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Chapter VII The Year 1808—Beethoven's Brother Johann—Plans for New Operas—The "Pastoral Symphony" and "Choral Fantasia"—A Call to Cassel—Appreciation in Vienna.
HE history of the year 1808 must be preceded by the following letter to Gleichenstein:Dear good Gleichenstein: Please be so kind as to give this to the copyist to-morrow—it concerns the symphony as you see—in case he is not through with the quartet to-morrow, take it away and deliver it at the Industriecomptoir. . . . You may say to my brother that I shall certainly not write to him again. I know the cause, it is this, because he has lent me money and spent some on my account he is already concerned, I know my brothers, since I cannot yet pay it back to him, and the other probably who is filled with the spirit of revenge against me and him too—it were best if I were to collect the whole 1500 florins (from the Industriecomptoir) and pay him with it, then the matter will be at an end—heaven forefend that I should be obliged to receive benefactions from my brothers.1 Beethoven. Of all the known letters of Beethoven, perhaps no one is so much to be regretted as this, written near the end of 1807, just when the contracts with the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, and Simrock—he had received nothing as yet on the Clementi contract —made his pecuniary resources abundant, doubtless increased by a handsome honorarium out of the receipts of the Liebhaber Concerts. True, the letter was intended for Gleichenstein's eye alone; still it is sad to know that even in a moment of spleen or anger and in the privacy of intimate friendship, the great master could
'This letter was doubtless followed by a billet to Gleichenstein reading as follows: "I think—you would better have them pay you 60 florins more than the 1500 or, if you think that it would be consistent with my honesty—the sum of 1600—I leave this wholly to you, however, only honesty and justice must be the polestar which is to guide you." The transaction to which the letter and note refer must have been the sale of the compositions, the British rights for which had been sold to Clementi. The quartet was probably one of the Rasoumowsky set and the symphony that in B-flat, since the fifth and sixth were not published by the Viennese Bureau but by Breitkopf and Hartel.
Slanders Against Johann Van Beethoven 115
so far forget his own dignity, and write thus abusively of his brother Johann, whose claim was just and whose future career was dependent upon its payment at this time. The case, in few words, was this:—Eleonore Ordley, sole heir of her sister, Theresia Tiller, was, in the autumn of 1807, seeking a purchaser for the house and "registered apothecary shop" which, until 1872, still existed directly between the market-place and the bridge at Linz on the Danube, and was willing to dispose of them on such terms of payment, as to render it possible even for Johann van Beethoven with his slender means to become their owner. "I know my brothers," writes Beethoven. His brothers also knew him; and Johann had every reason to fear that if he did not secure his debt now when his brother's means were abundant, he might at the crisis of his negotiation find himself penniless. His demand was too just to be resisted and Gleichenstein evidently drew the money from the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir and paid it; for on the 13th of March, 1808, the contract of sale was signed at Vienna. By the terms of the contract which fixed the price at 25,000 florins, the vendee agreed to assume incumbrances on the property amounting to 12,600 florins, pay 10,400 florins in cash and 5% interest on 2,000 florins to the vendor during her life, and to be in Linz and take possession of the property on or before March 20, i.e., within a week after the signing of the contract. The expenses incurred in the negotiations, in his journey to Linz, and in taking possession, left the indigent purchaser barely funds sufficient to make his first payment and ratify the contract; in fact, he had only 300 florins left. The profits of his shop and the rents of his house were so small, that Johann was almost at his wit's end how to meet his next engagements. He sold the iron gratings of the windows—but they produced too little to carry him through. It was a comical piece of good luck for him that the jars and pots upon his shelves were of pure, solid English tin—a metal which Napoleon's non-intercourse decrees fulminated against England had just then raised enormously in price. The cunning apothecary sold his tin, furnished his shop with earthenware, and met his payments with the profits of the transaction. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good; the reverses of the Austrian arms in April, 1809, opened the road for the French armies to Linz, and gave Apothecary Beethoven an opportunity to make large contracts for the supply of medicines to the enemy's commissariat, which not only relieved him in his present necessities but laid the foundation for his subsequent moderate fortune. This concise record of facts effectually disposes of the current errors, which are, first: that about 1802-3 Beethoven established his brother in Linz as apothecary, advancing to him the necessary capital; second: that, through his personal influence, he obtained for Johann profitable contracts with the Austrian Commissariat for medicines—which contracts were the basis of his subsequent prosperity; third: that consequently, in obtaining monies from his brother, Beethoven was only sharing in the profits on capital furnished by himself; and, fourth: that hence, Johann's urgent request for payment in 1807 was an exhibition of vile selfishness and base ingratitude! All this is the exact reverse of the truth. No other performances of Beethoven's works at the Liebhaber Concerts, than those before enumerated, are reported; perhaps none were given, for reasons indicated in a letter from Stephan von Breuning to Wegeler, written in March, 1808: "Beethoven came near losing a finger by a Panaritium [felon], but he is again in good health. He escaped a great misfortune, which, added to his deafness, would have completely ruined his good humor, which, as it is, is of rare occurrence."
The series of concerts closed with the famous one of March 27th, at which in honor of Haydn, whose 76th birthday fell on the 81st, his "Creation" with Carpani's Italian text was given. It is pleasant to know that Beethoven was one of those who, "with members of the high nobility," stood at the door of the hall of the university to receive the venerable guest on his arrival there in Prince Esterhazy's coach, and who accompanied him as "sitting in an armchair he was carried, lifted high, and on his entrance into the hall was received with the sound of trumpets and drums by the numerous gathering and greeted with joyous shouts of 'Long live Haydn!'"
