The Worst Beethoven Album Covers...Ever

Saturday, November 26, 2011 - 12:55 PM

Ranking the worst classical album covers has been something of an Internet party trick in recent years, a chance to revel in the lapses of taste that can permeate even the most buttoned-up of art forms. When Los Angeles classical station KUSC posted its own entertaining gallery recently, it got us thinking, what are the worst Beethoven covers? In the spirit of Beethoven Awareness Month, check out our list and suggest your own in the comments below.

The "ick" factor is undeniable, but probably not an inaccurate image for some late-night recording sessions.

Herbert von Karajan defined the jet-set conductor. And the connection to these symphonies is...?

By "period synthesizers" they presumably mean the mid 1980s.

Welcome to the Sears photo studio. Would you like the "Moonlight Sonata" backdrop?

Beethoven: the psychedelic years:

Beethoven as Hobbit:

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra released this concept album about Beethoven on the last night of his life, as Mephistopheles comes to collect his soul:

If only every practice session was this interesting (hat tip):

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Comments [15]

Robert St.Onge

Speaking of inappropriate covers, your currently-featured cover of Mitsuko Uchida emoting would be great for 'Madama Butterfly. Late Beethoven Sonatas...not so much!

Nov. 23 2012 03:03 PM
Simon Murphy from Vancouver

I'm sure other members of the vinyl set will fondly remember scratching their heads at those Westminster Gold covers from the 70s.

There's an easily googlable cover for a Barenboim Third Concerto/Choral Fantasia LP which depicts a comely young lady holding two busts of Ludwig in front of her own.

This one cries out for reissue...

Nov. 23 2012 01:57 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Some of the covers are funny. I like the cigarettes and coffee one. Would like one of Ludwig throwing a tantrum. If I do not have my two cups of coffee in the morning, I am very difficult to get along with.

Nov. 23 2012 10:16 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

I recall these "Westminster Gold" series being released back in my high school days of the mid to late 70's perhaps to attract the then youth to classical music. The "Beethoven & Butts" cover in my opinion represents the first selection on the album cover, the Octet in Eb as there are eight coffee cups and eight or more cigarette butts neatly(?) arranged around Beethoven's image. Perhaps it's the chemicals from the Thanksgiving turkey, but I equate this cover to the old Benny Hill sketch when he plays the doctor in the clinic taking care of the old man while all the time spoofing the British health care system. Wishing all readers a very happy holiday season ahead.

Nov. 23 2012 04:54 AM
Alonso Alegria

The amazing thing is that most of the artists whose music appears under these amazing covers are really top-notch! Are the Barenboims and Rostropovichs of our world really that powerless?

Nov. 30 2011 11:31 AM

All unintentionally (we all hope) hilarious, and "coffe & butts" wins by a landslide.
Makes me afraid to think what they may have done with Mozart.

Nov. 29 2011 07:50 AM
George Damasevitz from New York

Clearly the coffee and butts are an oblique allusion to rising passions culminating in a "menage a many".

Nov. 28 2011 10:03 PM
Bo from Long Island, NY

I sure hope all those wind players weren't smoking all night. How could they play after all those cigarettes? Most of these covers are absolutely terrible! The bear one is definitely the wierdest. Poor Beethoven - I bet he's "rolling over".

Nov. 28 2011 04:53 PM

Aw, I like the "Beethoven or Bust" cover. And the TSO album is great, but it is a different cover---it shows LVB sitting at the piano late at night.

Nov. 28 2011 11:53 AM
Mary from Michigan

These are hilarious! The selection process must have been fun.

Nov. 28 2011 10:16 AM
Paul Pelkonen from Brooklyn, NY

Nice piece, but I don't think that's actual cover for the TSO record, unless it's a promo or a European release. Here's the US cover:

Nov. 28 2011 10:14 AM
Alan from Astoria

There are some great one's on this site. Unfortunately, he hasn't updated in a while.

Nov. 28 2011 10:13 AM
Frank Feldman

Someone really needs to make a cover showing his nephew attempting suicide, or, even better, showing B throwing a tantrum, along with his plate at a waiter, in a restaurant.

Nov. 27 2011 09:35 PM
Michael Meltzer

In all fairness, our criteria for art or for fidelity to Beethoven's spirit aren't necessarily what the artists of the covers are paid for, in doing their 9-to-5 jobs.
They are supposed to provide some subliminal trigger that prompts a shopper to want to pick up the album in their hands and desire to take it home.
That makes the teddy bears make a little more sense. It would probably motivate a slightly ditsier shopper, but their money is good too. The Rafu Lupu also passes the test of warm and fuzzy.
The ashtray full of butts for an album of wind players is the wierdo. What were they thinking?
The rest are not very talented.

Nov. 27 2011 05:36 PM
Pauline Park from Queens

These Beethoven album covers are so awful they're hilarious; it's pretty unbelievable that someone would create an album cover with old cigarette butts & half-empty coffee cups; who did they think would be attracted to buying the album because of that cover? In comparison, the album cover with the 3 teddy bears at least is cute & cuddly, even if it's completely the opposite of Beethoven's personality & the character of his music; there was no composer who was less like a teddy bear than Beethoven~! I grew up with instrumental music but became drawn to opera through an album cover: the cover of an album of Mozart arias with Margaret Price dressed in a huge black farthingale studded with diamonds; the great Welsh soprano looked like a giant bumble bee. With the shrinking of album covers to CD covers, there just isn't enough room for a really eye-catching image anymore, and now that everyone seems to be going to MP3s, there isn't an album to cover at all, so maybe album cover art is on its way out altogether...

Nov. 27 2011 01:05 PM

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