Copyright
Elliott Graeme.

Beethoven: A Memoir (2nd Ed.) online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryElliott GraemeBeethoven: A Memoir (2nd Ed.) → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Herz, mein Herz, was soll das geben,
Was bedränget dich so sehr;
Welch ein neues, fremdes Leben,
Ich erkenne dich nicht mehr.

"Answer me at once, dearest friend; write and tell me what is to
become of me since my heart has turned such a rebel. Write to your
most faithful friend,

"BEETHOVEN."


"_Vienna, 10th February, 1811._

"DEAR, BELOVED FRIEND, - I have already had two letters from you, and
see from those to Tonie that you still remember me, and even too
kindly. Your first letter I carried about with me the whole summer,
and it has often made me very happy. Although I do not write to you
frequently, and you see nothing at all of me, yet in thought I write
you a thousand times a thousand letters. How you must feel in Berlin
amongst all the frivolous, worldly rabble, I could imagine, even
though you had not written it to me yourself, - mere prating about
Art without any results!! The best description of this is to be
found in Schiller's poem, 'The River,' in which the Spree
speaks. - You are about to be married, dear friend, or are so
already, and I have not been able to see you even once previously.
May all the felicity with which marriage blesses those who enter
into her bonds be poured upon you and your husband! What shall I say
to you about myself? I can only exclaim with Johanna, 'Compassionate
my fate!' If I am but spared for a few years longer, I will thank
Him who embraces all within Himself - the Most High - for this as well
as for all other weal and woe. - If you should mention me when
writing to Goethe, strive to find all those words which can express
to him my deepest reverence and admiration. I am just about to write
to him myself regarding 'Egmont,' to which I have composed the
music, solely out of love for his poetry, which always makes me
happy; - but who can sufficiently thank a Poet, the most precious
jewel of a Nation! Now no more, my dear, good friend. I only
returned this morning from a _Bacchanale_ where I laughed too
heartily, only to weep nearly as much to-day; boisterous joy often
drives me violently back upon myself. As to Clemens, many thanks for
his courtesy; with regard to the Cantata, the subject is not
important enough for us, it is very different in Berlin. As for my
affection, the sister has so large a share of it that not much is
left for the brother - will he be content with this? Now farewell,
dear, dear friend. I imprint a sorrowful kiss upon your forehead,
thus impressing, as with a seal, all my thoughts upon it. Write
soon, soon, often, to your Brother,

"BEETHOVEN."


"_Toeplitz, 15th August, 1812._

"MY MOST DEAR, KIND FRIEND, - Kings and princes may indeed be able to
create professors and privy councillors, and to bestow titles and
decorations, but great men they cannot make. Spirits that tower
above the common herd, these they cannot pretend to make, and
therefore they are forced to respect them. When two men like Goethe
and myself come together, these grandees must perceive what is
accounted great by such as we.

"On our way home yesterday we met the whole imperial family; we saw
them coming in the distance, when Goethe immediately dropped my arm
to place himself on one side; and say what I would, I could not get
him to advance another step. I pressed my hat down upon my head,
buttoned up my great-coat, and made my way with folded arms through
the thickest of the throng. Princes and courtiers formed a line,
Duke Rudolph took off his hat, the Empress made the first
salutation. The great ones of the earth _know me_! To my infinite
amusement, I saw the procession file past Goethe, who stood by the
side, hat in hand, bending low. I took him to task for it pretty
smartly, gave him no quarter, and reproached him with all his sins,
especially those against you, dearest friend, for we had just been
speaking about you. Heavens! had I been granted a time with you such
as _he_ had, I should have produced many more great works! A
musician is also a poet, and can feel himself transported by a pair
of eyes into a more beautiful world, where nobler spirits sport with
him, and impose great tasks upon him. What ideas rushed into my mind
when I first saw you in the little observatory during that glorious
May shower, which proved so fertilizing to me also! The loveliest
themes stole from your glances into my heart, - themes which shall
enchant the world when Beethoven can no longer direct. If God grant
me a few years more, I must see you again, my dearest friend; the
voice which ever upholds the right within me demands it. Spirits can
also love one another; I shall ever woo yours; your applause is
dearer to me than aught else in the world. I told Goethe my opinion
of the effect of applause upon men like us - we must be heard with
intelligence by our peers; emotion is very well for women (pardon
me), but music ought to strike fire from the souls of men. Ah!
dearest child, how long is it since we were both so perfectly agreed
upon all points! There is no real good but the possession of a pure,
good soul, which we perceive in everything, and before which we have
no need to dissemble. _We must be something if we would appear
something._ The world must recognise us, it is not always unjust;
but this is a light matter to me, for I have a loftier aim.

