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wife to look after his linen, and because he could not
live like the fast young men around him. What more
was to be said ? A good deal, at any rate by " dear
papa," who took the common-sense view that Wolf-
gang should wait until he could afford to keep a wife.
Wolfgang, like the wayward son in the novel, held a
different opinion. " Constance," he wrote to his father,
" is a well-conducted, good girl, of respectable parent-
age, and I am in a position to earn at least daily bread
for her. We love each other and are resolved to marry.
All that you have written, or may possibly write, on
this subject can be nothing but well-meant advice,
which, however good and sensible, can no longer apply
to a man who has gone so far with a girl. There can
therefore be no question of further delay." This was
emphatic enough. The letter was followed immedi-
ately by another, asking consent to an early marriage.
As no reply came, Mozart took silence for consent,
and, in the summer of 1782, celebrated a quiet wedding
at St. Stephen's, Vienna (where Haydn had been
married twenty-two years before), his bride being
eighteen and himself twenty-six.

Was it, then, a happy wedded life upon which Mozart
thus entered? So far as can be gathered from his
letters, it was for him. Indeed, if we look at Frau
Mozart with her husband's loving eyes, we shall see no



8o MASTER MUSICIANS

fault in. her from first to last. But unfortunately Con-
stance knew next to nothing about housekeeping ; and
as Mozart himself soared far above such mundane
things, the home was too often the scene of untidiness
and disorder, to which the perpetual worry of pecuniary
embarrassments added anything but a pleasing flavour.
There is a pathetically significant story to the effect
that a friend called one winter day, and found Mozart
and his wife waltzing round the room. " We were cold,"
they explained, " and we have no wood to make a fire."
Think of that, and then think of the glorious works
Mozart produced under such depressing conditions !
And, to whatever extent his wife may have been to
blame for the irregularities and shortcomings of the
household, he at least never grumbled. His devotion
to her was of that simple and childlike nature which
makes sunshine in the house, even when the prospect
seems darkest. When he went travelling he carried the
portrait of his Constance in his breast, and sent her
a daily letter, couched in the most endearing terms.
In one letter he "encloses" her 1,095,060,437,082
kisses ! And so the chequered, yet withal happy, life
went on to the end. Almost his last written words
were addressed by Mozart to his wife : " The hour
strikes. Farewell ! We shall meet again."

Within the nine years of the composer's married
life four sons and two daughters were born to him.
Only two of the sons, Karl and Wolfgang Amadeus,
survived. The latter adopted his father's profession,
and died at Carlsbad in 1844. Karl was a modest



MOZART! IMMORTAL MOZART! 81

Austrian official, " a book-keeper of some kind," and
died at Milan in 1858. Neither of the two married,
and so there is not a single descendant of Mozart alive
to-day. His beloved sister, the prodigy Nannerl, be-
came a handsome woman ; married (in 1784) a widower
with several children ; and died in 1829, twenty-eight
years after her husband. She was all her life devoted
to music. She even composed a few pieces, and was
an excellent teacher as well as performer. Mozart's
widow, it may be convenient to add here, remarried
and long outlived her husband, dying as late as 1842.
She had inspired her new consort (his name was
Nissen) with such devotion to Mozart's fame that he
wrote a eulogistic biography of the composer. There
cannot be many instances of a second husband doing
that sort of thing for the first.

Mozart's marriage was very nearly coincident with
his serious start as a composer. With a wife and a
young family growing up around him, he was spurred
to endeavour in their interests. He settled in Vienna,
where Haydn already was, and where Beethoven and
Schubert would soon be ; and there he burnt himself
out, like a torch expending its light in the wind. As
an American writer has said, poverty and increasing
expense pricked him into intense, restless energy. His
life now had no lull in its creative industry. His
splendid genius, unsatiable and tireless, broke down his
body, like a sword wearing out its scabbard. He poured
out symphonies (forty-nine in all), operas, and sonatas
with a prodigality positively staggering, even when

G



82 MASTER MUSICIANS

we recollect how fertile musical genius has often been.
Alike as artist and composer, he never ceased his
labours. Day after day and night after night he hardly
snatched an hour's rest. We can almost fancy he
foreboded how short his life was to be, and felt im-
pelled to crowd into its brief compass its largest
measure of results.

