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the science with any life or brightness, it was his delight to render
it, if possible, more austere and stringent than he had found it, and to
lay down rules which to a fiery, impulsive nature were positively
unbearable. Nevertheless, Pegasus can go in harness if need be.
Beethoven, who, like every true genius, was essentially modest in his
estimate of himself, and had already felt the want of a thoroughly
grounded knowledge, submitted to Albrechtsberger's routine for a period
of about fifteen months - beginning almost at the elements of the
science, and working out the dry-as-dust themes in his master's Gradus
ad Parnassum, until he had gained for himself an insight into the
mysteries of fugue and canon.

This is not the commonly received notion of Beethoven's student-days.
Ries in his "Notices" has the following: -

"I knew them all well [_i.e._, Haydn, Albrechtsberger, and Salieri, who
gave Beethoven instruction in writing for the voice]; all three
appreciated Beethoven highly, but were all of _one_ opinion regarding
his studies. Each said Beethoven was always so obstinate and self-willed
that he had afterwards much to learn through his own hard experience,
which he would not accept in earlier days as the subject of instruction.
Albrechtsberger and Salieri especially were of this opinion."

But this testimony ought not to be accepted for more than it is worth.
Haydn, absorbed in his own pursuits, and utterly unable to fathom
Beethoven's nature - the very reverse of his own; Albrechtsberger, the
formal contrapuntist, far more concerned about the outside of the cup,
the form of a composition, than about its contents; Salieri, the
superficial composer of a few trashy operas long since forgotten, - how
were these men competent to pass judgment on a _Feuerkopf_ like

A little further examination of the question in the light of recent
researches will enable the reader to judge for himself whether the
master was an earnest, willing student, or not.

Until very lately, the main source whence biographers drew their
accounts of the _Lehrjahre_ was the work published by the Chevalier von
Seyfried, which purported to be a correct transcription of Beethoven's
"Studies in Thorough-bass." This volume, as given to the world, was
garnished with a number of sarcastic annotations, professedly emanating
from Beethoven himself, wherein the theoretical rule under
consideration at the moment is held up to ridicule. It is this
circumstance, coupled with the assertion of Ries above alluded to, which
has chiefly produced the prevalent impression regarding Beethoven as a
student. We suppose that nine readers out of ten will have pictured to
themselves the master receiving instruction in much the same spirit as
that in which he was wont to give it in Bonn, namely, like the
rebellious colt described by Wegeler! - Now what are the real facts of
the case? - Thanks to the unwearied exertions of Gustav Nottebohm, we are
in a position to answer the question. In his admirable book,
"Beethoven's Studien," the _actual_ work done by Beethoven under Haydn
and Albrechtsberger is at length laid before the public, and the falsity
of Seyfried's compilation fully proved.[6] Nottebohm has no hesitation
in affirming that Beethoven was a willing rather than a mutinous
scholar, and that he was always intent on his subject, and strove hard
to obtain a clear conception of it.

As for the "sarcastic" marginal remarks which for nearly half a century
have been treasured up and smiled over by every admirer of the master as
eminently "characteristic" of him, will the reader believe that they
turn out to be characteristic of - nothing but the unblushing impudence
of Kapellmeister Ritter von Seyfried? They have no existence except in
his imagination. The running commentary which accompanies the exercises
is of a very different description from that supplied by him; it
contains one instance, and one only, of an ironical tendency, and this
is amusing enough in its simplicity to have extorted a smile from
Albrechtsberger himself. One of the text-books employed appears to have
been that of Türk, who makes use of the term "_galant_" to designate the
_free_ as opposed to the _strict_ style of composition. Now what
Beethoven saw lurking beneath the title _galant_, or what stumblingblock
it presented to him, is hard to discover; but we find the expression, as
often as it occurs, invariably altered to one that suits his notions
better; and once he breaks out with, "Laugh, friends, at this
_galanterie_!" Perhaps we may arrive at an appreciation of his distaste
to the phrase, if we translate it by the word _genteel_, - imagine
Beethoven writing in a _genteel_ style!!

