Welcome to the Citi-Tunes™ Bonn Music Tour. This tour is a virtual journey to Bonn, birth town of world famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven and interim capital of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949-1991. Enjoy the historic setting and beautiful scenery while listening to music related to the past and present of Bonn. This is a unique tour if you love to learn about a city with eyes and ears wide open.

 

The free Bonn Musical Tour sneak preview contains 5 Bonn landmarks and 5 different soundtrack samples to give you an idea about what it's all about. Click on the music, read the texts, enjoy the views of Bonn through the pictures and imagine that you are there: strolling through the small streets of a city with 200 years of  history. 

Join this tour from ANY PLACE in the world. 

This is a short, free snippet of the full Citi-Tunes™ Music Tour for Bonn (under construction). Or book a walking tour with music for your stay in Bonn.

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1.STERNTOR & STERNGASSE

Buccina Ensemble - Praeludium-Te Deum
00:00 / 01:45

Medieval Construction

Sterntor is a replica construction of an original city gate from the first fortification, which was built by Archbishop and elector of Cologne Konrad von Hochstaden from 1244 onwards after he had left Cologne in a hurry and chose Bonn as his new "exile" residence. Bonn wasn't but a small settlement back then. There was no brick factory, either. Therefore, he "recycled" the bricks of an old Roman aqueduct. In Roman times, it had transported water from the Eifel hills to the former Roman camp, which had existed a short distance north of the present city center of Bonn at the river bank until about 300 AD. At the end of the 13th century, the city wall stretched all the way around the monastery town of "Oppidum Bonnense." The original Sterntor had been located at the end of Sterngasse.

 
In 1898, the Sterntor (Star gate), the last remaining gate of the town's former fortification, was demolished to improve traffic flow. Despite massive protests of the citizens and even intervention of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  It was not until two years later - in 1900 - that this replacement construction of the same name was built for demonstrative purposes at the north side of Bottlerplatz and on Vivatsgasse. It consists partly of remains of the former Sterntor and of a remnant of the city wall and its only preserved semicircular tower. The corner tower and the surrounding crenellations assign it to the historicism of the time. Ironically, the "fake gate" is now a listed building under monumental protection.

The Music

The Buccina Ensemble Bonn was founded in 1976 by Antonios Gerochristodoulou with a group of highly qualified brass players from well-known orchestras. It is named after the instrument buccina already known in ancient times and later forgotten. That is why Buccina Ensemble is unique in its kind today and has gained an excellent international reputation as an integral part of Bonn's cultural life. The artists play on original or rebuilt old instruments. They perform court music of the late Middle Ages, royal fanfares, and Renaissance music using buisine, clarino trumpet, ophicleide, keyed horns, Renaissance trombones, and Roman buccinas. Besides, works of the Classical and Romantic periods and the avant-garde are played on modern brass instruments. Their concert activity extends to chamber concerts, festivals, performances in castles and churches, at state receptions as well as on radio and television in Germany and abroad. Extensive tours have taken the Ensemble through France, Mongolia, Venezuela, India, Korea, and the USA. 

Buisines (natural trumpet) are mentioned from the 11th to the 16th century; as an instrument, the buisine is probably of Arabic origin and found its way to Europe during the Crusades in the 12th century. The buisine was the preferred instrument for festive processions, representative occasions, and military purposes in war and combat operations. Only wind players who were in the service of a king, prince or nobleman were allowed to play them. It can be assumed that buisines were played when the first Cologne Elector arrived in Bonn in the 13th century with his entourage. 

Here, Buccina Ensemble plays one of the most famous works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 - 1704). It is the central theme from the prelude to his Te Deum, which is now used as a fanfare during television broadcasts on Eurovision. Charpentier was a French composer at the time of Louis XIV. Sterngasse in Bonn is a living document for the disastrous consequences of this French king's attempted expansion into the Rhineland. After his advance to install his partisan and treacherous Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg as the new elector of Cologne had failed, Louis XIV sent 4000 soldiers to Bonn. In the ensuing war between France and an alliance of the German Reich, Spain, Holland, and England, Bonn was utterly destroyed in 1689 (think: flattened to the ground including the city archive). The narrow houses at Sterngasse were built after this war, people had no means and energy left to rebuild the large townhouses Bonn had known before.  

Did you enjoy the music? It's available here: Buccina

2.LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN

Short_Beethoven - Piano Quartet in E-Fla
00:00 / 01:29

BONNGASSE 515

Birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in this building, so today it is named the Beethoven-Haus. The Beethoven family only lived here for three years, but as all other houses where Ludwig lived during his youth are destroyed, it serves today as a museum and sees over 100.000 visitors per year. The Beethoven-Haus Bonn Association, founded in 1889, had saved the building from destruction. Today, the association is considered one of the leading national and international Beethoven Centres. Its mission is to keep Beethoven's life, work, and influence alive. In addition to the museum, the cultural institution includes the world's most important Beethoven collection, an extensive digital archive, a musicological research department, a library and publishing house, and the chamber music hall Hermann J. Abs with a year-round program. ​You can find all the information here.