"In Vienna I hope for a letter from you; write soon, soon and fully;
in eight days I shall be there. The court goes to-morrow; to-day
they are to play once more. Goethe has taught the Empress her
_rôle_. His duke and he wished me to play some of my own music, but
I refused them both, for they are both in love with Chinese
porcelain. A little indulgence is necessary, for understanding
seems to have lost the upper hand; but I will not play for such
perverse tastes, neither do I choose to be a party to the follies of
princes who are for ever committing some such absurdity. Adieu,
adieu, dear love; your last letter lay for a whole night next to my
heart, and cheered me there. Musicians allow themselves everything.
Heavens! how I love you!

"Your most faithful friend and deaf brother,

"BEETHOVEN."


These letters were first published in Bettina's book, "Ilius Pamphilius
und die Ambrosia," but the style is so unlike Beethoven's simple mode of
expression, that it is difficult to discover what the composer really
wrote to Bettina, and what has been supplied by the latter's rather too
vivid imagination. The reiterated _dear_, _dearest_, and the _write
soon_, _soon_, _often_, are very feminine and very _un-Beethovenish_.
This strange, inexplicable little being, who fascinated not only
Beethoven, but every one else with whom she came in contact, has also
published an account of her interviews with Beethoven. This is so highly
coloured that we may be excused for doubting the perfect truth of the
recital, especially as we know what a gloss - nay, what falseness - she
contrived to give to all that related to her intercourse with Goethe.
She herself tells us, naïvely enough, that when she showed Beethoven one
morning her account of what he had said the previous day, he was quite
surprised, and exclaimed, "Did I really say that? I must have had a
_raptus_!"

Bettina was, however, of some service to him, as it was doubtless she
who paved the way to his acquaintance with Goethe, and their meeting in
1812 at Toeplitz; and her family remained true, warm friends of the
composer long after the great minister had forgotten his very existence.

Beethoven was most unfortunate in his attachments, the objects of which
were always of much higher social standing than himself. Constantly
associating with people of rank and culture, it was natural that to the
sensitive nature of our poet, the young girl nobly born, with all the
intuitive, nameless fascinations of the high-bred aristocrat, should
present a great contrast to the plebeian, every-day graces of the
_bourgeoise_. Beethoven used to say that he had found more real
appreciation of his works amongst the nobility than in any other circle,
and we can hardly wonder at the infatuation with which he stakes all his
chances of happiness on a love which he knows can never be gratified.

The following little scrap in his handwriting has been preserved: - "Only
love - yes, only that - has power to give me a happier life. Oh, God! let
me at length find her - her who destined to be mine, who shall strengthen
me in virtue!" Schindler imagines that these words have reference to a
well-known dilettante of great talent, Fräulein Marie Pachler, whom
Beethoven admired exceedingly. He never summoned up courage enough to
propose to her however, and she afterwards married an advocate in Gratz.
This lady may also be the subject of the allusion in a letter to Ries,
1816: - "Say all that is kind from me to your wife; I, alas! have none. I
found only one with whom I could have been happy, and she will probably
never be mine. But I am not on this account a woman-hater!"

Another love of Beethoven's was the Countess Marie Erdödy, to whom he
dedicated the two splendid Trios, Op. 70, but this seems to have been
entirely a Platonic affection.

Who can exaggerate the immense benefit that a loving, tender wife would
have been to Beethoven - a wife like Mozart's Constance? The
consciousness of one ever by his side to whom he might safely confide
all that wounded or annoyed him, would have more than neutralized the
chilling, exasperating effects of the calamity that had overtaken him,
would have been a fresh impetus to great achievements. But fate had
willed it otherwise.

