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To show the good understanding between Beethoven and the Princess
Christiane, we give the following anecdote here, although it properly
belongs to a later period.

One evening, Ries, while still Beethoven's pupil, in performing a sonata
before a large company, played a wrong note, on which the master tapped
him on the head with one finger by way of reminder. Beethoven next took
his seat at the pianoforte, and the Princess (who always felt for the
weak, and had observed that Ries was rather vexed by the occurrence)
stationed herself behind the composer. Beethoven played the beginning of
one of his own compositions rather carelessly, as he was often wont to
do in commencing, when the Princess seized her opportunity, and giving
him several well-directed blows, said: "When a pupil is punished with
one finger for having failed in a single note, the master deserves to be
punished with the whole hand for graver faults!" "Everybody began to
laugh," adds Ries, "and Beethoven the first. He recommenced, and played

In the year 1793, the first of that unparalleled series of works which
ended only in 1827 with Beethoven's death - the three Trios for
pianoforte, violin, and 'cello, Op. I., - was publicly performed; that is
to say, before a large and brilliant assembly in the Lichnowski Palace.
The result was most gratifying, alike to the composer and to his
friends - Beethoven was at once recognised as the successor of Mozart.
One incident alone detracted from the happiness of the young author.
Haydn, who was present, while warmly praising the two first trios,
strongly recommended that the last, in C minor, should not be published.

Beethoven's suspicion, already on the alert, was fairly roused by this
apparently well-meaning advice. Why should that particular trio be kept
back? He himself thought it the best and most original of the three, and
as such it is now generally regarded.

It offered, however, such a contrast to his own simple style of
trio-writing, that Haydn was, perhaps, honest in stating as his reason
for advocating its non-publication that he did not believe the public
would understand it. Beethoven, however, was strengthened by this
occurrence in his conviction that Haydn "did not mean well by him;" and,
though he deferred to the criticism at the time (probably more out of
regard to Lichnowski's representations) a bitter feeling towards his
former master rankled in his heart. This did not prevent his dedicating
the three Pianoforte Sonatas, Op. II., to Haydn. The dedication,
however, was a mere mark of appreciation, not of the man, but of his
works, a compliment from one artist to the other - not a grateful
recognition of the master by the pupil. In fact, when Haydn wished him
to inscribe on the title-page, "Pupil of Haydn," he flatly refused,
saying that he "had never learned anything from him!"

We have said that he deferred to Haydn's criticism, but he went beyond
it. If the C minor trio was not to be published, neither should the
other two. So the unlucky works were thrust back into his portfolio,
where they lay for two years, during which the irate composer paved the
way for their proper reception by publishing an immense number of
bagatelles, especially variations on different themes, which have no
great value beyond that attached to them as studies in the development
of Beethoven's genius.

Although evincing more ingenuity and variety than the themes treated by
Mozart in the same way, they are often found unequal to the latter in
clearness.[14] Beethoven seems to have had a lingering partiality for
this style of writing. After having abandoned it, we find it adopted
again in the Thirty-two Variations Sérieuses on an original theme, which
were written after he had more than established his success in the
Sonata form; and, so anxious was he to have them well understood and
rendered, that he made Ries, when studying them with him, repeat the
last no fewer than seventeen times before he was satisfied with the
effect; "though," adds Ries rather naïvely, "I thought I played it as
well as Beethoven himself!"

The growth of the Thirty-three Variations, Op. 120, we must leave to
Schindler to relate: -

"In the villa of Hetzendorf, Beethoven wrote the Thirty-three Variations
on a Waltz by Diabelli, a work which delighted him uncommonly. At first
there were only to be six or seven variations, for which modest number
Diabelli had offered him eighty ducats (the price he received for almost
each of his later Sonatas). But when he set to work, there sprang into
life first ten, then twenty, then twenty-five - and still he could not
stop. When Diabelli heard of the twenty-five variations, he was greatly
concerned lest the work should be too large, but was at last obliged to
accept for his eighty ducats, not _seven_, but _three and thirty
variations_." The following story is a proof of the ease with which he
invented variations. Being one evening in a box with a lady during a
performance of "La Molinare," she lamented to him that she had once
possessed a number of variations on the air "Nel cor non più mi sento,"
which she had lost. Next morning she received "Sei variazioni perdute
per la - ritrovate per Luigi v. Beethoven."