Beethoven in Bonn

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The composer Beethoven was the second born son of Maria Magdalena and Johan van Beethoven. However, due to the infant death of his firstborn brother, he was, in fact, the oldest living child in the family. Presumably, as there were no personal register files back then, he was born on the 16th of December, 1770, in the attic of the rear building at Bonngasse 515. Church records prove that he was baptized Louis or Ludwig on the 17th of December 1770. This was also the first name of his highly respected grandfather, his primary role model, idolized in the family, to the detriment of his father’s standing. Ludwig’s mother is reported to have said: “You are like your grandfather, a great man. Do as he did.“ The grandfather had “transplanted“ the Beethoven clan from Belgium (Mechelen) to the Rhine in 1733 to work at the electoral court chapel, first as a singer and later as the director of music.

Master in the making

The Beethoven family was not wealthy, but they were not destitute either. They tried to supplement their modest salary with a wine-trade business, his father later being the best customer who overshot the mark with drinking eventually. In most biographies about Ludwig van Beethoven, his father is described as a tenor with only mediocre talent. However, he seems to have been a well-respected member of the court chapel, and a trusted music teacher for well-off citizens and nobles in Bonn. His father definitely showed enough musical expertise to recognize his son’s exceptional talent at an early age. Maybe his motivation was to reap the fame with his son that he had been denied, but he started his son on the path he was destined to walk. At the age of four, little Ludwig was on his way to becoming a child prodigy and celebrated piano virtuoso. His father’s educational measures were rough at times, but not unusual for the time and culture in Germany in those days.


Even though there were tears to be seen occasionally, little Ludwig found great joy in making music, and the training soon bore fruit. At the age of 8, he successfully gave his first public concert and achieved regional fame as a child prodigy. His father also proved to be self-aware enough to realize that his abilities as a singer would not be sufficient for the appropriate training of his son’s instrumentalist talent, and he began to look for suitable teachers.


The court orchestra of the Elector of Cologne in Bonn was one of the best in the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation at that time. Still, good teachers were hard to come by in a provincial town like Bonn, and they had to be paid. Thus, for some years, young Beethoven was alternately taught by various regional musician friends of his father, some of whom had questionable qualifications, and several of them were paid with wine. Compared with the sophisticated training of Mozart and the likes, his training program at a moderate level was somewhat unstructured. Surprisingly, it did have certain advantages. Young Ludwig gained realistic insights into the harsh realities of a musician’s life. Also, through numerous spontaneous “jam sessions” with his father’s musician friends and wine supplies in their home, Ludwig gained the vital insight that “fantasy makes the true musical artist “. After his relocation to Vienna, his talent to produce wizard-like, courageous, and surprising improvisations on the piano opened the doors for him to the higher society. Beethoven didn’t start out as a composer. He was a Wunderkind at the piano and a professional musician before starting to compose his masterpieces in Vienna.

Ludwig had also taken lessons at the organ and the violin. When Christian Gottlob Neefe moved from Leipzig to Bonn in 1782 to become court organist and Kapellmeister, Ludwig finally received a mentor who put his education on a solid footing. Since Neefe was a busy man, Beethoven, 11 years old by then, was allowed and expected to stand in for Neefe as organist, to accompany the singers at rehearsals on the piano and play continuo at performances and orchestra concerts. As was customary at the time, he had to do this without wages in return for lessons. But it paid off eventually. At the age of 14, Ludwig was officially appointed second court organist next to Neefe by the Elector. With his annual income of 150 florins, he increased the family's income by 50 %! Needless to say, this gave him self-confidence, and he was proudly wearing his uniform.

Education

Ludwig's school education, however, fell somewhat by the wayside. In arithmetic, his life-long experience only extended to addition and subtraction, i.e., multiplication remained a cumbersome addition for him. But he could count all the better, and negotiate hard, and died a relatively wealthy man. The spelling in his letters was often described by the recipients as “adventurous.” In particular, he wrote “emotionally.” Capitalization was an emphasis on the importance of what was said, not a consequence of German grammatical rules.


