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Idealist. Innovator. Icon.

★ ★ ★ ★ – The Times

★ ★ ★ ★ – The Telegraph

Against the backdrop of war and revolution raging in Europe and the United States, a young man grew up in Bonn inspired by the ideals of freedom, and went on to compose some of the greatest works of music ever written.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s work changed the course of music, but his journey wasn’t easy. He challenged conventions, battled the blank page and struggled with progressive hearing loss to become one of the most influential composers of all time.

See the mind of this creative genius at work through items belonging to the composer himself and manuscripts scrawled in his own distinctive hand. Discover how he blazed a trail as you pore over the frustrated scribbles and eureka moments in his sketchbook, his earliest known draft of a symphonic movement and surviving sketches of his much-loved Pastoral Symphony.

You’ll also have a chance to meet the man behind the music by getting close to the personal belongings that shine a light on his everyday life. His tuning fork, a pocket notebook he used to jot down his ideas, and even a hand-scrawled laundry list are featured in this small exhibition.

At the end of your journey, reflect on your own relationship with Beethoven’s music today, found in film, comics and literature. Learn how the Ninth Symphony – and its choral section based on Friedrich Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy – became the soundtrack to political and social movements worldwide, played everywhere from the Tiananmen Square student protests to the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Beethoven overcame great personal struggles to achieve musical triumph, and his music became a source of strength for others to overcome theirs. As Schiller, whom he revered so much, once wrote, ‘Pain is brief, joy is eternal.’

This exhibition features an installation with projected images which flash at a variety of frequencies and rates. This may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

The exhibition is supported by the Brian Mitchell Charitable Settlement.


Name: Beethoven
Where: PACCAR 2
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Opening times and visitor information
Price: Full Price: £8.00
Member: £0.00
Student: £4.00
Registered Unemployed: £4.00
Disabled: £5.00
National Art Pass Senior: £5.00
Child (0-11) : £0.00
Child (12-17): £5.00
National Art Pass: £5.00
Senior (60+): £4.00
Young Person (18-25): £4.00

A voluntary donation can be added over the regular ticket price. You will be helping the Library to conserve and share its collection. If you are a UK tax-payer and ‘Gift Aid’ your donation, the Library can reclaim the tax you have paid.

Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
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