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End Of A Friendship Threatened 29
From a third letter, dated "Baden, July 24, 1804," Ries prints the following excerpt:
.... No doubt you were surprised at the Breuning affair; believe me, dear (friend), my eruption was only the outburst consequent on many unpleasant encounters between us before. I have the talent in many cases to conceal my sensitiveness and repress it; but if I am irritated at a time when I am more susceptible than usual to anger, I burst out more violently than anybody else. Breuning certainly has excellent qualities, but he thinks he is free from all faults and his greatest ones are those which he thinks he sees in others. He has a spirit of pettiness which I have despised since childhood. My judgment almost predicted the course which affairs would take with Breuning, since our modes of thinking, acting and feeling are so different, but I thought these difficulties might also be overcome;—experience has refuted me. And now, no more friendship! I have found only two friends in the world with whom I have never had a misunderstanding, but what men! One is dead, the other still lives. Although we have not heard from each other in nearly six years I know that I occupy the first place in his heart as he does in mine. The foundation of friendship demands the greatest similarity between the hearts and souls of men. I ask no more than that you read the letter which I wrote to Breuning and his letter to me. No, he shall never again hold the place in my heart which once he occupied. He who can think a friend capable of such base thoughts and be guilty of such base conduct towards him is not worth my friendship. The reader knows too well the character of Breuning to be prejudiced against him by all these harsh expressions written by Beethoven in a fit of choler of which he heartily repented and "brought forth fruits meet for repentance." But, as Ries says, "these letters together with their consequences are too beautiful a testimony to Beethoven's character to be omitted here," the more so as they introduce, by the allusions in them, certain matters of more or less interest from the "Notizen" of Ries. Thus Ries writes: One evening I came to Baden to continue my lessons. There I found a handsome young woman sitting on the sofa with him. Thinking that I might be intruding I wanted to go at once, but Beethoven detained me and said: "Play for the time being." He and the lady remained seated behind me. I had already played for a long time when Beethoven suddenly called out: "Ries, play some love music"; a little later, "Something melancholy I" then, "Something passionate I" etc.
From what I heard I could come to the conclusion that in some manner he must have offended the lady and was trying to make amends by an exhibition of good humor. At last he jumped up and shouted: "Why, all those things are by me!" I had played nothing but movements from his works, connecting them with short transition-phrases, which seemed to please him. The lady soon went away and to my great amazement Beethoven did not know who she was. I learned that she had come in shortly before me in order to make Beethoven's acquaintance. We followed her in order to discover her lodgings and later her station. We saw her from a distance (it was moonlight),1 but suddenly she disappeared. Chatting on all manner of topics we walked for an hour and a half in the beautiful valley adjoining. On going, however, Beethoven said: "I must find out who she is and you must help me." A long time afterward I met her in Vienna and discovered that she was the mistress of a foreign prince. I reported the intelligence to Beethoven, but never heard anything more about her either from him or anybody else. The rehearsal at Schuppanzigh's on "Wednesday" (18th) mentioned in the letter of July 14th, was for the benefit of Ries, who was to play in the first of the second series of the regular Augarten Thursday concerts which took place the next day (19th) or, perhaps, the 26th. Ries says on page 113 of the "Notizen":
Beethoven had given me his beautiful Concerto in C minor (Op. 37) in manuscript so that I might make my first public appearance as his pupil with it; and I am the only one who ever appeared as such while Beethoven was alive. . . . Beethoven himself conducted, but he only turned the pages and never, perhaps, was a concerto more beautifully accompanied. We had two large rehearsals. I had asked Beethoven to write a cadenza for me, but he refused and told me to write one myself and he would correct it. Beethoven was satisfied with my composition and made few changes; but there was an extremely brilliant and very difficult passage in it, which, though he liked it, seemed to him too venturesome, wherefore he told me to write another in its place. A week before the concert he wanted to hear the cadenza again. I played it and floundered in the passage; he again, this time a little ill-naturedly, told me to change it. I did so, but the new passage did not satisfy me; I therefore studied the other, and zealously, but was not quite sure of it. When the cadenza was reached in the public concert Beethoven quietly sat down. I could not persuade myself to choose the easier one. When I boldly began the more difficult one. Beethoven violently jerked his chair; but the cadenza went through all right and Beethoven was so delighted that he shouted "Bravo!" loudly. This electrified the entire audience and at once gave me a standing among the artists. Afterward, while expressing his satisfaction he added: "But all the same you are willful! If you had made a slip in the passage I would never have given you another lesson."
A little farther on in his book Ries writes (p. 115): The pianoforte part of the C minor Concerto was never completely written out in the score; Beethoven wrote it down on separate sheets of paper expressly for me. This confirms Seyfried, as quoted on a preceding page. "Not on my life would I have believed that I could be so lazy as I am here. If it is followed by an outburst of industry,
'"Full moon, July 22," almanac of 1804.
something worth while may be accomplished," Beethoven wrote at the end of his letter of July 24. He was right. His brother Johann secured for him the lodging at Dobling where he passed the rest of the summer, and where the two Sonatas Op. 53 and 54, certainly "something worth while," were composed. In one of the long walks, previously described by Ries, in which we went so far astray that we did not get back to Dobling, where Beethoven lived, until nearly 8 o'clock, he had been all the time humming and sometimes howling, always up and down, without singing any definite notes. In answer to my question what it was he said: "A theme for the last movement of the sonata has occurred to me." When we entered the room he ran to the pianoforte without taking off his hat. I took a seat in a corner and he soon forgot all about me. Now he stormed for at least an hour with the beautiful finale of the sonata. Finally he got up, was surprised still to see me and said: "I cannot give you a lesson to-day, I must do some more work."
The Sonata in question was that in F minor, Op. 57. Ries had in the meantime fulfilled Beethoven's wish for a new lodging on the ramparts, by engaging for him one on the Molkerbastei three or four houses only from Prince Lichnowsky in the Pasqualati house—"from the fourth storey of which there was a beautiful view," namely, over the broad Glacis, the northwestern suburb of the city and the mountains in the distance. "He moved out of this several times," says Ries, "but always returned to it, so that, as I afterwards heard, Baron Pasqualati was good-natured enough to say: 'The lodging will not be rented; Beethoven will come back.'" To what extent Ries was correctly informed in this we will not now conjecture. The lessons of Forster's little boy had been interrupted so long as his teacher dwelt in the distant theatre buildings; they were now renewed, the first being particularly impressed upon his memory by a severe reproof from Beethoven for ascending the four lofty flights of stairs too rapidly, and entering out of breath: "Youngster, you will ruin your lungs if you are not more careful," said he in substance. The two new Sonatas were finished and were now made known to Beethoven's intimates. In the one in C major, Op. 53, there was a long Andante. A friend of Beethoven's said to him that the Sonata was too long, for which he was terribly taken to task by the composer. But after quiet reflection Beethoven was convinced of the correctness of the criticism. The Andante was therefore excluded and its place supplied by the interesting Introduction to the Rondo which it now has. A year after the publication of the Sonata it also appeared separately. In these particulars Ries is confirmed by Czerny, who adds: "Because of its popularity (for Beethoven played it frequently in society) he gave it the title 'Andante favori.' I am the more sure of this since Beethoven sent me the proof together with the manuscript for revision." The arrangement for string quartet may have been made much later, probably by Ries (?). This Andante (Ries continues) has left a painful memory in me. When Beethoven played it for the first time to our friend Krumpholtz and me, it delighted us greatly and we teased him until he repeated it. Passing the door of Prince Lichnowsky's house (by the Schottenthor) on my way home I went in to tell the Prince of the new and glorious composition of Beethoven's, and was persuaded to play it as well as I could remember it. Recalling more and more of it the Prince urged me to repeat it. In this way it happened that the Prince also learned a portion of the piece. To give Beethoven a surprise the Prince went to him the next day and said that he too had composed something which was not at all bad. In spite of Beethoven's remark that he did not want to hear it the Prince sat down and to the amazement of the composer played a goodly portion of the Andante. Beethoven was greatly angered, and this was the reason why I never again heard Beethoven play. Prince Louis Ferdinand, now on his way into Italy, made a short stay at Vienna, renewing his acquaintance with Beethoven; but of their intercourse few particulars are known. Ries relates ("Notizen," p. Ill), that an old countess gave a little musical entertainment "to which, naturally, Beethoven was invited. When the company sat down to supper, plates for the high nobility only were placed at the Prince's table—none for Beethoven. He flew into a rage, made a few ugly remarks, took his hat and went away. A few days later Prince Louis gave a dinner to which some members of the first company, including the old countess, were invited. When they sat down to table the old countess was placed on one side of the Prince, Beethoven on the other, a mark of distinction which Beethoven always referred to with pleasure."
