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Karl's Mother Made To Share Her Pension 369
It would have been possible without offending the widow, but that was not the matter, and Thou, Almighty One, seest into my heart, knowest that I have sacrificed the best of my own for the sake of my precious Karl, bless my work, bless the widow, why cannot I wholly follow my heart's inclinations and hereafter for the widow God, God, my refuge, my rock, O my all, Thou seest my inmost heart and knowest how it pains me to be obliged to compel another to suffer by my good labors for my precious Karl!!! O hear me always, Thou Ineffable One, hear me—Thy unhappy, most unhappy of all mortals.
This was the barren result of negotiations which had cost Beethoven, as to any important work, the first half of the year. In May, Beethoven took rooms in Heiligenstadt to try the baths for his obstinate catarrh, of which he speaks in a characteristic letter to Countess Erdody, railing against his Italian physician (either Malfatti or Bertolini), whom he accuses of lacking both honesty and insight, and describing the treatment prescribed for him. Christian Kuffner, a poet, afterwards Court Secretary, who (though Nottebohm questioned it) probably gave poetical form to the text for the Choral Fantasia, also spent some time in the summer of 1817 in Heiligenstadt, and, as he told Music Director Krenn, often went with Beethoven of an evening to Nussdorf for a fish supper in the tavern "Zur Rose." On one of these occasions, when Beethoven was amiably disposed, Kuffner began:
K.—Tell me frankly, which is your favorite among your symphonies?
Long years afterwards, in 1826, when Kuffner was negotiating with Beethoven for an oratorio text, he recalled the meetings in Nussdorf and wrote in Beethoven's Conversation Book: "Do you remember the fisherman's house in Nussdorf, where we sat till midnight in the light of the full moon on the terrace, before us the rushing brook and the swollen Danube? I was your guest." Beethoven soon had his fish with less trouble; he moved to Nussdorf, perhaps in June (at least he was there in July, though he kept his lodging in the city), and in Nussdorf he remained till October, sending occasional notes to Frau Streicher, from which it appears that he was having his customary trouble with servants. Here, too, he received the following highly important letter from Ferdinand Ries, written in London on June 9, 1817: For a very long time I have been forgotten by you, although I can think of no other cause than your too great occupation, and, as I was compelled to hear from others, your serious illness. Truly, dear Beethoven, the gratitude which I owe you and always must owe you—and I believe I may honestly say I have never forgotten it—although enemies have often represented me to you as ungrateful and envious—is unalterable, as I have always ardently desired to prove to you in more than words. This ardent desire has now (I hope) been fulfilled, and I hope to find again in my old teacher, my old and affectionate friend. The Philharmonic Society, of which our friend Neate is now also a director, and at whose concerts your compositions are preferred to all others, wishes to give you an evidence of its great respect for you and its appreciation of the many beautiful moments which your great works have so often provided for us; and I feel it a most flattering compliment to have been empowered with Neate to write to you on the subject. In short, my dear Beethoven, we should like to have you with us in London next winter. Friends will receive you with open arms; and to give you at least one proof of this I have been commissioned on behalf of the Philharmonic Society to offer you 300 guineas on the following conditions: 1st. You are to be here in London next winter. 2nd. You are to write two grand symphonies for the Philharmonic Society, which are to be its property. 3rd. You must bind yourself not to deliver any composition for grand orchestra for any concert in London, nor direct any concert before or during our eight concerts, which begin towards the end of February and end in the first half of the month of June (without the consent of the Philharmonic Society), which certainly will not be difficult. Do not understand by this that we want to tie your hands; it is only in case an opposition which we have once put down should again arise, since the gentlemen might plan to have you for themselves against instead of for us. At the same time it might call up many enemies against you to decline something when the responsibility would rest entirely with us directors, and we should not be obliged to give heed to the matter. We are all cordially disposed in your favor and I believe that every opportunity to be helpful to you in your plans would sooner give us pleasure than any desire to restrict you in the least. 4th. You are not to appear in the orchestra at any concert until our first two concerts are over, unless you want to give a concert yourself, and you can give as many of your own concerts as you please.
Sth. You are to be here before the 8th of January, 1818, free from all obligations to the Society except to give us the preference in the future in case we meet the same conditions offered you by others. 6th. In case you accept the engagement and need money for the journey you may have 100 guineas in advance. This is the offer which I am authorized to make to you by the Society. All negotiations with publishers are left to you as well as those with Sir G. Smart, who has offered you 100 guineas for an oratorio in one act, and who has specially commissioned me to remind you of an answer, inasmuch as he would like to have the work for next winter. The intendant of the grand opera, G. Ayrton, is a particular friend of ours. He does not want to engage himself, but he promised us to commission an opera from you. Your own concert, or as many concerts as you choose to give, may bring in a handsome sum to you as well as other engagements in the
Plans For A Trip To England Approved 371
country. Neate and I rejoice like children at the prospect of seeing you here and I need not say that I will do all in my power to make your sojourn profitable and pleasant; I know England, too, and do not doubt your success for a moment. Moreover, we need somebody here who will put life into things and keep the gentlemen of the orchestra in order. Yesterday evening our last concert took place and your beautiful Symphony in A-sharp [B-flat] was given with extraordinary applause. It frightens one to think of symphony writers when one sees and hears such a work. Write me very soon an explicit answer and bid me hope to see you yourself here before long. Beethoven was prompt with his answer, but wishing to send a fair copy to Ries and having his own reasons for not wanting Haring's handwriting to appear in the correspondence he sent his letter to Zmeskall for transcription and posting. The letter, which was promptly forwarded to London, was as follows: Vienna, July 9, 1817. The propositions made in your letter of the 9th of June are very flattering. You will see by this how much I appreciate them; were it not for my unlucky affliction which entails more attendance and cost than ordinary, particularly while travelling and in a strange land, I would accept the Philharmonic Society's offer unconditionally. But put yourself in my place; reflect how many more hindrances I have to contend with than any other artist, and judge then if my demands be unfair. Here they are and I beg of you to communicate them to the directors of the said Society. 1) I shall be in London in the first half of the month of January, 1818, at the latest. 2) The two grand symphonies, newly composed, shall then be ready and become and remain the exclusive property of the Society.
