Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/178

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166
BEETHOVEN.
 

before he was 23, Beethoven has absolutely nothing to show. And the same in other departments. That he meditated great works, though they did not come to paper, is evident in at least one case. A resident in Bonn, writing to Schiller's sister Charlotte, on Jan. 26, 1793,[1] says:—'I enclose a setting of the Feuer-farbe on which I should like your opinion. It is by a young man of this place whose talent is widely esteemed, and whom the Elector has now sent to Vienna to Haydn. He intends to compose Schiller's Freude, and that verse by verse. I expect something perfect; for, as far as I know him, he is all for the grand and sublime. Haydn informs us that he shall set him to great operas, as he himself will shortly leave off composing. He does not usually occupy himself with such trifles as the enclosed, which indeed he composed only at the request of a lady.' This letter, which shows how early Schiller's 'Hymn to Joy' had taken possession of Beethoven—there to remain till it formed the finale to the Ninth Symphony thirty years later—is equally interesting for the light it throws on the impression which Beethoven had already made on those who knew him, and who credited him with the intention and the ability to produce great works, although he had not yet produced even small ones. This impression was doubtless due mainly to the force and originality of his extempore playing, which even at this early age was prodigious, and justified his friends in speaking of him[2] as one of the finest pianoforte-players of the day.

By the middle of November Beethoven was settled at Vienna. His first lodging was a garret at a printer's in the 'Alservorstadt'[3] outside the walls, in the direction of the present Votive-Church; but this was soon exchanged for one 'on the ground floor,'[4] of which we have no nearer description. On the journey from Bonn we find him for the first time making notes of little occurrences and expenses—a habit which never left him. In the entries made during his first few weeks in Vienna we can trace the purchase of a wig, silk stockings, boots, shoes, overcoat, writing-desk, seal, and hire of piano. From the same source we can infer the beginning of his lessons. The first payment to Haydn is 8 groschen (say 9½d., we may surely presume for one hour) on Dec. 12. The lessons took place in Haydn's house[5] B (Hamberger Haus, No. 992) now destroyed. They were lessons in 'strict counterpoint,' and the textbook was Fux's 'Gradus ad Parnassum.' Of Beethoven's exercises 245 have been preserved,[6] of which Haydn has corrected 42. Haydn was naturally much occupied, and it is not surprising that Beethoven should have been dissatisfied with his slow progress, and with the cursory way in which his exercises were corrected, and have secretly accepted the offer of additional instruction from Schenk, a well-known Vienna composer. But no open rupture as yet took place. Beethoven accompanied Haydn to Eisenstadt some time in 1793, and it was not until Haydn's departure for England on Jan. 19, 94, that he openly transferred himself to another master. He then took lessons from Albrechtsberger in counterpoint, and from Schuppanzigh on the violin, three times a week each. In the former the text-book was Albrechtsberger's own 'Anweisung zur Composition,' and the subject was taken up where Haydn had left it, and pursued much farther. No less than 263 exercises are in existence under the following heads—Simple strict counterpoint; Free composition in simple counterpoint; Imitation; Simple fugue; Fugued chorale; Double fugue; Double counterpoint in the 8th, 10th, and 12th; Triple counterpoint and Triple fugue; Canon. Nottebohm has pointed out the accuracy and pains which Albrechtsberger bestowed on his pupil, as well as[7] the care with which Beethoven wrote his exercises, and the characteristic way in which he neglected them in practice. He also gives his reasons for believing that the lessons did not last longer than March 1795. The impression they left on Albrechtsberger was not flattering: 'Have nothing to do with him,' said the old contrapuntist to an enquiring lad, 'he has learnt nothing, and will never do anything in decent style.'[8] In fact what was a contrapuntist to do with a pupil who regarded everything in music—even consecutive fifths[9]—as an open question, and also thought it a good thing to 'learn occasionally what is according to rule, that one may hereafter come to what is contrary to rule?'[10] Besides the lessons with Haydn and Albrechtsberger, some exercises exist in Italian vocal composition, dating from 1793 to 1802, and showing that Beethoven availed himself of Salieri's well-known kindness to needy musicians, to submit his pieces to him. Salieri's corrections are chiefly in the division of the Italian syllables. Another musician whom he consulted, especially in his early attempts at quartet writing, was Aloys Förster, to whom he remained long and greatly attached.[11]

Meantime Beethoven kept up communication with Bonn. On Dec. 18, 92, his poor father died, and the 100 thalers applied to the support of his brothers naturally stopped. On Beethoven's application, however, the grant was allowed to go on, in addition to his own pay. Ries drew and transmitted the money for him.[12] The Breunings still held their place in his heart; two letters to Eleonore, full of affection, are preserved, and he mentions having also written twice to one resident of Bonn, and three times to another, in the course of the first twelvemonth. In January 1794 the Elector visited Vienna, and with the March quarter-day Beethoven's allowance ceased. In the following October the Emperor declared war with France, Bonn was taken possession of by the republican army, and the Elector fled.

  1. Thayer, Leben i. 237.
  2. Ibid. i. 227 and 215
  3. Ibid. ii. 108.
  4. Ibid. i, 255, 'auf der Erd.'
  5. Ibid. i. 259.
  6. For all the exercises here mentioned and an able faithful commentary, see Nottebohm's invaluable edition of Beethoven's Studien, vol. 1. 1873.
  7. Nottebohm, Beethoven's Studien, p. 196.
  8. Dolezalek, in Thayer, ii. 117.
  9. Ries, Biographische Notizen, p. 87.
  10. Czerny, quoted in note to Lady Wallace's edition of the Letters. ii. 12.
  11. Thayer, i. 281
  12. Ibid. 255, 257