Big buzz: 2020 is Beethoven year, because the brilliant composer was born 250 years ago. The cabaret artist, musician and author Konrad Beikircher from Bonn took care not of music but of people and wrote about life and everyday life of Ludwig van Beethoven. In the interview, Beikircher talks about the Rhineland in its nature, Beethoven's family, business acumen and preferences – culinary and love affairs. In his hometown Bonn, however, he has some criticisms with regard to Beethoven.
Mr. Beikircher, you emphasize in your book that Beethoven was a “Bönnsche Jung” – as if the fact had been a key qualification for his career.
Konrad Beikircher: Of course I am not that serious. However: musicology has examined each of his grades, but the essence of the Rhineland has been a bit neglected in all considerations. Beethoven was one of here and a Republican, so not a monarchist. Quite apolitical in the sense of the local credo: Everyone is the same in front of the counter. If someone here only refers to their official or noble authority, they immediately encounter resistance. It's different in Austria.
Beethoven went to Vienna at the age of 20. What did its origins reveal?
He always licked the sting. A very nice anecdote is about one of his house concerts. Such a noble snoop is loudly digging at a baroness. Beethoven asks for silence, in vain. He then closes the lid and says he doesn't play for pigs like that.
Is that Rhenish?
It certainly has something to do with his temperament, but it was also the anti-authoritarian Rhinelander in him. He said, also deliciously, to an archduke in public: “Remember, you are noble. You share that with many thousands of people. I am the only one. “
Speaks for a strong self-confidence. Beethoven had to assert himself early on. He repeatedly dragged his drunk father home from the pubs and took care of his brothers. What do you think made him happy in Bonn anyway?
The music. He worked as a court organist at the age of 13 and received 100 talers salary. That was an outstanding thing – even if you were older at the age of 13 than you are today at that age. That must have made him proud. He was also very happy in the Breuning family, who treated him like a member and promoted him. He was also a violist in the Bonn Symphony Orchestra. And one should not forget that this was the leader in the German-speaking area during the time under the elector.
His business-minded father actually let him appear stating the wrong age. What did Ludwig owe to him in his musical career?
The father was rather a poor sock and incapable. He wanted to repeat a Mozart tour and sell his son as a child prodigy. That didn `t work. He even brought people into the house in the middle of the night and had his son audition. It wasn't that great either. On the other hand, it makes it clear: Ludwig already had a large audience back then. He must have liked that.
Beethoven is considered the first modern artist: there was no electoral job for him, but he went to Vienna as a freelance musician and composer. What can you still learn from him today?
How to get into conversation and business skillfully. He was a networker par excellence and has very cleverly launched his information. For example, that he actually wanted to live only for art, but unfortunately there was no scholarship to enable him to do so. Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia in Kassel, then offered to run the opera house for 600 ducats a year. Beethoven made the offer public, with the indication that he actually felt like an Austrian artist. You can't say that out loud here. Three princes of Vienna got together to pay him 4,000 thalers a year just to keep him there.
Successful crowdfunding. Was he never poor?
He was not rich, but he was never poor. After all, he has a household with a cook and at least one servant. He had no furniture, he saved on that. It was rather minimalist. A bohemian.
He moved more than 50 times during his time in Vienna. How can this be explained?
As a tenant, he was unbearable. He got on the nerves of the tenants. He was loud and rumbled, which got worse the less he heard. He washed himself at his standing sink and rather sang or roared. He played the piano late into the evening and the pianos always lay directly on the floor without legs.
He is said to have been very sensitive.
Yes. He reacted very sensitively to social disharmony. He often moved out just because the neighbors asked him to be quieter. If he felt resistance, he preferred to go straight away.
As a guest of the inn, he is said to have had to get used to it.
There is the beautiful story of the Lungenbratl. When the waiter came with the dish, Ludwig must not have liked anything about it and threw the plate at his head. The waiter licked the broth off his face and the inn burst out laughing. Beethoven too. He then gave him a generous tip. He was like that. Impulsive and explosive – but didn't want to leave a fight.
Did he have a sense of humor?
Yes, a bit scabby, dry musician humor. There are eyewitnesses who report that he liked to laugh and was so contagious that he could have lived alone.
You portrayed him as, let's say, a conscious eater.
He was never a gourmet. Beethoven is known to have chronic bowel problems. Constipation and diarrhea took turns. There is even speculation that this may have something to do with his ear infection. He must have suffered a lot from that. He was aware that he had to be careful. He ate little fried, dear boiled, very much soups, very much fish. But a lot of that. So if the cook was cooking, then five courses. He was a strong, athletically built man. Very virile with an almost animal look. For years there was bread soup on Wednesdays in which he had beaten ten eggs. You can't take that in the long run.
