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It is now to be seen whether Schindler's account of the Allegretto Scherzando will bear examination. It is this:
In the Spring of the year 1812, Beethoven, the mechanician Maizel, Count von Brunswick, Stephan von Breuning and others, sat together at a farewell meal, the first about to undertake the visit to his brother Johann in Linz, there to work out his Eighth Symphony and afterward to visit the Bohemian baths—Malzel, however, to journey to England to exploit his famous trumpet-player automaton. The latter project had to be abandoned, however, and indefinitely postponed. The timemachine—metronome—invented by this mechanician, was already in such a state of forwardness that Salieri, -Beethoven, Weigl and other musical notabilities had given a public testimonial of its utility. Beethoven, generally merry, witty, satirical, "unbuttoned," as he called it, at this farewell meal improvised the following canon, which was at once sung by the participants.
Schindler here prints the now well-known canon and adds: "Out of this canon was developed the Allegretto Scherzando." That Malzel's "ta, ta, ta," suggested the Allegretto, and that at a farewell meal the canon on that subject was sung, is doubtless true; but it is by no means certain that the canon preceded the symphony. Schindler was then a youth of 17 years, "in the last course of the gymnasium at Olmiitz," and consequently relates his story on the authority of another—Count Brunswick. There may have been a slight lapse of memory on the part of Brunswick as to date, but it is far more probable that Schindler unconsciously adapted what he heard to his own preconceived notions. At all events, the preceding pages show that he was in the wrong as to the metronome, as to the proposed journeys of both Beethoven and Malzel, and therefore, probably, as to the date of the farewell meal. On this last point, the lists of "Arrivals in Vienna" offer very strong negative evidence, namely: Forray comes from Pesth-Ofen in 1809-10-11; Countess Brunswick, 1811; but no Count Brunswick after March, 1810, until the end of February, 1813—four months after the Eighth Symphony is completed. At that date, we shall find reasons in plenty for the farewell gathering—though none in the "Spring of 1812." The canon could not have contained the word "Metronome" until 1817; nor could the "ta, ta, ta," have represented the beat of a pendulum of an instrument not yet invented; it was an imitation of the beat of the lever on the anvil.
The Conversation Books show, in Schindler's own hand, how he became possessed of the canon. Beethoven, during the first years of their acquaintance, was in the habit of meeting frequently evenings a captain of the Arcierenleibgarde des Canon And Allegretto Scherzando 235
Kaisers, a certain Herr Pinterics, well known then in musical circles, and Oliva, "in a retired room in the Blumenstock in the Ballgasschen." In a Conversation Book (1820) Schindler writes:
The motif of the canon, 2d movement of the 8th symphony—I cannot find the original—you will, I hope, have the kindness to write it down for me. Herr Pintericks at that time sang the bass, the Captain 2d tenor, Oliva 2d bass. [Again in 1824]: I am just in the second movement of the 8th symphony—ta, ta, ta—the canon on Malzel—it was really a very jolly evening when we sang this canon in the "Kamehl"—Malzel, the bass. At that time I still sang soprano. I think it was the end of 1817.' The time when I was permitted to appear before Your Majesty— 1816—1815—after the performance of the Symphony in A.—I was still young at that time, but very courageous, wasn't I?
On the first of these occasions, therefore, the word "Chronometer" must have been sung; on the second, as Malzel had returned to Vienna with the "Metronome," that word was substituted, and of course retained in the copy made in 1820. The necessary conclusion is this: If the canon was written before the Symphony, it was not improvised at the farewell meal; if it was improvised on that occasion, it was but the reproduction of the Allegretto theme in canon-form.
Pierre Rode, who at his culmination had occupied perhaps the first place among living violinists, being driven from Russia, made a concert tour in Germany and came in December to Vienna. Spohr, whose judgment of violin playing cannot be impugned, had heard him ten years before with delight and astonishment, and now again in a public concert on January 6. He now thought that he had retrograded; he found his playing "cold and full of mannerisms"; he "missed the former daring in the overcoming of difficulties," and felt himself "particularly unsatisfied by his cantabile playing." "The public, too, seemed dissatisfied," he says, "at least he could not warm it into enthusiasm." Still, Rode had a great name; paid to and received from the nobles the customary homage; and exhibited his still great talents in their saloons. Beethoven must have still thought well of his powers, for he now took up and completed his Sonata, Op. 96, to be played at one of Lobkowitz's evening concerts by him and Archduke Rudolph. From the tone of two notes to the Archduke (printed by Kbchel), the composer seems to have been less satisfied by Rode's performances than he had expected to be:
To-morrow morning at the earliest hour, the copyist will be able to begin on the last movement, as I meanwhile am writing on other works,
'Correct. Malzel was then for a few months again in Vienna.
I did not make great haste for the sake of mere punctuality in the last movement, the more because I had, in writing it, to consider the playing of Rode; in our finales we like rushing and resounding passages, but these are not in Rode's style and this—embarrassed me a little. For the rest all is likely to go well on Tuesday. I take the liberty of doubting if I can appear that evening at Your Imp. Highness's, notwithstanding my zeal in service; but to make it good I shall come to-morrow morning, to-morrow afternoon, to meet the wishes of my exalted pupil in all respects.
