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Beethoven’s Rage Over A Lost Penny

Rage Over A Lost Penny

Beethoven’s rage was as famous as his cantankerous household habits. He moved dozens of times, often the result of a dispute with the landlord. Beethoven had some workmen cut a hole in the stone wall of his rental apartment. He thought there was a fine view of the Cathedral that he was missing.

His landlord was a little perturbed. Beethoven didn’t bother to tell the landlord about his whimsical architectural alterations. Beethoven’s reaction was to get mad at the landlord, and immediately move to another apartment, leaving the huge hole in the stone wall.

Beethoven played the piano loudly, perhaps due to his deafness. The neighbors registered complaints about the great composer’s strange hours. He was famous for his disputes with his housekeepers. Because of this, he had trouble finding anyone who would work in a household in such constant turmoil.

A Noisy Tenant
There were complaints by neighbors of loud crashing noises as Beethoven threw plates and books at the maids. Beethoven often accused the maids of stealing coins from him. And the Maestro’s dining habits left much to be desired.

One housekeeper would bring him a tray of food only to find that it was untouched weeks later. Uneaten trays of food piled up in the corner, right next to stacks of scores of the great genius’s symphonies.

Eating At The Tavern 
But Beethoven was more likely to eat at the neighborhood pub than his lonely apartments. He was a fixture at the local bar and would drink red wine in his private booth. Beethoven entertained his small circle of friends here, and was gruff but courteous.

Screaming At The Maid
At one point Beethoven was composing his famed RONDO E CAPRICCIO, a booming and boisterous piece that exuded energy and vitality. One night a neighbor heard a loud dispute. Beethoven was in a rage, accusing a maid of stealing a gold penny. The maid ran out and was never heard from again.

The neighbor then heard furniture crashing, and he could only conclude that the great Maestro was tipping over furniture, madly looking for the lost gold penny. The story spread through the neighborhood, and became part of the legend of Beethoven’s bad moods and curmudgeonly behavior.

A Happy Piece In A Bad Mood 
But more remarkable is the fact that the piece Beethoven was composing at the time of this story, the RONDO E CAPRICCIO, became nicknamed the RAGE OVER A LOST PENNY for its rollicking, pounding enthusiasm. It remains one of Beethoven’s most cherished masterpieces, boisterous, happy and almost madcap.

Here’s Evgeny Kissin playing the Rondo: watch at 1:15 as he flawlessly navigates the treacherous broken arpeggios in the minor key variation.

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