Happy 250th Birthday to Beethoven

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.”
—Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Beethoven Monument, Central Park

Baptized on the 17th of December 1770 in the Church of St Remigius, where his parents were married, the exact date of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth is not known. Bonn, Germany is where he was born and grew-up; he studied with his father Johann, who sang in the Electoral Choir; Bonn was the capital of the Holy Roman Electorate of Cologne. His talent as a pianist was recognized early; he studied with Mozart and Haydn, making his public piano debut in 1800.

Beethoven Monument, detail, Central Park

Standing in the area of Central Park where free public concerts have been held for decades, this bronze bust of Ludwig van Beethoven was sculpted by the German-American sculptor Henry Baerer (1837–1908). Resting on a polished, Barre granite pedestal this tribute to the composer stands where a Victorian-era bandstand was once used by musicians to entertain strolling New Yorkers on Sunday afternoons. Among those enjoying the concerts were an increasing number of German immigrants.

Beethoven Monument, detail, Central Park

Beethoven is depicted with his unmistakable lion-mane-like hair and an intense expression, meant to show his musical greatness. Below the bust stands a bronze allegorical female figure; this is the “Genius of Music,” holding a lyre. Originally the monument stood where the Naumberg Bandshell is today; it was moved when bandshell was completed in 1923. At a height of 17’2″, a width of 6’7″, and a depth of 6’7″ the memorial is roughly at 71st Street, on the City’s grid plan, placing it midway within the Park.

Beethoven Monument, Central Park

Dedicated on July 22nd 1884 the $6,000 monument was donated to the City by the Beethoven Mannerchor to mark the 25th anniversary of its founding. Many members of this German singing society answered President Lincoln’s call for soldiers to fight for the Union in the U.S. Civil War. The surviving members carried on the group’s concert-giving tradition in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S.

Beethoven Monument, detail, Central Park

As early as 1798, at the age of 28, Beethoven first noticed problems with his hearing. By age 44 he was totally deaf, and able to carry on conversation only by passing written notes to colleagues, visitors and friends. His loss of hearing did not undermine Beethoven’s talent as a composer. Perhaps best known for his symphonic works, especially his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, his music to ushered in the Romantic period of classical music.

Beethoven Monument, detail, Central Park

Born in Kirscheim, Germany sculptor Henry Baerer came to the United States in 1854. Primarily known as a portrait sculptor, six of his works are in New York City parks, including a similar bust of Beethoven in Prospect Park’s Concert Grove. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has a replica of Central Park’s Beethoven bust.

Beethoven Monument, Central Park

Walk About New York’s Central Park Walking Tour includes the Beethoven Monument and much more to enjoy in the greatest urban oasis in the world. Take the Tour; Know More!

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