However, he did want to educate himself, took private lessons, and was connected to a circle of people who would provide him with top-notch intellectual input. In 1786 the – “enlightened “- Elector Maximilian Franz raised the Bonn Academy, founded in 1777, to the status of University. It quickly gained a reputation as an institution whose teachers were sympathetic to the ideas of the “Enlightenment.“ Thus, the list of Bonn’s Illuminati and it’s successor organization founded in 1787, the Reading Society, includes numerous respectable citizens, including the music teachers of Ludwig van Beethoven, Christian Gottlob Neefe, and Franz Anton Ries. They supported Ludwig’s career and connected him to the great thinkers and new ideas of the time. It was in Bonn where he encountered the “Ode to Joy“ by Friedrich Schiller and already decided then and there to set it to music. It would be another friend from Bonn who eventually ordered the 9th symphony, where Beethoven then realized his early decision (see Alter Zoll).

Tragic hits the family

In 1787, Ludwig was sent to Vienna for the first time, to study with Mozart, but he had to return untimely as his mother was dying. After the death of his mother and his only sister in 1787, Ludwig’s father fell completely into drunkenness. He was released from his job at the electoral choir and was to be sent to an institution. Ludwig was able to prevent this, but in 1787 he was faced with the heavy burden of being appointed guardian not only of his two younger brothers but also of his father! He was paid half of his father’s salary and his own salary as 2nd court organist, so he could keep the family above water. He continued to work as an organist, and in 1789 he was accepted into the court chapel playing the viola.

Preparation for Vienna

In 1792, on his return journey from London to Vienna, Joseph Haydn also stopped in Bonn, where young Ludwig van Beethoven was introduced to him in a concert at the Redoute-Palais in Godesberg by Johann Peter Salomon (see below). After Ludwig had also shown him one of his cantatas, Haydn was obviously impressed and invited him to study with him in Vienna.

Ludwig’s benefactors in Bonn managed to convince the Elector that it was paramount to send the young virtuoso to Vienna to study. Count of Waldstein even convinced the Elector to continue paying Ludwig his salary plus some pocket-money. This would be a good investment in the quality of the court chapel, as Ludwig would no doubt return after a couple of years to become the best Kapellmeister the electoral court had seen to date. Those were the plans and Beethoven’s dream that he would continue in the footsteps of his beloved grandfather.

Waldstein, a fierce admirer and promoter of the young talent, wrote letters of recommendation for Ludwig to the most influential figures of the noblesse in Vienna to open the doors for him. He also wrote this famous dedication: Through uninterrupted diligence, you will receive now Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands. Anton Ries again agreed to look after Ludwig’s two younger brothers while Ludwig would be away studying. On the 2nd of November 1792, Ludwig van Beethoven begins his journey to Vienna, unaware that he would never see his beloved home town again. But his friends from his youth in Bonn would be essential throughout his whole life. They would support him in many ways, and some stayed at his side until his death bed.

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Birthplace of Johann Peter Salomon

25 years before Beethoven, the front-house of Bonngasse 515 saw the birth of another musician who would come to play a role in Beethoven’s career path and life.
Johann Peter Salomon (1745-1815) was a contemporary and friend of Ludwig’s grandfather. From 1758 to 1764, he was a violinist in the court orchestra in Bonn, and moved on to become the concertmaster in the orchestra of Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of Frederick the Great, in Rheinsberg (Mark Brandenburg). After the orchestra’s dissolution, Salomon went to London in 1781, where he became famous as a quartet player and concert promoter, and where he eventually co-founded the London Philharmonic Society.
It was Salomon who had persuaded Haydn to travel to London in 1791. He also arranged for them to have a stopover in Bonn on their return journey. Salomon made sure that the young Beethoven had a chance to introduce himself to the grand-master Haydn. In the course of this encounter, Haydn invited Beethoven to study with him in Vienna. After Ludwig had achieved some fame in Vienna, Salomon arranged for Beethoven’s works to be published by an English publisher, thereby making Beethoven also known in London. The “small town in Germany“ had provided the famous composer with a reliable long-term network of relationships.

The Music

Beethoven wrote his most famous compositions in Vienna. Bonn had known him as a highly talented musician. However, his teacher Neefe encouraged Beethoven to compose early on. The first composition, the Dressler Variations (WoO 63), was published in 1782 when Ludwig was 12 years old. He composed three piano sonatas (Kurfürstensonaten WoO 47) in 1782/1783 and three piano quartets (WoO 36) in 1785, written when the composer was 15. They are among the most substantial of Beethoven's earliest compositions, and you hear Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, WoO 36, No. 1 - II. Allegro con spirito, performed by the Milander Quartett. The pieces were not printed until 1828 in Vienna, and they are the only works Beethoven composed for this ensemble.

