Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/188

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176 BEETHOVEN.

directly after his brother's death, and drove him to sacrifice the habits of a lifetime; his inexhaustible forgiveness, his yearning tenderness—what are these, if properly interpreted, but a dumb way of expressing that noble temper which, when uttered in his own natural musical language, helps to make the first movement of the Eroica so lofty, so dignified, and so impressive?

We must now return to the chronicle of the events of Beethoven's life.

His position at Bonn as organist and pianist to the Emperor's uncle, his friendship with Count Waldstein, who was closely related to some of the best families in Vienna, and his connexion with Haydn, were all circumstances sure to secure him good introductions. The moment was a favourable one, as since Mozart's death, a twelvemonth before, there had been no player to take his place; and it was as a player that Beethoven was first known. It is pleasant to know that his show-piece, with which he took the Vienna connoisseurs by storm, was his Variations on 'Venni amore,' which we have already mentioned as composed before he left Bonn. Public concerts in our sense of the word there were few, but a player had every opportunity at the musical parties of the nobility, who maintained large orchestras of the best quality, and whose music-meetings differed from public concerts chiefly in the fact that the audience were better educated, and were all invited guests. Prince Lichnowsky and Baron van Swieten appear to have been the first to secure Beethoven, the former for his regular Friday morning chamber performances, the latter for soirées, when he had either 'to bring his night-cap in his pocket' or else to stay after the other guests had gone, and send his host to bed with half-a-dozen of Bach's fugues as an Abendsegen. The acquaintance probably began shortly after Beethoven's arrival; and after a twelvemonth of unpleasant experience in the Vienna lodgings, the Prince induced him to accept apartments in his house. His wife was a Princess of Thun, famous for her beauty and her goodness; he himself had been a pupil of Mozart; and both were known as the best amateur musicians of Vienna. Beethoven was poor enough to be tempted by such hospitality, but it was an absurd arrangement, and he very soon infringed it by disregarding the Prince's hours, often dining at the Gasthof, having a lodging of his own elsewhere, and other acts of independence. Here however he was frequently heard, and thus became rapidly known in the most musical circles, and Ries's anecdotes show (after making allowance for the inaccuracy of a man who writes 30 years after the events) how widely he was invited, how completely at his ease he was, and how entirely his eccentricities were condoned for the sake of his playing and his great qualities. Not that we are to suppose that Beethoven gave undue time to society. He was too hard a worker for that. His lessons with Haydn and Albrechtsberger (from the latter he had three a week) were alone enough to occupy a great deal of time, and his own studies in counterpoint exist to show that he did not confine himself to the mere tasks that were set him. Moreover his lessons with Albrechtsberger contain sketches for various compositions, such as 'Adelaide,' a part of one of the Trios (op. 1), and the Symphony in C,[1] all showing how eager he was to be something more than a mere player or even a splendid improviser. These sketches afford an early instance of his habit of working at several compositions at one and the same time. The date of one of them, about Feb. 1795, seems to imply either that the story—grounded on Ries's statement—that the Trios were in MS. for many months[2] before they were printed is inaccurate, or, more probably, that Beethoven re-wrote one of the movements very shortly before delivering the work to the publisher, which he did on May 19. In this case it would show the wisdom of the plan which he adopted with most of his early works,[3] of keeping them in MS. for some time and playing them frequently, so as to test their quality and their effect on the hearers, a practice very consistent with his habitual caution and fastidiousness in relation to his music. At any rate the Trios were published first to the subscribers, by July 1795, and then, on Oct. 21, to the public. They were shortly followed by a work of equal importance, the first three Pianoforte Sonatas,[4] which were first played by their author at one of the Prince's Fridays in presence of Haydn, and published on the 9th of the following March as op. 2, dedicated to him. He had not then written a string-quartet, and at this concert Count Appony[5] proposed to Beethoven to compose one, offering him his own terms, and refusing to make any conditions beyond the single one that the quartet should be written—a pleasant testimony to the enthusiasm excited by the new Sonatas, and to the generosity of an Austrian nobleman. In addition to the Trios, the publications of his three first years in Vienna include the 12 Variations on 'Se vuol ballare' (July 1793); the 13 on 'Es war einmal' (early in 1794); the 8 for 4 hands on Count Waldstein's theme (1794); and 9 for Piano Solo on 'Quant' e più bello'[6] (Dec. 30, 1795). The compositions are more numerous, and besides the Trios and Sonatas (op. 1 and 2) include a Trio for Oboes and Corno inglese (op. 87), which remained unpublished till 1806; a Rondo in G for Pianoforte and Violin,[7] which he sent to Eleanore von Breuning, and which remained unpublished till 1808; the two Concertos for Piano and Orchestra, of which 'No. 2' is the earlier, and 'No. 1' was composed before March

  1. See Nottebohm's Beethovens Studien, i, 202.
  2. Haydn left Vienna for London on Jan. 19, '94, and did not return until Sept. '95, when the Trios had been printed and in the subscribers hands for some weeks. If he therefore advise Beethoven not to publish the third it must been before he left Vienna. Ries's statement is so explicit that the alternative suggested in the text seems the only escape from the difficulty.
  3. He maintained this plan till 1802, when he informs Varenne that he never publishes until a year after composition. Letter Feb. 8, 1802.
  4. In the Adagio of No. 1 the corresponding movement in No. 3 of the early Piano Quartets is partially adopted—a rare thing with Beethoven.
  5. Wegeler, p. 29.
  6. B. & H. 167.
  7. Ibid, 112.