Then the alcohol was added.
Two bottles of red wine and one bottle of white wine daily. However, the wine had a maximum of eight percent at that time. But Beethoven did not know that the wine was preserved with lead. With that he gradually poisoned himself.
Where did the macaroni and parmesan cheese that he supposedly loved come from?
I think that's funny too. In 1750, the Italians started not only to be present in Vienna with their operas. Thanks to Paganini and Rossini, Vienna was in a veritable Italian frenzy – with some collateral damage such as the macaroni with parmesan. One of his favorite dishes.
How did the virile Beethoven deal with the prudery of that time?
Split, I assume. During this time the ideal of love was propagated. Beethoven was already very testosterone-driven, was never married, but was always in love. Always short and always in the wrong place. To the married countesses, whom everyone knew in Vienna. Or in the waitresses who were too low. Given the new morality, sex without love was only possible with a guilty conscience. He kept asking his friend to bring him sidewalk swallows. It is very interesting how he contradicted that. He couldn't say: Get me something blonde. He knew that his letters would be kept and wrote that he wanted to conquer a fortress again, but not one that many soldiers had passed through.
Yes. He was absolutely a child of his time and victim of the double standards that began at that time, which had an enormous impact on all subsequent generations. The exaggeration of love – I mean, is that the right way to be a happy couple forever?
Beethoven wrote a will that is very dear to your heart because it describes how much he is misunderstood. That he is afraid of society, which he misses at the same time. Do you feel pity?
Yes absolutely. No question. Because Beethoven was so stubborn and clumsy in his life and got in his way. It's sad from the outside, but I don't know if he suffered from it himself. He made the unbelievable demand that he only want to live for art. He has put boards on his head, my dear Mr. Singing Club!
You mean that social misery was the price of being an artist?
A very high price. But on the other hand, when I heard the last sentence of the ninth, I also think that no one else has achieved anything.
He heard worse and worse, became more suspicious and depressed. You can see from your descriptions of his life how much you admire him for his discipline.
Yes. It is beyond the graspable. This ability to continue working despite the chaotic, neglected lifestyle is admirable. He never started off without notes. You know that composing was a constant process. Not like Mozart, who had everything in his head and only had to write it down. One only has to look at Beethoven's scores with his handwritten notes. How he rummaged and fought! He was an exceptional person, who knows what things have made life worth living for him beyond music.
Is there a question you would like to ask him?
Yes, according to your personal life. From Catholic to Catholic, I would like to talk to him about the scissors of idealized love and physical execution in bed. How did he experience that?
Do you feel connected to him in this aspect?
I only noticed that a few years ago. I was a student in a Franciscan boarding school and I will never forget the retreat book that we always had with us. It was called “Youth to God”. A horrible thing. It contained everything that made you feel guilty – and in the end it also made you afraid to approach a woman. That terribly unsettled me and Beethoven must have had a similar experience. He was rather clumsy with women.
Are there any special moments when you hear Beethoven?
Oh yeah. For example, when I read his letters or prepare my broadcasts, so I work – I hear the piano sonatas, preferably played by Emil Gilels. I know every note, don't have to listen very carefully and can have it around me as a cloud. And sometimes I sit in bed, just listen to the string quartet from Opus 131 and think I should actually do something now.
As a Beethoven fan and Bonn native, you are quite unhappy with how the city deals with its heritage. What's going wrong in your eyes?
I have the feeling that the political leaders are not aware of the pound they have with Beethoven. You don't treat me seriously enough. Now, for example, a local politician has said that he is particularly looking forward to the triumvirate coming from Cologne to Bonn in the coming festival year. So please.
What is missing?
Take a look at Pesaro. The city is a bit smaller than Bonn, but celebrates Rossini with great pride. In Salzburg you encounter Mozart enthusiasm everywhere. Or another example: 20 years ago I was in a train station in Munich with a hairdresser, who puts on his plastic cloak and asks me: “What do you say about the Freischütz production?” That knocked me off my armchair. I lack this general tenor.
What is going well in Bonn?
In Bonn it is great that a whole range of private small and medium-sized initiatives are taking care of Beethoven today. The Augustinum, for example, organizes a great program. But these little Beethoven statues by the Nuremberg artist. Well. Why not Beethoven as a gummy bear? It is so small-minded, and that's why I have a hard time with it.
And your idea to introduce Ludwig's Muzen almonds?
Was not meant seriously. Mozart balls are not the last word of wisdom either. It would just be nice if more taste and style were brought to mind. How is the response to Beethoven, for example, to today's artists, composers and filmmakers? I would find this more interesting than performing the ninth for the 100th time. But now. Now we have another chance with 2027, then we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's death. Maybe we'll pack it with the Festspielhaus at least.