Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/181

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BBETHOVEN.
169
 

roughest words and most scurvy treatment, and returned again and again to their worship with astonishing constancy. Excepting Breuning none of these seem really to have had his confidence, or to have known anything of the inner man which lay behind the rough husk of his exterior, and yet they all clung to him as if they had.

Of his tours de force in performance too much is perhaps made in the books. His transposing the Concerto in C into C# at rehearsal was exactly repeated by[1] Woelffl; while his playing the piano parts of his Horn Sonata, his Kreutzer Sonata, or his C minor Concerto without book, or difficult pieces of Bach at first sight, is no more than has been done by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Sterndale Bennett, and many inferior artists. No, it was no quality of this kind that got him the name of the 'giant among players'; but the loftiness and elevation of his style, and his great power of expression in slow movements, which when exercised on his own noble music fixed his hearers and made them insensible to any faults of polish or mere mechanism.

It was not men alone who were attracted by him, he was an equal favourite with the ladies of the Court. The Princess Lichnowsky watched over him—as Madame von Breuning had done—like a mother.[2] The Countesses Gallenberg and Erdödy, the Princess Odescalchi, the Baroness Ertmann, the sisters of the Count of Brunswick, and many more of the reigning beauties of Vienna adored him, and would bear any rudeness from him. These young ladies went to his lodgings or received him at their palaces as it suited him. He would storm at the least inattention during their lessons, and would tear up the music and throw it about.[3] He may have used the snuffers as a toothpick in Madame Ertmann's drawing-room; but when she lost her child he was admitted to console her; and when Mendelssohn saw her[4] fifteen years later she doted on his memory and recalled the smallest traits of his character and behaviour. He was constantly in love, and though his taste was very promiscuous,[5] yet it is probably quite true that the majority of his attachments was for women of rank, and that they were returned or suffered. Unlike poor Schubert, whose love for the Countess Marie Esterhazy was, so carefully concealed, Beethoven made no secret of his attachments. Many of them are perpetuated in the dedications of his sonatas. That in E♭ (op. 7), dedicated to the Countess Babette de Keglevics, was called in allusion to him and to her, 'die verliebte.' To other ladies he writes in the most intimate, nay affectionate style. He addresses the Baroness Ertmann by her Christian name as 'Liebe, werthe, Dorothea Cäcilia,' and the Countess Erdödy—whom he called his confessor—as 'Liebe, liebe, liebe, liebe, liebe, Gräfin.'[6] Thayer's investigations[7] have destroyed the romance of his impending marriage with Giulietta Guicciardi (afterwards Countess Gallenberg); yet the fact that the story has been so long believed shows its abstract probability. One thing is certain, that his attachments were all honourable, and that he had no taste for immorality. 'Oh God! let me at last find her who is destined to be mine, and who shall strengthen me in virtue.' Those were his sentiments as to wedded love.

His dedications have been mentioned. The practice seems virtually to have begun with him,[8] to have sprung from the equal and intimate relation in which he—earliest among musicians—stood to his distinguished friends; and when one looks down the list,[9] from op. 1 to op. 135—unsurpassed even by any later composer—and remembers that the majority were inspired by private friendship,[10] and that only a minority speak of remuneration, it is impossible not to be astonished.

Formal religion he apparently had none; his religious observances were on a par with his manners. It is strange that the Bible does not appear to have been one of his favourite books. He once says to a friend,[11] 'It happens to be Sunday, and I will quote you something out of the Gospel—Love one another'; but such references are very rare. But that he was really and deeply religious, 'striving sacredly to fulfil all the duties imposed[12] on him by humanity, God, and nature,' and full of trust in God, love to man, and real humility, is shown by many and many a sentence in his letters. And that in moments of emotion his thoughts turned upwards is touchingly shewn by a fragment of a hymn—'Gott allein ist unser Herr'—which Mr. Nottebohm[13] has unearthed from a sketchbook of the year 1818, and which Beethoven has himself noted to have been written, 'Auf dem Wege Abends zwischen den und auf den Bergen.' The following passages, which he copied out himself and kept constantly before him, served him as a kind of Creed, and sum up his theology:—

I am that which is.
I am all that is, that was, and that shall be. No mortal man hath lifted my veil.
He is alone by Himself, and to Him alone do all things owe their being.

How he turned his theology into practice is well exemplified in his alteration of Moscheles' pious inscription. At the end of his arrangement of Fidelio Moscheles had written 'Fine. With God's help.' To this Beethoven added, 'O man, help thyself.'[14]

In his early Vienna days he attempted to dress

  1. Thayer, ii. 26.
  2. 'She would have put me under a glass case if she could,' said Beethoven.
  3. Countess Gallenberg, in Thayer, ii. 172.
  4. Letter of July 14, 1831.
  5. See the anecdote in Thayer, ii. 104: and Ries's remark about the tailor's daughters, Notizen. p. 113.
  6. Noul. Neue Briefe. No. 150
  7. See vol i. 165.
  8. Mozart's six quartets are dedicated to Haydn, but this is quite an exception. Haydn dedicated a Sonata or two in London, but it was not his practice.
  9. As given in Nottebohm's Thematischen Verseichnis, Anhang iv. c.
  10. In dedicating opus 90 to Prince Moritz Lichnowsky he says, that 'anything approaching a gift in return would only distress him, and that he should decidedly refuse it.' See also the letter to Zmeskall (Dec. 16. 1818) dedicating op. 96.
  11. Frau Streicher, Breife, No. 200.
  12. Letter to Archd. Bodolph, July 18, 1821.
  13. Neue Beethoveniana, No. VII.
  14. Moscheles, Leben, I. 18.