Beethoven also had to compose and perform his own fugue for organ for his exam as the second organist at the court chapel (see Remigius Church)

In 1790, nineteen years old, Ludwig was asked to compose a funeral cantata for the death of Emperor Joseph II (WoO 87). It was intended for a memorial service for the deceased Emperor to be held in Bonn. Beethoven was nineteen when he started composing the cantata, but it was neither published nor apparently performed. It premiered in Vienna in November 1884, fifty-seven years after Beethoven's death, and it was first printed in 1888. Later, he composed a coronation cantata for the new Emperor Leopold II. (see Remigius Church). While neither of these works was performed during his lifetime, having composed them proved to be enough for impressing Joseph Haydn to accept him as his pupil.

Did you enjoy the music? It's available here: Beethoven Quartett

3.HEINE MEMORIAL

Schumann Op.48 - 7. Ich grolle nicht
00:00 / 01:36
Schumann_Heine - Die Lorelei (excerpt)
00:00 / 01:01

Heinrich Heine in Bonn

Heinrich Heine is considered one of the most important German poets, writers, and literary critics from the 19th century. He attended the Prussian Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn from 1819 to 1820 to study law, but found that he was more interested in history and literature. The university had engaged the literary critic and thinker August Wilhelm Schlegel as a lecturer, and Heine heard him talk about the Nibelungenlied and Romanticism. He also attended lectures by Ernst Moritz Arndt (see Alter Zoll). Later, he mocked both men in poems and short stories. He describes in detail how Schlegel celebrated his lectures almost like a church service, with a servant having to place two chandeliers next to his desk before Schlegel entered the lecture hall himself. Besides, Jewish-born Heine was undoubtedly “underwhelmed“ by the clearly antisemitic opinions of a National Socialist like Ernst Moritz Arndt. The young poet did not always study diligently either, as he admitted to occasionally “neglecting the muses for the sake of beautiful breasts.” His dedication verse to an unknown recipient: 

Are you acquainted with dames, Keep silence, friend, and do not give names: 

For their sake, if they are noble, For your sake, if they are common.

While in Bonn, Heine translated works by the romantic English poet Lord Byron into German. Bonn was receiving a rising number of tourists every year, mainly from England. They were traveling up and down the Rhine while reading Lord Byron’s poems and wallowing in romantic feelings in the face of the beautiful landscape with castles, vineyards, and little villages. Heine is considered the “last poet of the Romantic period” who also ended it by making fun of the Romantic obsession in poems like the following:

A mistress stood by the sea, sighing long and anxiously.
She was so deeply stirred, By the setting sun

My Fräulein!, be gay, This is an old play;
ahead of you it sets, And from behind it returns

Liberal students at the University of Bonn, Heine among them, were at war with the conservative authorities during the first half of the 19th century. Most German states were absolutist monarchies with a censored press, and they opposed German unification out of fear that a united Germany might adopt revolutionary ideas. The liberals wanted to replace absolutism with a representative, constitutional government, equality before the law, and a free press. One of the first things Heine did after his arrival in Bonn was to take part in a parade that violated the Carlsbad Decrees, a series of measures introduced by Metternich to suppress “anti-conservative” political activity.

THE MONUMENT

The monument was unveiled in 1982. The raw granite block with a polished inner plate engraved with the poet’s name bears the signature of sculptor Ulrich Rückriem. The city bought the artwork from him for a straightforward reason, the bargain price of 70,000 DM. “The financial terms are extremely favorable since a work of this size today costs around 120,000 to 150,000 marks,” wrote the city administration, when questioned about the matter. 

I don’t know what it could mean

What is it supposed to represent? An entrance to a tomb? Heine did indeed spend his last 8 years paralyzed in a “tomb,” “The mattress-grave,” as he coined it. “I love flowers very much,” was Heine’s last coherent sentence on his deathbed. Granite he got...

Like many other memorials in Germany, also this monument seems like a German fist in the sensitive eye of a poet who created many of Germany’s most famous poems, not least the “Loreley”. The granite block doesn’t seem to be a good match for Heine’s cheerful mockery of German philistinism, not for his devoted love songs, his transfigurations of Romanticism or the fierce critic of religious bigotry. Revenge? The Rhineland, still under Catholic rule today, was maybe not amused about mockery of this kind from his sickbed:

Because of thy inconsistency, O Lord, Allow me to lose my wits:

You create the happiest poet, and rob him of his good spirits.

 

Pain dulls the serene mind, And makes me melancholic;

Does not the sad fun come to an end, I might even end up Catholic.

 

I’ll cry my eyes out for you, Like other decent Christians

Oh, misery! Lost is, The best of all comedians!”

 

Berlin-based magazine “De Schnüss“ attempted to get an explanation from the sculptor himself.

Rückriem apparently had done a lot of thinking about his artwork. Some statements still leave room for confusion, though: “I actually did it out of anger about how crappy the other monuments in Düsseldorf and Hamburg are.” Or: “It could have been for anybody,“ and “It is also incredibly difficult today to make monuments at all.“ In the end, he called to mind what Heine once said about Goethe, that “instead of erecting so many monuments to him, one should rather read him.“ Rückriem thinks this also applies to Heine: “The best monument is what he wrote.”

The German word for monument or memorial is “Denkmal,“ which translates as “Think about it“ or “Just think.“ It might be the perfect „Denkmal“ for a poet of the stature of Heinrich Heine, after all. 

Who was Heinrich Heine anyway?

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Christian Johann Heinrich (Harry) Heine was born in Düsseldorf to Jewish parents (1797 – 1856). Next to Goethe and Schiller, he is today considered one of the most important German poets from the 19th century. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyrical poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs, see section „The Music“ below). Heine used everyday language to create lyrics with an elegant lightness previously unknown in the German language.

Through his writings, the travelogue became an art form, and Die Harzreise, published in 1826, was his first great success with the public. In 1827 (Beethoven’s year of death), "Buch der Lieder", a complete edition of Heine's poetry up to that time was published. The basic theme of unhappy, unfulfilled love, and the romantic tone of these and later poems struck a chord not only with his time.

His later verse and prose are characterized by satirical wit and irony, to attack despotism and reactionary chauvinism, the narrow-mindedness of ordinary people and the rising nationalism in Germany. Exiled in Paris, he experienced the contrast between French and German nationalism first hand, and he proved himself a true prophet who knew his Germans well. Heine recognized the destructive streak in German nationalism, which he perceived to be driven by the hatred of everything foreign. He predicted a „Teutonic thunder,“ 99 years before the Nazi Party seized power. In 1834, he wrote in his work "The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany":  

"Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."

His political views and satirical attacks led to many of his works being banned by German authorities—which, however, only added to his fame, and he retaliated in style:

 

Upper line of text: The German censors - - -       

 

 

 

Middle Line of text: - - -Idiots - - -       

For obvious reasons, he spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate abroad, in Paris. The most famous of Heine’s political poems was Die schlesischen Weber (“The Silesian Weavers”), based on the uprising of weavers in Peterswaldau in 1844. It was published in the new journal Vorwärts of Karl Marx, a distant relative of Heine’s, who also settled in Paris after his publications were banned in Prussia and he had become “persona non grata.“ Ultimately, Heine’s ideas of revolution and Marx’s scientific socialism were incompatible, but both men shared their distrust in the bourgeoisie.

Dichterliebe – A Poet’s love

In 1834, Heine found a lifelong female companion in Augustine Crescence Mirat, a French shoe saleswoman he met in Paris who he named Mathilde. Their life together was sometimes turbulent, but Heine held her in high esteem, although - or perhaps because - Mathilde was not well educated and spoke no German. Therefore, she had no clear idea of his standing as a poet. The following saying of her’s was handed down: “My husband was always writing poems, but I don’t think that this was worth much because he was never satisfied with it.” Heine interpreted this ignorance as a sign that Mathilde loved him as a person, and not as the prominent poet. They lived together from 1834, and he married her 7 years later. When Heine, during his last days, overheard her pray to God “please forgive my husband”, he reassured her that “certainly God will forgive me, after all, that is his job.“

 

Heine’s poem “Nachtgedanken“ (1843) is famous for the often-quoted opening verse…

"Thinking of Germany in the night, I lie awake and sleep takes flight.

No longer I can close an eye, Tears gather and I start to cry.

 

The last verse is dedicated to Mathilde:

Thank God! Through my windows bright, Breaks cheerfully the French daylight;

Here comes my wife, fair as the dawn, And smiles away the German mourn.”

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Exiled forever

On July 8, 1899, a beautiful Loreley Fountain was erected in the Bronx in New York. How this memorial, originally intended for Düsseldorf, ended up in New York, is a very German story that needs to be told, especially as it is closely connected to a personality from Bonn:

The monument was first commissioned in the 1880s by no other than Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary – Germans often affectionately call her Sissi. She worshiped Heine and commissioned the sculptor Ernst Herter to create a fountain - for Heine’s birthplace Düsseldorf.

 

But Düsseldorf didn’t want the fountain. Nationalistic and anti-Semitic voices did not want to erect a monument to Heine in his home town. He was still considered Jewish (despite having converted to Protestantism in 1825), and his openly critical and liberal attitude polarized, as it had done during his lifetime, also after his death. For years, the „German Reich“ discussed the design of the monument. However, above all, they argued whether the “Jew” Heinrich Heine deserved a memorial at all. Eventually, Sissi abandoned the project, and the city council followed shortly after. In the end, the anti-Semitic propaganda prevented any memorial from being inaugurated anywhere in the “Reich” for Heinrich Heine’s 100th birthday in 1897. 

