How Beethoven's birthplace became one of the most visited music museums in the world

From the founding of the association in 1889 to the stirring events of World War II and milestones such as the concert by Pablo Casals - enough reasons to take a closer look at the eventful and moving history of Beethoven's birthplace.

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

Musical tradition

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

Musical highlight

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.

Credits: Story
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps