Beethoven and Nature

Having spent much of my career as a professional French horn player in symphony, opera and ballet orchestras, I am very familiar with the works of Ludwig van Beethoven. Every symphony orchestra schedules numerous Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos during a season. The opera Fidelio shows up every few years at opera houses and the National Ballet of Canada occasionally performs a ballet danced to the sixth symphony of Beethoven.

At some point in my youth, I read that Beethoven spent considerable time walking in the countryside and was an expert in plant identification. Perhaps misguidedly, I decided that I should follow in his footsteps and learn plants with hopes that it would improve my musicianship. Though I never became another Ludwig van, it did lead to a lifelong interest.

In my Toronto Symphony Orchestra days, I used to wander about Yonge Street alleyways during lunchtime learning the various plants that grow there.

Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Beethoven is full of quotes by Beethoven. It is “of use to anyone, anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions. You may copy it, reuse it or give it away.”

Here are some quotes on nature from the famous composer:

Almighty One

In the Woods 

I am blessed.

Happy everyone

In the woods.

Every tree speaks

Through thee.


Oh God!

What glory in the 


On the heights

is peace, –

Peace to serve

him –

Yellow Birch (Betula Alleghaniensis)

To Baroness von Drossdick

How happy I am to be able to wander among bushes and herbs, under trees and over rocks; no man can love the country as I love it. Woods, trees and rocks send back the echos that man desires.

After an 1814 performance of Fidelio

My miserable hearing does not trouble me here. In the country it is as if every tree said to me: ‘Holy! Holy!’ Who can give complete expression to the ecstasy of the woods! Oh, the sweet stillness of the woods!

To Mme. Steicher

When you reach the old ruins, think that Beethoven often paused here; if you wander though the mysterious fir forests, think that Beethoven often poetized or, as is said, composed here. 

From his diary 1818

Nature is a glorious school for the heart! It is well; I shall be a scholar of this school and bring an eager heart to her instruction. Here I shall learn wisdom, the only wisdom which is free from disgust; here I shall learn to know God and find a foretaste of heaven in His knowledge. Among these occupations my earthly days shall flow peacefully along until I am accepted into that world where I shall no longer be a student, but a knower of wisdom

More from the diary:

Soon autumn will be here. Then I wish to be like unto a fruitful tree which pours rich stores of fruit into our laps! Be in the winter of existence, when I shall be gray and sated with life, I desire for myself the good fortune that my repose be as honourable and beneficent as the repose of nature in winter time.

Miles Hearn










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