His greatest works of these years nay, the greatest
works of his life are the operas of Figaro, Don
Giovanni, and // Flauto Magico, a trio that have main-
tained their artistic supremacy despite the many
changes occurring in musical taste during a century.
Of the three, perhaps the greatest is Don Giovanni.
The story has often been told how Mozart began the
composition with his usual energy, appeared to get
indifferent, and put off the work till near the time
fixed for its production at Prague. To Prague he
journeyed to finish the score ; and it is said that he
wrote a considerable part of the work in a summer-
house while he kept up a conversation with some
gentlemen playing bowls near by. The overture, at any
rate, was entirely written after midnight, the day before
it was required for the first performance, and there
was barely time for the copyist to write out the parts
before the beginning of the opera, which, indeed, was
somewhat delayed on that account. And yet, all that
Mozart received for this immortal work was 20.
A present-day copyist would get more than that for
merely transcribing it. The prices paid to Mozart for
some of his operas were incredibly and ridiculously



MOZART ! IMMORTAL MOZART ! 83

small. In those days nobody seemed to think of the
productions of musical genius as a marketable com-
modity. Even literary men were not paid at so much
per thousand words then.

And, alas ! there was little money to be obtained
by other means. Mozart tried frequent tours to recruit
his finances, but the returns were so small that, to
purchase a meal, he would often pawn the gifts
showered on him. There is an authentic story of his
pawning his plate in order to get to Frankfort for the
coronation of the Emperor. Audiences would carry
him to his hotel on their shoulders and leave him to
beg for his dinner. So he struggled on through his last
years, with the wolf constantly at the door, and with
an invalid wife, whom he passionately loved, yet must
needs see suffer, not only from the lack of alleviating
medicines, but from the lack of the common necessaries
of life. Mr. Haweis says it is difficult to account for
all this. But let us remember that Mozart's purse was
always open to his friends, and that he was obliged
to mix on equal terms with his superiors in rank. He
was open-handed almost to criminality, as when he
once, in the course of a tour, lent a total stranger a
hundred francs. There may have been bad manage-
ment in the home, but we cannot read Mozart's letters
and accuse him of wanton extravagance. He had the
social character and the failings of his time and en-
vironment that was all. And then he was such a
poor business man. He lost a golden chance of better-
ing his fortunes under the patronage of the King of



84 MASTER MUSICIANS

Prussia. He had almost made up his mind to accept
the King's offer, and came to the Emperor Leopold,
more than half prepared to resign a small post he
held. " What ! do you mean to forsake me, Mozart ? "
ejaculated the Emperor. Emotionally touched, Mozart
replied : " May it please your Majesty, I will stay."
When friends asked him afterwards if he had not
thought of obtaining some little piece of imperial
favour by way of compensation at the time, and with
such a powerful lever in his hand, he answered inno-
cently, " Who would have thought of that on such an
occasion ? " This shows the character of the man. Who
would not have thought of it ?

In 1791 the composer entered upon his thirty-sixth
and last year. His wife had been at Baden for her
health, and when she returned she noticed with alarm
a pallor more fatal than her own upon her husband's
face. Mozart, weak and ill, had grown silent and
melancholy. And that Requiem commission, referred
to at the outset, had been preying on his mind. It is a
weird story, and may be told as recorded by Dr. Nohl.
One day an unknown messenger appeared at Mozart's
door : a tall, haggard man, dressed in grey, with a
sombre expression of countenance : a most singular
figure, quite calculated to make an uncanny expression.
This man brought Mozart an anonymous letter, in
which he was asked to name the sum he would take
to write a Mass for the dead. Mozart accepted the com-
mission, and fixed the price at fifty ducats. Shortly
afterwards the messenger returned, paid the money,



MOZART! IMMORTAL MOZART! 85

and promised an additional honorarium when the
Requiem was completed. Mozart was told at the same
time to spare himself the trouble of trying to find out
the name of his employer, as that must remain a secret.

Mozart began the composition at once. But he
could not get rid of the uncomfortable idea suggested
by the mystery of the commission, and the fact that the
work was for the dead. It soon preyed on his mind ;
and one day, after he had been toiling at it, he said,
with tears in his eyes : " I well know that I am writ-
ing this Requiem for myself." So it proved, as we
have already seen. Enough has been said on that
point. But who was the mysterious person who com-
missioned this fateful work ? He was a certain Count
Walsegg, who wanted to pose as a composer, and who,
having at length got the Requiem as completed by
Mozart's pupil, Sussmayer, had a transcript made, and
performed the work as his own. The fraud was ulti-
mately discovered, but not before the conceited Count
had gained a measure of fame by decking himself out
in the borrowed plumes of the dead master.