In nothing was the want of a wife so apparent as in Beethoven's domestic
_ménage_, which certainly was the _non plus ultra_ of discomfort. One
great cause of this was his habit of frequently changing his abode. He
had long since left the Lichnowski Palace, his infirmity rendering it
desirable that he should have a home of his own, but he was extremely
difficult to please in the choice of a residence. One house he would
leave because the sun did not shine into his apartment; another because
the supply of water was deficient (a serious drawback to him, as he was
accustomed to lave his head and face profusely while composing), and for
even less cogent reasons he would pack up and leave at an hour's notice,
so that it soon became a difficult matter to find a suitable abode for
him. It may easily be imagined that this constant removal was not
effected without considerable outlay, and so badly did he manage that at
one time he had no less than four houses on his hands. When all other
resources failed, he would take refuge in the fourth story of his friend
Baron Pasqualati's house, which was constantly reserved for him. The
summer he always spent in the country, generally in a hired lodging. On
one occasion a suite of apartments in the villa of Baron Pronay had been
placed at his disposal, and as the house stood in the midst of a superb
park, it was thought that Beethoven would be fully satisfied. In a few
days, however, the bird had flown, alleging as his reason that he could
not endure to listen to the ceremonious salutation with which his host
accosted him every morning in his ramble - much less to return it!

Oulibischeff's amusing description of our composer's surroundings is
worth repeating: -

"In his room reigned a confusion, an organized chaos, such as can hardly
be imagined. Books and music lay on every article of furniture, or were
heaped up like pyramids in the four corners. A multitude of letters
which he had received during the week or the month covered the floor
like a white carpet with red spots. On the window-sill were displayed
the remains of a succulent breakfast, by the side or on the top of
proof sheets awaiting correction. There a row of bottles, partly sealed,
partly empty; further on an _escritoire_, and on it the sketch of a
quartet; on the pianoforte a flying sheet of note-paper with the embryo
of a symphony; while to bring so many directly opposite things into
harmony, everything was united by a thick layer of dust.

"It may easily be imagined that amidst such a _well-arranged whole_, the
artist had often no small trouble to find what he required. He used to
complain bitterly about this, and always put the blame on other people's
shoulders, for he fancied that he was extremely systematic in the way in
which he kept his things, and used to declare that in the darkest night
he could find even a pin belonging to him, if people 'would but put
things back in their proper places'!

"On one occasion an important paper was missing - neither a sketch nor a
loose sheet, but a thick, clearly copied score from the Mass in D. At
last it was found; but where, think you? In the kitchen, where it had
been used to wrap up eatables! More than one _Donnerwetter_! and more
than one bad egg must have flown at the head of the devoted cook, when
this was discovered; for Beethoven liked fresh eggs too well to use them
as missiles.... Once, when he had dismissed his housekeeper, a very good
orderly person (and soon received into favour again), he resolved to
make himself independent, and to keep no more servants, since they only
'worked mischief in the house.' And why should he not wait upon
himself, and look after the kitchen himself? Could it be more difficult
to prepare a dinner than to compose a C minor symphony? Charmed with
this glorious idea, Beethoven hastens to put it into execution. He
invites some friends to dinner, buys the necessary provisions in the
market, and carries them home himself; ties on the business-like white
apron; adjusts the indispensable nightcap on his head; grasps the cook's
knife, and sets to work. The guests arrive, and find him before the
fire, whose scorching flame seems to act like the fire of inspiration
upon him. The patience of the Viennese appetites was put to an unwonted
trial. At length the dishes were placed on the table, and the host
proved that it was worth while waiting for him. The soup might have
challenged the _soupe maigre_ given in charity; the boiled meat,
scarcely cooked, presupposed in individuals of the human race the
digestion of an ostrich; the vegetables swam in a sea of fat and water;
the roast meat, splendidly burned to a cinder, looked as though it had
found its way down the chimney; in short, nothing was fit to eat. And
nobody did eat anything except the host, who by word and example
encouraged his guests to fall to. In vain; Beethoven's
_chefs-d'oeuvre_ of cookery were not appreciated, and the guests made
their dinner on bread, fruit, and sweetmeats, adding plenty of wine to
prevent any bad effects from their enforced abstinence. This remarkable
feast convinced even the great Maestro that composing and cooking are
two very different things, and the unjustly deposed cook was speedily
re-established in her rights."