The year 1795 brought with it two events: one the arrival of his
brothers in Vienna; the other his first appearance in public as a
virtuoso. Hitherto his performances had been confined to the Lichnowski
Palace, and other private houses, and public curiosity had long been
whetted by the various rumours which flew about concerning him. At
length it was to be gratified, on the occasion of the Annual Concert for
the Widows and Orphans of Musicians. The direction of this was usually
entrusted to Salieri, who held the _bâton_ at the Italian Opera-house,
and his programme for the year 1795 consisted of an operetta, composed
by one of his pupils, and a Pianoforte Concerto in C major by another,
Herr Louis van Beethoven.

Wegeler relates that two days before the date fixed for the event the
Concerto was not yet finished, and there did not seem much probability
of its being ready in time, as Beethoven was suffering much from attacks
of colic, to which he was often subject. Wegeler, from his medical
knowledge, was able to render a little assistance, and so the work
progressed, Beethoven writing as fast as he could, and handing over each
sheet as it was finished to four copyists who were in attendance in the
antechamber. Next day, at the rehearsal, the pianoforte was found to
have been tuned half a tone lower than the other instruments; when
Beethoven, to save time, played the whole Concerto through in the key of
C sharp!

Seyfried tells us that when Beethoven asked him to turn over the leaves
of several of his concertos for him while playing in public, he found
nothing but a sheet of paper with here and there a bar filled in, or a
mass of notes unintelligible to any one but the composer. Jahn describes
Mozart as doing the same, but what a difference is there between his
concertos and - say, _the Emperor_!

The year 1796 was marked by a slight variation; Beethoven made a short
journey to Prague and Berlin, the only occasion, with the exception of
his visit to the Baths, on which he ever left Vienna or its
neighbourhood. In both cities he met with a flattering reception. In
Berlin he played his two sonatas for pianoforte and 'cello, Op. 5,
before Frederick William II., who presented him with a snuff-box filled
with Friedrichs-d'or; "not an ordinary snuff-box," as Beethoven was wont
to remark with grim satisfaction, "but one similar to those given to

Here, also, he unwittingly incurred the enmity of the pianist Himmel.
The latter had begged Beethoven for an improvisation, with which request
our musician complied, and then asked Himmel to favour him in return.
Nothing loath, Himmel seated himself at the pianoforte and began a
succession of smooth running passages and arpeggios, skilfully linked
together. Beethoven listened for a while in silence, imagining this to
be the prelude, but as it seemed to "go on for ever," he said with some
impatience, "Pray do begin now!" Himmel, however had already exhausted
his imagination and finished his (_quasi_) improvisation.

No better fate awaited others who opposed themselves to Beethoven as
improvisatori, not excepting the celebrated pianists Woelfl and
Steibelt. That the former could ever have been seriously regarded as
the rival of Beethoven is scarcely credible to us. Such was the case,
however, and as with Gluck and Picini in Paris, and Handel and
Buononcini in London (connected with which Swift's well-known
_jeu-d'esprit_ will occur to every amateur), so it was with Beethoven
and Woelfl in Vienna. Each had his allies, and party spirit ran so high
that Beethoven, although devoid of any feeling of rivalry, accepted a
challenge to improvise. The meeting took place at the villa of Baron von
Wetzlar, Woelfl's patron; the pianofortes were placed side by side, and
the two artists played and improvised by turns.

Inspired by the ardour of contest, each seemed to surpass himself; never
had Woelfl's technical skill seemed greater; never had the wealth of
Beethoven's ideas shone out more resplendently. Some of Woelfl's
stoutest adherents contended that he had gained the day in a technical
point of view, and this may, perhaps, have been the case, since his
immense hand, which enabled him to grasp tenths with the same ease as
octaves, undoubtedly gave him an advantage. His sonata, "Non plus
ultra," gives us an idea of his execution.

