The great Beethoven…but which version? During the first World War, Beethoven was used as a propaganda symbol and with the war ending in very sad terms for Germany it might be expected that Beethoven’s image was tarnished. Nope. He instead was viewed as a tool for Revolution. No matter the view point one took in politics, Beethoven was the symbol you wanted. Except who Beethoven was and what he would have stood for was completely different depending on who you asked. To people on the left side he was this ‘broad and rough,’ aggressive man that would have scared the Bourgeoisie and would would have enlisted in the Revolution without hesitation (pg 90). Yet, to the right he would have been the complete picture of an Aristocrat. Beethoven became a shapeshifter of a man who ultimately was the ideal of Revolution for this time. Plus with the new technology and media of the time, people used every possible resource to get Beethoven’s face out there for everyone to see him and their beliefs. Around the time of the Third Reich, people were practically worshipping Beethoven and quote “fighting tooth and nail to demonstrate that he belonged exclusively to their circle of life.” (pg 142) Beethoven had turned into about 6 different men to different people. It was all the same music from the one man, yet he was taken in so many different ways. Then Hitler came to power and all of that stopped. Beethoven was viewed in one way and under one light, and that light was coming from the right side. People that supported modernism or were Jewish or non-conformers were kicked out because they were ruining the transition to this new age (and it quite frankly, affected a lot of people). The Nazi regime used the many forms of mass media to make sure this version was promoted and more importantly to ensure that without a doubt Beethoven was a PURE German, which meant clarifying his family life. (pg 146). Overall, Beethoven was used throughout time by many people to essentially unite people as one whether that is before or during the Third Reich or after. The only slight issue was whether or not, looking back, the real Beethoven was the uniting factor or was it who people wanted him to be at the time.
- There are two most notable parts in the second clip of Beethoven’s Fourth Movement that are soft almost quiet to an explosive intense, in-your-face, sound (6.55 and 15.58). Do you think this was done with a purpose? If so what? And do you think this explosiveness added to his sound and his legacy?
- It appears that one of the most notable things about his music is that it is powerful or intense (at least for me). Kurt Weill (page 93) comments that Beethoven’s music was ‘music of freedom’ then goes on to explain why. Would you have to or do you agree with this claim? Did the leftists have a strong claim to say that Beethoven was the ‘eternal rebel’ (pg 92)?
- The Nazi regime practically remade Beethoven, not only taking him from a right-winged perspective, but also completely twisting his family history. What do you make of this? What does this show of the Nazis and/or of the people of Germany?
- Who was the real Beethoven? It seems that everyone created their own form of Beethoven from how he looked to who he was. And because of this, do you think it started to feel that it no longer was about the music but more so the name, ‘Beethoven’?
Dennis, David B. Beethoven in German Politics: 1870-1989. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.