S) For them the Society is to give me 800 guineas and 100 guineas for travelling expenses, which will be much more, since I must necessarily take a companion with me. 4) Inasmuch as I shall go to work on the symphonies at once, the Society is to advance me (on the acceptance of this offer) 150 guineas here so that I may provide myself with a carriage and other necessaries for my journey without delay. 5) The conditions respecting my non-appearance with another orchestra in public and my non-conducting, and preferring the Society under equal conditions are accepted by me and in view of my sense of honor would have been understood as a matter of course. 6) I shall rely upon the support of the Society in the projection and promotion of one, or, if circumstances justify, more benefit concerts. The particular friendship of some of the directors of your worthy Reunion as well as the kind interest of all artists in my works are a guarantee for this and will increase my zeal to fulfil all their expectations. 7) In conclusion I beg that the acquiescence in or confirmation of the above be written out in English and sent to me with the signatures of three directors of the Society. You can imagine that I heartily rejoice at the prospect of becoming acquainted with the estimable Sir George Smart and of meeting you and Mr. Neate again. Would that I might fly to you instead of this letter! To this Beethoven appended an autograph postscript as follows: I embrace you with all my heart; I purposely employed the hand of another in the above so that you might the more easily read it to the Society. I am convinced of your kind feelings toward me and hope that the Philharmonic Society will approve of my proposition, and you may rest assured that I shall exert all my powers worthily to fulfil the honorable commission of so select a body of artists. How numerous is your orchestra? How many violins, etc., etc., single or double uoindinstruments? Is the room large, acoustically good? These letters, as well as those which passed between Beethoven and Ries subsequently, ought to serve to indicate that the relationship between them at this time was, and remained, one of cordial friendship, Schindler's statements to the contrary notwithstanding. That biographer's list of grievances between the men may have had a small shadow of foundation, but after all it would be better to take them with a few grains of salt. It is very possible, as Czerny told Jahn, that Beethoven once complained to him that Ries imitated his style more than was agreeable to him; but this is far from saying, as Schindler says, that Ries, following a bent for brilliant technique, gradually lost his understanding of Beethoven's works, took it upon himself to find fault with some of his daring innovations and made arbitrary changes in performing them. Nor does it seem likely that Ries should have been so indifferent to the success of Beethoven's compositions in London as to withhold his help while reporting their great popularity to the composer in such enthusiastic words; yet Schindler intimates that it was this fact which, coming to the ears of Beethoven, provoked the latter to expressions of anger which in turn were reported to Ries. There is in all this, we fear, an undercurrent of prejudice which is not difficult of explanation; at any rate, if Ries cherished a feeling of ill-will against his master it found no expression in the "Notizen."
Efforts of the widow van Beethoven to keep in touch with her son, and questions of discipline in his bringing-up and education, were matters which weighed heavily on Beethoven's mind during the summer of 1817, and occasioned more misunderstandings between Giannatasio and the composer, as also much distress in the minds of the former's daughters, especially the solicitous Fanny, as is evidenced by entries in her diary under dates June 25 and July 8 and 21. In an undated letter which seems to belong to Discipline For Karl And His Mother 373
this period, Beethoven explains to Giannatasio that the mother had expressly asked to see Karl at his, the composer's, house and that certain evidences of indecision on his part which his correspondent had observed (and apparently held up to him) had not been due to any want of confidence, but to his antipathy to "inhuman conduct of any kind," and the circumstance that it had been put out of the power of the woman to do the lad harm in any respect. On the subject of discipline he writes: As regards Karl, I beg of you to hold him to strict obedience and if he does not obey you (or any of those whom he ought to obey) to punish him at once, treat him as you would your own child rather than as a pupil, for as I have already told you, during the lifetime of his father he could only be forced to obey by blows; this was very bad but it was unfortunately so and must not be forgotten. He requested that the letter be read to his nephew. Beethoven's "antipathy to inhuman conduct of any kind" seems to have led him to make concessions to the widow of which he soon repented. In a letter to Zmeskall dated July 30, he says: "After all, it might pain Karl's mother to be obliged to visit her son at the house of a stranger and, besides, there is more harshness in this affair than I like; therefore I shall permit her to come to me tomorrow"; and he urgently begs his friend to be a witness of the meeting. In a note to Giannatasio he informs him of his intention to take Karl to see his mother, because she was desirous to put herself in a better light before her neighbors, and this might help. But a fortnight after the letter to Zmeskall he has changed his mind, as witness a letter to Giannatasio dated August 14, in which he writes: I wanted this time to try an experiment to see if she might not be bettered by greater forbearance and gentleness . . . but it has foundered, for on Sunday I had already determined to adhere to the old necessary strictness, because in the short time she had communicated some of her venom to Karl—in short we must stick to the zodiak and permit her to see Karl only 12 times a year and then so hedge her about that she cannot secretly slip him even a pin. It is all the same to me whether it be at your house, at mine, or at a third place. I had believed that by yielding wholly to her wishes she might be encouraged to better her conduct and appreciate my utter unselfishness.
Notwithstanding the jeremiads in Beethoven's letters this year, and the annoyance caused him by his sister-in-law, there are indications in plenty that he was not on the whole in that state of dejection which one might suppose. One of these indications is a work which amused him during the summer, the story of which the careful Dehn admitted into the "Cacilia." A musician,