Huib Ramaer

Lecture  (IN DUTCH)


Beethoven as an expat

By musicologist Huib Ramaer

Wednesday 12 February 2020


Vienna greeted Beethoven with a mix of admiration, aversion and respect. Financially, one could say that he spent his years in Vienna being drip-fed by the elite – voluntarily and with panache – while musically he endeavoured to shake the lethargic brains of the same elite awake through his innovative compositions. It was also here that Beethoven dreamed of equality and fraternity – and of his ‘Distant Beloved’. The mark left by this tempestuous composer on the city by the Danube was, without a doubt, indelible. Beethoven’s funeral speaks volumes: how many people did not accompany him to his final resting place? Still, things could easily have gone quite differently. Beethoven travelled to Vienna through a war zone. He narrowly missed being able to leave Bonn, in which case he would never have reached the Austrian capital. Conquered by revolutionary troupes, the city of his birth fell into French hands in 1794. However, the well-known ditty Wien, Wien nur du allein did not echo Beethoven’s sentiment. Caeyers’ biography reveals that Beethoven yearned for a better life in the lap of luxury: life as an expat in Paris, where Napoleon apparently created good circumstances for musicians.