[2021 bonus repost! Happy 251!] Happy 250! (Part 2)

2021-12-16 Reposting one of the Beethoven’s Birthday posts from last year (when it was his 250th). There were two parts last year, with Part 1 collecting the Peanuts strips over the years dealing with the birthday — we’re not restoring that one right now, but it is in the archive if you need to look it up.

New comments are absolutely welcome!

A bonus posting for Beethoven’s birthday (baptismal record).

Part 1, yesterday, dipped into the history of the Peanuts strip taking note, in various ways in different years, of the occasion. But they weren’t the only ones in the world of cartooning to take note!

But Peanuts does cast a long shadow:

Sent by Andréa.

From Kilby, an on-point musical panel:

The funnies can reference Beethoven without centering on his birthday, of course, as these selections contributed by Olivier illustrate:

Which musical works get into the comics?

As seen above, the Fifth Symphony has long been a source for drinking jokes because of that peculiar fluid volume measure, one fifth (of a gallon, ICYMI). The opening three-and-one is pretty ubiquitous, though probably by now it is pure geezer to connect that with V-for-Victory.

And of course the symphonies can be referenced by number without going into anything about content. Nicknames help — plenty of “The Erotica Symphony”, not too many from “Pastoral”. The Ninth as a whole comes up sometimes, but the Ode To Joy on its own is a beloved perennial for jokes, adaptations, parodies, Flash Mobs, what you will.

I did see a reference (in a Peanuts?) to “Beethoven’s Seven Concertos” which was a rather interesting take, I thought, to make them a group despite the different solo instruments. But it turns out this was probably an allusion to a book, The Seven Concertos of Beethoven by Antony Hopkins (not the actor Anthony) whose choice of that title is less surprising after seeing he also wrote The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven.

The Sonatas come up some, particularly the Moonlight — though did you notice yesterday in the 1957 Peanuts there was even a bit of the score and a reference to the very early F Minor Sonata? This 1952 Peanuts features an excerpt from what may be the Hammerklavier:


and the NYT A&D article by April Dembosky which gave me that strip also gives some context:

In a strip from 1953 Schroeder embarks on an intensive workout. He does push-ups, jumps rope, lifts weights, touches his toes, does sit-ups (“Puff, Puff”), boxes, runs (“Pant, Pant”) and finally eats (“Chomp! Chomp!”). In the last two panels he walks to his piano with determination and begins playing furiously, sweat springing from his brow.

I was wondering at the absence of the quartets, but then this image of a Thong Quartet came in:

The perhaps surprising high-frequency champ seems to me to be that wonderful Bagatelle “Für Elise”! (And this first example even elevates its significance. Despite being really lovely, it is after all, a mere bagatelle.)

And how about second-order references — cartoons about other treatments of Beethoven in popular culture? I was expecting, and saw a good many, references to the use of “Für Elise” as a ringtone. But I was quite unprepared for the allusions to a movie (and sequels!) called Beethoven and featuring a dog who bears that name!

“Hahaha, that’s a dog’s name!”

Contributed by Olivier (who may be able to clarify if that apparently nonstandard French is a particular identified variant or just what a kid might spell.)

Some interest in his general history and biography:

And it’s good to see, in cartoon format, a genuine educational interest in serious history and biographical fact!

(Several uncredited individual images above contributed by Olivier.)

How confusing! It seems the prompt “If Beethoven were alive today, he’d probably be a jazz fan” and the picture would be coming from a fan of both LvB and Miles Davis. But then the take-it-back line about being old seems to be a put-down of both Beethoven and jazz as a genre.

But it should be no surprise that jazz musicians are fans of Beethoven. There are at least two albums of jazz variations on one movement of Beethoven’s, the Allegretto from Symphony No. 7.

Possible Part 3 tomorrow? : Let’s see what contemporary cartoon series had to say on the big 250th birthday date!

Nope, nothing of note! But feel free to comment with relevant comics that were overlooked!