The Pianoforte Concerto in C minor was then in the hands of the engraver; upon its publication in November, Prince Louis Ferdinand's name appeared upon the title. Concerning the compositions of the Prince, Beethoven remarked: "Now and then there are pretty bits in them"—so said Czerny. Before this time Beethoven and Breuning "met each other by accident and a complete reconciliation took place and every inimical resolve of Beethoven's, despite their vigorous expression in the two letters, was wholly forgotten."—(Ries.) And not this alone; he "laid his peace offering on the altar of reconciliation." It was the best picture of himself which exists from those years, Beethoven And Breuning Reconciled 33
a beautiful miniature painted upon ivory by Hornemann, still in the possession of Breuning's heirs. With it he sent the following letter: Let us bury behind this picture forever, my dear Steffen, all that for a time has passed between us. I know that I broke your heart. The feelings within me which you must have noticed have sufficiently punished me for that. It was not wickedness that I felt towards you; no, if that were so I should never again be worthy of your friendship; passion on your part and on mine; but mistrust of you arose in me; men came between us who are not worthy of you and me. My portrait was long ago intended for you; you know that I always intended it for somebody. To whom could I give it with so warm a heart as to you, faithful, good, noble Steffen! Forgive me if I have pained you; I suffered no less. When I no longer saw you near me I felt for the first time how dear to my heart you are and always will be. Surely you will come to my arms again as in past days. Nor was the reconciliation on Breuning's part less perfect. On the 13th of November he writes to Wegeler and, to excuse his long silence, says: He who has been my friend from youth is often largely to blame that I am compelled to neglect the absent ones. You cannot conceive, my dear Wegeler, what an indescribable, I might say, fearful effect the gradual loss of hearing has had upon him. Think of the feeling of being unhappy in one of such violent temperament; in addition reservedness, mistrust, often towards his best friends, in many things want of decision! For the greater part, with only an occasional exception when he gives free vent to his feelings on the spur of the moment, intercourse with him is a real exertion, at which one can scarcely trust to oneself. From May until the beginning of this month we lived in the same house, and at the outset I took him into my rooms. He had scarcely come before he became severely, almost dangerously ill, and this was followed by an intermittent fever. Worry and the care of him used me rather severely. Now he is completely well again. He lives on the Ramparts, I in one of the newly-built houses of Prince Esterhazy in front of the Alstercaserne, and as I am keeping house he eats with me every day. Not a word about the quarrel! Not a word to intimate that Beethoven had not occupied his rooms with him until at the usual time for changing lodgings he had crossed the Glacis to Pasqualati's house; not a word of complaint—nothing but deepest pity and heartiest sympathy. In December the famous Munich oboist Ramm was in Vienna and took part with Beethoven in one of Prince Lobkowitz's private concerts. Beethoven directed the performance of the "Sinfonia Eroica" and in the second part of the first Allegro, "where the music is pursued for so many measures in half-notes