Beethoven’s Birthday!

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). I’m going to celebrate…and continue work on an upcoming post about Milwaukee’s first musical organization, the Milwaukee Beethoven Society!

Milwaukee Weekly Sentinel February 8, 1843, page 2. Click to open larger image in new window.

Life for early Milwaukee-area settlers was frequently difficult, but often less primitive than we imagine. Among other attributes, Milwaukee has long been a musical place. As early as 1843, the short-lived Milwaukee Beethoven Society brought the first organized concert performances to the neighboring towns that—three years later—would join to become the City of Milwaukee.

1843 was also the year that so many early Mequon immigrants, including Jonathan M. Clark, journeyed to the Milwaukee land office and court house to register and pay for the land they had settled, and obtain their federal land patents. These early Mequon residents knew Milwaukee; it was their center for law, business, shopping, news, and meeting out-of-town visitors. Did Jonathan and Mary Clark make a trip to Milwaukee to hear the Beethoven Society perform? It’s fun to speculate, but we really don’t know.

I’m collecting information on the Beethoven Society’s organizers and their first (and only?) two concerts. In my next post, I aim to gather that information together along with links to online performances of most of the pieces from the first concert so that you can enjoy something like the experience of that debut performance from the comfort of your computer, tablet or phone.

Meanwhile, today is a big day for music lovers. Grab a celebratory beverage (and piece of cake, if you have one1) and enjoy this stirring performance of …

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125!

Photo: screenshot from the performance.

Click image to open YouTube performance in new window.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, music director and conductor
Chicago Symphony Chorus, Duane Wolfe, chorus director
Camilla Nylund, soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova, mezzo-soprano
Matthew Polenzani, tenor
Eric Owens, bass-baritone

More info, including texts and translations

With the generous support of a donor, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has made this 2015 performance free and available to all on YouTube. They also have a web page with information on the performance and links to downloadable PDFs of program notes (with text and translation of the fourth movement’s “Ode to Joy”) and listening guides in English and Spanish for students and for adults.

Generosity of spirit

The support of this performance, and its continuing online presentation, shows a generosity of spirit on the part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its donors, and reminds us what music and the arts can do to inspire and lift us up. The past year has been a difficult one for us all, but it has been devastating for creative and performing artists and organizations, and for museums, too. If you are in a position to support your local artists, musicians, ensembles, or museums, I urge you to do so as generously as you can.

Thanks. More music on Friday.


  1. As Julia Child reminds us, “a party without cake is just a meeting.”