But in addition to thus clearing away the haze of misapprehension that
had settled round our master's character as a learner, the efforts of
Thayer and Nottebohm have also thrown much light on two questions which
have proved more or less perplexing to all students, and to the brief
consideration of which we would now ask the reader's attention.

First, then, how is it that Beethoven's genius as a composer was so
late, comparatively speaking, in developing? At the time of his arrival
in Vienna he was in his twenty-second year, and before that age Mozart,
as we know, had produced no less than 293 works. Yet our master passed
his boyhood in an atmosphere where every influence tended to quicken the
musical life, and to hasten, rather than retard, its growth. Are we to
take the handful of works - the little sonatas, the crude preludes, and
other trifles generally recognised as composed in Bonn, to be the sole
outcome of that period? Impossible! Alexander Thayer may fairly be said
to have solved the problem by a single reference to chronology. He finds
that between the years 1795-1802 (that is, a period _commencing
immediately after the conclusion of his studies_) Beethoven published no
fewer than ninety-two works, many of them of the first magnitude,
including two symphonies, an oratorio, three concertos, nine trios,
thirty-two sonatas, with and without accompaniment - and this during a
time when his leisure for composition must have been scant indeed. We
find him in these years incessantly occupied in more mechanical work,
teaching, perfecting his style as a pianoforte virtuoso, travelling,
continuing his studies with Salieri, and, in addition, enjoying life as
he went along, not burying himself hermit-wise in his works, as was the
case at a later date. Moreover, in Thayer's words: "Precisely at the
time when he began to devote himself _exclusively_ to composition, this
wondrous fertility suddenly ceased. The solution lies on the surface"
viz., that many, if not most, of these works were actually composed in
Bonn, and deliberately kept back by the author for a certain time.
"Why?" we ask; "on what account?" "Until he had attained, by study and
observation, to the _certainty_ that he stood on the firm basis of a
thoroughly-grounded knowledge," replies Thayer, Beethoven would give
nothing to the world. That goal reached, the creations of his youthful
fancy are taken in hand again one by one; the critical file, guided by
the "dictates of an enlightened judgment," is faithfully applied, and
the composition, bearing the final _imprimatur_ of its author's
satisfaction, launched to meet its fate. Well might Beethoven laugh
securely at his critics! - he had been beforehand with them - he had sat
in judgment on himself.

This view receives ample confirmation in the newly published version of
the "Studies." The reader may reasonably take objection to the
foregoing, and may inquire: "Was not Beethoven, then, master of the mere
technicalities of composition by the time he reached Vienna? He had
been engaged in studying the theory as well as the practice of music for
over ten years, under a master, himself well known as a composer." - Let
us hear Nottebohm on the point. The instruction imparted by Neefe,
although calculated to be eminently helpful as regards "the formation of
taste and the development of musical feeling," was yet "from a technical
standpoint unsatisfactory," being based, not on the strict contrapuntal
system of the early ecclesiastical writers (the system which alone
offers the necessary _discipline_ for the composer), but rather on the
lighter and more superficial method of the _new_ Leipzig school, of
which Johann Adam Hiller, Neefe's master and model, was one of the
leading exponents.

Beethoven seems to have divined intuitively where his weakness lay. For
the radical defect which he recognised in his training there was but one
remedy, viz., to lay aside preconceived opinion; to go back in all
humility to the very _Urquelle_, the Fountain-head, of Harmony, and
trace out thence for himself, slowly and painfully, the eternal channel
of LAW, _within_ which the mighty sound-flood may roll and toss at will,
but _beyond_ whose bounds, immutable and fixed, no mortal power may send
it with impunity.

