Beethoven And The Viennese Journalists 359

for his articles on musical topics in the "Vaterlandische Blatter" and other periodicals, and who continued a prolific contributor to musical journals to the end of his life in 1844. Beethoven valued him as a writer; but Mosel had the temerity to undertake, like Mozart, the task of revising and modernizing Handel. Of his eight mutilations of that great man's works, two, "Samson" and "Belshazzar," were printed and, for some fifty years, adopted for performance throughout Austria and Germany—a remarkable proof of the general ignorance which prevailed concerning the works of the greatest oratorio composer; for two such monuments of arrogant presumption, of incompetency to comprehend his author and of a false and perverted taste, probably do not exist unless, perhaps, among the other six works which were not printed. One of Beethoven's sarcasms, remembered by Carl Czerny, indicates his opinion of Mosel's dilettantism. Reading a newspaper once at Artaria's, he saw that Mosel "had been ennobled, particularly because of his services in behalf of music." "The Mosel is muddy where it flows into the Rhine" (Der Mosel fliesst triib in den Rheinf), said Beethoven, laughingly. Kanne ranked with the best musical journalists of the day, and, to use the words of Hanslick, his labors and influence as a critic were considerable, especially because of his enthusiasm for Beethoven, is certain. Taking 1821-1822 as a medium date, the leading political and literary journals in Vienna in those years were the "Wiener Zeitung," Joseph Carl Bernard, editor; the "Beobachter," Joseph Pilat, editor; the "Sammler," Portenschlag and Ledermeyer, editors; the "Wiener Zeitschrift" (fashion journal), Johann Schickh, editor; and the "Theater-Zeitung," Adolph Bauerle, editor. Most of these editors were personal friends of Beethoven; and whoever performs the weary task of looking through their myriads of pages sees that all were his admirers and let no opportunity pass unimproved of adding a leaf to his laurels. Still, disappointment at the comparative paucity of matter relating to him follows such an examination. The cause, however, lay in himself; in the small number of his new compositions of high importance, and in the rarity of his appearance before the public. True, there were newspapers, and in divers languages, that took no note of Beethoven and his works because music and musicians were not within their scope; but not one of them was hostile. In short, whether the periodical press be considered as the exponent or the guide of public opinion, in either case its tone at Vienna during the ten years which remained of Beethoven's life is ample refutation of the so oft asserted disregard for and contemptuous neglect of their great composer on the part of the Viennese. The correspondence of this and the next two or three years is very voluminous. Schindler says most pertinently of it:

\ During these years our composer, instead of writing many notes, as

Jiad been his wont, wrote many letters, referring in part to his domestic affairs, in part to the litigation and in part to the education of his nephew. These letters are, in general, among the least encouraging and most deplorable testimonials to the excitement which attended his passionate prosecution of these objects. Those of his friends and nearer acquaintances who permitted themselves to be drawn into these three matters were so overwhelmed with documents and communications that they blessed the hour in which the lawsuit was brought to a conclusion. There are few men of whom a most false and exaggerated picture may not be presented by grouping together their utterances, spoken or written at long intervals and in the most diverse moods and states of mind. Thomas Carlyle says: "Half or more of all the thick-plied perversions which distort the image of Cromwell will disappear if we honestly so much as try to represent them in sequence as they were, not in the lump as thrown down before us." Hence, strict chronological order must not lightly be abandoned—never when distortion of the image is thereby produced. But there are series of letters covering comparatively short periods of time, which may be grouped and placed apart with no ill consequence. Such is the series to Steiner and Co.; and such to the Streichers and Zmeskall, which are too unimportant to place in the text.1 An abstract or analysis of them would serve but a small purpose; but they should be read despite their triviality, for they show, better than any description would, the helplessness of their writer in all affairs of common life; also, by implication, the wretched prospect of any good result to his undertaking the supervision and education of a boy more than usually endowed with personal attractions and mental capacity, but whose character had already received a false bias from the equally indiscreet alternate indulgence and severity of his invalid and passionate father and of his froward and impure mother. Moreover, this undertaking rendered necessary a sudden and very great change in the domestic habits of a man nearly fifty years of age, who, even twenty years before, had not been able, when residing in the family of his Maecenas, Lichnowsky, to bear the restraints imposed by common courtesy and propriety. It is obvious that there was but one course to be taken for the boy from

'Since Thayer wrote, all these letters have been published in German as well as in English translation and may easily be consulted by the student.

