This dramatic bust of Ludwig van Beethoven can be found in the forgotten-by-most Concert Grove of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Beethoven sits in a flat green space, nestled between the Kate Wollman ice rink and an undramatic bluff in the southeast corner of the park, sort of near the corner of Ocean and Parkside Avenues. Beethoven’s monument shares the lawn with four of his musical peers, Amadeus Mozart, Edvard Grieg, Thomas Moore and Carl Maria von Weber. (Nearby is a fifth statue, Abraham Lincoln, who is disinterestedly posed with his back toward the five composers.)
The bust was presented to the city of Brooklyn by the United German Singers of Brooklyn, a group of amateurs who were the New York Yankees of choral singing, apparently. A March 12, 1895, article in The Times recounts (with mugshots of some of the top singers) the United Singers’ withering march through regional competitions and their virtual depantsing of the competition in New York at the national Saengerfest in June 1894. The monument to Beethoven commemorates that victory.
The bust is in bronze and was made by Henry Baerer. The pedestal cost $2,000 is made of white granite. All told, it’s about 14 feet high.
The inscription on the front of the pedestal reads:
PRESENTED TO THE CITY OF BROOKLYN BY THE UNITED GERMAN SINGERS OF THE CITY. FIRST PRIZE AT THE 17TH NATIONAL SAENGERFEST, HELD AT NEW YORK JUNE 22-26.
At the base of the pedestal it says 1894.
The monument was dedicated on October 20, 1894, in a ceremony preceded by a parade of various German organizations. The mayor of Brooklyn, Charles A. Schieren, and a platoon of alderman reviewed the procession, and then the United Singers gathered to sing “The Heavens Are Telling,” by Beethoven. The statue was unveiled, and the singers’ president, J.K. Sanger, officially turned it over to Brooklyn.
Schieren thanked the group, assuring them in a speech that their names “would bring fame and renown to Brooklyn.” The parks commissioner, Frank Squier, then held forth with an odd little ramble, wherein he praised Irish and German immigrants for leaving behind “the glory and pomp of military power.”
The United Singers then sang their prize song, “Am Ammersee.” There were two more speakers and the whole thing wrapped up with the national anthem.
Beethoven’s bust was refurbished by the parks department in 1997.