Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/183

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BEETHOVEN.
171
 

he himself been aware of the mistake. In the orchestra, as at the piano, he was urgent in demanding expression, exact attention to piano and forte, and the slightest shades of nuance, and to tempo rubato. Generally speaking he was extremely courteous to the band, though to this rule there were now and then exceptions. Though so easily made angry his pains as a teacher must have been great. 'Unnaturally patient,' says one pupil,[1] 'he would have a passage repeated a dozen times till it was to his mind'; 'infinitely strict in the smallest detail,' says another,[2] 'until the right rendering was obtained.' 'Comparatively careless[3] as to the right notes being played, but angry at once at any failure in expression or nuance, or in apprehension of the character of the piece; saying that the first might be an accident, but that the other showed want of knowledge, or feeling, or attention.' What his practice was as to remuneration does not appear, but it is certain that in some cases he would accept no pay from his pupils.

His simplicity and absence of mind were now and then oddly shown. He could not be brought to understand why his standing in his nightshirt at the open window should attract notice, and asked with perfect simplicity 'what those d——d boys were hooting at.'[4] At Penzing in 1823 he shaved at his window in full view, and when the people collected to see him, changed his lodging rather than forsake the practice.[5] Like Newton he was uuconscious that he had not dined, and urged on the waiter payment for a meal which he had neither ordered nor eaten. He forgot that he was the owner of a horse until recalled to the fact by a long bill for its keep. In fact he was not made for practical life; never could play at cards or dance, dropped everything that he took into his hands, and overthrew the ink into the piano. He cut himself horribly in shaving. 'A disorderly creature' (ein unordentlicher Mensch) was his own description, and 'ein konfuser Kerl' that of his doctor,[6] who wisely added the saving clause 'though he may still be the greatest genius in the world.' His ordinary handwriting was terrible, and supplied him with many a joke. 'Yesterday I took a letter myself to the post-office, and was asked where it was meant to go to. From which I see that my writing is as often misunderstood as I am myself.'[7] It was die same twenty years before—'this cursed writing that I cannot alter.'[8] Much of his difficulty probably arose from want of pens, which he often begs from Zmeskall and Breuning; for some of his MSS.[9] are as clear and flowing as those of Mozart, and there is a truly noble character in the writing of some of his letters, e.g. that to Mr. Broadwood (see p. 194), of which we give the signature.

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Notwithstanding his illegible hand Beethoven was a considerable letter writer. The two collections published by Nohl contain 721, and these are probably not more than half of those he wrote.[10] Not a large number when compared with those of Mendelssohn or even Mozart—both of whom died so early,—but large under all the circumstances. 'Good letters' they cannot be called. They contain no descriptions or graces of style; they are often clumsy and incorrect. But they are also often eminently interesting from being so brimfull of the writer's personality. They are all concerned with himself, his wants and wishes, his joys and sorrows; sometimes when they speak of his deafness or his ill health, or confess his faults and appeal to the affection of his correspondent, they overflow with feeling and rise into an affecting eloquence, but always to the point. Of these, the letters to Wegeler and Eleanore von Breuning, and that to his brothers (called his 'Will'), are fine specimens. Many of those addressed to his nephew are inexpressibly touching. But his letters are often very short. Partly perhaps from his deafness, and partly from some idiosyncrasy, he would often write a note where a verbal question would seem to have been more convenient. One constant characteristic is the fun they contain. Swift himself never made worse puns with more pleasure, or devised queerer spelling[11] or more miserable rhymes, or bestowed more nicknames on his friends. Krumpholz is 'my fool'; he himself is 'the Generalissimus,' Haslinger 'the Adjutant,' Schindler 'the Samothracian' and 'Papageno'; Schuppanzigh is 'Falstaff'; Bernard, 'Bernardus non Sanctus'; Leidesdorf is 'Dorf des Leides'; Hoffmánn is adjured to be 'kein Hófmann,' Kuhlau is 'Kühl nicht lau,' and so on. Nor are they always comme il faut, as when he addresses Holz as 'lieber Holz vom Kreuze Christi,' or apostrophises 'Monsieur Friederich, nommé Liederlich.' Sometimes such names bite deeply: his brother Johann is the 'Braineater,' 'Pseudo-brother,' or 'Asinus,' and Caspar's widow the 'Queen of Night.' No one is spared. A canon to Count Moritz Lichnowsky runs 'Bester

  1. Ries, p. 94.
  2. Countess Gallenberg, in Thayer, ii. 172.
  3. Ries, p. 94.
  4. Moscheles, Leben, I. 17.
  5. Breuning, p. 44.
  6. Thayer, ii. 340.
  7. Letter to Zmeskall, Oct. 3, 1818.
  8. Letter to Simrock, Aug. 8, 1794.
  9. For instance a MS. of the B flat Concerto, formerly in possession of Mr. Powell.
  10. Thayer's two vols. contain many not before published.
  11. See Nos. 298, 308 of Nohl's Briefe.