Ludwig van Beethoven's lost Groschen

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by CoinCorgi, May 23, 2022.

  1. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    So I've been trying to figure something out and need help (because I don't know much about non-U.S. Coins).

    It starts with Beethoven.

    Beethoven composed a piano rondo titled "Rondo alla ingharese quasi un capriccio" in G major, Op. 129 (Italian for "Rondo in the Hungarian [i.e. gypsy] style, almost a caprice"). A manuscript of the piece is pictured here with the words “alla ingharese quasi un capriccio” written in the upper left corner.


    However, it is better known by the title “Rage Over a Lost Penny, Vented in a Caprice” (from German: Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen, ausgetobt in einer Caprice). These words were written by Beethoven’s acquaintance Anton Schindler upon the same manuscript (sorry, no picture).

    The piece has been dated to between 1795 and 1798.

    So, what is the backstory, or origin, of the “Rage Over a Lost Penny” title? The commonly told version of the legend behind the title goes something like:

    “At one point Beethoven was composing his famed RONDO E CAPRICCIO, a booming and boisterous piece that exuded energy and vitality. One night a neighbor heard a loud dispute. Beethoven was in a rage, accusing a maid of stealing a gold penny. The maid ran out and was never heard from again.

    The neighbor then heard furniture crashing, and he could only conclude that the great Maestro was tipping over furniture, madly looking for the lost gold penny. The story spread through the neighborhood, and became part of the legend of Beethoven’s bad moods and curmudgeonly behavior.”​

    How and by whom the German word “Groschen” got translated into “penny” is a mystery to me. How the legend then further changed “penny” to “gold penny” is yet another mystery. I don’t think the literal translation from the German “Groschen” is “penny” (correct me if I am mistaken). I don’t know German, and I don’t know if current meaning of Groschen would correspond to the meaning in 1795! And don’t forget, Beethoven was living in Austria at the time, not Germany. Are there any Gold Groschen? I thought groschen was originally a catch all name for thick silver coins.

    Can anyone help with figuring out what coin could have been the one that the maid lost and thus set off Beethoven at the time he was composing this fantastic and enjoyable piece?

    Have a listen while you ponder this dilemma…

    Thanks for reading and for any help you can provide?
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  3. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Hey brother can you spare a half dime?

    Do the other dogs in your neighborhood find you strange? I know the pups in our neighborhood just sniff butts and wag...sometimes they make a face....but not one has ever asked for ear buds to listen to Bach or Beethoven when taking a walk...
    Now there is a xoloitzcuintle who loves Herb Albert and the TJ brass.... and fish tacos.
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  4. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    And Jimmy Buffet?
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  5. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    And now for something completely different...

    @Paddy54 for your listening pleasure (and one of my personal favorites!)...

    Dynoking likes this.
  6. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Hey brother can you spare a half dime?

    I have that LP... great instrumental music...and who doesn't like whipped cream..?

    Also reminds me of my younger days...driving down to TJ and Ensenada from SanDeigo....dodging the Federalies police....and donkey carts.
  7. ewomack

    ewomack 魚の下着

    It looks like Beethoven was living in Vienna, Austria in 1795. Groschen can apparently mean a "small German silver coin" or "a German ten-pfennig piece."

    This is an Austrian (Salzburg) 1 Pfenning piece from 1795 - it was early in Beethoven's career, so perhaps this was enough to get upset over at the time? But it seems like "Groschen" typically referred to silver coins.

    Or perhaps he was upset more by something like this 12 Kreutzer?
    Somewhere else I saw that "Groschen" came to mean a "12 Pfenning" coin in Germany, but I don't see any "Groschen" from the 1790s.

    The passion of the piece would suggest that he lost something more like this:
    Last edited: May 23, 2022
  8. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    Thanks for the input.

    Yes he was in Vienna and pretty much living paycheck to paycheck (is my understanding).
  9. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

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  10. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    It is possible that the lost "gold penny" was an Austrian ducat, a gold coin minted for a long time by Austria including from 1780 to 1790.

    CoinCorgi likes this.
  11. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    I also thought that was a possibility, but the use of groschen seems to be inconsistent with that.

    I wonder if groschen was being used generically to just mean coins, cash, money, etc.
  12. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Hey brother can you spare a half dime?