Turning to the "Studies," we find no trace of a disposition to claim
exemption from toil on the score of genius. On the contrary! - commencing
at the very foundation (the names of the different intervals), every
branch of composition is taken up in its turn - simple, double, and
triple counterpoint in all detail - and worked at with a will (several of
the exercises, being written and rewritten two or three times), until we
arrive at Fugue, where, for a reason shortly to be noted, there is a

What shall we say to the picture thus presented to us? - A young man
self-willed and impatient by nature, at an age when submission to direct
instruction is, to say the least, unpalatable, voluntarily placing
himself under the yoke - a poet, within whose soul divine melodies plead
for freedom, and thoughts of fire press hard for utterance, resolutely
keeping inspiration under, until he shall have penetrated into the
structure of language - a painter, in whose desk lie sketches, marvellous
in freshness, vigour, and originality, occupying himself for weary
months in the study of anatomy! Truly our Beethoven at this period, as
at a later, comes well within the practical definition of Genius; his
"capacity for painstaking" was "infinite." Not so, however, his
patience, as we shall presently see.

Now for the second difficulty to which Nottebohm has found a clue: how
is it that in Beethoven's earlier works we have so few instances of
fugue-writing - at the time one of the most favoured styles of
composition; and that these, when they do occur, should from the
irregularity of their construction invariably be disappointing? Here
again the scholarship of our critic has done good service. His minute
examination of the exercises done under Albrechtsberger has led him to
the conclusion, that to the faulty teaching of the master is due the
faulty workmanship of the pupil - a somewhat astounding discovery when we
remember the high estimation in which the contrapuntist was held by his
contemporaries. The fact remains, however, that the instruction given by
Albrechtsberger, "in several important details of fugue building, was
deficient and not grounded;" hence, in all probability, the rarity of
fugue during the first ten years of Beethoven's creative activity. He
had not entire mastery over its resources, and therefore hesitated to
introduce it, save in a subordinate and fitful way. We may be surprised
that the indoctrination in the works of J.S. Bach, which we noted in the
Bonn days, should not of itself have been powerful enough imperceptibly
to mould his style. There is, however, no trace of this at the period we
are considering. That the influence of the _Urvater_[7] of harmony (a
title applied by Beethoven himself to John Sebastian) worked deeply into
his inner life, there can be no doubt; but its effects were not
_apparent_ till a very much later date - a phenomenon, to our thinking,
only to be explained on psychological grounds.

To return. Beethoven's patience, which had held out over two years,
comes to a sudden halt on this very question. Clear-sighted and tolerant
of no incompetence, our young "Thorough!" seems to have detected
Albrechtsberger's weak point, and there and then to have cast off
allegiance to him. The exercises up to fugue are, generally speaking,
most carefully executed. No sooner, however, does the scholar perceive
that the master is almost as much "at sea" as himself, and steering
vaguely without a chart, than docility is at an end; he conceives an
intense disgust for the theoretical tread-mill; growls to a friend that
he has "had enough of making musical skeletons!" and absolves himself,
without permission, from the remainder of Albrechtsberger's course.

We hear the old Theoretiker long after this grimly warning one of his
pupils against his _ci-devant_ scholar: "Have nothing to do with him.
_He_ never learned anything!" "Nay," Beethoven might have replied, had
he thought it worth his while, "I learned _all_ that _you_ had to teach.
Would you have had me walk with my eyes shut?" As Nottebohm remarks "the
one _could_ not" teach, "the other _would_ not" learn, and so the
instruction came to a close, and Beethoven fell back upon his own

He had, however, by this time achieved his purpose in the main. He had
probed and examined the received theoretical axioms, and was in a
position to decide for himself as to their actual importance. Henceforth
none were accepted by him as imperative, simply out of deference to
current ideas, and thus we find instances again and again of an
inflexible determination to shake off all restraints, the utility of
which was not recognised by his inner consciousness. He was wont in
after years, when told of any perplexity of the critics, to rub his
hands together in glee, saying; "Yes, yes! they are all astonished, and
put their heads together, because - they don't find it in any
thorough-bass book!"

