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Thomson And Scottish Songs 69
In the "Grenzboten," Vol. XVI, No. 14, April 3,1857, Fraulein Giannatasio del Rio relates that, in 1816, Beethoven told how once during the invasion when the Prince had a number of Frenchmen as his guests, he (the Prince) repeatedly tried to coerce him to play for them on the pianoforte and that he had stoutly refused; which led to a scene between him and the Prince, whereupon B. indiscreetly and suddenly left the house.— He once said that it is easy to get along with nobility, but it was necessary to have something to impress them with. To propitiate him for the humiliation which he had suffered, the bust of his patron had to become a sacrifice; he dashed it into pieces from its place on a cabinet to the floor. Alois Fuchs recorded an anecdote which illustrates the feeling which made Beethoven so unwilling to play before the French officers. After the battle at Jena (October 14, 1806) Beethoven met his friend Krumpholz, to whom he was warmly attached, and, as usual, asked him, "What's the news?" Krumpholz answered that the latest news was the report just received that the great hero Napoleon had won another decisive victory over the Prussians. Greatly angered, Beethoven replied to this: "It's a pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do the art of music, I would conquer him!" —
A very natural query arises here: how did Beethoven meet the expenses of these costly journeys? In answer it may be said that there is good reason to believe that he borrowed and used his brother Johann's scanty savings. A letter by Beethoven, dated November 1, introduces a new topic. At the time of the Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, 1707, a "Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures in Scotland" was established. About 1785 George Thomson became its Secretary. He had some knowledge of musical science, and was an enthusiastic lover of Scottish airs and melodies. His official position brought him into correspondence with educated and influential people in all parts of the kingdom, and afforded him singular facilities for the execution of an early formed project—that of making the most extensive collection possible of the music of Scotland. Many compilations, various in extent and merit, had been published, but all of them, as Thomson justly remarks, "more or less defective and exceptionable." In one of his prefaces he says: To furnish a collection of all the fine airs, both of the plaintive and the lively kind, unmixed with trifling and inferior ones—to obtain passage: "Prince, what you are you are by accident and birth; what I am I am through myself. There have been and will still be thousands of princes; there is only one Beethoven." Authentic or not, the expression might well have come from the lips of Beethoven in a fit of anger. the most suitable and finished accompaniments, with the addition of characteristic symphonies to introduce and conclude each air—and to substitute congenial and interesting songs, every way worthy of the music, in the room of insipid or exceptionable verses, were the great objects of the present publication. . . .
For the composition of the symphonies and accompaniments, he entered into terms with Mr. Pleyel, who fulfilled part of his engagement satisfactorily; but having then stopped short, the editor found it necessary to turn his eyes elsewhere. He was so fortunate, however, as to engage Mr. Kozeluch, and afterwards, Dr. Haydn, to proceed with the work, which they have finished in such a manner as to leave him nothing to regret on Mr. Pleyel's breach of engagement, etc., etc. Doubtless Thomson would have applied sooner to Haydn, had he known that the great master would condescend to such a labor. The appearance of William Napier's two volumes of "Original Scots Songs, in three parts, the Harmony by Haydn," removed any doubt on this point. For Napier, Haydn simply added a violin part and a figured bass; for Thomson, a full pianoforte score, parts for violin and violoncello, and an instrumental introduction and coda. A very remarkable feature of the enterprise was, that the composers of the accompaniments had no knowledge of the texts, and the writers of the poetry no knowledge of the accompaniments. The poets, in many cases, had a stanza of the original song as a model for the metre and rhythm; in all others, they and the composers alike received the bare melody, with nothing else to guide them in their work but Italian musical terms: allegro, moderato, andante, etc., etc., affettuoso, espressivo, scherzando, and the like. This is also true of the Welsh and Irish melodies. Beethoven began his labors for Thomson with the last named. In the preface to the first volume, dated "Edinburgh, anno 1814," after describing his work in collecting Irish airs, Thomson says: They were sent to Haydn to be harmonized along with the Scottish and Welsh airs; but after that celebrated composer had finished the greater part of those two works, his declining health only enabled him to harmonize a few of the Irish Melodies; and upon his death, it became necessary to find another composer to whom the task of harmonizing them should be committed.1 Of all composers that are now living, it is acknowledged by every intelligent and unprejudiced musician, that the only one, who occupies the same distinguished rank with the late Haydn is Beethoven. Possessing the most original genius and inventive fancy, united to profound science, refined taste and an enthusiastic love of his art—his compositions, like those of his illustrious predecessor, will bear endless repetition and afford ever new delight. To this composer, there
'Thomson's memory was a little at fault when this preface was written; the proposal was made to Beethoven before Haydn's death.
Beethoven's Suggested Arrangements 71
fore, the Editor eagerly applied for symphonies and accompaniments to the Irish Melodies; and to his inexpressible satisfaction, Beethoven undertook the composition. After years of anxious suspense and teazing disappointment, by the miscarriage of letters and manuscripts, owing to the unprecedented difficulty of communication between England and Vienna, the long expected symphonies and accompaniments at last reached the Editor, three other copies having previously been lost upon the road. Near the close of his preface, Thomson says: "After the volume was printed and some copies of it had been circulated, an opportunity occurred of sending it to Beethoven, who corrected the few inaccuracies that had escaped the notice of the Editor and his friends; and he trusts it will be found without a single error."
Following is a translation of the letter to Thomson referred to: Vienna, November 1, 1806. Dear Sir: A little excursion to Silesia which I have made is the reason why I have postponed till now answering your letter of July 1. On my return to Vienna I hasten to communicate to you what I have to say and what I have decided as to the proposals you were so kind as to make me. I will speak with all candor and exactitude, which I like in business affairs, and which alone can forestall any complaint on either side. Here, then, my dear Sir, are my statements:
lmo. I am not indisposed, on the whole, to accept your propositions.