It was very fortunate for Beethoven that after some years passed in this
erratic way, a sensible lady-friend at length came to the rescue, and by
her feminine tact and adroitness, succeeded in persuading him to abandon
his nomadic habits to some extent, and to mingle a little more in
society. This was Frau Nanette Streicher, the amiable wife of the
celebrated instrument maker, and early friend of Schiller. She began by
putting the wardrobe of the composer to rights (as might be imagined, it
was in a deplorable plight), and afterwards, in conjunction with her
husband, hired a respectable house for Beethoven, furnished it suitably,
and engaged a man (a tailor by trade) and his wife to wait upon him. In
this quiet haven our tempest-tossed Beethoven came to anchor for a
while, and might have been seen busy over his pianoforte, or among his
papers, while his cross-legged knight of the Goose stitched away
comfortably in the adjoining anteroom.

When fairly domiciled, Beethoven's mode of life was very regular. His
habit was to rise every morning, winter and summer, at daybreak, when he
at once proceeded to his desk, where he wrote till about two o'clock
without any interruption, except the necessary interval for breakfast,
and - if his ideas did not flow rapidly enough - an occasional run of half
an hour or longer into the open air. Between two and three he dined,
after which it was his invariable custom to make the circuit of the
town twice or three times; and no weather could keep him within
doors - summer heat or winter frost, thunder, hail, rain, sleet, - nothing
prevented this afternoon ramble. It was, in fact, his time for
composition; he never ventured out without his note-book to preserve any
fugitive thoughts that might flit across his mind, and used laughingly
to apply to himself Johanna's words, "I dare not come without my
banner!" Necessarily, therefore, he was a very silent companion, but in
_one_ sense only, as the whole way he continued humming (or rather
growling) in a manner peculiar to himself any thema on which he was
mentally at work. Ries relates that on one occasion when they were
walking together, Beethoven suddenly exclaimed, "A theme has occurred to
me!" They hurried onwards in silence, and on arriving at home the master
went at once to the pianoforte (without even removing his hat), where he
thundered like an inspired giant for more than an hour, during which the
beautiful finale to the Sonata Op. 54 (in F major) struggled into
existence.

Beethoven generally returned from his promenade only when warned by the
shadows that evening was coming on; then alone in the darkening twilight
he loved to breathe to his best, his only friend, his _Clavier_,[31] the
thoughts which met with no response in human sympathy. During the
evening he very seldom worked, but would smoke his pipe, and play
occasionally on his viola or violin, both of which must always be
placed ready for him on the pianoforte.

Our poor deaf Beethoven had, too, his little coterie of sincere and
attached friends, among whom his real nature could show itself without
restraint or distrust, and who clung to him through life in spite of the
unceasing efforts of the two brothers to dislodge them. These
were - naturally Prince Lichnowski and his brother Count Moritz, who
cherished a love and admiration for Beethoven which the latter warmly
reciprocated, dedicating to the Count his Variations, Op. 35, and the
beautiful Idyl, Op. 90. To these must be added the worthy Baron von
Zmeskall, a Hungarian State Secretary, to whom the composer addressed
many a humorous epistle; his old friend Stephan Breuning; the Baron von
Gleichenstein; his secretary Schindler; and last, but not least, Franz,
Count von Brunswick, to whom he dedicated the Sonata Appassionata, and
who had more influence over him than anybody else.

One proceeding Beethoven never omitted, viz., the reading of the evening
paper. In these stirring times the newspaper was an absolute necessity,
and our musician would never retire to rest without previously
ascertaining the state of the political horizon. He used to frequent a
coffee-house which boasted another means of exit besides the general
one, and taking up his position in the background, he would steadily
peruse the _Gazette_ (not a very long task in those days, when "our own"
correspondents were as yet undreamt of), and as soon as the last word
of the last page had been scanned, beat a hasty retreat through the
private door, and wend his solitary way homewards. Ten o'clock rarely
found him out of bed. Such was his simple, innocent day! It was no mere
phrase, that declaration of his, "_I live only in my art_," - it was
indeed the one connecting link between him and others.

