Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/199

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BEETHOVEN.
187
 

Of his activity in town during the winter there are more certain traces. A musical society of amateurs was formed, who held their concerts in the Hall of the Mehlgrube. At one of these, in December, the Eroica Symphony was performed, and the overture to Coriolan played for the first time. At another the B flat Symphony was performed for the second time, with immense appreciation. Beethoven himself conducted both of these concerts. December is also the date of a memorial to the directors of the Court Theatre, praying that he might be engaged at an annual salary of 2400 florins, with benefit performances, to compose one grand opera and an operetta yearly—a memorial evidently not favourably received.

The publications of 1807 are not numerous, they consist of the Sonata in F minor (op. 57), dedicated to Count Brunswick (Feb. 18), and since designated 'Appassionata' by Cranz of Hamburg; the 32 Variations for Piano[1] (April); and the Triple Concerto (op. 56), dedicated to Count Lobkowitz (July 1).

1808 opened with the publication of the overture to 'Coriolan' (op. 62), dedicated to the author of the tragedy, and the 3 new String-quartets (op. 59). There is reason to believe[2] that Beethoven again passed the summer at Heiligenstadt, whence he returned to Vienna, bringing with him ready for performance the two Symphonies, C minor and Pastoral, the two Pianoforte Trios in D and E flat, and the Choral Fantasia, a work new not only in ideas and effects but also in form, and doubly important as the precursor of the Choral Symphony. It and the Symphonies were produced at a Concert given by Beethoven in the theatre an der Wien on Dec. 22. It was announced to consist of pieces of his own composition only, all performed in public for the first time. In addition to the three already mentioned the programme contained the Piano Concerto in G, played by himself; two extracts from the Eisenstadt Mass; [3]'Ah! perfido'; and an extempore fantasia on the pianoforte. The result was unfortunate. In addition to the enormous length of the programme and the difficult character of the music the cold was intense and the theatre unwarmed. The performance appears to have been infamous, and in the Choral Fantasia there was actually a break down.[4]

The Concerto had been published in August, and was dedicated to Beethoven's new pupil and friend the Archduke Rodolph. It commemorates the acquisition of the most powerful and one of the best friends Beethoven ever possessed, for whom he showed to the end an unusual degree of regard and consideration, and is the first of a long series of great works which bear the Archduke's name. The Sonatina in G, the fine Sonata for Piano and Cello in A, and the Piano Fantasia in G minor—the last of less interest than usual—complete the compositions of 1808, and the Pianoforte adaptation of the Violin Concerto,[5] dedicated to Madame Breuning, closes the publications.

Hitherto Beethoven had no settled income beyond that produced by actual labour, except the small annuity granted him since 1800 by Prince Lichnowsky. His works were all the property of the publishers, and it is natural that as his life advanced (he was now 39) and his aims in art grew vaster, the necessity of writing music for sale should have become more and more irksome. Just at this time, however, he received an invitation from Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, to fill the post of Maître de Chapelle at Cassel, with a salary of 600 gold ducats (£300) per annum, and 150 ducats for travelling expenses, and with very easy duties. The first trace of this offer is found in a letter of his own, dated Nov. 1, 1808; but he never seems seriously to have entertained it except as a lever for obtaining an appointment under the Court of Austria. In fact the time was hardly one in which a German could accept service under a French prince. Napoleon was at the height of his career of ambition and conquest, and Austria was at this very time making immense exertions for the increase of her army with a view to the war which broke out when the Austrians crossed the Inn on April 9. With this state of things imminent it is difficult to imagine that King Jerome's offer can have been seriously made or entertained. But it is easy to understand the consternation into which the possibility of Beethoven's removal from Vienna must have thrown his friends and the lovers of music in general, and the immediate result appears to have been an undertaking on the part of the Archduke Rodolph, Prince Lobkowitz, and Prince Kinsky, dated March 1, 1809, guaranteeing him an annual income of 4000 (paper) florins, payable half-yearly, until he should obtain a post of equal value in the Austrian dominions.[6] He himself, however, naturally preferred the post of Imperial Kapellmeister under the Austrian Government, and with that view drew up a memorial,[7] which however appears to have met with no success, even if it were ever presented. At this time, owing to the excessive issue of bank notes, the cash value of the paper florin had sunk from 2s. to a little over 1s., so that the income secured to Beethoven, though nominally £400, did not really amount to more than £210, with the probability of still further rapid depreciation.

Meantime the work of publication went on apace, and in that respect 1809 is the most brilliant and astonishing year of Beethoven's life. He now for the first time entered into relations with the great firm of Breitkopf & Härtel. Simrock published (in March) the 4th Symphony, dedicated to Count Oppersdorf as op. 60, and Breitkopf and Härtel head their splendid list with the Violin Concerto, dedicated to Breuning as op. 60, and also issued in March.

  1. B. & H. 181.
  2. Schindler.
  3. Reichardt in Schindler, i, 150 note; and see Beethoven's note to Zmeskall of 'Dec. 1808.'
  4. On this occasion the Introduction to the Choral Fantasia was extemporised; it was not written down for 8 or 9 months later. Nottebohm, N. B. No. V.
  5. B. & H. No. 78.
  6. Schindler, i, 187.
  7. See Nohl. Briefe, No. 48, 49, and Neue Briefe, 41.