Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

benefit, the choice of a work being left to them, without cost." There was then no opera, German, French or Italian, likely to draw a remunerative house in the repertory of the theatre, which could be produced without expense to the institution. The sensation caused by Beethoven's new music, including the numbers from "The Ruins of Athens" in which Weinmiiller had just sung, suggested "Fidelio." All three had been in Vienna at its production and therefore knew it sufficiently to judge of its fitness for them as singers, and the probability of its now being successful; at all events the name of Beethoven would surely secure for their night a numerous audience. "Beethoven was approached for the loan of the opera," says Treitschke, who had this year been reappointed stage-manager and poet at the Karnthnerthor-Theater after having been employed some years at the Theater-an-derWien, "and very unselfishly declared his willingness, but on the unequivocal condition that many changes be made."

At the same time he proposed my humble self as the person to make these changes. I had enjoyed his more intimate friendship for some time, and my twofold position as stage-manager and opera-poet made his wish a pious duty. With Sonnleithner's permission I first took up the dialogue, wrote it almost wholly anew, succinct and clear as possible—an essential thing in the case of Singspiele. The principal changes made by Treitschke were, by his own account, these: The scene of the entire first act was laid in an open court; the positions of Nos. 1 and 2, were exchanged; later the guard entered to a newly composed march; Leonore's Air received a new introduction, and only the last movement, "O du, fur den ich alles trug," was retained. The succeeding scene and duet—according to Seyfried's description "a charming duettino for soprano voices with concertante parts for violin and violoncello, C major, 6/8 time"—which was in the old book, Beethoven tore out of the score; the former (he said) was unnecessary, the latter a concert-piece; I was compelled to agree with him; the purpose in view was to save the opera as a whole. A little terzetto for Rocco, Marcelline and Jacquino which followed ("a most melodious terzetto in Eflat" as Seyfried says) fared no better. There had been a want of action and the music did not warm the hearers. A new dialogue was desired to give more occasion for the first finale. My friend was again right in demanding a different ending. I made many plans; at length we came to an agreement: to bring together the return of the prisoners at the command of Pizarro and their lamentation. The second act offered a great difficulty at the very outset. Beethoven at first wanted to distinguish poor Florestan with an aria, but I offered the objection that it would not be possible to allow a man nearly dead of hunger to sing bravura. We composed one thing and Treitschke's Revision Of "fidelio" 265

another; at last, in my opinion, I hit the nail on the head. I wrote words which describe the last blazing up of life before its extinguishment:

"Und spur' ich nicht linde, sanft sauselnde Luft, Und ist nicht mein Grab mir erhellet?
Ich seh', wie ein Engel, in rosigem Duft, Sich trostend zur Seite mir stellet.
Ein Engel, Leonoren, der Gattin so gleich!
Der flihrt mich zur Freiheit,—ins himmlische Reich!"

What I am now relating will live forever in my memory. Beethoven came to me about seven o'clock in the evening. After we had discussed other things, he asked how matters stood with the aria? It was just finished, I handed it to him. He read, ran up and down the room, muttered, growled, as was his habit instead of singing—and tore open the pianoforte. My wife had often vainly begged him to play; to-day he placed the text in front of him and began to improvise marvellously—music which no magic could hold fast. Out of it he seemed to conjure the motive of the aria. The hours went by, but Beethoven improvised on. Supper, which he had purposed to eat with us, was served, but—he would not permit himself to be disturbed. It was late when he embraced me, and declining the meal, he hurried home. The next day the admirable composition was finished.

Concerning this air, Rockel writes: Measurably to satisfy the new Florestan (the Italian Radichi), who wanted to be applauded after his air, which was not possible nor fitting to the situation nor desirable after the pianissimo conclusion of Florestan's air with the con sordino accompaniment of the violins, without writing a new air, Beethoven cut the Adagio in two and concluded with an Allegro in the high register of the singer; but as the noise of applause would not have been increased by Rocco and Fidelio, who enter at this moment to dig a grave for the supposedly dead man, the composer concluded the noisy Allegro with a coda for the orchestra ending with a new pianissimo, by which device the silence essential to the succeeding scene was again restored. Treitschke continues: Nearly all the rest in the second act was confined to abbreviations and changes in the poetry. I think that a careful comparison of the two printed texts will justify my reasons. The grandiose quartet: "Er sterbe," etc., was interrupted by me with a short pause during which Jacquino and other persons report the arrival of the Minister and make the accomplishment of the murder impossible by summoning Pizarro away. After the next duet Rocco comes and accompanies Florestan and Leonore to the Minister. At this point, Treitschke avoided what had always appeared to him to be "a great fault"—namely, that the dungeon was the scene of the entire second act—by introducing a change in the scenery so that the conclusion should be "in full daylight upon a bright green courtyard of the palace."

Before the middle of February the alterations to be made were determined by musician and poet, and each began his task; both were hindered by frequent interruptions, and its completion deferred.1

Beethoven's attention to it was immediately called away by the concert of which these two notes speak:No. I. (To Brunswick.) Vienna, February 13, 1814. Dear friend and brother! You wrote to me recently, I write to you now—you no doubt rejoice over all victories —also over mine—on the 27th of this month I shall give a second concert in the large Ridotto Room—Come up—You know it now. Thus I am gradually rescuing myself from my misery, for from my salaries I have not yet received a penny.2 Schuppanzigh has written to Michalcovics' whether it would be worth while to come to Ofen; what do you think? Of course such a thing would have to take place in a theatre. My opera is going to be performed, but I am writing much of it over. I hope you are living contentedly, that is not a little, so far as I am concerned, good heavens, my kingdom is in the air, like the wind the tones often whirl in my soul—I embrace you. No. II. (To Archduke Rudolph.) I hope for pardon for my non-attendance. Your displeasure would punish me when I am innocent; in a few days I will make it all up. They intend to perform my opera "Fidelio" again. This gives me a great deal of work, and despite my healthy appearance I am not well. For my second concert the arrangements have been made in part, I must compose something new for Milder in it. Meanwhile I hear, and it is comforting to me, that Y. I. H. is in better health,4 I hope, unless I am

'Concerning the revision of "Fidelio" there is much information in the so-called Dessauer sketchbook (now in the archives of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna), which unquestionably belongs in the year 1814. This sketchbook contains first of all the two new finales for the opera. On page 72 is the remark: "For Milder, B-flat above," which no doubt refers to the measure before the last in Leonore't aria. Then follow, p. 82, Florestan's air, p. 90 the melodrama, p. 108 the recitative "Abscheulicher, wo eilst du hin," p. 112 "Un lieto Brindisi," p. 123 sketches for a symphony "2nd movement Corni," p. 133 "Sanft wie du lebtest (the "Elegiac song"), p. 141 "Symphony, 2nd movement," p. 142 "Sanft wie du lebtest," again, p. 148 "Ihr weisen GrUnder (Homage Cantata), p. 160 "Europa steht" ("Der glorreiche Augenblick") with only two or three measures of music, pp. 161-164 again "Ihr weisen GrUnder." Besides these, Nottebohm recognized sketches for the Farewell song for Tuscher ("Die Stunde schlagt"), for the first movement of the Sonata, Op.90, and to the overtures to "Fidelio" and "Namensfeier."

'Beethoven here, of course, alludes only to the arrears in payments on his annuity of Lobkowitz and Kinsky.

'Johann Alois Michalcovics, "Kdnigl. Stadthnltereiagent" in Ofen, had been some years before in the same office with Zmeskall in Vienna, and a member of that jovial musical circle of which young Beethoven was the prominent figure. Like Zmeskall and Brunswick, he was a fine violoncellist.

'The Archduke was so troubled with gout in his hands that he had to abandon pianoforte playing.

"wellington's Victory" Repeated 267

flattering myself too much, soon again to contribute to it. In the meantime I have taken the liberty to inform my Lord Falstaff1 that he will soon graciously be permitted to appear before Y. I. H. The "Wiener Zeitung" of February 24th contains the advertisement of the "Akademie, next Sunday, the 27th inst. in the large Redoutensaal," announcing "a new symphony not yet heard and an entirely new as yet unheard terzetto" as novelties. To Hummel, Beethoven now wrote: I beg of you conduct this time again the drumheads and cannonades with your admirable chapelmaster and field-marshall's baton— do it, I beg of you, and if ever I am wanted to cannonade you, I shall be at your service body and soul. The report in the "Allg. Mus. Zeit." contains the programme in full with a few short and pertinent observations: 1. The new symphony (A major) which was received with so much applause, again. The reception was as animated as at the first time; the Andante (A minor) the crown of modern instrumental music, as at the first performance had to be repeated. 2. An entirely new Italian terzetto (B-flat major) beautifully sung by Mad. Milder-Hauptmann, Hrn. Siboni and Hrn. Weinmuller, is conceived at the outset wholly in the Italian style, but ends with a fiery Allegro in Beethoven's individual style. It was applauded.

8. An entirely new, hitherto unheard symphony (F major, % time). The greatest interest of the listeners seemed centered on this, the newest product of B's muse, and expectation was tense, but this was not sufficiently gratified after the single hearing, and the applause which it received was not accompanied by that enthusiasm which distinguishes a work which gives universal delight; in short—as the Italians say—it did not create a furore. This reviewer is of the opinion that the reason does not lie by any means in weaker or less artistic workmanship (for here as in all of B's works of this class there breathes that peculiar spirit by which his originality always asserts itself); but partly in the faulty judgment which permitted this symphony to follow that in A major, partly in the surfeit of beauty and excellence which must necessarily be followed by a reaction. If this symphony should be performed alone hereafter, we have no doubt of its success. 4. At the close, "Wellington's Victory in the battle of Vittoria" was given again, the first part, the Battle, having to be repeated. The performance left nothing to be desired; and the attendance was again very large. The "something new for Milder" resulted in something rather old; for the terzetto in which she sang was the "Tremate, empj, tremate," fully sketched in 1801-1802, but now first written out and completed in its present form.

'Schuppanzigh.

Schindler discovered among Beethoven's papers, and has communicated substantially in his book, certain accounts of expenses incurred in this concert. Only the Eighth Symphony and the terzetto had to be copied; for these "the specification amounted in total: 452 written pages at 12 kreutzers, makes 90 florins, 24 kr.; the specified cost of the orchestra alone at this concert amounted to 344 florins. Nevertheless, only 7 first violinists and only 6 seconds who were paid some 5 some 7 fl. are mentioned by name, because in each part twice as many dilettanti had played." One of Beethoven's own memoranda gives the exact number of the string instruments: "At my last concert in the large Ridottoroom there were 18 first violins, 18 second, 14 violas, 12 violoncellos, 17 contra-basses, 2 contra-bassoons." Whether the audience numbered 5000, as Schindler reports, or 3000, which is more likely, the clear pecuniary profits of the two concerts were very large. Czerny remembered that on this occasion the Eighth Symphony "by no means pleased" and Beethoven was angry thereat, "because it is much better," he said. Another of his reminiscences is that Beethoven "often related with much pleasure how, when walking on the Kahlenberg after the performance of the Eighth Symphony, he got some cherries from a couple of girls and when he asked the price of one of them, she replied: 'I'll take nothing from you. We saw you in the Ridotto-room when we heard your beautiful music'"

The University Law Students had a composition by Beethoven on the programme of their concert, on February 12; the Medical Students opened their concert, March 6, with the "Egmont" Overture; and the Regiment Deutschmeister, theirs of March 25 with that to "Coriolan"; with these concerts Beethoven had nothing to do; but in the Annual Spring "Akademie," March 25, in the Karnthnerthor-Theater for the Theatre Poor Fund, he conducted the "Egmont" Overture and "Wellington's Victory."

Both poet and composer had now been again delayed in their "Fidelio" studies, in this wise: The French Armies had so often taken possession of the capitals of the various Continental states, that the motives are inconceivable, which induced Schwarzenberg to restrain the approach of the allied armies on Paris, until Bliicher's persistence, enforced by his victories, at last compelled the Commander-in-Chief to yield the point. When this became known in Vienna, it was determined to celebrate the event, so soon as news of it should arrive, by an appropriate performance in the Court Opera. To this end, Treitschke wrote a Singspiel in one act entitled "Gute Nachricht" ("Good News"). Of the nine

« ForrigeFortsett »