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Family gathering on Münsterplatz: Beethoven’s descendants visit Bonn

Family gathering on Münsterplatz : Beethoven’s descendants visit Bonn

47 Flemish relatives of Ludwig van Beethoven have visited Bonn. They learned surprising things about the composer and also occupied the Hörl installation on the Münsterplatz.

Two years ago, the association Citizens for Beethoven had the idea of inviting descendants of Ludwig van Beethoven from Mechelen to Bonn. And so early on Saturday morning, 47 van Beethovens and around 40 relatives and friends made their way by bus from the Flemish town close to Antwerp to Bonn, about 250 kilometres away.

At the suggestion of the citizens’ association, in a few months, Walter Sluydts, a cousin of the conductor, and Beethoven biographer Jan Caeyers had located 136 van Beethovens in Belgium and invited them to Beethoven’s birth city on behalf of the Bonn association.

One even has the first name Ludwig

“Yes!” said Wout van Beethoven from Antwerp on Saturday. He is proud to carry the name Beethoven. But other than this invitation to the beautiful city of Bonn, it has as yet had no influence on his life. “In Belgium, it’s not so special to have the name,” adds his wife, Alexandra.

Some people, however, often look disbelievingly when the name is used. This must happen often to 53-year-old tool maker Ludwig van Beethoven, as his parents also chose the first name of the famous ancestor for their son.

The van Beethoven christened with the German name Werner, from Lier in Flanders, remembers his visit to the Beethoven House in Bonn around ten years ago: “When they saw my passport and read the name, I not only got free entry but was also invited to dinner.”

Many of the Flemish Beethovens knew hardly anything of Beethoven’s time in Bonn and so closely followed the knowledgeable and amusing tour by the association chairperson Stephan Eisel, who led his guests from the Beethoven House via Bonngasse, where many musicians lived, including Ludwig’s grandfather. On Marktplatz, he stopped in front of Beethoven’s former regular pub at the time, Zehrgarten, before confronting the living Beethovens with the 700 smiling plastic editions on the Münsterplatz.

When the city cut all funds for a Beethoven Festival 25 years ago, it was the citizens who organised a private Beethoven Festival for three years. The result was the Citizens for Beethoven association, which, with 1600 members, has since become the largest in the city.

(Original text: Stefan Hermes. Translation: kc)