Mistaken Training Of Nephew Karl 361

which a good result might reasonably have been expected; and this was to send him at once to some institution far enough from Vienna to separate him entirely, vacations excepted, from both mother and uncle; to subject him there to rigid discipline and give him the stimulus of emulation with boys of his own age. When it was too late, as will be seen, this idea was entertained, but not sanctioned by the civil authorities. That such a course with the boy would have resulted well, subsequent events leave no doubt; for, passing over the question how far facts justify the harsh judgments recorded against him for more than half a century, each new writer bitterer than the last, we know this: that after his uncle's death, although his bad tendencies of character had been strengthened and intensified by the lack of efficient, consistent, firm and resolute restraint from 1815 to 1827, yet a few years of strict military discipline made of him a good and peaceable citizen, a kind and affectionate husband and father. Had Beethoven's wisdom and prudence equalled his boundless affection for his nephew, many painful pages in this work would have no place; many which, if the truth and justice to the dead and living permitted, one would gladly suppress. But it must not be forgotten that Beethoven, on his death-bed, as Schindler relates, expressed "his honest desire that whatever might some day be said of him, should adhere strictly to the truth in every respect, regardless of whether or not it might give pain to this or the other person or affect his own person."

Let us again take up the thread of our narrative. We are still to imagine Beethoven living in the lofty, narrow house, No. 1055-6 Sailerstfitte, entered from the street, but its better rooms on the other side looking over the old city wall and moat and out across the Glacis and little river Wien to the suburb Landstrasse, where, fronting on the Glacis, stood the institute of Giannatasio in which his nephew was a pupil, having been placed there in February, 1816. There is no record, nor do the sketchbooks show, that in the first half of this year his mind was occupied with any important composition; on the contrary, his time and thoughts were given to the affairs of his nephew, to his purposed housekeeping and to quarrels with his servants, as the frequent letters to the Streichers and Zmeskall show ad nauseam. A curiously interesting picture of the man and his doings is disclosed by the letters referred to, Fanny Giannatasio's records, and the jottings which that young woman wrote down in the form of a diary.1

'Dr. Herman Deiters, who wrote the concluding two volumes of Thayer's biography, making use of the material and framework left by the author, devotes twenty


At the beginning of the year 1817, Beethoven seems to have harbored a desire to take lodgings nearer the institute. Giannatasio offered to let him have one which was at his disposal, but Beethoven declined the offer with the words: "Gladly as I should like to make use of your kind offer that I live with you in the gardenhouse, it is for various reasons impossible." In April he moved into rooms in the Gartnerstrasse near the Streichers and the institute. Meanwhile there had been a misunderstanding between him and Giannatasio. A fortnight later explanations had been made and peace restored; but when Nanni asked Beethoven if he was still angry he replied: "I think much too little of myself to get nine pages in the appendix of the fourth volume to Fanny Giannatasio's notes of Beethoven's intercourse with her father's family and her sentiments concerning the composer. These notes, together with a number of letters, had been used by Edward Duboc (Robert WaldmUller) in the preparation of two articles which were published in the "Grenzboten" of April 3 and 10, 1857. A complete transcript of the diary was found by the editor of the present edition of this biography among Thayer's posthumous papers and forwarded to Dr. Deiters. The circumstances under which the transcript was made deserve to be set forth here. When Thayer took up his permanent abode in Europe for the purpose of prosecuting his researches concerning Beethoven, the manuscript was owned by Frau Pessiak, granddaughter of Kajetan Giannatasio del Rio, daughter of Fanny's sister Anna, familiarly known as "Nanni." Through the mediation of Dr. Gerhard von Breuning, Thayer had come into possession of a copy of such passages of the diary as referred to Beethoven. On his first visit to Vienna, Thayer called upon Frau Pessiak, then a prominent teacher of singing in the Austrian capital, to thank her for her kind help. The acquaintance thus made, quickly ripened into a cordial friendship, and when Thayer was about to return to his home, the lady, to his surprise and delight, placed the manuscript into his hands and gave him permission to carry it with him to Trieste for examination at leisure. One reason for the act was, if possible, to obtain a rectification of what she considered a grievous wrong done to her aunt's memory by Ludwig Nohl. This writer had, some time before, importuned her for the privilege of reading the diary and using it in the preparation of his biography of Beethoven. After many protestations, due to the fact that a number of letters from Beethoven to her grandfather had mysteriously disappeared from the family archives (Thayer found some of them later in the possession of a music publishing house in London), Frau Pessiak yielded to Nohl's requests. Shortly after the manuscript had been returned to her, there appeared a booklet entitled: "Eine stille Liebe zu Beethoven. Nach dem Tagebuch einer jungen Dame. Von Ludwig Nohl." (Second edition, Leipsic, 1902), in which excerpts, wrenched from their context, were made the foundation of a story of a romantic, but unconfessed and unrequited passion for the composer on the part of the unnamed author of the diary. Frau Pessiak felt deeply wounded that such unauthorized and unpardonable use had been made of an effusion designed only for the eyes of its writer, and wanted now to learn whether or not the deduction was consistent with the utterances of the diary as a whole. Thayer, after a study of the manuscript and all the circumstances connected with the relations between Beethoven and the family of the writer, thought not; and his conclusion, evidently, was that of Dr. Deiters also, who printed copious extracts compassing all the references to Beethoven found in the manuscript. In explanation of the sentimental tinge of some of the young woman's utterances, which taken alone might easily be interpreted as secret confessions of a deeper feeling than mere admiration, friendship and sympathy, it is urged that Fanny Giannatasio del Rio began her diary, which is not a continuous record, on January 1, 1812, when she was twenty-two years old; she, therefore, was twenty-six when Beethoven became a frequent visitor at her father's house. She was very musical (so much so that Beethoven did not hesitate to play four-hand pieces with her), and had been an admirer of his music before she met him. Two affairs of the heart, both unhappy in their outcome—(her first lover proved unworthy, her second was an invalid and like an honorable man unwilling to