 

However, sculptor Herter was not one to give up easily. He collected donations and was determined to complete the fountain. And suddenly, out of the blue, an inquiry arrived from New York. Some emigrated German “fourty-eighters“ had heard about the dispute over the monument. Among them were liberal Heine fans such as the former US Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz (an emigrated revolutionary who had studied and “revolted” in Bonn, see Bonn University), and a German choir named Arion in New York. They wanted to bring the fountain to the New World - with success. Ernst Herter finally created his Loreley fountain made of white Tyrolean marble. He then shipped himself together with the monument to New York, where it was unveiled in the Bronx in his presence. There he was, the famous poet, exiled again. Even his memorial after his death.

The Music

There is no other poet whose lyrics have been set to music as often as Heine’s. The number of Lied-compositions based on Heine’s lyrics reached its peak almost 30 years after his death, in 1884 - with a total of 1093 pieces by 538 musicians and composers. Never before and never again afterward have more works by a single poet become the foundation of musical compositions in a single year.

Metzner's bibliography registers a total of 6,833 musical settings based on Heine’s lyrics, including works by Franz Schubert, Robert and Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Pjotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin, Wendelin Weißheimer, Alma Mahler-Werfel and Charles Ives. Liederkreis (op. 24) and Dichterliebe (op. 48) by Robert Schumann as well as Schwanengesang (D 957) by Franz Schubert are part of the regular repertoire in concert halls all over the world. Even today composers use his lyrics for compositions. 

 

The most popular and best-known Heine setting in Germany is most likely Friedrich Silcher’s melody for the Heine poem “Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten”, known as Die Lorelei, presented here by the Radio Leipzig Male Choir. During the 3rd Reich disaster, its popularity posed a severe challenge to Hitler’s henchmen. Heinrich Heine’s works were banned and burned, but as this song could not be banned, Heine was discredited as the author of the text, to dismiss and hide Jewish contribution to German art and culture. The song continued to be performed with the remark “author unknown”.

Heinrich Heine would have had every reason to “hold grudges,“ but it seems he kept his composure despite all adversities until his death. Therefore, here the song “Ich grolle nicht” (I hold no grudges) from the Lied-cycle Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann. The Lied is sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, accompanied on the piano by Christoph Eschenbach.

Did you enjoy the music? It's available here: Dichterliebe   Die Lorelei

4.SCHÄL SICK

Querbeat - Dä Plan_short
00:00 / 01:14

The Other Side

Schäl sick is a term still commonly used in the Rhineland today to describe the other side of the Rhine from the viewpoint of the observer. The word does have a connotation of the "bad" or even "wrong side." In Bonn, the term Schäl Sick refers to the districts on the right bank of the Rhine, especially Beuel, at the other end of the Kennedy Bridge. For centuries, the Rhine formed the border between empires, states, religions, and jurisdictions. While Christianity was able to spread widely in the Roman territories on the Western banks, the Germanic tribes on "the other side" of the Rhine (meaning towards the East) remained unaffected for a long time. The Christians on the left side of the Rhine regarded the inhabitants on the Eastern bank as pagans who paid homage to Odin, a supposedly one-eyed, cross-eyed (schielen = schäl) Germanic god, whom they considered deceitful, treacherous and unpredictable.  The Schäl Sick would, therefore, be the side of the Rhine where the uncultivated barbarians lived. Later it was Catholics against Protestants or France against Prussia.

The washerwomen of Beuel and the tradition of “Weiberfastnacht”

The world is a dirty cloth that even the washerwomen from Beuel cannot get clean.”

The Rhineland provinces are famous for their Fifth Season, and Bonn is among the strongholds of the Rhineland carnival. Carnival has been celebrated in the Rhineland for about 800 years. Initially, the names were "fasnacht," "fastelovend," "vasenacht" or also "vastavend", derived from “Fastnacht,” the “night before Lent,” which makes clear that one purpose is to have a last big party before the 40 days of Lent start. The Carnival time called “Session” is opened each year on the "Eleventh of the Eleventh" at " eleven o'clock eleven" at the Bonn market place. This part of Carnival takes place in inside venues.

Street carnival is nowadays officially opened on Carnival Thursday, also called Women’s Carnival or Weiberfastnacht in German. The birthplace of this particular tradition is Beuel, the “village” opposite Bonn on the Schäl Sick of the river Rhein.

