three days after the burial of the beethoven

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

ON APRIL 1, 1827, three days after the burial of the great Ludwig van Beethoven in the ceme­tery at Währing (in north­western Vi­enna, on the edge of the Vi­enna Woods), an ar­dent ad­mirer of the mae­stro’s glo­rious music ven­tured to his gravesite to pay his re­spects. He was quite shocked when he heard what sounded like gar­bled music coming from within the grave.

He was even more shocked when he re­al­ized the music was Sym­phony 9 in D-minor being played back­ward! Puz­zled, he walked a few blocks to a friend’s apart­ments and per­suaded him to come to the grave­yard. By the time the two ar­rived at the grave, the music had changed: it was the Sym­phony 8 in F-major. Like the pre­vious piece, it was playing backward.

Cu­rious, the men sent a mes­senger to a well-known, local music scholar, re­questing his ap­pear­ance at the grave.

By the time the older man ar­rived, he heard the final strains of Sym­phony 7 in A-major, fol­lowed by a brief mo­ment of si­lence, and then the opening notes of Sym­phony 6 in F-major (the beloved Pas­torale). They, too, were being played backward.

After some con­ver­sa­tion, the ex­pert stated that the sym­phonies were being played in the re­verse order in which they had been com­posed, the 9th, then the 8th, the 7th, the 6thThey waited and sure enough, Sym­phony 5 in C-minor followed.

When the three men re­turned early the next day, word had spread and a small crowd had gath­ered around the grave. By this time, the sym­phonies had fin­ished and the quar­tets were playing—backward.

The three men were as­sured by others that all the quar­tets had played in re­verse order, all backward.

Sev­eral other mu­si­col­o­gists of rea­son­able re­pute had joined the throng and they were as baf­fled as the rest.

To­ward mid-day, the care­taker ar­rived, ready to pre­pare the ceme­tery for a sched­uled burial. He was an old man, born and raised in Währing, and was con­fused by the gathering.

“What is hap­pening?” he inquired.

When the sit­u­a­tion was ex­plained to him, he just slowly shook his head from side to side and chuckled.

“It is nothing to worry about,” he as­sured everyone. “Mae­stro is merely decomposing . . .”

Three days: photo of a human skull atop a decaying branch of wood.

FEATURED IMAGE: I have a folder full of jokes going back ten years and thought I’d share a few. This is a moldy oldie, but al­ways good for a smile. The image at the top of this page is a photo of a human skull resting atop a de­caying log. I chose it be­cause I wanted an image that caught the read­er’s at­ten­tion, hinted at the joke’s ending, but gave nothing away.


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