Beethoven, on the other hand, never cared to make a display of mere dash
and brilliancy; technicalities were always subordinated by him to idea
and feeling.

The gift of improvisation must have been his to an extent unparalleled
either before or since. His wealth of idea, certainty of form, and
poetry of expression, combined to produce an effect very different from
that achieved by ordinary extempore players, who in general, as we have
seen in the case of Himmel, mistook the art of preluding for that of
improvising. Only one conversant with that language of music to which
Beethoven often alluded, could venture, without preparation, to speak to
any purpose in it.

A circumstance that contributed to his success was his _power of
abstraction_, which, in common with all deep thinkers, he possessed in a
remarkable degree. With the first few bars of the given Thema, the scene
before his eyes, the daylight, the bystanders, all vanished; and
Beethoven was as fully immersed in the solitude of his own thoughts as
though he had been suddenly transported to some desert island, with
penguins and sea-gulls for listeners.

Ries gives a curious instance of this utter disregard of all outward
things, in the story of the great master's commencing one day, while
giving him a lesson, to play with the left hand the first fugue from
Graun's "Tod Jesu." Gradually the right hand was added, and regardless
of his awkward position, the fugue developed in all conceivable manners
for the space of half an hour, when he suddenly awoke to discover that
his pupil was still in his place before the pianoforte.

In 1800 a more formidable rival appeared at Vienna in the person of
Steibelt. Having conceived a great idea of his own powers from the
flattery of his Parisian admirers, Steibelt came to the capital sure of
conquest, and did not even consider it necessary to visit the opponent
so far beneath him. They met accidentally at the house of Count Fries,
"where," says Ferdinand Ries, "Beethoven played for the first time[15]
his Trio in B flat major for piano; clarionet, and 'cello, Op. 11, in
which there is not much room for display. Steibelt heard it with a kind
of condescension, paid Beethoven several compliments, and believed
himself sure of victory. He played a quintet of his own composition, and
then improvised, and produced a great sensation by his free use of
_tremolo_, which was at that time something quite new. To ask Beethoven
to play again was not to be thought of. Eight days after there was again
a concert at Count Fries'. Steibelt played another quintet with great
success; he had besides, as might be easily perceived, _studied_ a
brilliant improvisation, and chosen for a subject the theme on which the
finale of Beethoven's trio was built. This disgusted the admirers of
Beethoven, and displeased the latter also. It was his turn to seat
himself at the pianoforte and to improvises. He placed himself at the
instrument with his ordinary air - I might say, rather ill-humouredly,
and as if pushed there. In passing, he seized the violoncello part of
Steibelt's quintet, placed it upside down on the desk (was this
designedly?), and drummed out with one finger the theme of the first few

"Then, impelled by his insulted and excited feelings, he improvised in
such a manner that Steibelt quitted the room before Beethoven had
ceased. He would never meet him again, and, when invited anywhere,
always stipulated that Beethoven should not be present."

But enough of such anecdotes! Triumphs which would have been glory to
others were nothing to him. Let us pass on and see the master in the
great struggle which prefaced the real commencement of life's work, and
was continued without intermission until the victory was won.


[Footnote 14: Marx, vol. i., p. 66.]

[Footnote 15: This is evidently an error. The Trio had been published in
1798. - Thayer, Vol. II., p. 101.]





Deafness and its Consequences - His Brothers' Influence - Letters to
Wegeler - "Mount of Olives" - Beethoven's Will - Beethoven as an
Instructor - a Conductor - Sinfonia Eroica - "Leonora"
("Fidelio") - "Adelaïde."

Suffering and genius! apparently so far apart, in reality so near!

The bitter cry of Milton, -

"Dark, dark, dark, amidst the blaze of noon!"

has gone up from many a thousand hearts to the eternal throne; but who
may presume to fathom the dispensations of a mysterious providence? or
to question that wisdom which gives to every earthborn soul the
necessary discipline for immortality? Let us rather wonder and adore,
and -

"Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and _be strong_."