The date of the concert was December 29th. Therefore, if the sketches for the second, third and fourth movements of this noble sonata do not belong to the year 1811, as argued near the close of the preceding chapter, the entire work, except the first movement, was produced in twelve or fifteen days at most.
Though it may be slightly in advance of strict chronological order, it would seem well to quote here what Spohr in his Autobiography writes of his personal intercourse with Beethoven. It is interesting and doubly acceptable as the only sketch of the kind belonging to just this period; it is, moreover, trustworthy. In general, what he relates of the composer in that work so abounds with unaccountable errors as to necessitate the utmost caution in accepting it; it is pervaded by a harsh and grating tone; and leaves the impression, that his memory retained most vividly and unconsciously exaggerated whatever tended to place Beethoven in a ridiculous light. What is here copied is, at least comparatively, free from these objections:
After my arrival in Vienna (about December 1), I at once hunted up Beethoven, but did not find him and therefore left my card. I now hoped to meet him in one of the musical soirees to which I was frequently invited, but soon learned that since his deafness had so increased that he could no longer hear music distinctly in all its context he had withdrawn from all musical parties and, indeed, become very shy of society. I made another attempt to visit him, but again in vain. At last, most unexpectedly, I met him in the eating-place which I was in the habit of patronizing every Wednesday with my wife. I had, by this time, already given a concert (December 17), and twice performed my oratorio (January 21 and 24). The Vienna newspapers had reported favorably upon them. Hence, Beethoven knew of me when I introduced myself to him and greeted me in an extremely friendly manner. We sat down together at a table, and Beethoven became very chatty, which greatly surprised the table company, as he generally looked straight ahead, morose and curt of speech. It was a difficult task to make him understand, as one had to shout so loudly that it could be heard three rooms distant. Afterward, Beethoven came often to this eating-house and visited me at my lodgings, and thus we soon learned to know each other well. Beethoven was frequently somewhat blunt, not to say rude; but an honest eye gleamed from under his bushy eyebrows.
Spohr's Account Of Beethoven 237
After my return from Gotha (end of May, 1813), I met him occasionally at the Theater-an-der-Wien, hard behind the orchestra, where Count Palffy had given him a free seat. After the opera he generally accompanied me home and spent the remainder of the evening with me. There he was pleasant toward Dorette and the children. He very seldom spoke about music. When he did so his judgments were very severe and so decided that it seemed as if there could be no contradiction. He did not take the least interest in the works of others; for this reason I did not have the courage to show him mine. His favorite topic of conversation at the time was severe criticism of the two theatrical managements of Prince Lobkowitz and Count Palffy. He was sometimes overloud in his abuse of the latter when we were still inside the theatre, so that not only the public but also the Count in his office might have heard him. This embarrassed me greatly and I continually tried to turn the conversation into something else. The rude, repelling conduct of Beethoven at this time was due partly to his deafness, which he not yet learned to endure with resignation, partly to the unsettled condition of his financial affairs. He was not a good housekeeper and had the ill-luck to be robbed by those about him. So he often lacked necessities. In the early part of our acquaintance I once asked him, after he had been absent from the eating-house: "You were not ill, were you?"—"My boots were, and as I have only one pair I had house-arrest," was the answer.
Beethoven had other cares, troubles and anxieties in the coming year—to which these reminiscences in strictness belong and serve as a sort of introduction—not known to Spohr. Theirs was not the confidential intercourse which lays bare the heart of friend to friend. As Varnhagen last year, so Theodor Kbrner this and the next informs us that Beethoven's desire again to try his fortune on the operatic stage was in no wise abated. On June 6th the youthful poet writes: "If Weinlig does not intend soon to compose my Alfred, let him send it back to me; I would then, having bettered my knowledge of the theatre and especially of opera texts, strike out several things, inasmuch as it is much too long, and give it to the Karnthner Theatre, as I am everlastingly plagued for opera texts by Beethoven, Weigl, Gyrowetz, etc." On February 10, 1813, he writes: "Beethoven has asked me for 'The Return of Ulysses.' If Gluck were alive, that would be a subject for his Muse."
The ascertained compositions of 1812 were:
I. "Sinfonie. L. v. Beethoven, 1812, 13ten Mai." A major, Op. 92.
II. "trio in einem Satze." B-flat. "Wien am 2ten Juni 1812. FUr seine kleine Freundin Max. Brentano zu ihrer Aufmunterung im Clavierspielen."
III. "Sinfonia—Linz im Monath October 1812." F major, Op. 93.
IV. Three Equali for four trombones. "Linz den 2ten 9ber 1812."
V. Sonata for Pianoforte and Violin. G major, Op. 96.
VI. Irish airs nearly or quite completed for Thomson, and
VII. Welsh airs probably continued.
I. Music to "Egmont" except the overture, Op. 84. Breitkopf and Hartel, in January.
II. Messa a quattro voci coll'accompagnamento deWOrchestra, composta da Luigi van Beethoven. "Drey Hymnen fiir vier Singstimmen mit Begleitung des Orchesters, in Musik gesetzt und Sr. Durchlaucht dem Herrn Fiirsten von Kinsky zugeeignet von Ludw. v. Beethoven, 86. Werk. Partitur." Breitkopf and Hartel, in October.