What This Country Needs Is a George Antheil Nickel

Europeans certainly do make a composer feel at home. No sooner had I stepped off the plane in Copenhagen than the Bureau d’Exchange handed me several pictures of Carl Nielsen:


In Basel I turned in my Danish Kronens for pictures of Arthur Honegger:


And the Swiss went the Danes one better: not only was their most famous composer on the front, but the reverse of the Swiss Franc sported an actual excerpt (a mere repeated dyad, admittedly, but all the more characteristic withal) from Pacific 231 (detail only):


Somewhere around here I have an old, pre-Euro, five-Franc note bearing a likeness of Claude Debussy, but I elected not to bring home the soon-to-be-extinct British twenty-pound note with a drawing of Sir Edward Elgar. The exchange rate being what it is, $46 USD seemed a little dear for the author of Pomp and Circumstance.


  1. Samuel Vriezen says

    And in Holland, we used to have J.P. Sweelinck on one of the bills. The Euro bills, however, won’t admit any culture, since the European Union as such – as opposed to its members – doesn’t have any.

  2. says

    The Romanian 5 lei note has a portrait of Enescu on the front and a excerpt from a work for cello on the back. Of course, other and probably better composers born in Romania (Ligeti, Kurtag, Eotvos, Xenakis…) are not so celebrated because they aren’t the right ethnicity.

  3. CTA Dalton says

    Honegger: The most obscure composer ever to appear on a piece of national currency. Undeservedly so! Honegger is one of my favorite composers. Top ten? Probably.

  4. mike says

    Honegger struggled with orchestration…
    KG replies: Hey, not as much as I do. I sometimes have to farm mine out. :^)

  5. says

    The old 20-mark note in Finland had a picture of (who else?) Sibelius on the front. I left for the Christmas break, and when I came back the Euro had swept the nation, so I never got to own a note of Sibelius, as it were.

  6. Herb Levy says

    “Not a composer, but … an inventor – of genius”
    I have a Belgian 200 Franc note depicting Adolphe Sax.

  7. Juhani Nuorvala says

    Matthew, the 20-mark note had a picture of Väinö Linna, the novelist. Alvar Aalto, the architect = 50 mk, Sibelius = 100 mk
    Juhani Nuorvala

  8. Erkki-Sven Tüür says

    Germans had a nice blue 100mark note with Clara Schumann and we have in Estonia 50 kroon note with Rudolf Tobias, the first Estonian professional composer.
    KG replies: Amazing.