« ForrigeFortsett »
against the beat," he, as Ries says, threw the orchestra into such confusion that a new beginning had to be made. On the same evening he played his Quintet for Pianoforte and Wind-instruments with Ramm as oboist. In the last Allegro there are several holds before the theme is resumed. At one of these Beethoven suddenly began to improvise, took the Rondo for a theme and entertained himself and the others for a considerable time, but not the other players. They were displeased and Ramm even very angry. It was really very comical to see them, momentarily expecting the performance to be resumed, put their instruments to their mouths only to put them down again. At length Beethoven was satisfied and dropped into the Rondo. The whole company was transported with delight. Turn we again to the Theater-an-der-Wien, for a new contract has been made with Beethoven, by which his operatic aspirations and hopes are again awakened, with a better prospect of their gratification. At the end of August Sonnleithner retired from the direction and Baron Braun took the extraordinary step of reinstating his former rival and enemy, Schikaneder—a remarkable proof of the Baron's high opinion of his tact and skill in the difficult business of management. When one calls to mind the extraordinary praises which have been bestowed upon Baron Braun for his supposed patronage of Beethoven, it is worth noting, as a coincidence if nothing more, that now when Schikaneder finds himself in a strait for novelty and new attractions for his stage, the project of appealing to Beethoven's genius is revived. Before proceeding, a word upon Sonnleithner and Treitschke may be permitted. The eldest son, born 1765, of Christoph Sonnleithner, Doctor of Laws and Dean of the Juridical Faculty at Vienna, Joseph Ferdinand by name, was educated to his father's profession, and early rose to the positions of Circuit Commissioner and Royal Imperial Court Scrivener (Kreis-Kommissar und K. K. Hof-Concipist). All the Sonnleithners, from Dr. Christoph down to the excellent and beloved representative of the family, Leopold, his grandson who died in 1873, have stood in the front ranks of musical dilettanti, as composers, singers, instrumental performers and writers on topics pertaining to the art. Joseph Ferdinand was no exception. He gave his attention particularly to musical and theatrical literature, edited the Court Theatre Calendars, 1794-5, so highly lauded by Gerber, and prepared himself by appropriate studies to carry out Forkel's plan of a "History of Music in Examples," which was to reach the great extent of 50 volumes, folio. To this end he spent SONNLEITHNER AND Treitschke 35
nearly three years, 1798-1802, in an extensive tour through northern Europe making collections of rare, old music. Upon his return to Vienna, resigning this project again into the hands of Forkel, he became one of the earliest partners, if not one of the founders, of the publishing house known as the "Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir" (Bureau d'Arts et d'Industrie), of which Schreyvogel was the recognized head. The latter had been appointed Secretary of the Court Theatre in 1802, but resigned, and, on February 14, 1804, Sonnleithner "was appointed, and on this account was most honorably retired from his former post as Court Scrivener." On what grounds he has been called an "actor" (Schauspieler) is unknown. One of his colleagues in the various offices of the Court Theatres was Georg Friedrich Treitschke, born in 1776, a native of Leipsic, who came to the Court Theatre in 1800 as an actor, but whose talents and fine character raised him in the course of the next two years to the position of poet and stage-manager of the German Court Opera, a post which he still and for many years continued to hold. He was therefore now (1804) in close business relations with Baron Braun and Sonnleithner; and, until some proof be adduced of lapse of memory—for his known probity forbids all suspicion of intentional or careless misrepresentation—his statements in regard to them may be accepted with perfect confidence.
Treitschke wrote thus in the "Orpheus" of 1841 (p. 258): At the end of 1804 Baron von Braun, the new owner of the Royal Imperial priv. Theater-an-der-Wien, commissioned Ludwig van Beethoven, then in the full strength of youth, to write an opera for that playhouse. Because of his oratorio, "Christus am Olberg," it was believed that the master might do as much for dramatic music as he had done for instrumental. Besides his honorarium1 he was offered free lodgings in the theatre buildings. Joseph Sonnleithner undertook to provide the text, and chose the French book, "L'Amour conjugal," although it had already been set by Gaveaux and to Italian words as "Leonora" by Pae'r, but had been translated from both dramatizations into German. Beethoven had no fear of his predecessors and went to work with eager delight, so that the opera was nearly finished by the middle of 1805.' J
'This honorarium was a share in the receipts.