That independence may easily be merged in self-will, however, he
sometimes proved to demonstration, to the delight of those who were on
the watch for flaws. Ries tells us, for instance, that on one occasion
he discovered and pointed out (in the C minor quartet, Op. 18) two
perfect fifths in succession. "Well?" asks the master, testily, "and who
has forbidden them?" Somewhat taken aback, the scholar keeps silence.
Again the question is repeated. "But it is a first principle!" hesitates
Ries in astonishment. "WHO HAS FORBIDDEN THEM?" thunders out the master
again. "Marpurg, Kirnberger. Fux, - all the theorists." "AND I ALLOW
THEM!" is the conclusion. But the obstinacy displayed in this and
similar anecdotes is more an expression of petulance, than of
preconsidered judgment. Beethoven, as we know, enjoyed nothing better
than an opportunity of mystifying certain individuals as to his real
thoughts and intentions. Occasionally we hear his true voice in the
matter. A friend had remarked, regarding the second and third "Leonora"
overtures, "The artist must create in freedom, only giving in to the
spirit of his age, and be monarch over his own materials; under such
conditions alone will true art-works come to light." "Granted," replied
Beethoven; "but he must _not_ give in to the spirit of his age,
otherwise it is all over with originality.... Had I written them [the
two overtures] in the spirit that prevailed at the time, they would
certainly have been understood at once, as, for example, the 'Storm of
Kotzeluch.' But I cannot cut and carve out my works according to the
fashion, as they would fain have me do. Freshness and originality create
themselves, without thinking about it."

After all, let us remember that it is vain to measure the strides of a
giant with the footsteps of ordinary men. Epoch-Makers are necessarily
Law-Breakers to the eyes of their contemporaries. Years must pass before
the import of their work is fully discerned. Reverting to our former
simile, _we_ can see that while Beethoven's critics believed him to be
rebelliously diverting the current of Harmony from the pure course
directed by a Palestrina, a Bach, a Handel, a Haydn, a Mozart, he was in
reality simply engaged in deepening and widening its channel, that the
Stream might flow on in grander and nobler proportions to meet the
ever-growing necessities of Humanity.

Beethoven continued a diligent student through life; from those who had
devoted special attention to any particular subject he was always eager
to learn, although, as we have seen, without pledging himself to follow
their views. Thus we find him in 1799 studying the art of
quartet-writing more closely with Förster, who excelled in that branch
of composition; and as late as 1809 he styles himself the "pupil" of
Salieri, from whom, as the friend of Metastasio, and versed in the
requirements of the Italian school, he often sought advice in his vocal

But in addition to more purely theoretic studies, Beethoven was
indefatigable in his practical investigations into the nature and
capabilities of the instruments for which he wrote, and which his
creative genius roused to unheard-of achievements. From Herren Kraft and
Linke he learned the mechanism of the violoncello; Punto taught him that
of the horn, and Friedlowsky that of the clarionet. He often consulted
these artists in after life regarding the suitability of certain
passages for their respective instruments, and allowed himself to be
guided by their suggestions.

Far otherwise was it, however, with singers; for them Beethoven composed
as he liked, without humouring any little predilection of the most
fascinating prima donna, or introducing a single piece for display (one
reason why Rossini was able for so long to play the part of the
successful rival). On the other hand, the singers had their revenge, and
sang his music precisely as they listed, interpolating embellishments
and cadenze _a piacere_ without the slightest regard to his wishes.

The following letters to Eleanore van Breuning belong to this epoch: -

"_Vienna, Nov. 2nd, '93._

residence in the capital has nearly elapsed without your having
received a letter from me, notwithstanding you have been continually
with me in the liveliest remembrance. I have often entertained
myself with the thought of you and your dear family, but oftener
still I have not enjoyed the peace in doing so which I could have

"At such times that fatal dispute hovered before me, and my conduct
in the matter appeared to me detestable. But it was past and gone.
How much would I give to be able to obliterate entirely from my life
the way in which I then acted! so dishonouring to me, so opposed to
my general character. At the same time there were many circumstances
which tended to keep us apart, and I suspect that what specially
hindered a reconciliation was the manner in which the remarks of
each were repeated to the other. We both believed that what we said
was the result of honest conviction, when in reality it proceeded
from anger inflamed by others, and so we were both deceived. Your
good and noble character, my dear friend, warrants me in believing
that you have long since forgiven me; but they say that the truest
repentance is that in which we confess our own faults, and this is
what I desire to do. And let us now draw the curtain over the whole
affair, only extracting the lesson from it that when a dispute
happens between friends, it is always better that no mediator should
be employed, but that friend should address himself direct to

