Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/180

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168
BEETHOVEN.

'Herzens Natzerl,' 'Dich küsst dein Beethoven,' and so on—yet the impression must have remained on Hummel's mind. There can be no doubt that he was on bad terms with most of the musicians of Vienna. With Haydn he seems never to have been really cordial. The old man's neglect of his lessons embittered him, and when after hearing his first three Trios, Haydn, no doubt in sincerity, advised him not to publish the third, which Beethoven knew to be the best, it was difficult to take the advice in any other light than as prompted by jealousy. True he dedicated his three Pianoforte Sonatas (op. 2) to Haydn, and they met in the concert-room, but there are no signs of cordial intercourse between them after Beethoven's first twelve months in Vienna. In fact they were thoroughly antagonistic. Haydn, though at the head of living composers, and as original a genius as Beethoven himself, had always been punctilious, submissive, subservient to etiquette. Beethoven was eminently independent and impatient of restraint. It was the old world and the new—De Brézé and Mirabeau[1]—and it was impossible for them to agree. They probably had no open quarrel, Haydn's tact would prevent that, but Haydn nick-named him 'the Great Mogul,' and Beethoven retorted by refusing to announce himself as 'Haydn's[2] scholar,' and when they met in the street their remarks were unfortunate, and the antagonism was but too evident.

For Salieri, Eybler, Gyrowetz, and Weigl, able men and respectable contrapuntists, he had a sincere esteem, though little more intimate feeling. Though he would not allow the term as regarded Haydn, he himself left his characteristic visiting card on Salieri's table as his 'scholar '—'Der Schuler Beethoven war da.'[3] But with the other musicians of Vienna, and the players of his own standing, Beethoven felt no restraint on open war.[4] They laughed at his eccentricities, his looks and his Bonn dialect,[5] made game of his music, and even trampled[6] on it, and he retorted both with speech and hands. The pianoforte-players were Hummel, Woelffl, Lipawsky, Gelinek, Steibelt. Steibelt had distinctly challenged him,[7] had been as thoroughly beaten as a man could wish, and from that day forward would never again meet him. Gelinek, though equally vanquished, compensated himself by listening to Beethoven on all occasions, and stealing his phrases[8] and harmonies, while Beethoven retorted by engaging his next lodging where Gelinek could not possibly come within the sound of his piano. Woelffl and Hummel were openly pitted against him, and no doubt there were people to be found in Vienna in 1795, as there are in London in 1876, to stimulate such rivalry and thus divide artists whom a little care might have united. Hummel is said to have excelled him in clearness, elegance, and purity, and Woelffl's proficiency in counterpoint was great, and his huge hands gave him extraordinary command of the keys; but for fire, and imagination, and feeling, and wealth of ideas in extempore playing, none of them can have approached Beethoven. 'His improvisation,' says Czerny,[9] 'was most brilliant and striking; in whatever company he might chance to be, he knew how to produce such an effect upon every hearer, that frequently not an eye remained dry, while many would break out into loud sobs; for there was something wonderful in his expression, in addition to the beauty and originality of his ideas, and his spirited style of rendering them.' He extemporised in regular 'form,' and his variations—when he treated a theme in that way—were not mere alterations of figure, but real developments and elaborations of the subject.[10] 'No artist,' says Ries,[11] 'that I ever heard came at all near the height which Beethoven attained in this branch of playing. The wealth of ideas which forced themselves on him, the caprices to which he surrendered himself, the variety of treatment, the difficulties, were inexhaustible.' Even the Abbé Vogler's admirers were compelled to admit as much.[12] He required much pressing, often actual force, to get him to the piano, and he would make a grimace or strike the keys with the back of his hand[13] as he sat down; but when there he would extemporise for two hours and even more at a time, and after ending one of his great improvisations, he would burst into a roar of laughter, and banter his hearers on their emotions. 'We artists,' he would say, 'don't want tears, we want applause.'[14] At other times he would behave as if insulted by such indications of sympathy, and call his admirers fools, and spoiled children.

And yet no outbursts of this kind seem to have made any breach in the regard with which he was treated by the nobility—the only unprofessional musical society of Vienna. Certainly Beethoven was the first musician who had ever ventured on such independence, and there was possibly something piquant in the mere novelty; but the real secret of his lasting influence must have been the charm of his personality—his entire simplicity, joined to his prodigious genius. And he enjoyed good society. 'It is good,' said he, 'to be with the aristocracy; but one must be able to impress them.'[15]

This personal fascination acted most strongly on his immediate friends—on Krumpholz (who seems to have played the part of Coleridge's humble follower John Chester[16]), on the somewhat cold and self-possessed Breuning, as well as on Hies, Zmeskall, Schindler, Holz, and others, who had not, like Haslinger or Streicher, anything to gain from him, but who suffered his

  1. Carlyle's French Revolution, bk v. ch. 2.
  2. Ries, p. 86.
  3. Aus Moscheles' Leben, i. 10.
  4. He calls them his 'deadly enemies.' Letter to Eleanore von Breuning, Nov. 2, 93.
  5. Thayer, ii. 55.
  6. Kozeluch, see Thayer, ii. 108. Romberg did the same thing some years later; and see Spohr's curious story of him, Selbstbiog, 1. 85.
  7. See the story in Ries, p. 81.
  8. Letter to Eleonore v. Breuning, Nov. 2. 1793, with Wegeler's remarks, B. Notizen, p. 59.
  9. Thayer, ii. 10.
  10. Czerny gives the various forms of his improvisations. Thayer, ii. 347.
  11. Notizen, p. 100
  12. Thayer ii, 236.
  13. Ibid. ii. 349, 312.
  14. Conversation with Bettina. Thayer, ii. 19.
  15. Ibid. ii. 313.
  16. 'One of those who were attracted to Coleridge as bees to honey, or bees to the sound of a brass pan." Hazlitt, in The Liberal