What he produced in suffering and loneliness stirred, like a mighty wind
among the forest branches, the noblest feelings of a thousand hearts,
bidding them grapple with Destiny as he had done, and prove themselves
_men_ and heroes!

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 30: In translating these letters we have thought it best to
keep to the original pronoun, - the simple _thou_ being more suited to
Beethoven's ideal love than the coarser _you_.]

[Footnote 31: Beethoven could not endure the foreign word _pianoforte_.]

[Illustration]




[Illustration]




CHAPTER VIII.

VICTORY AND SHADOW.

Period of Greatest Intellectual Activity - Hummel - The Battle of
Vittoria - Congress of Vienna - Maelzel - Pecuniary
Difficulties - Adoption of Nephew - The Philharmonic Society - The
Classical and Romantic Schools - The Ninth Symphony - His Nephew's
Conduct - Last Illness.


The period between the years 1805 and 1814 may be considered that of
Beethoven's greatest creative energy. It is almost impossible to keep
pace with the stream of colossal works which flowed without intermission
from his pen. To this period belong the G major and E flat pianoforte
concertos, without exception the most poetical and the noblest
compositions of the kind which we possess; the fantasia for pianoforte,
orchestra, and chorus; the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth
symphonies; the "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage" on Goethe's short but
suggestive poem, "_Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser_; _ohne Regung ruht
das Meer_;" the First Mass; the music to "Egmont;" the overtures to
Collin's tragedy of "Coriolanus," and to "King Stephen," and the "Ruins
of Athens," - each of which, from its intellectual grasp of subject,
wonderful ideality, and highly finished detail, would merit a volume to
itself. Nor do these Titanic orchestral productions occupy the whole of
his attention. They are accompanied by a mass of works for the
pianoforte, which, if in one sense slighter than those we have named,
yet, in another, stand equally high; the soliloquies and dialogues (if
we may be allowed the expression) contained in the pianoforte sonatas
breathe thoughts as noble and as deep as those expressed by the more
varied _dramatis personæ_ of the orchestra or the quartets. Truly, a
perfect acquaintance with Beethoven would claim the devotion of the
highest powers, and the study of a lifetime. Any attempt, however, to
depict these great works briefly in words would be futile, and we
therefore pass on to the consideration of the poet's outer life. This
was almost monotonous - certainly not varied. Beethoven, as we have seen,
lived wholly in his art, and the changes which occurred, most momentous
to him, were not those of outward circumstance, but of inner,
intellectual development.

In the year 1809 he was offered the post of Kapellmeister to the King of
Westphalia, with a salary of six hundred ducats; and this, his great
desire of possessing a fixed income made him ready to accept; although
he would certainly have been miserable in such a position, as Jerome was
not the man to understand either him or his works. Happily, this ordeal
was spared him. It was thought derogatory to the dignity of Austria that
her greatest composer, the one of whom she had most reason to be proud,
should be allowed through pecuniary considerations to quit her bounds;
and as the Emperor would do nothing for Beethoven (his abhorrence of
etiquette and well-known republican sentiments having prevented his ever
getting into favour at Court), an agreement was ultimately entered into
by the Archduke Rudolph (Beethoven's pupil, afterwards Archbishop of
Olmütz) and the Princes Lobkowitz and Kinsky, to pay the composer
annually the sum of four thousand guldens, on condition of his
continuing to reside in Vienna. In two years' time this was reduced
one-fifth, owing to changes in the Austrian Finance, and subsequently it
dwindled down to a mere nothing, from the death and bankruptcy of two of
the contracting parties - but Beethoven could get no redress, although he
religiously fulfilled his part of the compact.

In drawing the money from the executors of Prince Kinsky he was obliged
always to send in a proof that he was still in existence. This annoyed
him excessively, and he generally had the affair transacted for him by a
friend, which on one occasion produced the following laconic voucher to
Schindler: -

"CERTIFICATE OF LIFE. - The Fish lives! _vidi_ Pastor Romualdus," - an
allusion to his eccentric use of water when composing.

In this year also occurred the bombardment of Vienna, out of which Ries
has contrived to bring forward an implied accusation of cowardice
against the composer, in his statement that Beethoven hid himself in a


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryElliott GraemeBeethoven: A Memoir (2nd Ed.) → online text (page 10 of 13)