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Mahler's Beethoven


Portrait of Beethoven by Mähler1
Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien

illibrord Joseph Mähler (1778-1860), a talented amateur poet, musician and painter from West Germany, was introduced to Beethoven in the fall of 1804 at the latter's apartment in Vienna, Austria. When asked to play something for his guest, Beethoven rendered a piano version of the finale to his Eroica symphony, just then nearing completion.

Sometime that winter Mähler painted this portrait, of which his subject was especially fond. With his proper left hand resting on a Greek lyre, and a Greek peristyle behind his right, the composer clearly considered himself a disciple of the Classical tradition whose plenipotentiaries were Mozart and Haydn. Only the dark cloud above his head hints at the stormy spirit of musical Romanticism of which he was to become the herald and hero, and which the painter must have felt in Beethoven's playing on the day they first met.


--Joseph Mussulman

1. No relation to the German composer Gustav Mähler (1860-1911) who was a musical heir of Beethoven, and one of the last exponents of the Romantic movement.


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From Discovering Lewis & Clark ®, http://www.lewis-clark.org © 1998-2014
by The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota.
Journal excerpts are from The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton
13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001)