  1. Oh, the Für Elise ringtone. I had it and loved it, but my next phone didn’t have it. It was my Mother’s fave Beethoven (unbeknownst to me) and is mine, too. Of course, there’s the crossover from ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’, which is probably the first, if not the only, time many folks have heard it.

  2. two comments:
    1) the one you’re supposed to sing works almost as well to the Beverly Hillbillies theme.
    2) I know these weren’t tagged, but the Haydn one is definitely an oy! and though it’s corny, “They told him he was deaf, but did he listen?” earns an LOL from me.

  3. Ugh! Rhyming “van” and “Bonn” — either an extremely strong American midwest-vowel-shifted accent (although as one sound gets shifted, so does the other, so they should never rhyme for any one speaker!), or maybe they are making the “van” equivalent to “von”, in which case they would rhyme, but I never pronounced “van” as “von”, enticing as it might be…. Am I wrong? There’s a continuum from the German to the Dutch, and Beethoven seems to fall into the middle — it would be wrong to just subsume what must be a different pronunciation (because it’s preserved in the orthography) to just be pronounced in the “correct” German way… Then again, maybe I don’t know enough about the Dutch pronunciation, maybe it is closer to “von” than I think…

  4. Für Elise was not well known during Beethoven’s lifetime. He wrote it for Teresa Malfatti who outlived him by decades. After her death it was found among her papers and published for the very first time, in 1865.

    The Moonlight Sonata was popular during his lifetime, but not under that name, which it acquired in the 1830’s. Beethoven complained about its popularity, saying he had written many other pieces that were much better. But it’s a common problem for musicians, that ONE piece you have to play at every concert, like Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”.

  5. The funniest detail in the whole post was the (presumably accidental) insertion of a superfluous “T” into the name of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony: it’s supposed to be called “Eroica” (meaning “heroic”). Or were the editors trying to make a subtle reference to “Rule 34”?

  6. Kilby, you’re either giving us way too much credit or rather too little.

    Nicknames help — plenty of “The Erotica Symphony”,

    It wasn’t accidental, nor was it meant to be a subtle allusion. It was intentional, and meant to be a direct quasi-quotation of the sort of thing you get when people try to do a comic take on some of the well-known nicknames. A jokey remark by a cartoon character or a stand-up could be “We should be listening to The Erotica Symphony” without it forcing a reference to a full-fledged porn parody.

    Mark in Boston, I was bemused to see someone asking on an informational Q&A type site, ‘ Did Mozart give his “Elvira Madigan Concerto” that name?’. Though she was a real person, her lifetime was entirely after his; so, no.

  7. And over on the (Part 1) thread, there was this comment on the header picture:

    Am I the only one who thought Mr. Beethoven’s portrait was a “That’s Priceless” bit and was looking for a punchline?

    It was picked up (via google) from a site for that Third Symphony, and seems very fitting in its totally overcooked imposition for Beethoven’s attitude around the time of the Eroica.

  8. Well “Beethoven” and “birthday” together bring us this clip from Victor Borge

    (from his variations on the theme of “Happy Birthday”)

  9. Thanks, Grawlix, great fitting clip!
    And Victor Borge was the funniest Dane in English up to Sandi Toksvig 🙂 !

  10. I associate the opening of the Fifth Symphony with “V” because my father was in the Fifth Armored Division during the Second World War, and that was their callsign.

    I kept trying to interpret the nonstandard French as even-less-standard Spanish. It almost works, if you read “ses” as “es”, except that Spanish exchanged “can” for dog (from Latin canis, the source of chien) for the inexplicable “perro”, which just appeared with no antecedent.

  11. Sometimes you hear about the “Pathetic Sonata”. 🙂 Though maybe that is reserved for Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 .

  12. Carl says “I associate the opening of the Fifth Symphony with “V” because my father was in the Fifth Armored Division during the Second World War, and that was their callsign.”

    Just in case anybody is baffled by a missing step here, the Morse code for letter V is dot-dot-dot-dash. Which matches the rhythm of the opening motto in the Fifth.

  13. From https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/research/bbc-at-war/overseas-programming

    The BBC engaged in overt propaganda with its extraordinarily successful V-For-Victory campaign. The Belgian Service started it, exhorting listeners to adopt the V-sign as a rallying emblem. Soon the whole of the European Service had joined in, and with them audiences across the Continent. Placards and posters and chalked Vs appeared everywhere.

    The morse code for V - three dots and a dash - was replicated by the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It soon became the European Service's call sign and interval sign. Across Occupied Europe people hummed and whistled the tune, and in Britain the V made its way onto badges and other items. Prime Minister Churchill made the sign his trademark.

    At first the Nazis were enraged by the campaign but, in the end, recognising that they couldn't win, they adopted it as their own, putting a V on the Eiffel Tower, and renaming one of Prague's main thoroughfares Victoria Street.

    Not covered here, but elsewhere I have seen remarks that a part of the British adoption of that opening motto from the Fifth was a gesture that the English loved Beethoven and were not going to be turned against his music as part of any general avoidance of things German.

  14. @ Carl Fink – Beethoven must have been unusually prescient, or your teacher was pulling your leg. The 5th Symphony made its debut appearance in 1808, nearly 30 years before Morse “developed an early forerunner to the modern International Morse code” (in 1837). It is possible that the motif may have influenced Morse’s selection for “V”, but Wikipedia says that it was “coincidental”, and that the patterns were based on letter frequency tables.

  15. @ Carl – Sorry to misjudge it: I wasn’t sure whether you meant it skeptically or not, and I sure didn’t know the dates myself until I looked them up.

  16. “And Victor Borge was the funniest Dane in English up to Sandi Toksvig 🙂 !”

    Honorable mention to the First Gravedigger in HAMLET, who gets off a few classic kneeslappers like the theories on how “How long will a man lie i’ the earth ere he rots?” Comedic mold, er, ‘gold’ !

  17. PDQ Bach did the “Erotica Variations”.
    The old documentary series on the Navy during WW II, called Victory at Sea, used the “V” theme as its theme.
    The Peanuts strip is especially interesting because Beethoven was known to destroy pianos by banging on them with great force. Pianos were new back then, and not very sturdy.

  18. Peter Schickele, the scholar who “discovered” PDQ Bach, wrote a symphony under his own name, the “Unbegun Symphony.” It consists of only movements 3 and 4. He was born too late to begin writing it.

    He comments, “Many symphonies have nicknames. My friends gave this one the nickname ‘Pathetic Symphony.’ … I have a new set of friends now….”

  19. I have trouble hearing the ring tones on my cell phone. I therefore have two special loud ones – when Robert contacts me on my cell phone the James Bond theme plays, when any of our sisters, brothers in law, or niblings contact me – Ode to Joy plays. They were both loud enough for me to hear.

    When someone from our reenactment unit contacts me (rare) a recording of a harpsichord from Colonial Williamburg plays – for my embroidery chapter (even rarer) a violin concerto plays.

    It it rings – I know it is spam – if I hear it.

  20. I’m starting to feel what some of these “lights show” videos need is a shot or two of those buidlings, from the same vantage point, in the day. So when watching the lights you can get a better idea of the size and arrangements of the building and area.

  21. Ha, thanks Andrea. I actually did see that Elvira Madigan movie when it was new and in some movie theatres. The Mozart music became quite popular from that.

  22. Probably Beethoven’s most popular piece during his own lifetime was his Septet in E-flat major. How many of you have heard it?

  23. “I’ll play the sonata.”
    “What sonata?”
    “Nothing. What’s sonata with you?”

    Hastily changing subject: There’s a chaotic Monty Python sketch with John Cleese as Beethoven, trying to complete that four-note phrase while harassed by a missus with a vacuum cleaner, a fake parrot, and finally Mozart. Mozart is a very noisy rat exterminator.

  24. Ah. You were annoyed by the error and so made a Mynah correction to minor annoyance.

    (In the Python sketch, Beethoven was probably trying to write his 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C Mynah.)

Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.