Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/208

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196
BEETHOVEN.
 

to the discomforts of his house and the neglect of the servants, rushing in and out without his hat, and otherwise showing how completely his great symphony had taken possession of him. Into the details of the composition we cannot here enter, farther than to say that the subject of the vocal portion, and its connexion with the preceding instrumental movements were what gave him most trouble. The story may be read in Schindler and Nottebohm, and it is full of interest and instruction. At length, on Sept. 5, writing from Baden to Ries, he announces that 'the copyist has finished the score of the Symphony,' but that it is too bulky to forward by post. Ries was then in London, and it is necessary to go back a little to mention that on Nov. 10, 1822, the Philharmonic Society passed a resolution offering Beethoven £50 for a MS. symphony, to be delivered in the March following. This was communicated to Beethoven by Ries, and accepted by him on Dec. 20. The money was advanced, and the MS. copy of the 9th Symphony in the Philharmonic library carries a statement in his autograph that it was 'written for the society.' How it came to pass notwithstanding this that the score was not received by the Philharmonic till after its performance in Vienna, and that when published it was dedicated to the King of Prussia, are facts difficult to reconcile with Beethoven's usual love of fairness and justice.

Notwithstanding the announcement to Ries the process of final polishing went on for some months longer. Shortly before he left Baden, on Oct. 5, he received a [1]visit from Weber and his pupil young Benedict, then in Vienna for the production of Euryanthe. The visit was in consequence of a kind wish for the success of the work expressed by Beethoven to Haslinger, and was in every way successful. In former times[2] he had spoken very depreciatingly of Weber, but since the perusal of Freischütz had [3]changed his mind. No allusion was made to Weber's youthful censures on the 4th and 7th Symphonies; Beethoven was cordial and even confidential, made some interesting remarks on opera books, and they parted mutually impressed. He returned to town at the end of October to a lodging in the Ungergasse, near the Landstrasse gate, and by February 1824 began to appear in the streets again and enjoy his favourite occupation of peering with his double eyeglass into the shop windows,[4] and joking with his acquaintances.

The publications of 1823 consist of the Overture to the 'Ruins of Athens' (op. 114), and the 'Meeresstille' (op. 112), both in February; and the Sonata (op. 111) in April.

The revival of 'Fidelio' in the previous winter had inspired Beethoven with the idea of writing a new German opera, and after many propositions he accepted the 'Melusina' by Grillparzer, a highly romantic piece, containing many effective situations, and a comic servant's part, which took his fancy extremely. Grillparzer had many conferences with him, and between the two the libretto was brought into practical shape. While thus engaged he received a commission from Count Brühl, intendant at the Berlin Theatre, for an opera on his own terms. Beethoven forwarded him the MS. of 'Melusina' for his opinion, but on hearing that a ballet of a somewhat similar character was then being played at Berlin, he at once renounced all idea of a German opera, and broke out in abuse of the German singers for their inferiority to the Italians, who were then playing Rossini in Vienna. In fact this season of 1823 had brought the Rossini fever to its height, no operas but his were played. Beethoven had indeed heard the 'Barbiere' in 1822,[5] and had even promised to write an opera for the Italian company in the same style, a promise which it is unnecessary to say was never redeemed. Like Mendelssohn he was in earnest in pursuit of an opera-book, but, like Mendelssohn, he never succeeded in obtaining one to his mind. What he wanted he told Breuning on his death-bed—something to interest and absorb him, but of a moral and elevating tendency, of the nature of 'Les Deux Journées' or 'Die Vestalin,' which he thoroughly approved; for dissolute stories like those of Mozart's operas had no attraction for him, and he could never be brought to set them. After his death a whole bundle of libretti was found which he had read and rejected.[6]

But opera or no, it was quite a different thing to find the public so taken up with Rossini that no one cared for either his Mass or his new Symphony.[7] He had written early in 1823 to Prussia, France, Saxony, Russia, proposing a subscription for the Mass of 50 ducats from the sovereigns of each of those countries but the answers were slow and the subscriptions did not arrive, and he therefore made use of the opportunity afforded him by Count Brühl to propose the two works to him for production at Berlin. The answer was favourable, and there appeared good prospect of success. But the disgrace of driving their great composer to the northern capital for the production of his last and greatest works was too much for the music-loving aristocracy of Vienna—and an earnest memorial was drawn up, dated February 1824, signed by the Lichnowskys,[8] Fries, Dietrichstein, Palfy, and 25 others of the persons principally concerned with music in that city, beseeching him to produce the Mass and Symphony, and to write a second opera, which should vindicate the claim of classical music, and show that Germany could successfully compete with Italy. Such an address, so strongly signed, naturally gratified him extremely. The theatre 'an der Wien' was chosen, and after an amount of bargaining and delay and vacillation which is quite incredible—partly arising from the cupidity of the manager, partly from the extraordinary obstinacy and suspiciousness of Beethoven, from

  1. C. M. von Weber, von Max v. W. ii. 505–511.
  2. Seyfried, 22.
  3. C. M. von Weber, ii. 509.
  4. Schindler, ii. 56.
  5. Schindler, ii. 49.
  6. Breuning, 95, 50 note. He thought the two libretti mentioned the best in existence.
  7. Dietrichstein in Schindler.
  8. The Archduke was away, and so also must Lobkowitz have been.