Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Beethoven Statue in Golden Gate Park

A little more than a year after the unveiling of the Giuseppe Verdi statue in Golden Gate Park, the German-American community gathered to unveil a statue of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Beethoven Monument in Golden Gate Park, 1951 (source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

While the Verdi statue was the fruit of many years of dedicated fund-raising within San Francisco's Italian-American community, the Beethoven statue was a gift from outside of the Bay Area.  A Survey of Art Work in the City and County of San Francisco notes that the statue was acquired on August 6, 1915 and was a gift of the Beethoven Maennerchor of New York.
"Dedicated to the City of San Francisco by the Beethoven Maennerchor of New York, August 6th 1915, under the auspices of the German-American Auxiliary to the Panama Pacific International Exposition"

The Art Commission's guidebook, San Francisco Civic Art Collection, gives the name sculptor's name - Henry Baerer. It further describes the work:
A heroic size head of the great German composer sits on top of a granite column at the base of which is a life-size draped female figure who holds a lyre.
The original sculpture, located in New York's Central Park, was dedicated on July 22, 1884.

A postcard of Beethoven Monument - Central Park - New York (source: Ludwig van Beethoven's website)

Henry Baerer (1837-1908) was a native of Kirchheim, Hesse-Kassel, Germany who came to the United States in 1854.  He created a number of monumental sculptures in the New York City area including another Beethoven Monument in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

While the Verdi celebration was very much a home-grown affair, the dedication of the Beethoven Monument was part of a number of German-American events that attracted national interest.  Members of the German-American Staatsverband came to San Francisco for German Day at the Panama Pacific International Exposition (August 5, 1915) and the Beethoven Festival of Music (August 6-8, 1915). 
Beethoven Festival of Music (source: San Francisco Programs. Music).

This festival featured the San Francisco Symphony's newly appointed conductor Alfred Hertz. Even though several opera stars were in town for the Beethoven Festival, none of them were on hand for the dedication of the Beethoven Monument (very possibly owing to concert rehearsals). Thus, Beethoven's celebration attracted an audience of 1,000 -- considerably smaller than Verdi's the previous year. 

Originally the dedication of the Monument was to have included the 500 member New York Beethoven Maennerchor.  When the event took place, however, San Francisco had to settle for "representatives" from a number of singing societies. While Mayor James Rolph, Jr. attended the Verdi event, he was represented at the Beethoven dedication by Supervisor J. Emmett Hayden.
"Dedication of the Beethoven Monument given to the City of San Francisco by the Beethoven Maennerchor of the City of New York" (source: San Francisco Programs. Music).

The performers at the dedication of the Beethoven Monument included the Pacific Saengerbund and  two bands - San Francisco's Municipal and the Golden Gate Park Band. In addition to works by Beethoven (The Egmont Overture and the Andante from the 5th Symphony) there was also a Prussian march by Josef Franz Wagner, a choral work by Konradin Kreutzer, and the Star Spangled Banner.

There was an emphasis on the joint German-American nature of the celebration. The Beethoven statue was covered by a drape made up of many German and American flags.  It has to be remembered that all of these events took place during the heightened international tension of the first World War - the Germans attending the Panama Pacific International Exposition had to be reminded not to wear their national flag when entering the French Pavilion of the Exposition.

Related blog entries:

"Beethoven and Verdi in the Park" (May 14, 2012)
"The Verdi Statue in Golden Gate Park" (May 15, 2012)


American Art Annual, volume 8 (MacMillan Co.,1910-1911), p. 397.

“The Beethoven Festival of Music,” Argonaut (July 10, 1915), 27 [available at]

"Beethoven Monument Unveiled as Germans Bare Their Heads: Large Audience Witnesses Formal Ceremonies in Golden Gate Park," San Francisco Chronicle (August 7, 1915), 3. [retrieved from the San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922)‎ database].

"The City in General," Argonaut (August 14, 1915), 11

"German-Americans see San Francisco," Milwaukee Journal (August 7, 1915), 2 [available at Google Newspapers]

Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, 2nd edition (Apollo, 1986).

Music and Politics in San Francisco: From the 1906 Quake to the Second World War by Leta E. Miller (University of California Press, 2012).

San Francisco Civic Art Collection: A Guided Tour to Publicly Owned Art of the City and County of San Francisco (The Arts Commission of San Francisco, 1989).

San Francisco Programs. Music (San Francisco Public Library, 1915/16).

Works of Art Belonging to the City of New York, 1905; Tentative List for the Borough of Brooklyn (Art Commission of the City of New York, 1906). [available at Google books].

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