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An Operatic "macbeth" In Contemplation 119
The new directors of the theatres began their operatic performances at the Karnthnerthor January 1 and 2, and at the Burg January 4, 1807, with Gluck's "Iphigenia in Tauris." It was new to Collin and awakened in his mind new ideas of the ancient tragedy, which he determined to embody in a text for a musical drama in oratorio form. According to his biographer, Laban, he projected one on the Liberation of Jerusalem, to offer to Beethoven for setting; but it was never finished. Another essay in the field of musical drama was a "Macbeth," after Shakespeare, also left unfinished in the middle of the second act, "because it threatened to become too gloomy." He carried to completion a grand opera libretto, "Bradamante," for which he had an unusual predilection. It also was offered to Beethoven, but "seemed too venturesome" to him in respect of its use of the supernatural; there were probably other reasons why it did not appeal to him. "And so it happened that although at a later period Beethoven wanted to undertake its composition, Collin gave the book to Reichardt, who set it to music during his sojourn in Vienna in 1808."
A writer in Cotta's "Morgenblatt" remarks: "The clever Beethoven has a notion to compose Goethe's 'Faust' as soon as he has found somebody who will adapt it for the stage for him." Nottebohm ("Zweite Beethoveniana," p. 225 et seq.) says that the first act of Collin's "Macbeth" was printed in 1809 and must have been written in 1808 at the latest. He also prints a sketch showing that Beethoven had begun its composition. The "Macbeth" project therefore preceded the negotiations about "Bradamante." Collin's opera begins, like Shakespeare's, with the witches' scene, and the sketch referred to is preceded by the directions: "Overture Macbeth falls immediately into the chorus of witches."1
The consequence of Beethoven's fastidiousness and indecision was that on removing again to Heiligenstadt for the summer, he had no text for a vocal composition and devoted his time and energies to an instrumental composition—the "Sinfonia Pastorale."
Those who think programme music for the orchestra is a recent invention, and they who suppose the "Pastoral" Symphony to be an original attempt to portray nature in music, are alike mistaken. It was never so much the ambition of Beethoven to invent new forms of musical works, as to surpass his contemporaries in the use of those already existing. There were few great
'RiSckel in his letter to Thayer says: "That Beethoven did not abandon the idea of composing another opera was shown by the impatience with which he could scarcely wait for his friend Collin to make an opera book for him of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth.' At Beethoven's request, I read the first act and found that it followed the great original closely; unfortunately Collin's death prevented the completion of the work."
battles in those stormy years, that were not fought over again by orchestras, military bands, organs and pianofortes; and pages might be filled with a catalogue of programme music, long since dead, buried and forgotten.
A remark of Ries, confirmed by other testimony, as well as by the form and substance of many of his master's works, if already quoted, will bear repetition: "Beethoven in composing his pieces often thought of a particular thing, although he frequently laughed at musical paintings and scolded particularly about trivialities of this sort. Haydn's 'Creation' and 'The Seasons' were frequently ridiculed, though Beethoven never failed to recognize Haydn's high deserts," etc. But Beethoven himself did not disdain occasionally to introduce imitations into his works. The difference between him and others in this regard was this: they undertook to give musical imitations of things essentially unmusical—he never.
On a bright, sunny day in April, 1823, Beethoven took Schindler for a long ramble through the scenes in which he had composed his Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Schindler writes:
After we had looked at the bath-house and its adjacent garden at Heiligenstadt and he had given expression to many agreeable recollections touching his creations, we continued our walk towards the Kahlenberg in the direction past Grinzing [?]. Passing through the pleasant meadow-valley between Heiligenstadt and the latter village,1 which is traversed by a gently murmuring brook which hurries down from a near-by mountain and is bordered with high elms, Beethoven repeatedly stopped and let his glances roam, full of happiness, over the glorious landscape. Then seating himself on the turf and leaning against an elm, Beethoven asked me if there were any yellowhammers to be heard in the trees around us. But all was still. He then said: "Here I composed the 'Scene by the Brook' and the yellowhammers up there, the quails, nightingales and cuckoos round about, composed with me." To my question why he had not also put the yellowhammers into the scene, he drew out his sketchbook and wrote:
"That's the composer up there," he remarked, "hasn't she a more important role to play than the others? They are meant only for a joke."
'Schindler here is mistaken. The "walk toward the Kahlenberg" took them northerly into the valley between Heiligenstadt and Nussdorf, where an excessively idealized bust of the composer now marks the "Scene by the Brook." After thirty years of absence from Vienna, Schindler's memory had lost the exact topography of these scenes; and a friend to whom he wrote for information upon it mistook the Grinzing brook and valley for the true ones. This explanation of his error was made by Schindler to the present writer very soon after the third edition of his (Schindler's) book appeared.
