Hope you are well on this fine hot August evening.
In researching for writing my Premiere Series of books highlighting great composers from the past, and since Ludwig van Beethoven is a prominent character in all of them so far, I ran across a very interesting account of a lock of his hair which now resides in the United States. The book Beethoven’s Hair by Russell Martin, published by Broadway Books, New York, 2000, is a well researched and well told saga about a lock of hair cut from the deceased composer’s head the day after his agonizing death.
Two weeks before, one of the great master’s good friends from earlier and healthier years came to visit. Johann Hummel also brought his student, Ferdinand Hiller who was able to converse with the composer as he was feeling relatively well on that day, March 8, 1827 and was able to sit up and enjoy his visitors.
After reuniting with his friend Hummel for several minutes, Beethoven’s attention turned to young Hiller. He asked him about his studies and marveled about how wonderful it was to see his good friend bringing his student to visit him. It reminded him of when his teacher, Joseph Haydn did the same with him, taking him to visit Mozart, after which the dying composer made an astute observation. He said that “art must be propagated ceaselessly.”
It is so good for us now to have that statement from one who had every reason to know what he was saying. It is fortunate for us that Herr Hiller wrote it in his journal as he recounted his visits with one of the greatest of all composers. It was also good that in the ensuing days, Ferdinand would return to visit the old dying master several more times, the last of which, the day after the master died, March 27, 1827, he also cut a lock of the dead man’s hair.
So how did the lock of hair get from Beethoven’s 1827 apartment in Vienna, Austria to San Jose, California where it resides in 2019? Read the book. It is a great story!
By for now.