We left our young musician in the full flush of success, in apparently
vigorous health, caressed and flattered by princes, without a rival as
a virtuoso, and fast leaving all competitors behind him as a composer,
when suddenly a cloud appears, the brightness is overcast, and darkness
comes on apace. _Beethoven became deaf._

For three years he had had premonitory fears, which were too sadly
realized in the year 1801.

The loss of hearing is deprivation enough in ordinary cases; but to a
young man of excitable artist temperament, and a musician! it seemed for
a while worse than the loss of life itself. Our Beethoven writes thus to
Wegeler: -

"If I had not read somewhere that man must not of his own free will
depart this life, I should long ere this have been no more, and that
through my own act."

From this despair he was mercifully rescued. The strong, secret voice
within, impelling Beethoven onwards and upwards to that aim which he
"felt, but could not describe," spoke now in more stirring accents and
with more thrilling emphasis amid the profound silence and desolation of
his nature.

He "was not disobedient" to the heavenly call; the triumph of mind was
achieved; and from the dark prison-house the noblest strains the world
has ever heard escaped to wake responsive echoes in the hearts of all
who have felt and suffered.

But this victory was not gained without leaving behind it evident tokens
of the struggle; distrust, suspicion, irritability, those constant
attendants on deafness, haunted Beethoven day and night, poisoning his
happiness, and casting their shadow over his childlike, benevolent
disposition. Stephan Breuning writes thus of the alteration in his
friend in a letter dated the 13th of November, 1806: - "You cannot
realize the indescribable impression made upon Beethoven by the loss of
his hearing. Imagine, with his excitable temperament, the feeling of
unhappiness, added to reserve, distrust of his best friends, and
indecision in many things. In general, intercourse with him is a
positive exertion, in which it is impossible to feel entirely at one's
ease; the occasions on which his old true nature shows itself are few

Schindler, also his friend and biographer, describes him as being "like
a child, devoid of all experience, suddenly cast upon this earth from
some ideal world; like a ball, tossed from one hand to another;
consequently, at the mercy of other people. And," he adds, "_so
Beethoven remained throughout his whole life_."

These evils were increased by the presence of his brothers, Carl and
Johann (the "evil principles" of his life, as Schindler calls them), who
now began to exercise an almost unlimited influence over him. These men
seem to have been totally incapable of appreciating the true character
or work of Ludwig; they only saw that he was making money rapidly (and,
as they thought, easily), and determined to take advantage of it. To
this end they resolved to obtain entire possession of him, and began by
endeavouring to alienate as far as possible Beethoven's friends,
misrepresenting to him all that occurred, and fanning every little spark
of anger into a flame.

Their efforts partially succeeded; our unhappy composer, absorbed in his
own creations, overwhelmed by his misfortune, and intensely irritable,
was but too ready to believe all the world in league against him, and
would have shut the door against his best friends. Prince Lichnowski
alone had still some weight with him, and when once persuaded that he
had acted unjustly, nothing could exceed Beethoven's contrition and
desire to make amends to those he had wounded.

But he would never lay any blame upon his brothers, and even when their
duplicity and falseness had been clearly pointed out to him, he would
still continue to defend them strenuously, refusing to look upon their
conduct in any but the most favourable light, and adding, "After all,
they are my brothers."

It may easily be believed how, with dispositions such as those of Carl
and Johann, this mistaken lenity and brotherly feeling confirmed them in
their course. It was they who generally made all arrangements with the
music publishers, and through their instrumentality many minor pieces
were given to the world which the composer had produced in Bonn, and
kept back from publication as unworthy of his name.

Such a consideration, however, had no weight with the two; money they
wanted, and were resolved to get at all hazards. Once only did Beethoven
come into collision with them regarding this, when he discovered that
Carl had, without his knowledge, sold a copyright which had been
promised to another person.

Carl held a situation in the National Bank of Austria, and Johann had
been established by Beethoven as an apothecary. In a very short time,
however, the latter became so wealthy (how?) as to be able to exchange
the pestle and mortar for the state of a country gentleman. Of this he
was so immoderately proud, that one New Year's day he sent in to his
brother a card, on which was written, -

"Johann van Beethoven, Land Proprietor."