Mozart's death took place on December 5, 1791.
Success was just about to come to him, as it was about
to come to Schubert when he was called away. As he
lay there, with swollen limbs and burning head, Vienna
was ringing with the fame of his last opera. They
brought him, too, thewell-paid appointment of organist
of St. Stephen's Cathedral, where Haydn had sung as
a choir boy ; where he and Mozart had been married.
Managers besieged his door with handfuls of gold



86 MASTER MUSICIANS

pleading with him to compose something for them.
Too late ' too late now ! Mozart had answered another
call. One cannot help moralising on the sad fate of
genius cut off while its powers are still in the ascendant.
Schubert died at thirty-one, Mozart at thirty-five,
Purcell and Bizet (the composer of Carmen] at thirty-
seven, Mendelssohn at thirty-eight, Chopin at thirty-
nine, and Schumann at forty-six. Think if Mozart had
seen Bach's sixty-five summers ; if Schubert, born with
Mercadante in 1797, had died with Mercadante in
1870! What grand creations might we not have had
to add to the world's heritage of music !

Mozart might be described as a sort of Peter Pan
who never grew up. He was always the sublime child.
All his adult life he suffered from abnormal restiveness.
His barber has told what a trouble it was to shave
him. No sooner was he seated, his neck encircled with
a cloth, than he became lost in thought and oblivious
of all around him. Then, without a word, he would
jump up, move about the room, pass often into the
adjoining one, while, comb or razor in hand, the hair-
dresser followed him. At table it was frequently
necessary to recall him to a sense of his surroundings,
for his fits of abstraction would recur continually, and
directly an inspiration seized him he forgot everything
else. He would twist and untwist a corner of his
dinner napkin, pass it mechanically under his nose,
making at the same time the most extraordinary and
grotesque grimaces. Musical geniuses are apt to be-
have in that way. Wagner sometimes stood on his



MOZART ! IMMORTAL MOZART ! 87

head, and Beethoven washed his hands in the middle
of the room and emptied the basin on the floor.

As a man, barring perhaps his improvidence, Mozart
was wholly admirable, though, along with Schubert,
he has suffered from the charge of being dissipated.
Considering that in his short life he produced the
prodigious total of 769 compositions, ranging from the
very largest to the simplest song forms, his failings in
this direction must have been very venial. His por-
traits show him to have been a handsome man, though
of slight build, with an ample forehead, regular features,
cleft chin, dreamy eyes, and well-arched brows. His
hair, of which he was rather vain, is of course powdered
and in a tie ; and he wears the high-collared, large-
buttoned coat, plain neckcloth, and wide-frilled shirt
of the period. He was always pale, and he had a
pleasant though not striking face. Under excitement
his eyes lost their languid look. One who was present
at the rehearsal of Figaro wrote : " I shall never for-
get Mozart's little countenance when lighted up with
the glowing rays of genius. It is as impossible to
describe it as it would be to paint sunbeams." In some
reminiscences his widow said that he " loved all the
arts and possessed a taste for most of them. He could
draw, and was an excellent dancer. His voice was a
light tenor ; his speaking tone gentle, unless when
directing music, when he became loud and energetic
would even stamp with his feet and might be heard
at a considerable distance. His hands were very small
and delicate. His favourite amusements were bowls



88 MASTER MUSICIANS

and billiards." To all this the enthusiastic widow
added : " He was an angel, and is one in heaven now."
Mozart was very particular about his clothes, and wore
a good deal of embroidery and jewelry. On the whole
he was perhaps insignificant-looking, but he did not
like to be made aware of the fact, or to have his small
stature commented on. It should perhaps be stated
that he had a peculiarly -shaped ear passage, much
smaller than usual, which may or may not have had
a bearing on his musical sensibility. The lobe of the
left ear was thicker than that of the right, a peculiarity
also possessed by Haydn.