In the 19th century, Beuel was known for its contract laundries, operated by the washerwomen of the village. In the beginning, washing was done by hand in the flowing water of the Rhine. The root of the soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) was used for cleaning, and the "Beueler Duft" (fragrance from Beuel) was well-known and desired up and down the Rhine. After the washing, wringing had to be done. For bleaching, the cloth was spread out in the sun on the meadows along the river banks. Then, two women had to work together to stretch the sheets, and eventually the laundry was hung on hemp ropes for drying. With large linens, sheets, and pieces of laundry doubling their weight when wet, this was hard work. With the arrival of the steamships from 1816 onward, Rhine tourism picked up speed, and more hotels needed the laundry services from Beuel, all the way to Cologne. Later, washtubs were introduced, and in 1907, the first drum washer was put to work with the laundry detergent Persil (perborate + silicate), still a household name today.

The men were responsible for delivering the clean laundry to the wealthy cities on the left side of the Rhine (until 1898 by boat), had to collect the money and return with the dirty laundry to Beuel. However, on Carnival Thursday, the men regularly got stuck with the carnival crowds. This resulted in an interruption of the workflow back in Beuel with neither men nor dirty laundry returning to the “schäl sick” of the river. Also, the women were angry at the men who drank away their truly hard-earned money. In 1824, several female launderers decided to retaliate and to break the male dominance in the carnival. They sat down together for a cup of Muckefuck (barley coffee), ate fat-baked Muzen (doughnuts), and exchanged news about gross violations of their men against domestic peace, marital fidelity, and against the reasonable use of alcohol. They agreed on demands for better working conditions. Since they were now in the majority in the village, they claimed this fat Thursday for themselves. In order not to be recognized personally, they started to disguise themselves and smeared soot on their faces. Men who were unfortunate enough to cross their path on that day were shooed into the Rhine with their trousers pulled down (Botz erav). Today, men get their ties cut off on Women’s Thursday (seasoned Bonn males are prepared and wear old or expendable ties on this day). Since 1949, each year, the town hall is taken over by the women at noon sharp, and 1958 saw the first laundry princess (who still has to wash a men's trousers to prove herself worthy of the honor).

In 1898, the first bridge between Bonn and Beuel was opened, a beautifully ornamented iron construction by Bruno Möhring. A massive construction project and the original idea had been that Bonn and Beuel pay for the project together. However, Beuel dropped out and so the bridge was built by Bonn alone. Whoever used it had to pay a fee to refinance the loans. To remind Beuel of their "cowardly withdrawal", the "Bröckemännche" was installed at one of the bridge's pillars on the Bonn side, a small "stone man" sticking it's behind out to the Beuel citizens at the other side. As a counterattack, Beuel installed a "Bröckeweibche" on their side, a menacing washerwoman with one raised arm, holding a shoe. Sadly, the beautiful bridge was destroyed in World War II and wasn't rebuilt. However, Bröckemännche and Bröckeweibche have been reinstalled, and the eternal conflict between this side and the other side of the Rhine continues, albeit in a toned-down symbolic form.

The Music

Carnival and music are inseparable, and carnival music is a particular type of music that is sometimes hard to digest outside of the fifth season. The purpose of the music is to bring the carnival folks (called Jecken) together, get them to sing along, dance, and sway to new hits or traditional favorites. The music has “Schmiss,” as they call it in German: rhythm is simple and hard to escape, texts are not designed to win the Pulitzer Prize, but they are witty and often take up public issues and concerns in a fun way. Their job is to get folks into the right mood and allow them to have a happy party time. Carnival singers, songwriters, and bands are local celebrities and typically have a dedicated crowd of fans following them around during the carnival season.

In 2001, Querbeat came together as a school brass band at the catholic Kardinal Frings Gymnasium (KFG) in Bonn-Beuel, an institution founded in 1964 as Erzbischöfliches Gymnasium Beuel (EBG) by Archbishop of Cologne, Josef Kardinal Frings. Seven of the thirteen current members are former students of the KFG. First, the band played mainly at city festivals in Bonn. After they had joined the Cologne Carnival in 2007, broadcasts on regional television and radio followed. During the carnival session 2017/2018, the group already had roughly 180 performances. In spring 2017, they started their first Germany tour; in October of the same year, they played three evenings in a row in front of a total of 12,000 people. This concert was broadcast on WDR television and is available as a live DVD. In 2016, the band's first album with self-written songs followed under the title Fettes Q. You hear “Dä Plan” from the same album. Bonn Alaaf!

Did you enjoy the music? It's available here: Querbeat

5. ARP MUSEUM & INTERIOR no. 253

Peter Materna - Blue In Green_short
00:00 / 01:23

The Area

Officially, this venue is no longer part of Bonn (15 km South), and it’s actually located in another German state, Rhineland-Palatinate. However, everybody in Bonn knows the Arp Museum and the fancy restaurant Interior no. 253 in the historic train station of Rolandseck. The complex is a perfect venue for an upscale cultural or culinary experience, personal festivities, or for impressing business guests.

The train station came first.

 A large, representative building in the middle of nowhere? The answer lies in the history of the Rhine Valley. In the 19th century, the Rhine, with its mythical landscape, was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. The area, Bonn especially, was also much sought-after as a place to live: wealthy industrialists from Cologne, Düsseldorf, Krefeld and the entire Ruhr area built their residences here, enjoying the so-called "Rhenish Riviera".

In 1856, the private Bonn-Cologne railway company extended its line from Cologne via Bonn-Bad Godesberg to Rolandseck. This shortened the travel time from the industrialist Ruhr area to Rolandseck from a full-day carriage ride to a four-hour train journey. The magnificent building served as the reception hall for celebrities and high-end travelers visiting the Rhine valley who switched from the railway to the Rhine ships. Rolandseck was chosen as the location for the railway station because of its unique location near the legendary Rolandsbogen and the magnificent view of the Siebengebirge and the Drachenfels, fully corresponding to the romantic ideas of the time.

Among the celebrity visitors were Queen Victoria of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Chancellor Bismarck. Writers such as Heinrich Heine, Karl Simrock, the fairytale-brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as well as Friedrich Nietzsche also visited the station. Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann gave concerts here. George Bernhard Shaw moved the scene of a theatre play to the station, and Guillaume Apollinaire wrote a large part of his poems written in Germany in Rolandseck.

After WWII, the once magnificent station building on the Rhine became increasingly dilapidated and was finally threatened with demolition. Shortly before this happened, the wealthy Bonn gallery owner Johannes Wasmuth (1936 - 1997) discovered the building in 1964 and began to realize his idea of an art venue. With the support of numerous prominent friends and artists, Wasmuth founded the society "arts and music" in 1965.

Station rooms were converted into work and living spaces, where artists could live, perform, and work free of charge for a longer time. British artist Stephen McKenna painted the station toilets with eccentric motifs, leaving behind a lasting memory of the time of the artists' station in the Bonn Republic. The station attracted the “who is who” of the cultural scene like Martha Argerich, Leonard Bernstein, the Russian Pianists Elisabeth Leonskaja and Swjatoslaw Richter, Jazz-Star Duke Ellington, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Pantomime Marcel Marceau, to name just a few.

 

Today, the restored former ballroom of the station with stucco ceilings and large crystal chandeliers hosts café, bistro, and restaurant for the Arp Museum. The interior was designed by Anton Henning. The outdoor terrace still offers a stunning view of the Rhine and the Siebengebirge with the Dragon's Rock and is very crowded on weekends (reservation recommended)

Since 2007, the Arp museum resides in a modernist building by the American architect Richard Meier above the train station. The four exhibition levels with a total of 2,900 m² are used for changing presentations, including exhibitions of international visual art, classical concerts, a summer chamber music festival, discussions with artists, and readings by prominent authors. The focus is on the art of Hans Arp & Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Special exhibitions show sculptures and paintings by contemporary artists in dialogue with these works. In addition, the museum presents paintings from the Rau Collection for UNICEF. This art collection currently comprises around 230 works by artists such as Lucas Cranach, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Max Liebermann and August Macke, with an estimated value of several hundred million euros. The doctor Gustav Rau, who died in 2002, bequeathed it to UNICEF in his will. 95 works, the core of the collection, must remain together until 2026 and be exhibited in the Arp Museum. The other 135 works of art are to be sold gradually for the benefit of the UNICEF foundation.

The Music

Peter Materna (*1965) is nationally and internationally known for his mature saxophone technique, his dynamically differentiated playing, his almost classical balance and his warm tone has already been compared to that of Paul Desmond, but also has borrowings from Scandinavian jazz. On the other hand, Peter Materna convinces as an exciting virtuoso player and uncompromisingly modern improviser.

 

He studied classical and jazz saxophone in Cologne (Musikhochschule) and Essen (Folkwang-Hochschule) until he graduated in 1992, when his first album, "Jazz Contract", was released, followed by eight more. Materna founded his own quartet in 1989, with whom he stayed together for 20 years. In 1998, he began his trio work with a commission from the International Beethoven Foundation, which coined the term "chamber music jazz". In 2006 his trio album "3" was released, in 2010 the album "The Dancer" with Yayo Morales and Henning Sieverts, in spring 2013 the new trio album with Florian Weber and Henning Sieverts. Currently Peter Materna presents his solo project "at arp museum Bahnhof Rolandseck" (Jazzhaus). You hear Blue in Green from the same album.

Since 2010, Peter Materna has also been artistic and managing director of the "Jazzfest Bonn", a new format that gives creative, contemporary jazz a stage in front of sold-out houses in the city on the Rhine.

Did you enjoy the music? It's available here:  Materna

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