Record-keeping was imperfect in 18th-century Germany, so history does not have an exact date of birth for classical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, now probably best loved for his contributions to the soundtracks from A Clockwork Orange, Die Hard, and many other films and TV shows. But it is known that Beethoven was born in mid-December of 1770 and was baptized on December 17 of that month. December 16, then, has come to be generally agreed upon as “Beethoven Day,” the composer’s close-enough-for-horseshoes-and-hand-grenades birthday. In honor of Ludwig Van’s 245th, it is only appropriate to turn to pop culture’s single greatest Beethoven fan, one whose devotion eclipses even that of Alexander DeLarge: Schroeder, the serious, piano-playing tyke from Charles Schulz’s long-running comic and multi-media franchise, Peanuts.
For decades, the obsessive, tow-headed Schroeder hunched over his tiny toy piano in order to play the Beethoven music he so cherished, only to be interrupted time and again by a lovestruck Lucy Van Pelt. If David Michaelis’ 2007 biography, Schulz And Peanuts, is to be believed, the Schroeder-Lucy dynamic is a cognate of Charles Schulz’ own failed first marriage. YouTuber OlsonElijah’s five-minute supercut, “Beethoven According To Peanuts,” is culled from various Charlie Brown animated specials of the 1960s and 1970s. (Listen for voice actress Pamelyn Ferdin, who very nearly got Linda Blair’s part in The Exorcist, as Lucy.) Throughout the years, Schroeder remains an tireless and passionate defender of Beethoven’s music, even using his piano as a weapon if necessary, but the rest of the Peanuts gang is, at best, indifferent and, at worst, casually dismissive of the composer. “How come the schools don’t close on Beethoven’s birthday?” Lucy wonders in one scene. “If he was so great, how come the banks don’t close either?” At another moment, she doubts Beethoven “had the Nashville sound.” But Schroeder is not swayed by any of Lucy’s arguments. “Who cares about money?” he shouts after hearing more of Lucy’s doubts about Beethoven’s commercial prospects. “This is art! This is great music I’m playing! Playing great music is an art! Do you hear me? Art, art, art, art, art!” Spoken like a true music critic.