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Beethoven Manuscript Sold at Auction


  • Arts & Humanities
    -- Music
  • Social Studies


Grades 2-up

News Content

A 179-year-old manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven was sold at auction on December 1.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • Famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven lived in the early 1900s.
  • A piece of music that Beethoven wrote many years ago sold this month for more than $1 million.
  • Beethoven wrote music when he was a child of 10 years of age.
  • Beethoven wrote music for orchestras even though he was deaf.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page:

  • auction -- a sale where goods are sold to the person who offers the highest amount of money
  • manuscript -- an original handwritten or typed book, poem, or piece of music
  • compose -- to write a poem or a piece of music
  • fugue -- a composition in which a similar musical theme is repeated by different instruments

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Beethoven Manuscript Sold at Auction.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

Update: On December 1, the Beethoven manuscript was sold for more than $1.9 million. (Source)

  • Beethoven's birth date is uncertain. Records indicate that he was baptized on December 17, 1770. In those days, an infant usually was baptized the day after his or her birth. The uncertainty surrounding the exact birth date is the reason most biographies list Beethoven's baptism date.
  • Beethoven is widely regarded as a musical genius. He was born in Germany, but he created most of his famous musical compositions in Vienna, Austria. His most famous works include the Fifth Symphony, Ninth Symphony, Fr Elise (a composition for piano), the Moonlight Sonata, and the opera Fidelio.
  • As a child, Beethoven was taught by his father, who beat him because he hoped his son would follow in the footsteps of another child prodigy, Amadeus Mozart.
  • When Beethoven was 17, his mother died. He became responsible for raising his two younger brothers.
  • Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792. He studied under a famous composer named Joseph Haydn.
  • Beethoven had many troubles in life. He experienced stomach troubles in his 20s. Around age 28, he started to become deaf; he considered suicide because of that. In his 40s, he fought depression when he realized he would probably never marry.
  • Beethoven had a reputation for being extremely moody, treating people badly, and wearing dirty clothing. He also experienced money troubles. Many people feel his personal life is reflected in his music masterpieces, which tend to depict triumph after periods of struggle.
  • According to many biographies, Beethoven died at age 56 from liver disease. But recent DNA testing on a lock of his hair revealed that he might instead have died of lead poisoning, which might have been caused by eating fish from the polluted Danube River.
  • The manuscript of "Gross Fuge" was found in July 2005 by a librarian at the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. In 1890, the manuscript was sold at auction to a Cincinnati, Ohio, man. In 1952, the man's daughter gave the manuscript to a Philadelphia church.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • Famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven lived in the early 1900s. (false, he was born more than 235 years ago; he lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s)
  • A piece of music that Beethoven wrote many years ago sold this month for more than $1 million. (true)
  • Beethoven wrote music when he was a child of 10 years of age. (true)
  • Beethoven wrote music for orchestras even though he was deaf. (true, he started to grow deaf when he was in his 20s)

You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • When was the manuscript of Beethoven's "Gross Fugue" sold at auction? (on December 1)
  • Where was the manuscript found this summer? (in a Pennsylvania library)
  • How many pages long was this newfound musical manuscript? (80 pages)
  • At what point in Beethoven's life was the "Gross Fugue" composed? (it is believed to have been composed just months before his death)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page.

Follow-Up Activities

Biography. Share more facts of Beethoven's life from the Web site Beethoven: The Immortal. Especially interesting are the descriptions of Beethoven's childhood and his appearance. (Note: While sources of information are credited, this Web site was created by a fan, not an historian.)

History -- Timeline. Based on the information in the News for YOU article and the More Fact to Share section above (or another biography that you share with students), work with students to piece together a general timeline of Beethoven's life.

Music. Gather a couple samples of Beethoven's music to share with students as they read the article to themselves, do other quiet work during the day, or clean the classroom at the end of the day. You might gather samples from among his most famous works, including the Fifth Symphony, the Ninth Symphony, Fr Elise (for piano), the Moonlight Sonata, or the opera Fidelio.

Using the Internet. Have students complete the lesson and work sheet, Comparing Composers: Mozart and Beethoven.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NA-M.K-4.6 Listening to, Analyzing, and Describing Music
NA-M.K-4.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture
GRADES 5 - 8
NA-M.5-8.6 Listening to, Analyzing, and Describing Music
NA-M.5-8.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture
GRADES 9 - 12
NA-M.9-12.6 Listening to, Analyzing, and Describing Music
NA-M.9-12.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-WH.5-12.7 An Age of Revolutions, 1750-1914

NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World