Today is not Beethoven’s birthday

Today is not Beethoven’s birthday


norman lebrecht

December 16, 2019

Simpe fact: we don’t know when he was born.

All we have is the baptismal record, demonstrating that he was brought to church on December 17, 1770.

He could have been born any time in the first half of December that year, or even in November.

Either way, he does not turn 250 for another full year, so hold back those box sets, will you?



  • Daniel Poulin says:

    A few biographers (Jean & Brigitte Massin amongst them) are pretty sure Dec.16 is the b/day. The year 1770 is not in dispute although Beethoven himself long thought he was two years younger (1772) and descendant of a noble family.

  • Rich says:

    ‘Ludwig [van Beethoven] was born in [Bonn], at 15 Bonngasse, on or about December 16, 1770. The date is not definite. However, Catholic parishes of the period required neonate babies to be brought to the font within twenty-four hours, and on December 17 his baptism was registered at the church of St. Regimus.’

    Edmund Morris, Beethoven: The Universal Composer (London: HarperPress, 2007), 12.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      You are correct about what the Catholic church wanted. In practise, however, it could be several days before the baby was baptized.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The reason of that 24 hrs window is that the church wanted to prevent children from dying before they could be baptised, thus throwing them into purgatory or worse. Much has changed for the better since those times.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The hyping of irrelevant ‘facts’ around famous composers is sickening, and totally irrelevant. He was born, that should be enough.

  • Piano fan says:

    No one knows for certain when Jesus of Nazareth was born – not the month nor even the year. For that matter, it’s entirely possible he never actually existed. But most of the Christian world still celebrates Christmas on 25th December.

    And most music lovers would find the fact that people are still buying boxed sets of his music to be a good thing.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The idea that Christ was also a composer never crossed my mind.

      All information concerning JC comes from the early Christian communities and are not confirmed by other, independent sources. But the question of his real existence is less important than the narratives of the New Testament.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Jesus of Nazareth did exist; he is a real historical figure. And his existence is attested outside the early Christian community (despite what Bore-slap claims). Christians, of course, make additional claims beyond his mere existence (which non-Christians don’t believe).

      • John Borstlap says:

        There does not exist a written independent source confirming the story of the early christian communities. Also Roman sources which mention JC merely describe what those early communities believe.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Obviously, it doesn’t really matter, although the Peanuts cartoon strip often made a big point of it.

    I’m an avid stargazer and, when observing on the 16th or 17th, I make a point of observing a star known as 18 Delphini. It is about 249 light years away, so the light reaching me left around the time of his birth.

    The star was formally named Musica by the International Astronomical Union on 15 December 2015.

  • Derek says:

    My partner’s mother was born on December 16th.

    She is Beethoven reincarnated judging by her looks and temperament!

    I am joking, she has been a great friend to me 🙂

  • Gustavo says:

    Beethoven spelt incorrectly.

    How dare you!

  • Eleanor says:

    It may or may not be Beethoven’s birthday but it is Menahem Ptressler’s birthday!

  • Talking the Talk says:

    Why let the truth get in the way of some good publicity?

  • Karl says:

    May cat was born sometime in late November or early December. I just celebrate her birthday on December 1st. Why can’t Beethoven’s birthday be the same as my cat’s?

  • Dennis says:

    At least Google isn’t stupidly trying to convince people to celebrate his birthday 10 days early as they did with Bach last March.

  • Eduardo says:

    please please calm down, do not play the appassionata in this case, but just content yourselves with the moonlight played just quietly. dates? who cares?

  • Among the composers more certainly born on this day are…

    -François-Adrien Boieldieu (1775)
    -Zoltán Kodály (1882)
    -Noël Coward (1899)

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Steven Isserlis
    And final birthday for today: Beethoven, that unquenchable, immortal spirit, radiating positive strength, indestructible joy and love for life. He transformed the world, and we can give thanks that through his struggles and tragedies he found a truth that will endure forever. (From twitter)

  • Bruce says:

    Birthday or not, Peanuts gets it pretty much right:

  • Hilary says:

    “The Secret Language of Birthdays” by Gary Goldscneider (a bestseller) may shed some light on the question.
    Strengths of those born on Dec16 : Visionary, imaginative and guided.
    Weaknesses : impractical , out-of-touch, troubled.

    That’s a pretty neat fit so I think the query is resolved.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Eh, we need to pick *one* day for International Beethoven Day….. December 16 works – a great excuse to run all-Beethoven programming on the radio, etc.