Jokes In The "pastoral Symphony'
And really the entrance of this figure in G major gives the tone-picture a new charm. Speaking now of the whole work and its parts, Beethoven said that the melody of this variation from the species of the yellowhammers was pretty plainly imitated in the scale written down in Andante rhythm and the same pitch.1 As a reason for not having mentioned this fellow-composer he said that had he printed the name it would only have served to increase the number of ill-natured interpretations of the movement which has made the introduction of the work difficult not only in Vienna but also in other places. Not infrequently the symphony, because of its second movement, had been declared to be child's play. In some places it shared the fate of the "Eroica."
Equally interesting, valuable and grateful is Schindler's account of the origin of Beethoven's "Merrymaking of the Countryfolk" in this symphony. Somewhat curtailed it is this:
There are facts to tell us of how particular was the interest which Beethoven took in Austrian dance-music. Until his arrival in Vienna (1792), according to his own statement, he had not become acquai nted with any folkmusic except that of the mountains, with its strange and peculiar rhythms. How much attention he afterwards bestowed on dance-music is proved by the catalogue of his works. He even made essays in Austrian dance-music, but the players refused to grant Austrian citizenship to these efforts. The last effort dates from 1819 and, strangely enough, falls in the middle of his work on the "Missa Solemnis." In the tavern "To the Three Ravens" in the vordern Briihl near Modling there had played a band of seven men. This band was one of the first that gave the young musician from the Rhine an opportunity to hear the national tunes of his new home in an unadulterated form. Beethoven made the acquaintance of the musicians and composed several sets of handler and other dances for them. In the year mentioned (1819), he had again complied with the wishes of the band. I was present when the new opus was handed to the leader of the company. The master in high good humor remarked that he had so arranged the dances that one musician after the other might put down his instrument at intervals and take a rest, or even a nap. After the leader had gone away full of joy because of the present of the famous composer, Beethoven asked me if I had not observed how village musicians often played in their sleep, occasionally letting their instruments fall and remaining entirely quiet, then awaking with a start, throwing in a few vigorous blows or strokes at a venture, but generally in the right key, and then falling asleep again; he had tried to copy these poor people in his "Pastoral" symphony. Now, reader, take up the score and see the arrangement on pages 106, 107, 108 and 109. Note the stereotyped accompaniment figure of the two violins on page 105 and the following; note the sleep-drunken second
'"But the note of the yellowhammer, both in England and in Austria, is not an arpeggio—cannot in any way be twisted into one, or represented by one. It is a quick « succession of the same note, ending with a longer one, sometimes rising above the preceding note, but more frequently falling. In fact, Schindler himself tells us that it was the origin of the mighty theme which opened the C minor Symphony!"—Grove, "Beethoven and His Nine Symphonies," p. 211.
bassoon1 with his repetition of a few tones, while contra-bass, violoncello and viola keep quiet; on page 108 we see the viola wake up and apparently awaken the violoncello—and the second horn also sounds three notes, but at once sinks into silence again. At length contra-bass and the two bassoons gather themselves together for a new effort and the clarinet has time to take a rest. Moreover, the Allegro in 2-4 time on page 110 is based in form and character on the old-time Austrian dances. There were dances in which 3-4 time gave way suddenly to 2-4. As late as the third decade of the nineteenth century I myself saw such dances executed in forest villages only a few hours distant from the metropolis—Laab, Kaltenleutgeben and Gaden.
The subject of Beethoven's imitations, even in play, are therefore musical, not incongruous; and in his "Portrait musical de la Nature" are so suggestive as to aid and intensify the "expression of feelings," which was his professed aim.
Beethoven wrote to Count Oppersdorff on November 1:
You will view me in a false light, but necessity compelled me to sell the symphony which was written for you and also another to someone else—but be assured that you shall soon receive the one intended for you soon. ... I live right under Prince Lichnowsky, in case you ever make me a visit in Vienna, at Countess Erdody's. My circumstances are improving—without the help of persons who wish to treat their friends with a threshing. I have also been called to be Chapelmaster to the King of Westphalia, and it is easily possible that I shall accept the call.
Such an apology for not having dedicated the promised Symphony to Oppersdorff, and the promise soon to supply its place with another, are ample testimony that the relations between the composer and that nobleman were of a character well worth the trouble of investigation by any one who has the opportunity to make it. Whatever information can be obtained upon this matter will be new.J
'Carl Holz related a story to Jahn, which he may very well have heard from Beethoven himself. Jahn's memorandum of it is in the following words: "Scherzo of the Pastorale. In Heiligenstadt a drunken bassoonist thrown out of the tavern, who then blows the bass notes."