    Well Michael he is German :) @micbraun
    Last edited: May 24, 2022
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  13. Dynoking

    Dynoking Well-Known Member

    Great thread CC! The story explaining Beethovens anger over a lost coin is interesting by itself. It also introduced me to a great composure and the tie in to numismatics makes it all the better. Thanks to those who added their knowledge.
    CoinCorgi and Randy Abercrombie like this.
  14. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Interesting conundrum. My Wife is German/Norwegian, I will ask her when she gets in.
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  15. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    I've also read that when Beethoven found his lost penny he was so happy that he wrote "Ode to Joy". ;)
  16. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

  17. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    So the best I got is groschen as a nickname for either a 10 or 12 pfennig coin depending on time frame (see reference:

    is etymologically related to the English penny.

    @ewomack posted a copper 1 pfennig from 1795 above. Copper being a "golden" color (as opposed to a "silver" color).
  18. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    Also found this info which I have yet to digest.


    Money circulating in Austria at Beethoven's time

    1. Money of the Austrian empire and Hereditary Lands

    1753-1858 Convention coins (C.M.)
    1 thaler = 2 florins (fl.C.M.) = 120 kreuzers
    1 Penny = 3 kreuzers
    Bohemia: 1 Gröschl = ¾ kreuzer
    Vorlande: 10 kreuzers C.M. = 12 kreuzers (Hereditary Land)

    Gold coins
    1 Ducat = 4 fl.C.M. 30 kreuzers (official rate 1786-1858)

    1762-1811 Vienna Banco-Zettel (B.Z.)
    1796 1 fl.C.M. = 1 fl.B.Z.
    1800 1 fl.C.M. = 1.15 fl.B.Z.
    1805 1 fl.C.M. = 1.5 fl.B.Z.
    1810 1 fl.C.M. = 4.92 fl.B.Z.
    1811 1 fl.C.M. = up to 10.94 fl.B.Z.

    After 1811 Vienna currency (W.W.)
    1 florin W.W.= 5 fl.B.Z
    30 kreuzers B.Z. divisional coins = 6 kreuzers W.W.
    15 kreuzers B.Z. divisional coins = 3 kreuzers W.W

    1811 1 fl.C.M. = 2.19 fl.W.W.
    1813 1 fl.C.M. = 1.59 fl.W.W.
    1815 1 fl.C.M. = 3.51 fl.W.W.
    1816 1 fl.C.M. = 3.27 fl.W.W.
    1819 1 fl.C.M. = 2.49 fl.W.W.

    1816 Return to the Convention coins
    1 fl.C.M. = 2.5 fl.W.W. = 12.5 fl.B.Z. (fixed rate from 1820 onwards)
    3 kreuzers W.W. = 3/5 kreuzer C.M.

    2. Value of foreign coins in Convention coins

    Gold coins
    1 Doppia (Milan) = 7 fl.C.M. 12 kr.
    1 Ducat (Italy, Bavaria, Salzburg, Netherlands, etc.) = 4 fl.C.M. 18 kr. - 4 fl.C.M. 28 kr.
    1 Louis d´or (France) = 7 fl.C.M. 20 kr. - 9 fl.C.M. 12 kr.
    1 Max d´or (Bavaria) = 5 fl.C.M. 54 kr. - 6 fl.C.M. 45 kr.
    1 Pistole = approx. 7 fl.C.M. 30 kr.
    1 Souverain d´or = 13 fl.C.M. 20 kr.

    Silver coins
    1 Kronenthaler (Netherlands and other) = 2 fl.C.M. 12 kr.
    1 Laubthaler (France) = 2 fl.C.M. 16 kr.
    1 Pound (Britain) = 10-11 fl.C.M.
    1 Reichsthaler (Prussia) = 1 fl.C.M. 30 kr.
    1 Ruble (Russia) = 1 fl.C.M. 40 Kr.
    1 Scudo (Milan) = 1 fl.C.M. 46 kr. - 2 fl.C.M.

    Approximate conversion rate to Euro
    1790 1 fl.C.M. = 23.982 Euro
    1830 1 fl.C.M. = 15.458 Euro

    fl.=florin; kr.=kreuzer
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