Mozart's musical greatness has been acknowledged
by all his fellow composers. Weber, Mendelssohn and
Wagner praised him in enthusiastic terms. Meyerbeer's
eyes became moist when speaking of him. " Who is
your favourite among the great masters ? " Rossini was
once asked. " Beethoven," he replied, " I take twice a
week, Haydn four times, and Mozart every day." Once
he put it even more pointedly than this. He had been
speaking to a friend about Beethoven, whom he called
the greatest of all musicians. "What, then, of Mozart?"
he was asked. " Oh," returned the sprightly Rossini,
" Mozart is not the greatest, he is the only musician
in the world." Ferdinand David said finely that
" Mozart was music made man." And finally we
may quote Schubert. " O Mozart ! " said he, " im-
mortal Mozart ! how many and what countless images
of a brighter, better world hast thou stamped on our
souls."




BEETHOVEN



HANFSTAENGL COLLECTION



THE DEAF BEETHOVEN

For years I have avoided almost all society, because I cannot
tell people / am deaf, I have to appear as a misanthrope ; I,
who am so little of one. BEETHOVEN.

WHAT musician, going up the Rhine, would fail to
make a call at the pretty university town of Bonn,
where Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the December
of 1770? There, to-day, stands a memorial monument,
on the pedestal of which is engraved, in all its rugged
simplicity and appropriateness, the one word " BEET-
HOVEN." And there, too, in a side street known as the
Bonngasse, one may see the identical house whose
lowly walls echoed to the infant cries of this musical
giant who bound the eighteenth to the nineteenth
century. For many years the house was given over
to common and even ignoble uses ; but at last, in 1889,
it was purchased (for nearly 3000) by a number of
Beethoven enthusiasts, and now it is filled with relics
of Beethoven interest, which every admirer of the great
master loves to see.

Beethoven came of a musical family, for his grand-
father was a kapellmeister, while his father, a tenor
singer, filled a small musical post in the establishment

89



90 MASTER MUSICIANS

of the Elector of Cologne. The grandfather was born
in Antwerp, but he quarrelled with his parents there,
and went off to Bonn in 1732. His wife, Beethoven's
grandmother, took to drink, and Beethoven's father did
the same. The father was, in fact, a confirmed sot, loaf-
ing about the beer-houses, and boasting to his muddled
companions about his boy's gifts and his bright future.
He had heard of the prodigy Mozart and the money
he brought to his parents, and he conceived the idea
of exploiting his own son for the same purpose.

True, his son was no prodigy : on the contrary, he
early showed a positive dislike for music. Nevertheless,
the father kept him slaving away at the piano, and
would often give him a beating when he evinced a dis-
inclination to practise. We read of the little fellow
being dragged from bed and set down to the instru-
ment when the drunken father would come home late
at night. The parent's conduct cast a deep gloom over
Beethoven's youth ; and it can hardly be doubted that
the drudgery he imposed and the misery he caused in
the house formed the germs of suspicion and mis-
anthropy which afterwards so markedly showed them-
selves in Beethoven's character. The miserable toper
ended his life at last by his own hand, but not before
Beethoven, at the age of nineteen, had been officially
appointed head of the family.

In process of time the future composer's musical
sensibilities awakened, and having been sent to the
Court organist for lessons, he made such progress that
before he was twelve he was deputising for his master



THE DEAF BEETHOVEN 91

at the Court chapel. At thirteen he became a " cem-
balist" a pianist, as we would say in the theatre
orchestra. And thereby hangs a tale. One of the
singers, a man named Keller, had been boasting of
his correct ear, and declaring that Beethoven could not
"throw him out." A wager was ultimately accepted on
the point. During an interlude in one piece, Beethoven
modulated to a key so remote that, though he struck
the note which Keller should have taken up, Keller
was defeated, and came to a dead stand. Exasperated
by the laughter of the audience, he complained of
Beethoven to the Elector, who gave the cembalist " a
most gracious reprimand," and told him not to play
any more clever tricks of that sort.