»In the second (German) edition of Thayer's "Life," etc., Dr. Riemann amends this statement in the text as follows: These statements of Treitschke's prove to be inaccurate, inasmuch as it has definitively been determined that Beethoven began work on "Leonore" before Paer's opera had been produced in Dresden, i.e., October 3, 1804. This is proved by the discovery of sketches for the early numbers of the opera among sketches for the "Eroica" symphony, and is confirmed by Ries. The latter says: "When he composed 'Leonore he had free lodgings for a year in the Wiedener Theatre; but as these opened on the courtyard they were not agree
Such is Treitschke's simple and compendious statement of the facts; a statement which has been affirmed to contain "manifold errors," yet, in truth, not a single point in it can be controverted. In Paris, at the close of the 18th century, Shakespeare's "being taken by the insolent foe and redemption thence" was by far the most popular subject for the stage. Doubtless so many facts stranger than fiction in recent narratives of escape from dungeon and guillotine, rendered doubly fascinating by beautiful exhibitions of disinterested affection, exalted generosity and heroic self-sacrifice, were not without their effect upon public taste. Certain it is that no other class of subjects is so numerously represented in the French drama of that precise period as this. "Les deux Journees" by J. N. Bouilly stands confessedly at its head. In Beethoven's opinion in 1823, this and "La Vestale" were the two best texts then ever written. Two years before the "Deux Journees"—that is, on February 19th, 1798—the same poet had produced another of that class of texts, which, if less abounding in pleasing and exciting scenes, still contained one supreme moment that cannot readily find its like. This was "Leonore, ou l'Amour conjugal"; the seventeenth and last in Fetis' list of Pierre Gaveaux's thirty-five operas and operettas. Gaveaux was a singer at the Theatre Feydeau in Paris— a man of no great musical science, but gifted with a natural talent for melody and for pleasing though not always correct instrumentation, which secured the suffrages of the Feydeau audience for nearly all the long list of his productions. These were mostly short pieces in one act, in which he wrote the principal tenor part for himself. His "Le petit Matelot" (1794), as "Der kleine Matrose," became immediately popular throughout Germany; Rellstab at Berlin published a pianoforte arrangement of it in 1798; and it so endured the fluctuations in public able to him. He therefore hired, at the same time, quarters in the Rothes Haus on the Alserkaserne." "Now," Nottebohm continues, "Beethoven lived in the Theater- an-der-Wien in May, 1803, and later in the Rothes Haus in the spring of 1804." Con-1sequently he must have worked on the opera before the spring of 1804. Nottebohm/ assumes that between the abandonment of work on Schikaneder's text and the begin- ing of work on "Leonore" there could not be more than a quarter of a year. It is very probable that Beethoven dropped work on Schikaneder's text when the latter s activity as director came to an end on February 11, 1804; but it does not follow that he may not already have approached the setting of Bouilly's text, as translated into German by Sonnleithner, who now undertook the work of administration. At any rate it is an error to assert that the commission to compose the book was not offered to him until the fall of 1804. Indeed, the question is whether or not Beethoven's occupancy of lodgings in the theatre was interrupted at all. It ought also to be borne in mind that in view of his relations with Baron von Braun and Sonnleithner, Beethoven may have known before the conclusion of the contract that Schikaneder's direction was to be terminated—reasons enough for believing that there is nothing improbable in the theory that the composer began work on "Leonore" before the end of 1803. The French Original of "fidelio" 37
taste as still to be performed at Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1846. This was followed by his "L'Amour filial," and others, so that, in short, whatever faults the critics found in his music, he was one of those French composers, to whose productions the managers of German opera houses ever had an eye. As the "Leonore" was published in score soon after its production, the names of its authors, Bouilly and Gaveaux, as well as its success at the Theatre Feydeau, ensured its becoming known in Germany, and, but for the use of its subject by Paer, it might perhaps have been simply translated and performed with the original music. Rewritten in Italian, it was one of the first texts put into Paer's hands after his removal to Dresden, and was produced on the 3d of October, as the opening piece of the winter season 1804-5. The first performance was another triumph for Paer, who, satisfied with it, departed for Vienna next day on his way to Italy. It requires no great sagacity to perceive, on the one hand, that the Directors of the Imperial Italian Opera—on whose stage at the least eleven of Paer's works had been given, several of them originally written for it—would not fail to secure a copy of the new composition; and, on the other, that the composer would seek the fame and profit of its reproduction there.1 Jahn in his preface to Beethoven's "Leonore" has discussed the great inferiority of the Dresden Italian text to the original; its defects would be equally apparent to Sonnleithner; and this consideration, with perhaps later news from Dresden, would convince him that the performance of Paer's composition at Vienna would be at best a doubtful venture.2 At this point, when the first of the solo sonatas written for the enlarged pianoforte (Op. 53) is ready for the press; when the Pianoforte Concerto in C minor has just been published; the "Sinfonia Eroica," with its daring novelties of ideas and construction is awaiting public performance, and the composer has entered the lists to compete with Cherubini in another form of the art—here seems to be the fitting place for a few notes upon the degree of popularity, and the extent of circulation, to which his previous compositions had already attained.
