseBeethoven-House Bonn
The Beethoven House survives World War II
In the further course of the war, the valuable treasures from the Beethoven House, including Beethoven's last piano and the entire library, were initially stored in a castle outside of Bonn. Later, the collection was moved to a mining tunnel near Siegen.
Bonn: College: Damage (1945-03) by John FloreaLIFE Photo Collection
Liberation and rescue of the treasures
On April 7, 1945, American soldiers reached the tunnel and saved the treasures from a catastrophe: The moisture that appeared when the snow melted threatened to destroy the works of art. The story of the "underground museum" quickly got around.
On May 11, the first return transport of the collection with beret, Wildeman and Hasselbach took place. Here Beethoven's grand piano, two table pianos, the quartet instruments and furniture, as well as manuscripts and pictures from the gallery were brought back to Bonn. Three further return transports followed in the same month until the collection was once again completely in Bonn. Even film recordings were made of the return for the American and English newsreels.Beethoven-House Bonn
The first of four return transports
The first return transport of the collection took place on 11 May. Here Beethoven's grand piano, two table pianos, the quartet instruments and furniture, as well as manuscripts and pictures from the gallery were brought back to Bonn.
Pablo Casals on his first visit to the Beethoven House, with Beethoven's celloBeethoven-House Bonn
Probably the most remarkable concerts ever held in the house where Beethoven was born were those given by the cellist Pablo Casals on September 18 and 20, 1958. Guests crowded into all three first floor rooms and as far as the courtyard and stairs.
Daniel Hope, Violinist (2016-12-09) by Nicolas ZonviBeethoven-House Bonn
Tradition lives on
Today the violinist Daniel Hope continues the tradition as president of the Beethoven-Haus. He succeeds the violist Tabea Zimmermann and the conductor Kurt Masur as president. He is the musical figurehead of the famous music museum in Beethoven's hometown.