Johann van Beethoven

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Johann van Beethoven (* late 1739 / early 1740 probably in Bonn ; † December 18, 1792 in Bonn) was a German singer ( tenor ) and the father of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven .


Johann van Beethoven was born in late 1739 / early 1740 as the son of Ludwig van Beethoven the Elder. Ä. (* January 5, 1712 in Mechelen , † December 24, 1773 in Bonn), the grandfather of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven , and his wife Maria Josepha Poll (* around 1714, † September 30, 1775 in Bonn). The exact date of birth is not known because the birth or baptism certificate has not been received. An official directory of court musicians from spring indicates the age of Johann van Beethoven at 44 years.

Rumors say that Johann van Beethoven was not the biological, but only the adopted son of Ludwig van Beethoven the Elder. Ä. been; This is indicated by the lack of a baptismal certificate in Bonn and the surrounding area and the fact that Johann van Beethoven, contrary to the tradition at the time, did not have a middle name. But since there is no clear evidence for or against this thesis, it remains in the realm of the speculative.

Johann van Beethoven had two siblings, but they died early:

  • Maria Bernhardine Ludovica van Beethoven (baptized August 28, 1734 in Bonn, † October 17, 1735 in Bonn)
  • Markus Joseph van Beethoven (baptized April 25, 1736 in Bonn, † unknown)

Johann van Beethoven received singing, piano and violin lessons from his father. After attending elementary school, he spent one to two years in the Jesuit college.

In 1752 Johann van Beethoven became an unpaid soprano in the electoral court orchestra. In 1756 he became court musician and received a salary that in April 1764 was 100 guilders , which was increased annually by 25 and later by a further 50 guilders. In addition, Johann van Beethoven worked as a singing and piano teacher.

On November 12, 1767, he married 19-year-old Maria Magdalena Leym (born December 19, 1746 in Koblenz-Ehrenbreitstein; † July 17, 1787 in Bonn) in Bonn's Remigius Church , a daughter of the late Trier Oberhofkoch Johann Heinrich Keverich. Maria Magdalena Leym was the widow of Johann Leym, 13 years older than her personal chamberlain, whom she married at the age of 16. Johann van Beethoven's father spoke out against the wedding; in his opinion Maria Magdalena Leym was not befitting as a wife. Since her father as head chef at the time had the same social status as a Kapellmeister, the Dutch musicologist Jan Caeyers rather suspects that Ludwig van Beethoven the Elder. Ä. feared for his own position in the family.

The marriage of Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven had seven children:

  • Ludwig Maria van Beethoven (baptized April 2, 1769, † April 8, 1769),
  • the composer Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized December 17, 1770 in Bonn, Kurköln; † March 26, 1827 in Vienna)
  • Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven (baptized April 8, 1774, † November 15, 1815 in Alservorstadt), father of Karl van Beethoven
  • Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven (baptized October 2, 1776, † January 12, 1848 in Wieden)
  • Anna Maria Franziska van Beethoven (baptized February 23, 1779, † February 27, 1779)
  • Franz Georg van Beethoven (baptized January 17, 1781, † August 16, 1783)
  • Maria Margarete Josepha van Beethoven (baptized May 5, 1786, † November 26, 1787)
Ludwig van Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn, Bonngasse No. 515 (today No. 20).

Shortly before the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann van Beethoven applied for a position in the Lambertus Cathedral in Liège , where his father had already worked as a singer, but the application failed due to resistance from Elector Maximilian Franz of Austria . At this time Johann van Beethoven's dependence on alcohol increased, which also affected his voice; Only the influence of First Minister Caspar Anton von Belderbusch saved Johann van Beethoven from serious professional difficulties.

After the unsuccessful application, the Beethoven family moved into Bonngasse No. 515 (today No. 20), the house where the composer was born. Other addresses where the family lived were Rheingasse, Neugasse and Wenzelgasse No. 476 (today No. 25), the house where Maria Magdalena Beethoven died.

Jan Caeyers considers it unlikely that Johann van Beethoven applied for his position as court conductor after the death of his father in 1774, as has been said several times, since, unlike his competitors Cajetan Mattioli and Andrea Lucchesi, he was neither music director nor conductor .

In 1787, after the death of his wife Maria Magdalena and their daughter Maria Margarete Josepha, Johann van Beethoven lost control of his life and fell into alcoholism. Son Ludwig was entrusted with the care of his younger siblings and was paid half of his father's salary in this context; In autumn 1789 he was just able to prevent his father from being transferred to prison by asking the elector.

Johann van Beethoven died on December 18, 1792. Elector Maximilian Franz of Austria is said to have laconically stated that Johann van Beethoven's death would lead to a decline in wine tax revenues.


