Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/175

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
BEETHOVEN.
163
BEETHOVEN.

the common public schools, and even this ceased when he was thirteen. At school he was shy and uncommunicative, and cared for none of the ordinary games of boys. Before he was nine his music had advanced so far that his father had no longer anything to teach him, and in 1779 he was handed over to Pfeiffer, a tenor singer who had recently joined the opera in Bonn, and seems to have lodged with the Beethovens, and by whom he was taught, irregularly enough, but apparently with good and lasting effect, for a year. At the same time he fell in with a certain Zambona, who taught him Latin, French, and Italian, and otherwise assisted his neglected education. The organ he learned from Van den Eeden, organist to the Court Chapel, and an old friend of his grandfather's. About this time, 1780, 81, there is reason to believe that the Beethovens found a friend in Mr. Cressener, the English chargé d'affaires, long time resident at Bonn, and that he assisted them with a sum of 400 florins. He died on Jan. 17, 1781, and Beethoven (then just past ten) is said to have written a Funeral Cantata to his memory,[1] which was performed. The Cantata, if it ever existed, has hitherto been lost sight of. One composition of this year we have in 9 Variations on Dressler's March in C minor,[2] which though published in 1783, are stated on the title to be 'composées … par un jeune amateur L. v. B. agé de dix ans. 1780.' In Feb. 1781 Neefe succeeded Van den Eeden as Organist at the Court, and Beethoven became his scholar. This was a great step for the boy, since Neefe, though somewhat over conservative as a musician, was a sensible man, and became a real friend to his pupil.

There is ground for supposing[3] that during the winter of 1781 Ludwig and his mother made a journey in Holland, during which he played at private houses, and that the tour was a pecuniary success. On June 29, 1782, old Van den Eeden was buried, and on the next day the Elector's band followed him to Minister, where as Bishop he had a palace, Neefe leaving Ludwig, then 11½ years old, behind him as his regularly appointed deputy at the chapel organ, a post which, though unpaid, was no sinecure, and required both skill and judgment. This shows Neefe's confidence in his pupil, and agrees with his account of him, written a few months later, as 'playing with force and finish, reading well at sight, and, to sum up all, playing the greater part of Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, a feat which will be understood by the initiated. This young genius,' continues he, 'deserves some assistance that he may travel. If he goes on as he has begun, he will certainly become a second Mozart.'

On the 26th April 1783, Neefe was promoted to the direction of both sacred and secular music, and at the same time Beethoven (then 12 years and 4 months old), was appointed 'Cembalist im Orchester,' with the duty of accompanying the rehearsals in the theatre; in other words of conducting the opera-band, with all the responsibilities and advantages of practice and experience which belong to such a position. No pay accompanied the appointment at first, but the duties ceased when the Elector was absent, so that there was leisure for composition. The pieces published in this year are a song, 'Schilderung eines[4] Mädchens,' and 3 Sonatas for Piano solo,[5] composed, according to the statement of the dedication, in 1781. On Aug. 16, 1783, the youngest boy, August Franz, died, the father's voice began still further to fail, and things generally to go from bad to worse.

The work at the theatre was now rather on the increase. From Oct. 83 to Oct. 85, 2 operas of Gluck, 4 of Salieri, 2 of Sarti, 5 of Paisiello, with a dozen others, were studied and performed; but Ludwig had no pay. In Feb. 84 he made an application for a salary, but the consideration was postponed, and it was probably as a set-off that he was shortly afterwards appointed second Court-organist. Meantime, however, on April 15, 84, the Elector Max Friedrich died, and this postponed still farther the prospect of emolument. The theatrical company was dismissed, and Neefe having only his organ to attend to, no longer required a deputy. The Beethovens were now living at No. 476 in the Wenzelgasse, whither they appear to have moved in 83, and Ludwig played the organ in the Minorite church at the six o'clock mass every morning.

The music of 84 consists of a Rondo for the Piano in A,[6] published early in the year, and a song 'An einen [7]Saugling': a Concerto for Piano and a piece in 3-part harmony, both in MS., are mentioned as probably belonging to this year.[8]

One of the first acts of the new Elector Max Franz, was to examine his establishment, and on June 27, 84, he issued a list of names and salaries of his band,[9] among which Beethoven's father appears with a salary of 300 florins, and Beethoven himself, as second organist, with 150 florins, equivalent to £25 and £13 respectively. A memorandum of the same date[10] shows that an idea was entertained of dismissing Neefe and putting Beethoven into his place as chief organist. In fact Neefe's pay was reduced from 400 to 200 florins, so that 50 florins a year was saved by the appointment of Beethoven. An economical Elector! In the Holy Week of 1785 the incident occurred (made too much of in the books) of Beethoven's throwing out the solo singer in Chapel by a modulation in the accompaniment, which is chiefly interesting as showing how early his love of a joke showed itself.[11] During this year he studied the violin with Franz Ries—father of Ferdinand. The music of 1785 is 3 Quartets for Piano and Strings,[12] a Minuet for Piano in E♭,[13] and a song 'Wenn jernand eine Reise thut' (Op. 52, No. 1).

In 1786 nothing appears to have been either composed or published, and the only incident of this year that has survived, is the birth of a

  1. Thayer, 1 115
  2. B & H. Complete Edition, No. 106.
  3. Thayer 1. 116.
  4. B. & H. No. 228
  5. Ibid. 156–158.
  6. Ibid. 194.
  7. Ibid. 222.
  8. Thayer, I. 128.
  9. Ibid. I. 154.
  10. Ibid. I. 152.
  11. Schindler, Biographia, 1. 7; Thayer, i. 161.
  12. B. & H. 75–77.
  13. Ibid, 198.