The composer, who was at table when it was brought to him, laughed
heartily, and writing on the other side, -

"Ludwig van Beethoven, Brain Proprietor,"

sent it back to him.

The following letters to Wegeler display, more fully than we can
describe, Beethoven's condition during the first few years of his
calamity: -

"_Vienna, 29th June_, (1801.)

"MY DEAR GOOD WEGELER, - How much I thank you for your remembrance of
me! I have deserved it, and sought to deserve it, so little; and yet
you are so good, and will not allow yourself to be discouraged even
by my unpardonable neglect - you are always the same true, good,
worthy friend. That I could ever forget you or yours, who were once
so dear and precious to me, do not believe; there are moments in
which I long for you, and wish that it were in my power to spend
some time with you. My fatherland, the lovely spot in which I first
saw the light, is as distinct and beautiful before my eyes now as
when I first left you. In short, I shall consider it one of the
happiest events of my life when I am able to see you, and to greet
our Father Rhine again. When this will be I cannot positively say.
So much I will tell you - you shall not see me again until I have
become really great - not as an artist only, but a better and more
perfect man: and if the prosperity of my country be once more
re-established, my art shall be devoted solely to the relief of the
poor. Oh blissful moment! how happy do I consider myself in being
able to procure thee - to create thee!

"You want to know something about my position? Well, after all it is
not so bad. Lichnowski is still, and always has been, my warmest
friend, however incredible it may appear to you. (Of course there
were little misunderstandings between us; but did they not serve
rather to cement our friendship?) Since last year he has settled on
me a pension of six hundred guldens, which I am to draw until I find
an appointment suited to me. I make a great deal by my compositions;
indeed, I may say that there are more demands upon me than I can
execute. For every one of my works I have at least six or seven
publishers, and could have more if I wished. They do not drive
bargains with me now: I demand, and they pay. You see this is a
very good thing. If, for instance, I see a friend in difficulty, and
am not in funds to help him immediately, I have only to sit down and
write, and in a short time he is relieved. I am also more economical
than I used to be. If I remain here permanently, I shall certainly
contrive to reserve one day in every year for a grand concert, of
which I have already given several. That malicious demon, bad
health, has cast a stumblingblock in my path - for the last three
years my hearing has gradually become weaker. The original cause of
this defect is the state of my digestive organs, which, as you know,
was formerly bad enough, but has now become much worse, for I have
been constantly troubled with diarrhoea, which has induced extreme
weakness. Frank tried to restore the tone to my constitution by
strengthening medicines, and to my hearing by oil of almonds, but
_prosit!_ with no good effect; my hearing grew worse, and my
digestion remained in the same state. This lasted till the autumn of
last year, and I was often in despair. Then one medical _asinus_
recommended cold bathing for my complaint; another, a little more
sensible, the ordinary tepid Danube bath. This worked wonders; my
digestion became better, but my deafness continued as bad as ever,
or grew worse. Last winter I was truly miserable, suffering so
dreadfully from colic that I fell completely back again into my
former state, in which I continued till about four weeks ago, when I
went to consult Vering;[16] partly because I think my complaint
requires surgical treatment, and partly also because I have always
had confidence in him. He succeeded in almost entirely arresting the
violent diarrhoea. He ordered me the tepid Danube bath, into which
I pour every time a phial of some strengthening mixture; but he gave
me no medicine at all, except four days ago some digestive pills and
a lotion for the ears. I must say I find myself much stronger and
better for this treatment, but the buzzing and ringing in my ears
continues day and night.

"I may say that I pass my life wretchedly; for nearly two years I
have avoided all society, because I cannot possibly say to people,
'_I am deaf!_' If I were in any other profession it would not so
much signify, but for a musician it is a really frightful condition.
Besides, what would my enemies say to it? - and they are not few!

"To give you an idea of this extraordinary deafness, I must tell you
that in the theatre I am obliged to lean forward quite close to the
orchestra in order to understand the actors. The high tones of the
instruments and voices I do not hear if I am a little way off. In
conversation it is surprising that there are some people who do not

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