From Benedict Beckenkamp -built paintings, falsely spouses Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven assigned.

In his memoirs, master baker Fischer describes the appearance of Johann van Beethoven as follows: “Mr. Johann van Beethoven his place of work. Medium, largest, jointed face, broad forehead, round wet, wide shoulder, annoying eyes, what scars on the face, a thin braid hairstyle ”. The painting made by Benedikt Beckenkamp was, as has meanwhile proven, wrongly assigned to the married couple Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven .

Johann van Beethoven is often described in the sense that he was addicted to alcohol and drilled his son while taking music lessons. He is said to have woken four-year-old Ludwig several times at night after his return from the pub to teach him how to play the piano, and is said not to have shied away from more rabid methods in his lessons.

Psychoanalyst Stefan Wolf described Johann van Beethoven in a similar sense when he examined Beethoven's struggle for guardianship for his nephew Karl van Beethoven and, in this context, addressed the composer's parents and thus also the father of the composer. As Gerhard von Breuning , the father of Beethoven's long-time friend Stephan von Breuning , reported, Ludwig van Beethoven often had to assist his father with the police, with whom Johann van Beethoven had often come into conflict because of his drunkenness. Stefan Wolf suspects that Beethoven had a deep feeling of disappointment and anger about the weakness of his father Johann, whose character was "in shabby contrast to his famous son"; The composer “didn't deserve such a father”.

But there are also voices that do not completely acquit Johann van Beethoven, but relativize his image in history.

Musicologist Joseph Schmidt-Görg , who also refers to the detailed studies by Ludwig Schiedermair in connection with this topic , takes the view that Johann van Beethoven's wine consumption was within the scope of what is common in the Rhineland.

Furthermore, Ludwig van Beethoven would have kept a copy made by his father of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's cantata Morgengesang on the day of creation and wrote on the copy: “Written by my dear father”. Jan Caeyers also said that Beethoven should never express himself disparagingly about his father and reacted with anger to every bad word about his father. Nevertheless, Jan Caeyers admits that one should credit Johann van Beethoven for having given the education of his talented son out of his hands very quickly.

Jan Caeyers attributes Johann van Beethoven's character on the one hand to the fact that he did not get his job through his own achievements, but through the influence of his father and yet was not financially on his own two feet, and on the other hand to the omnipresence of his father, who not only lived a few houses away, but was also his boss at work.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Hermann Deiters: Ludwig van Beethoven's life . In: The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular . tape 1 , February 1, 1901, ISSN  0958-8434 , p. 111 , doi : 10.2307 / 3366395 .
  2. Jan Caeyers: Beethoven - The lonely revolutionary . CH Beck-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-65625-5 , p. 42.
  3. Ludwig Schiedermair : The young Beethoven . Leipzig, 1925, second, revised edition Weimar, 1939, p. 68.
    Alexander Wheelock Thayer : Ludwig van Beethoven's life , 5 volumes, 1st volume. Edited by Hermann Deiters, revised by Hugo Riemann, 1866ff., Reprint Hildesheim-New York 1970, p. 167f.
  4. Jan Caeyers: Beethoven - The lonely revolutionary . CH Beck-Verlag, 2013, p. 43.
  5. ^ Joseph Schmidt-Görg : Beethoven - The history of his family , Beethoven-Haus Bonn, G. Renle Verlag Munich Duisburg, 1964, ISBN 978-3-88188-087-9 , pp. 57-60. [Accessed January 5, 2014. ]
  6. Friedrich Kerst : The memories of Beethoven , two volumes, ed. by Friedrich Kerst, Stuttgart, 1913, p. 12
  7. a b c Stefan Wolf: Beethoven's nephew conflict. A psychological-biographical study , Munich, 1995, p. 12
  8. Ludwig Schiedermair: The young Beethoven . Leipzig, 1925, second, revised edition Weimar, 1939, pp. 56–61.
    Ludwig Schiedermair: Beethoven's parents . In: Völkischer Beobachter , April 22, 1934.
  9. Joseph Schmidt-Görg : Beethoven - The story of his family . Beethoven-Haus Bonn, G. Renle Verlag Munich Duisburg, 1964, p. 60f.
  10. Quoted from Klaus Kropfinger : Beethoven . In: Music in the past and present , personal section, Volume 2, Kassel / Stuttgart 2001, column 693.
  11. Jan Caeyers: Beethoven - The lonely revolutionary . CH Beck-Verlag, 2013, p. 44.
  12. Jan Caeyers: Beethoven - The lonely revolutionary . CH Beck-Verlag, 2013, p. 40f.
  13. ^ Jan Caeyers: Beethoven - The lonely revolutionary , CH Beck-Verlag, 2013, p. 41.