Some pains have been taken in other chapters to show that the want of taste and appreciation so often alleged for the works of Beethoven at Vienna is a mistake. On the contrary, generally in the concerts of those years, whenever an orchestra equal to the task was engaged, few as his published orchestral compositions then were, they are as often to be found on the programmes as those of Mozart or even Haydn; none were more likely to fill the house. Thus, immediately after the close of the Liebhaber Concerts, Sebastian Meier's annual benefit in the Theater-an-derWien opened with the "Sinfonia Eroica." This was on Monday evening, April 11. Two days after (13th) the Charity Institute's Concert in the Burg Theatre offered a programme of six numbers; No. 1 was Beethoven's Fourth Symphony in B-flat; No. 5, one of Rust's Meetings With The Composer 117
his Pianoforte Concertos, played by Friedrich Stein; and No. 6, the "Coriolan" Overture—all directed by the composer; and, at a benefit concert in May, in the Augartensaal, occurred the first known public performance of the Triple Concerto, Op. 56. The once famous musical wonder-child, Wilhelm Rust, of Dessau, at the time a young man of some twenty-two years, had come to Vienna in 1807, and was now supporting himself by giving "children instructions in reading and elementary natural science." In a letter to his "best sister, Jette," dated Haking (a village near Vienna), July 9, 1808, he wrote of Beethoven. You want much to hear something about Beethoven; unfortunately I must say first of all that it has not been possible for me to get intimately acquainted with him. What else I know I will tell you now: He is as original and singular as a man as are his compositions. On the other hand he is also very childlike and certainly very sincere. He is a great lover of truth and in this goes too far very often; for he never flatters and therefore makes many enemies. A good fellow played for him, and when he was finished Beethoven said to him: "You will have to play a long time before you will realize that you can do nothing." I do not know whether you heard that I also played for him. He praised my playing, particularly in the Bach fugue, and said: "You play that well," which is much for him. Still he could not omit calling my attention to two mistakes. In a Scherzo I had not played the notes crisply enough and at another time I had struck one note twice instead of binding it. He must be unable to endure the French; for once when Prince Lichnowsky had some French guests, he asked Beethoven, who was also with him, to play for them as they had requested; but he refused and said he would not play for Frenchmen. In consequence he and Lichnowsky had a falling out.1 Once I met him at a restaurant where he sat with a few acquaintances. He berated Vienna soundly and the decay of its music. In this he is certainly right, and I was glad to hear his judgment, which confirmed mine. Last winter I frequently attended the Liebhaber Concerts, the first of which under Beethoven's direction were very beautiful; but after he retired they became so poor that there was not one in which something was not bungled. . . . It is very possible that Beethoven will leave Vienna; at any rate he has frequently spoken of doing so and said: "They are forcing me to it." He also asked me once how the orchestras were in the North. You wanted to know if any new sonatas by him have been published. His last works were symphonies and he is now writing an opera, which is the reason why I cannot go to him any more. Last year he composed a piece which I have not heard and an overture "Coriolan" which is extraordinarily beautiful. Perhaps you have had an opportunity to hear it in Berlin. The theme and variations in C minor which you refer to I also have; it is very beautiful, etc.
'Alois Fuchs related that when Beethoven heard from Krumpholz of Napoleon's victory at Jena he exclaimed: "Pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do the art of music; I would conquer him yet!"
In December Rust, writing to his brother Carl, was obliged to correct what he had said about Beethoven's new opera; "All new products which have appeared here are more or less mediocre except those of Beethoven. I think I have written you that he has not yet begun his new opera. I have not yet heard his first opera; it has not been performed since I have been here." These last sentences of Rust remind us of the once current notion that disgust and disappointment at the (assumed) failure of "Fidelio" prevented Beethoven from ever undertaking the composition of another opera. The error was long since exploded, and, indeed, amply refuted by his proposition to the "princely theatre rabble" for a permanent engagement. It is now universally known how earnestly Beethoven all his life long sought a satisfactory text for an opera or an oratorio; his friends always knew it; and his essays in vocal composition had, in spite of the critics, so favorably impressed them and the dramatic writers of the day, that all were eager to serve him.
Thus Schindler writes to Gleichenstein from Gratz, on March 19, 1807: "Speak at once to our friend Beethoven and particularly with the worthy Breuning, and learn if Beethoven has a mind to set a comic opera to music. I have read it, and found it varied in situation, beautiful in diction." Nothing came of this.
A somewhat more promising offer came from another quarter, but also without result. The celebrated Orientalist, HammerPurgstall, had just returned from the East to Vienna. Although but thirty-three years of age, he was already famous, and his translations and other writings were the talk of the day. An autograph note by Beethoven without address or date, preserved in the Petter Collection, was evidently written to him:
Almost put to shame by your courtesy and kindness in communicating your still unknown literary treasures in manuscript, I thank you heartily while returning the opera texts; overwhelmed in my artistic calling it is impossible for me just now to go into details about the Indian opera particularly, as soon as time permits I shall visit you in order to discuss this subject as well as the oratorio, "The Deluge," with you.
No oratorio on the subject of the deluge appears in the catalogue of Hammer-Purgstall's works.1
Nevertheless a letter, of which a copy was placed in the hands of Thayer at a later date, indicates that an oratorio "Die Stindfluth" was written by Hammer-Purgstall, and also that the correspondence between Beethoven and the Orientalist took place in 1809. It is dated "Ash Wednesday," the year not being mentioned, but refers to the departure of the Persian Ambassador and the fact that H. Schick had acquainted the writer with Beethoven's desire to have an Indian chorus of a religious character for composition.