"You will receive along with this a dedication,[9] and I can only
wish that it were greater and more worthy of you. They teased me
here into publishing this little work, and I avail myself of the
opportunity to give you, my esteemed Eleanore, a proof of my regard
and friendship for yourself, and a token of my lasting remembrance
of your house. Accept this trifle, and think of it as coming from a
devoted friend. Oh! if it only gives you pleasure, my wishes will be
quite satisfied. May it be a little reawakening of the time when I
passed so many happy hours in your house! perhaps it may keep you in
remembrance of me until I return again, which certainly will not
happen soon. Oh! my dear friend, how we shall rejoice then! You will
find your friend a more cheerful man, with all the former furrows of
adversity chased away through time and a happier lot.

"If you should see B. Koch, I beg you to tell her that it is unkind
of her not to have written me even once. I have written to her
twice, and to Malchus[10] three times - but no answer. Tell her that
if she will not write herself, she might, at least, urge Malchus to
do so.

"In concluding my letter, I venture one more request, namely, that
it would make me very happy to possess an Angola vest knitted by
your hands, my dear friend. Forgive this not very modest demand! It
arises out of my great predilection for everything made by you; but
I must tell you confidentially that there is also a little vanity
connected with it. I want to be able to say that I possess something
of one of the best and most admired girls in Bonn. I have, it is
true, still the first which you kindly gave me in Bonn, but it has
become so old-fashioned that I can only treasure it up in my
wardrobe as something of yours, very dear to me. You would delight
me much by favouring me soon with one of your kind letters. Should
mine give you any pleasure, I promise you certainly, so far as lies
in my power, to continue them; since everything is welcome to me
whereby I may prove to you how much I am,

"With all esteem,

Your true Friend,


"P.S. - You will find the v. [variations] somewhat difficult to play,
especially the shake in the coda; but don't let this alarm you,
since it is so arranged that you have nothing to do but the shake;
the other notes you may leave out, as they occur in the violin part.
I would never have written in this manner had I not had occasion to
remark that there are several people here in V., who, after I have
extemporized of an evening, write down many of my peculiarities next
day, and pass them off as their own.[11] As I foresaw that such
things would soon be published, it occurred to me to anticipate
their movements. Another reason was also - to perplex the pianoforte
teachers here. Many of them are my mortal enemies, and I wished to
revenge myself on them in this way; knowing that they would
occasionally be asked to play the variations, when these gentlemen
would come out in rather an unfavourable light."

The following fragment is without date: -

"The beautiful cravat, worked by your own hands, has caused me the
greatest possible surprise. Although in itself so pleasing, it
awakened within me feelings of melancholy. Its effect was to recall
the past, and to shame me by your generous behaviour. In truth, I
did not think that you still considered me worthy of remembrance.

"Oh! could you have been a witness of my emotions yesterday when it
arrived, you would not think I exaggerate in saying that the
recollection of you brings the tears to my eyes, and makes me very
sad. However little I may deserve credit in your eyes, I beg you to
believe, _my friend_ (allow me still to call you so), that I have
suffered and still suffer through the loss of your friendship. You
and your dear mother I shall never forget. Your goodness to me was
such that the loss of you neither can nor will be easily replaced. I
know what I lost and what you were to me, but - - if I attempt to
fill up this blank, I must refer to scenes which are as unpleasant
for you to hear as for me to describe.

"As a slight return for your kind remembrance of me, I take the
liberty of sending you some variations, and the rondo with violin
accompaniment. I have a great deal to do, or I would have copied the
long-promised sonata for you. In my manuscript it is little better
than a sketch, and it would be very difficult for Paraquin
himself,[12] clever as he is, to transcribe it. You can have the
rondo copied, and then return the score to me. It is the only one of
all my compositions suitable for you, and as you are shortly going
to Kerpen,[13] I thought it might afford you some pleasure.

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