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Popularity Of Beethoven's Music 39
The first two Concertos for Pianoforte and Orchestra, published in 1801, are reported to have been played in public within two years at Berlin and Frankfort-on-the-Main; the third, advertised in November, 1804, was produced the next month at Berlin. The first Symphony had hardly left Hoffmeister's press, when it was added to the repertory of the Gewandhaus Concert, at Leipsic, and during the three following years was repeatedly performed at Berlin, Breslau, Frankfort-on-the-Main, Dresden, Brunswick and Munich; the second, advertised in March, 1804, was the opening symphony of Schick and Bohrer's (Berlin) concerts in the Autumn. The "Prometheus" overture was played in the same concerts, December 2, 1803—ten days earlier than the oldest discovered advertisement of its publication. The instant popularity of the Septet in all its forms is well known. A public performance of the Horn Sonata, March 20, 1803, at the concert of Dulon, the blind flute player, is worth noting, because the pianist was "young Bar"—Meyerbeer.
In our day and generation, to offer so meagre a list of public productions as a proof of popularity in the case of a new author of orchestral works, would be ridiculous. In the multiplication of musical journals and the greatly extended interest taken in musical news wherever an orchestra exists equal to the performance of a symphony, there is also someone to report its doings. This is as it should be. Then, except in the larger capitals, this was rarely so. Hence the few notes above, compiled from the correspondence of the single musical journal of the time, are more than suggestive—they are proof—of many an unrecorded production of the works they name. But more noteworthy than the statistics given by the various correspondents, is this: that, whatever praises they bestow upon the concertos and symphonies of others, they rank Beethoven alone with Haydn and Mozart; and this they do, even before the publication of the third Concerto and the Second Symphony. Beethoven, then, though almost unknown personally beyond the limits of a few Austrian cities—unaided by apostles to preach his gospel, owing nothing to journalist or pamphleteer, disdaining, in fact, all the arts by which dazzling but mediocre talent pushes itself into notoriety—had, in the short space of eight years, by simple force of his genius as manifested in his published works, placed himself at the head of all writers for the pianoforte, and in public estimation risen to the level of the two greatest of orchestral composers. The unknown student that entered Vienna in 1792, is now in 1804 a recognized member of the great triumvirate, to whose names in 1870, in spite of all the polemics of preachers of a new gospel, the world still persists in giving the place of highest honor in the roll of instrumental composers. Then, as now—now, as then—they are Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The lists of the ascertained compositions and publications for the year 1804 are surprisingly short; but as no really sufficient reason for the fact can be given, none shall be attempted.1 The former are only the two Sonatas, Op. 53 and Op. 54, and the "Andante favori"; but the final revision of the "Sinfonia Eroica" probably was made at the beginning of the year. The publications were these: 1—Second Symphony, D major, Op. 36, dedicated to Prince Carl Lichnowsky, advertised by the Kunst- und IndustrieComptoir, Vienna, March 10. The arrangement of this Symphony for pianoforte, violin and violoncello, which was published by the same firm in 1806, is indirectly claimed by Ries as his work, notwithstanding the title bears the words "par l'auteur meme." Czerny confirms Ries in these terms: "The arrangement of the second Symphony as a Pianoforte Trio was made by Ries; Beethoven gave it to me for correction of certain things with which he was dissatisfied." 2—Song with pianoforte accompaniment: "Der Wachtelschlag," advertised with the preceding. 3—VII Variations on "God save the King," for Pf., advertised with the preceding. 4—III Marches for Pf., four hands, Op. 45, dedicated to Princess Esterhazy, advertised with the preceding. 5—V Variations for Pf., on "Rule Britannia," advertised by the same, June 20th. 6—Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 31, No. 3, published by Nfigeli in his "Repertoire des Clavecinistes," Cat. II. Chapter III The Year 1805—First Public Performance of the "Heroic Symphony"—The Opera "Leonore," or "Fidelio"—A Study of the Sketchbook—The Singers and the Production.
'Nottebohm's researches (c/. "Zweite Beethoveniana," p. 416 et seq.) show that Beethoven sketched all the movements of the Triple Concerto, Op. 56, in 1804; that the beginning of the work on the "Waldstein" Sonata, Op. 53, dates back to 1803, or at the latest the early part of 1804; sketches for Op. 54 are missing, but the three numbers of Op. 57 are so fully represented among the opera sketches that Schindler's statement that the so-called "Appassionata" Sonata was composed at Count Brunswick's in 1806 is to be understood as referring only to its definitive working out and the making of a fair copy; the date of the performance of "Leonore" ("Fidelio"), taken in connection with a revision of the air in E major, show that the "Leonore" sketchbook, between which and the book of 1803 there seems to have been another, of which no trace has been found, may have extended to the beginning of 1805.
THE life of an author or composer, when absorbed in the study of a great work, falls into a routine of daily labor that presents few salient points to the biographer. Thus it was with Beethoven during the first two-thirds of the year 1805. What has been preserved of his correspondence is very little in quantity and of slight value. Ries was away with Lichnowsky in Silesia during all the warm season, and, very soon after his return, was forced to depart again from Vienna for Bonn; hence the "Notizen" fail us in perhaps the most interesting period of the young man's four years of pupilage under Beethoven —that of the composition of "Leonore," or "Fidelio." The history of the year is, in the main, the history of that work; and unfortunately a very unsatisfactory one. Not to break the thread of the story hereafter, the few events of the first half of the year unconnected with it, shall first be disposed of. Schuppanzigh had discovered and taught a boy of great genius for the violin, Joseph Mayseder by name (born October 16, 1789), who was already, in his sixteenth year, the subject of eulogistic notices in the public press. With this youth as second, Schreiber, "in the service of Prince Lobkowitz," for the viola, and the elder Kraft, violoncellist, Schuppanzigh during the winter 1804-5 gave quartets "in a private house in the Heiligenkreuzerhof, the listeners paying five florins in advance for four performances." Up to the end of April the quartets given were by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Eberl, Romberg, with "occasionally larger pieces. Of the latter great pleasure was given by the beautiful Beethoven Sextet in E-flat, a composition which shines resplendent by reason of its lively melodies, unconstrained harmonies, and a wealth of new and surprising ideas." So it is reported in the "Allg. Mus. Zeit.," VII, 535, of the Sextet for wind-instruments, which afterwards received the opus number 71, but was composed "in 1796 at the latest," says Nottebohm, and, not improbably in its original form, in Bonn. It was to the discredit of Vienna, where instrumental performers of rare ability so abounded, that for several years regular public orchestral concerts, save those at the Augarten in summer, had been abandoned. Sensible of this, the bankers Wiirth and Fellner during the winter of 1803-4 "had gathered together on all Sunday mornings a select company (nearly all dilettanti) for concerts restricted for the greater part to pieces for full orchestra, such as symphonies (among them Beethoven's First and Second), overtures, concertos, which they played in really admirable style." There were also "some overtures by a certain Count Gallenberg" who "imitated, or rather copied, Mozart and Cherubini so slavishly, following them even in the details of keys and modulations so faithfully, that it was easy to tell the titles of the overtures over whose lasts his had been made with the greatest certainty." Thus the correspondent of the "Allg. Mus. Zeit." (VI, 467). In these concerts Clement of the Theater-an-derWien was director. They were renewed the present winter, and new performances of Beethoven's first two Symphonies, and the Concerto in C minor (Op. 37)—pianoforte part by Ries1—prepare the way for the production of "an entirely new symphony"—"a long composition extremely difficult of performance, in reality, a tremendously expanded, daring and wild fantasia"; wanting "nothing in the way of startling and beautiful passages, in which the energetic and talented composer must be recognized; but often it loses itself in lawlessness"; the writer "belongs to Herr van Beethoven's sincerest admirers, but in this composition he must confess that he finds too much that is glaring and bizarre, which makes a survey too difficult; and the principle of unity is almost wholly lost sight of." It was the "Sinfonia Eroica"— its first semi-public production. Its first really public performance was in the Theater-an-der-Wien, on Sunday evening, April 7th, where it began the second part of a concert given for his own benefit by Clement. The programme announces it thus: "A new grand symphony in D-sharp by Herrn Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicated to his Serene Highness Prince Lobkowitz. The composer has kindly consented to conduct the work."
Public Performance Of The "eroica" 43
Czerny remembered, and told Jahn, that on this occasion "somebody in the gallery cried out: 'I'll give another kreutzer if the thing will but stop!'" This is the key-note to the strain in which the Symphony was criticized in communications to the press, that are now among the curiosities of musical literature. The correspondent of the "Freymiithige" divided the audience into three parties. Some, says he, Beethoven's particular friends, assert that it is just this symphony which is his masterpiece, that this is the true style for high-class music, and that if it does not please now, it is because the public is not cultured enough, artistically, to grasp all these lofty beauties; after a few thousand years have passed it will not fail of its effect. Another faction denies that the work has any artistic value and professes to see in it an untamed striving for singularity which had failed, however, to achieve in any of its parts beauty or true sublimity and power. By means of strange modulations and violent transitions, by combining the most heterogeneous elements, as for instance when a pastoral in the largest style is ripped up by the basses, by three horns, etc., a certain undesirable originality may be achieved without much trouble; but genius proclaims itself not in the unusual and the fantastic, but in the beautiful and the sublime. Beethoven himself proved the correctness of this axiom in his earlier works. The third party, a very small one, stands midway between the others— it admits that the symphony contains many beauties, but concedes that the connection is often disrupted entirely, and that the inordinate length of this longest, and perhaps most difficult of all symphonies, wearies even the cognoscenti, and is unendurable to the mere musiclover; it wishes that H. v. B. would employ his acknowledgedly great talents in giving us works like his symphonies in C and D, his ingratiating Septet in E-flat, the intellectual Quintet in D (C major?) and others of his early compositions which have placed B. forever in the ranks of the foremost instrumental composers. It fears, however, that if Beethoven continues on his present path both he and the public will be the sufferers. . . . The public and Herr van Beethoven, who conducted, were not satisfied with each other on this evening; the public thought the symphony too heavy, too long, and Beethoven himself too discourteous, because he did not nod his head in recognition of the applause which came from a portion of the audience. This clear, compendious and valuable statement of the conflicting opinions of the first auditors of the "Eroica" renders farther citations superfluous; but a story—characteristic enough to be true—may be added: that Beethoven, in reply to the complaints of too great length, said, in substance: "If / write a symphony an hour long it will be found short enough!" He refused positively to make any change in the work, but deferred to public opinion so far, as, upon its publication, to affix to the title of the Symphony a note to the effect, that on account of its great