Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/207

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
BEETHOVEN.
195
 

and 10 Variations of National Airs (op. 107). The Sonata just referred to, the greatest work yet written for the piano, and not unjustly compared with the Ninth Symphony, belonged in a special sense to the Archduke. The first two movements were presented to him for[1] his Name-day; the whole work when published was dedicated to him, and the sketch of a piece for solo and chorus[2] exists in which the subject of the first Allegro is set to the words 'Vivat Rodolphus.' In addition the Archduke is said to have been able to play the Sonata. Beethoven may have hated his 'Dienstschaft,' but there is reason to believe that he was sincerely attached to his clever, sympathetic, imperial pupil.

The summer and autumn of both 1818 and 19 were spent at Mödling. His health at this time was excellent, and his devotion to the Mass extraordinary. Never had he been known to be so entirely abstracted from external things, so immersed in the struggle of composition. Schindler[3] has well described a strange scene which occurred during the elaboration of the Credo—the house deserted by the servants, and denuded of every comfort; the master shut into his room, singing, shouting, stamping, as if in actual conflict of life and death over the fugue 'Et vitam venturi'; his sudden appearance wild, dishevelled, faint with toil and 24 hours fast! These were indeed 'drangvollen[4] Umständen'—wretched conditions—but they are the conditions which accompany the production of great works. During the whole of this time the letters[5] show that his nephew occupied much of his thoughts. While at work on this sublime portion of the Mass[6] just mentioned, he was inspired to write the beautiful Sonata in E major (op. 109), the first of that unequalled trio which terminate that class of his compositions.

It is hardly necessary to say that the Installation went by without Beethoven's Mass, which indeed waa not completed till the beginning of 1822. He announces its termination on Feb. 27,[7] and the perfect copy of the score was delivered into his patrons hands on March 19, exactly two [App. p.533 "1823, three"] years after the day for which it was projected. As the vast work came to an end, his thoughts reverted to his darling pianoforte, and the dates of Dec. 25, 1821, and Jan. 13, 1822, are affixed to the two immortal and most affecting Sonatas, which vie with each other in grandeur, beauty, and pathos, as they close the roll of his large compositions for the instrument which he so dearly loved and so greatly ennobled.

But neither Mass nor Sonatas were sufficient to absorb the energy of this most energetic and painstaking of musicians. The climax of his orchestral compositions had yet to be reached. We have seen that when engaged on his last pair of Symphonies in 1812, Beethoven contemplated a third, for which he had then fixed the key of D minor. To this he returned before many years were over, and it was destined in the end to be the 'Ninth Symphony.' The very characteristic theme of the Scherzo actually occurs in the sketch-books as early as 1815,[8] as the subject of a 'fugued piece,' though without the rhythm which now characterises it. But the practical beginning of the Symphony was made in 1817, when large portions of the first movement—headed 'Zur Sinfonie in D,' and showing a considerable approach to the work as carried out—together with a further development of the subject of the Scherzo, are found in the sketch-books. There is also evidence[9] that the Finale was at that time intended to be orchestral, and that the idea of connecting the 'Hymn to Joy' with his 9th Symphony had not at that time occurred to Beethoven. The sketches continue in 1818,[10] more or less mixed up with those for the Sonata in B♭; and, as if not satisfied with carrying on two such prodigious works together, Beethoven has left a note giving the scheme of a companion symphony which was to be choral in both the Adagio and Finale.[11] Still, however, there is no mention of the 'Ode to Joy,' and the text proposed in the last case is ecclesiastical.

We have seen how 1819, 1820, and 1821 were filled up. The summer and autumn of 1822 were spent at Baden, and were occupied with the Grand Overture in C (op. 124), for the opening of the Josephstadt Theatre at Vienna, whence it derives its title of 'Weihe des Hauses'—and the arrangement of a March and Chorus from the 'Ruins of Athens' for the same occasion, and was followed by the revival of 'Fidelio' at the Kärnthnerthor[12] theatre in November. That the two symphonies were then occupying his mind—'each different from the other and from any of his former ones'—is evident from his conversation with Rochlitz in July 1822, when that earnest critic submitted to him Breitkopf's proposition for music to Faust.[13] After the revival of 'Fidelio' he resumed the Symphony, and here for the first time Schiller's hymn appears in this connexion. Through the summer of 1823 it occupied him incessantly, with the exception of a few extras—the 33 Variations (op. 120), which were taken up almost as a jeu d'esprit, and being published in June must have been completed some time previously, a dozen 'Bagatelles' for the Piano (op. 119, 1-6, and op. 126), which can be fixed to the end of 1822 and beginning of 1823, and a short cantata for the birthday of Prince Lobkowitz (April 13) for soprano solo and chorus, the autograph of which is dated the evening previous to the birthday.[14] He began the summer at Hetzendorf, but a sudden dislike to the civilities of the landlord drove him to forfeit 400 florins which he had paid in advance, and make off to Baden. But wherever he was, while at work he was fully absorbed; insensible to sun and rain, to meals,

  1. Letter, Köchel, No. 48.
  2. Nottebohm, N. B. VII.
  3. i. 270.
  4. His own words to Ries in describing the production of the Sonata in B♭. Briefe. No. 212.
  5. To Blöchlinger (Sept. 14), to Ataria (Oct. 12), etc.
  6. End of 1819 and beginning of 1920. Nottebohm, Op. 109, in Catalogue.
  7. Letter to the Archduke, Köchel.
  8. Nottebohm, N. B. xxiii.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Schindler, ii. 13. A. M. Z. for 1822, 198.
  13. Rochlitz, Für Freunde der Tonkunst, iv. 207, 2.
  14. Printed by Nohl, Neue Briefe, No. 255.