Beethoven seems to have had no regular course of
theoretical instruction in his native town ; but when he
was seventeen he managed to get to Vienna, where he
met Mozart and had some lessons from him. "Mind,
you will hear that boy talked of," said Mozart to a
friend after Beethoven had played to him. Beethoven
subsequently met Haydn, who first encouraged him
to persevere with his studies, and then took him for
a pupil. Beethoven refused to describe himself as
Haydn's pupil on the title-pages of his early works
because, as he said, " I never learnt anything from
him." But this was mere perversity. The truth was
that he and Haydn did not pull well together. How
could they ? Their natures were totally different ;
and Beethoven, self-willed and passionate, must have
been an unmanageable pupil with any master. Besides,



92 MASTER MUSICIANS

Haydn was now an old man, and he may not have
had time or inclination to attend to his pupil as the
pupil thought necessary. At any rate, Beethoven left
Haydn and put himself under Albrechtsberger, then
organist of Vienna Cathedral, who conducted him
through the " arid wastes of ingenuity," and made him
write as many exercises as would have served for a
generation of young composers.

In the meantime Beethoven had lost his sweet,
patient mother, who died of consumption at the age of
forty-one, leaving the young musician, on his return to
Bonn, to manage as best he could his dissipated father
and the domestic concerns of the family. Happily he
made friends of several influential people, who helped
him in his home struggles, and did kindly offices of
various kinds for him. And Bonn soon saw him for
the last time. He left it when he was twenty-two, and
he never went back. There were no family ties to
recall him, and the fulfilment of his manifest destiny
required that he should live in Vienna.

So, then, to Vienna we go with him. There he
gradually made name and fame for himself among
the dilettante aristocracy, in whose houses he was a
frequent and favoured guest. As a player he never
showed any extraordinary facility and dexterity, but
his style was arresting, and as an extemporiser he was
unrivalled. When he played, his muscles swelled and
his eyes rolled wildly. He " seemed like a magician
overmastered by the spirits that he conjured up." He
began to appear in public ; and in 1796 he got as far



THE DEAF BEETHOVEN 93

as Berlin, where he played before the King and was
treated with appreciative distinction.

So far, he had not composed much ; and indeed it
was not till close on thirty that he produced his first
symphony, the great C major. Nearly all his earlier
works were roundly abused by the critics. One spoke
of a certain composition as " the confused explosions
of a talented young man's overweening conceit." An-
other compared the second symphony with a monster,
" a dragon wounded to death and unable to die, thresh-
ing around with its tail in impotent rage." Of the
seventh symphony even Weber declared that " the
extravagances of this genius have reached the ne plus
ultra, and Beethoven is quite ripe for the madhouse."
It is really amusing to turn up some of the old news-
paper notices and read them now. This, for example :
" Mr. Van Beethoven goes his own path, and a dreary,
eccentric, and tiresome path it is : learning, learning,
and nothing but learning, but not a bit of nature or
melody. And, after all, it is but a crude and undigested
learning, without method or arrangement, a seeking
after curious modulations, a hatred of ordinary pro-
gressions, a heaping up of difficulties, until all the plea-
sure and patience are lost." That was how Beethoven's
contemporaries regarded his earlier works. Then, of
course, when deafness came upon him, they turned still
more sarcastic. He could not hear, they said : how
could he understand what horrors of sound he was
evolving ? When his Fidelio was first performed in
1805, they declared that never before had anything so



9+ MASTER MUSICIANS

incoherent, coarse, wild, and ear-splitting been heard ;
and they attributed it largely to his physical defect.
They had not yet learnt, apparently, that the really
great composer is always in advance of his time.

Once having got the rush, Beethoven's musical in-
spirations came so profusely that he soon had several
works going on at the same time, and had no little
difficulty in keeping separate the several developments.
His ideas poured forth like volcanic eruptions. His
usual practice was to jot them down roughly, as they
came into his head, in little sketch books, which were
filled up in a most eccentric way notes scribbled down
as often as not without any stave at all, and at certain
distances apart, which were evidently intended as vague
substitutes for lines and spaces. In his younger days
he spent much time in the woods and the open country,
and it was there that the " raptus " would most gener-
ally find him. " No man on earth can love the country
as I do," he said. But the country was not the
same to him when he could not hear the birds. Then
he would stamp and stride about his room like a
caged lion, singing and shouting the themes that
were coursing through his brain, and thrashing them
out in a wild way on the piano.

And this brings us to the great tragic fact of Beet-
hoven's career his deafness, which came upon him in
1800, after he had published the thirty-two sonatas,
three concertos, two symphonies, nine trios, and numer-


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Online LibraryJ. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) HaddenMaster musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners → online text (page 6 of 17)