2do. I will take care to make the compositions easy and pleasing, as far as I can and as far as is consistent with that elevation and originality of style which, as you yourself say, favorably characterize my works and from which I shall never derogate.
3tio. I cannot bring myself to write for the flute, as this instrument is too limited and imperfect.
4to. In order to give the compositions which you will publish greater variety and to leave myself a freer field in them, though the task of making them easy would always be an embarrassment to me, I shall promise you only three trios for violin, viola and violoncello, and three quintets for two violins, two violas and one violoncello. Instead of the remaining three trios, I will send you three quartets and, finally, two sonatas for pianoforte with an accompanying instrument, and a quintet for two violins and flute. In a word, I would ask you with regard to the second series of the compositions you ask for, to rely upon my taste and good faith and I assure you that you shall be entirely satisfied.
If you cannot agree to any of these changes, I shall not insist upon them obstinately.
510. I should be glad if the second series of compositions were published six months after the first.
VIto. I desire a clearer explanation of the expression which I find in your letter that no copy printed under my name shall be introduced into Great Britain; for if you agree that these compositions are to be published also in Germany and even in France, I do not understand how I shall be able to prevent copies from being taken to your country.
7"10. Finally as to the honorarium, I shall expect you to send me 100 pounds sterling, or 200 Vienna ducats in gold, and not in Vienna bank-notes, which under the present circumstances are at too great a discount; for if paid in these notes the sum would be as little in proportion to the works which I should deliver to you as to the fees which I receive for all my other compositions. Even a fee of 200 ducats in gold is by no means excessive payment for all that is demanded to meet your wishes. The best way of making the payment will be for you, on the dates when I forward you the first and second series of compositions, to send me each time by post a bill of exchange for 100 ducats in gold drawn upon a house in Hamburg; or for you to commission somebody in Vienna to hand me such a bill of exchange each time, as he receives from me the first and second series. At the same time please let me know the date on which each series will be published by you in order that I may engage the publishers who issue these compositions in Germany and France, to abide by the same. I hope that you will find my explanations reasonable and of such a sort that we can reach some definite agreement. In this case it will be best to draw up a formal contract which please have the kindness to prepare in duplicate; and I will return you one copy signed by me. I await your answer, that I may begin on the work; and I remain with distinguished consideration, my dear Sir, Your obedient servant, Louis van Beethoven. P.S.
I shall be glad to meet your wish that I provide little Scottish songs with harmonized accompaniments; and in this matter I await a more definite proposal; since it is well known to me that Herr Haydn was paid one pound sterling for each song. The original of this letter—in possession of the heirs of Mr. Thomson—is in French, the signature only being in Beethoven's hand. Of its various propositions, that in the postscript alone led to any results. And now to the compositions of the year. A song translated by Breuning from a French opera, "Le Secret," was probably the first fruits of the newly awakened "desire and love for work," which proved so nobly productive during his summer absence from Vienna; it is the one published at different times under the titles "Empfindungen bei Lydiens Untreue," and "Als die Geliebte sich trennen wollte." A slight token of gratitude for the recent zealous kindness of Breuning in the matter of the opera, such as this song, would not long be delayed even by Beethoven. But, whether or not this was the first composition after the withdrawal of "Fidelio," it is certain that, just one week before the date of Breuning's letter, Beethoven had set himself resolutely to work upon grander themes than Empfindungen bei Lydiens or
any other Madchens Untreue. These are now to be considered. He began the quartets, Op. 59, on May 26. Certain studies to "Fidelio," not previously mentioned, are contained in a sketchbook of the Landsberger Collection of Autographs, the principal contents of which are sketches for the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth Symphonies, and for "Fidelio." This, at first view, seems to confirm an assertion of Czerny's—not accepted by Schindler, who in this case is the better authority—namely, that the Ninth Symphony, except its choral Finale, was projected many years before its composition; but the book itself affords a strong argument against it; it being, as the present writer is convinced, not a manuscript in its original form, but one made up of parts of several different books, stitched together subsequently for the better preservation of these various symphonic studies. In it, however, the sketches for the Fourth Symphony are in immediate connection with those for "Fidelio." The list, then, of important works sketched during the progress of the opera, is this: Triple €©neeFto,~Opr-56; Sonata in F minor, Op. 57; Pf. Concerto in G, Op. 58; Rasoumowski Quartet, Op. 59; Fourth Symphony, B-flat, Op. 60; Fifth Symphony, C minor, Op.-67', Sixth Symphony,
"Pastorahv"- Op 68. Omitting the first as belonging to 1805, and the last two as belonging to 1807-1808, the other four, we conceive, may be dated 1806. They afford a striking example of Beethoven's habit of working on several compositions at the same time, and, moreover, as we believe, of his practice in such cases of giving the works opus numbers in the order of their completion. In this order we will take them up. "The first work which followed the exertions caused by the opera," writes Schindler, "was the Sonata in F minor, Op. 57. . . . The master composed it straightway from beginning to end, during a short period of rest at the house of his friend Count Brunswick, to whom, as is known, the sonata is dedicated."
Beethoven, journeying into Silesia after his visit to Brunswick, took the manuscript and had it also with him on his return to Vienna per extra post from Troppau after the explosion at Lichnowsky's. "During his journey," wrote M. Bigot half a century afterwards on a printed copy belonging to the pianist Mortier de Fontaine, he encountered a storm and pouring rain which penetrated the trunk into which he had put the Sonata in F minor which he had just composed. After reaching Vienna he came to see us and laughingly showed the work, which was still wet, to my wife, who at once began to look carefully at it. Impelled by the striking beginning she sat down at the