[merged small][ocr errors]

angry." The nephew had been to blame and had disclosed new evidences of a thoughtlessness which had deeply pained his good uncle.

Chiefly from the letters written in this year, we learn a sequence of other happenings. Early in January, Beethoven sends copies of the song-cycle, "An die feme Geliebte," to Court Councillor Peters, tutor in the house of Prince Lobkowitz, for the new prince whose Christian name he does not know. In the same month he writes an autograph French communication to Thomson, in Edinburgh, stating that all the songs which he had commissioned in the previous July had been completed by the end of September, burden her life with his sufferings; he died in 1815)—had left her inclined to the melancholy mood, with a hunger for affection and an almost passionate longing to extend sympathy to those who seemed to her to be in need of care and love. Her outpourings frequently touch on the border of extravagant sentimentality; but calm reflection generally intervenes with its wholesome clog. So that, on the whole, they can be, perhaps ought to be, interpreted as nothing more than a disclosure of a warm interest in the great composer on the part of a generous-souled young woman filled with the literary habits of the period mixed with an overwhelming admiration for his genius and nobility of character and an impulsive desire to bring some cheer into his lonely life. Moreover, after the withdrawal of the nephew from the institute and the cessation of intercourse between Beethoven and the Giannatasio family, his name disappears from the diary, though it was continued till 1824. The friendship which existed for years between Thayer and Frau Pessiak is attested in two letters from the latter to the former in which the lady's recollections of her grandparents and their intercourse with Beethoven are set forth. Some of the anecdotes contained in these letters deserve record here. Once, Frau Pessiak relates, there arose a serious disagreement between her grandfather and Beethoven concerning the latter's nephew, which resulted in the boy's dismissal from the institute. Thereupon Beethoven wrote to Anna Giannatasio begging her to intercede with her father and get his consent to Karl's return, but at the same time to keep the fact of the writing secret and to burn the letter as soon as it had been read. The lady respected both wishes, the latter dictated by the composer's pride, but she burned the letter with a heavy heart. "My mother's admiration for Beethoven," adds Frau Pessiak, "was like that of my aunt, so that his wish was to her a command." While at a picnic party in the environs of Vienna, Beethoven stood beside the writer's mother on the most beautiful observation point. Suddenly he took out his note-book, tore out a leaf, drew a staff upon it, jotted down the melody of the song, "Wenn ich ein Voglein war" (Treitschke's "Ruf vom Berge," No. 219, in Thayer's "Chronological Catalogue") and handed it to his companion with the words: "Now, Miss Nanni, do you write the bass for it." "My mother cherished the leaf as a precious souvenir for a long time, then gave it to me because, as she said, I was the most musical one of the family, and would best appreciate the treasure. I have it preserved under a glass and frame." One day Beethoven brought with him the song from "Faust" beginning: "Es war einmal ein Konig, der hatt' einen grossen Floh" ("Once upon a time there was a king who had a large flea"). "Aunt and mother had to try it." Then Beethoven took his seat at the pianoforte and played the conclusion in which he turned his thumb and with it struck two adjoining keys at the same time, laughed and said: "That's the way to kill him!" On the occasion of Anna Giannatasio's birthday, Beethoven came and offered a musical congratulation. Approaching her he sang with great solemnity the melody of a canon to the words: "Above all may you want happiness and health, too,—". Then he stopped and the lady protested that the wish that she might fail in happiness and health was scarcely a kind one; whereupon beethoven laughed and finished the sentiment with "at no time." Here is the canon:

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »