Beethoven. World of the Man and Spark of the Gods, Vienna's National Library, Vienna: 19 December 2020-10 January 2021

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Ludwig van Beethoven: His name stands for a musical oeuvre that today enchants people the world over. 2020 sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of this great composer, and in celebration the Austrian National Library will be presenting a special exhibition in the State Hall entitled “Beethoven. World of the Man and Spark of the Gods”.

The “World of the Man” covers Beethoven’s relationships with his contemporaries, with his teachers and pupils, with musicians and patrons, with women and friends, as well as with his family. He was not, after all, the “solitary struggler” as idealised by posterity, but rather a composer who was in a multiplicity of relationships with the world around him. The exhibition will show this using many original letters held by the Austrian National Library. Although his dealings with his fellow men and women were not easy, these letters demonstrate the composer’s self-confidence and sarcastic humour, as well as his affection for women. Particularly moving is his attempt to act as father figure to his nephew Karl, an attempt that ended in tragic failure when the latter tried to commit suicide in 1826, whereupon Beethoven abandoned his role as Karl’s legal guardian.

The “Sparks of the Gods” are the original manuscripts of Beethoven’s compositions that have become part of the classical canon, such as the Violin Concerto Op. 61, the “Spring Sonata” Op. 24 or the String Quartet Op. 95, held by the Austrian National Library. In addition, his 9th Symphony, a UNESCO Memory of the World document will be displayed in Austria for the first time. 

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