'Dr. Riemann here inserts: "If this was not the case the explanation lies in the fact that the attention of Sonnleithner, who had to provide texts for both Beethoven and Cherubini, had previously been directed to the 'Leonore' of Bouilly and Gaveaux, and Beethoven had already begun work on it."
slt was not until February 8, 1809, that PaBr's opera was performed in Vienna, long after Beethoven had withdrawn his opera and when Baron von Braun was no longer Intendant. The story to which Ferdinand Hiller gave currency about the production of Paer's opera and the attendance of Beethoven upon it in company with the composer must be rejected for chronological reasons. (Riemann.)
We have not written very lucidly, if it be not sufficiently i clear that, at Vienna, the works of no other of the younger genieration of composers had so ready and extensive a sale as Beethoven's, notwithstanding their most attractive qualities to many, were repellent to others. That was a question of taste. But in these last weeks of 1804, a proof of their general popularity was in preparation by Schreyvogel and Rizzi, which, so far as the present writer has examined the German periodical press from 1790 to 1830, is without a parallel. It was a complete classified catalogue of the "Works of Herrn Ludwig van Beethoven," published as an advertisement, January 30, 1805, in the "Wiener Zeitung," announcing them as "to be had at the Kunst- und IndustrieComptoir at Vienna in the Kohlmarkt, No. 269."
At the end of 1796—a few sets of Variations excepted— only the first three of Beethoven's opera had appeared. Four years afterwards the first publishing houses of Leipsic contend with those of Vienna for his manuscripts, notwithstanding the worse than contemptuous treatment of his works by the newly founded musical journal. In January, 1801, at Breslau "the pianoforte players gladly venture upon Beethoven and spare neither time nor pains to conquer his difficulties." In June, Beethoven has "more commissions, almost, than it was possible to fill" from the publishers —he "demands and they pay." In 1802, Nageli of Zurich, passing all the older composers by, applies to him for sonatas with which to introduce to the public his costly enterprise of the "Repertoire des Clavecinistes." In 1803, although Simrock, of Bonn, had a branch house at Paris, and printed editions of his townsman's more important works for circulation in France, Zulehner of Mayence finds the demand for them sufficient to warrant the announcement of a complete and uniform edition of the "Works for Pianoforte and String Instruments." In May of the same year the "Correspondence des Amateurs-Musiciens" informs us that at Paris a part of the pianoforte virtuosos play only Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and spite of the difficulties offered by their works there are "quelquefois des Amateurs qui croient les jouer"; and, soon after this, an application comes to Beethoven from distant Scotland for half a dozen sonatas, on Scotch themes.1
'In September, 1804, Muzio Clementi, who was not only a fine musician but also a clever business man, made an arrangement with Br^itkopf and Hartel, by which he secured all the compositions which Beethoven might bring that firm, for England at one-half the honorarium paid to the composer. (See an article by Max Unger in "The Monthly Record." Nov.-Dec.. 1908.)