'Some of the information for which Thayer hoped was supplied by his translator. Dr. Deiters, and has been printed as a foot-note in the preceding chapter. Something more appears from several documents which have come to light since Mr. Thayer wrote, but, it must be confessed, it seems more bewildering than illuminative. One of these is a letter which was published in the "Signale" of Leipsic in September, 1880. It is without date, but an allusion to the felon with which Beethoven was afflicted fixes the time of its writing about March, 1808. The significant part of the letter is as follows: "To-day I have little time to write more to you, I only want to inform you that your symphony has long been ready and I will send it to you by the next post—you may retain 60 florins, for the copying, which I will have done for you, will cost that sum at least—in case you do not want the symphony, however, let me know the fact before the next post —in case you accept it, rejoice me as soon as possible with the 300 florins still due me— The last piece in the symphony is with 3 trombones and flautino—not with 3 kettledrums, but will make more noise than 6 kettledrums and, indeed, better noise—I am still under treatment for my poor innocent finger and because of it have not been able to Count Oppersdorff And The Fourth Symphony 123
The allusion in the above letter to Lichnowsky's lodging renders it certain that the Prince had made no recent change. Now Carl Czerny writes to Ferdinand Luib (May 28, 1852): "About 1804, he (Beethoven) already lived on the Molkerbastei in the vicinity of Prince Lichnowsky, who lived in the house (now demolished) over the Schottenthor. In the years 1806-7-8-9, he certainly lived on the Molkerbastei with Pasqualati, and, as I believe, for a time hard by. It is thus ascertained, that, on returning from Heiligenstadt at the close of the summer, 1808, Beethoven left the rooms which he had now occupied for four years, for others in the "house (now demolished) over the Schottenthor." In his words: "persons who wish to treat their friends with a
go out for a fortnight—farewell—let me hear something from you soon, dear Count—it goes ill with me." The document which Dr. Riemann says "obviously" accompanied this letter (though we cannot see why) runs as follows: "Receipt for 500 florins from Count Oppersdorff for a Sinfonie which I have written for him. This is dated "1807 on the 3rd of February." There is another receipt for 150 florins dated March 29, 1808, but nothing to show what the money was paid for except a memorandum accompanying it which seems to be partly in the handwriting of Beethoven, partly in that of Oppersdorff, and states that 200 florins had been paid in June, 1807, for the "5 Sinfoni" (the numeral is vague), but that the symphony had not been received. The reference to the trombones in the finale of the symphony proves that it was the fifth that was in question.
On November 1, 1808, Beethoven writes the letter printed above in the body of the text. Why Dr. Riemann should have thought it necessary to consider the first letter of contemporaneous date with the first receipt is not plain, nor why he should surmise that Beethoven had enclosed the receipt in the letter before he received the money which was not paid at the time. To this Editor it seems as if the confused tangle might be explained in part, at least, as follows, though the explanation leaves Beethoven under a suspicion which cannot be dispelled until more is learned of the dealings between him and Count Oppersdorff: On the occasion of Beethoven's visit to Count Oppersdorff in company with Lichnowsky in the summer or fall of 1806, the Count commissioned the composer to write a symphony for him; Beethoven had begun work on the Fifth Symphony, but laid it aside and during the remainder of his stay at Gratz and in the winter of 1807 wrote the Symphony in B-flat which is dedicated to Count Oppersdorff; for this he received 500 florins on February 3, 1807; he did not send the Count the score, as was the custom, for exclusive use during a fixed period, but turned it over to Lobkowitz for performance, being in urgent need of money; a year later he substituted the Fifth for the Fourth and accepted from Count Oppersdorff 150 florins in March and 200 in June for. it without delivering it, this sum being, it may be presumed, a bonus for the larger work, the Count apparently having asked for something employing an unusual apparatus (hence the "3 kettledrums"); this symphony was also withheld in the end, for reasons which are not known, and Oppersdorff had to content himself with the mere dedication of the Symphony in B-flat originally designed for him.
Dr. Riemann's comment on the transactions is this: "The letter of November 1, 1808, proves conclusively that Count Oppersdorff could not have received either the C minor or the B-flat Symphony for his use for the customary half year; for the B-flat Symphony was performed by Lobkowitz in March, 1807; it was sold to Clementi and also tothelndustriecomptoirin the summer, delivered for publication at the latest in the fall of 1807 when Beethoven had to return the 1500 florins to his brother Johann. The C minor Symphony was performed at the concert in the Theater-an-der-Wien on December 22, 1808, offered to Breitkopf and Hartel as early as June, 1808, sold on September 14, 1808, and published in April, 1809. To all appearances, Count Oppersdorff was compelled to look upon the 350 florins as remuneration for the mere dedication of the Symphony in B-flat which was published by the Industriecomptoir in March, 1808 (score not until 1821 by Simrock). The name of Count Oppersdorff does not appear again in the life-history of Beethoven."