Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/210

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198
BEETHOVEN.
 

played by Schuppanzigh, Weiss, Linke, and Holtz, and it was a humorous idea of the Master's to make each player, after so long an interval, sign a compact 'pledging his honour to do his best, and vie with his comrades in zeal.'[1]

The second Quartet was that which now stands third—in A minor, op. 132. It was first played on Nov. 6, 1825, and was published on Sept. 27 [App. p.533 "published in Sept. 1827"] by Schlesinger. For this he seems to have obtained 80 ducats. In a letter to Peters it is mentioned as 'a Quartet, and a grand one too.'

The third, in B flat (op. 130), originally ended with a fugue of immense length and still greater obscurity, which was afterwards published separately as op. 133. It was completed in 1825, and was played in its first form on March 21, 26. The new finale—so gay and full of spirit—was written (at Artaria's instance) in great discomfort at his brother's house at Gneixendorf on Nov. 26, just before leaving on the journey which cost him his life. It is his last completed composition. The Quartet was published by Artaria, May 7, 1827. The relations between Beethoven and Prince Galitzin have been the subject of much controversy. It will be sufficient here to say that Beethoven is not known to have received the promised payment, and that the quartets were sold by him to the publishers already named.

Beethoven remained at Baden till October 1824. On his return to Vienna his nephew entered the University as a student in philology. The career of this worthy may be summed up in a few lines. He went in for his degree and was plucked, abandoned literature for trade, stood for the necessary examination in the Polytechnic School, and was plucked again; in despair attempted to shoot himself, and failed even to do that. He was then, as a suicide, taken charge of by the police, and after a time ordered out of Vienna at a day's notice, and at last joined the army.[2] And through it all his old uncle clung to him with truly touching affection. He, most simple-minded of men, could not believe that any one should really not desire to do his best; and so on the least appearance of contrition or amendment he forgives and embraces him, he bathes him in tenderness and confidence, only each time to find himself again deceived. The letters which this more than father wrote to his unworthy prodigal son are most affecting—injudicious no doubt, but full of tenderness and simplicity.

The first few weeks of the winter of 1824 were occupied in scoring the E flat Quartet, the composition of which had been the work of the summer, but it was hardly complete before Beethoven was taken with a severe illness in the lower part of the stomach.[3] For this he called in Staudenheim, a surgeon of eminence, who however was soon cashiered as too brusque, and replaced by Braunhofer. The malady hung about him till his next visit to the country; and its disappearance is commemorated in the canzona di ringraziamento in modo lidico offerta alla divinita da un guarito, which forms so noble a feature in the A minor Quartet. His stay at Baden in 1825 was of unusual length, lasting from May 2 till Oct. 15,[4] by which date that Quartet was completely finished. It had already been tried, strictly in private, as early as August at the desire of the publisher, Beethoven sitting close to the players, and perhaps profiting by the rehearsal to make many alterations; and on Nov. 6 was played, still in private but to a densely crowded room,[5] by Schuppanzigh and Linke's quartet party.

The B♭ Quartet was his next work, and it was first performed in public by the party just mentioned on March 21, 1826. The Presto and danza tedesca[6] were encored, but the Cavatina seems to have made no impression, and the fugue, which then served as finale, was universally condemned. In the case of the fugue his judgment agreed with that of his critics; it was published separately (op. 133) and a new finale written; but he did not often give way to the judgments of his contemporaries. 'Your new quartet did not please,' was one of the bits of news brought to him on his death-bed by some officious friend. 'It will please them some day,' was the answer.[7]

Between the date last-mentioned and October 1826 occurred the series of disasters with young Carl already alluded to; and the latter month found both uncle and nephew at Johann Beethoven's residence at Gneixendorf. It is a village near Krems, on the Danube, about 50 miles west of Vienna, and here his brother had settled on the property (Gut) which gave occasion to Ludwig's famous joke (see p. 172a). The party must have been a curiously ill-assorted one. The somewhat pompous money-loving Gutsbesitzer; his wife, a common frivolous woman of questionable character;[8] the ne'er-do-weel nephew, intensely selfish and ready to make game of his uncle or make love to his aunt; and in the midst of them all the great composer—deaf, untidy, unpresentable, setting every household rule and household propriety at defiance, by turns entirely absorbed and pertinaciously boisterous, exploding in rough jokes and horse-laughter, or bursting into sudden fury at some absolute misconception;—such a group had few elements of permanence in it. But nothing could stop the wonderful flow of Beethoven's thoughts. In fact, music being to him the language of his emotions, the more agitated he was the more he composed, arid his very deafness, which fortunately must have made him insensible to much that went on around him, drove him more completely into himself and compelled him to listen to the workings of his own heart unalloyed by anything external. To his deafness we no doubt mainly owe the very individual and original style of the later Quartets. Thanks to Michael Kren,[9] who was engaged by Frau Johann to wait on him, we can see him with our own eyes. 'At half-past 5 he was up and at his table, beating time with hands and feet, singing, humming, and writing. At half-

  1. Breife, 322.
  2. He died in Vienna, April 13, 1858.
  3. Schindler, ii, 111, 112.
  4. Briefe, Nos. 329 and 372.
  5. A. M. Z. Dec. 21, 1825.
  6. Originally written in A, and intended for the A minor Quartet.
  7. Breuning, 96.
  8. Schindler, in Wallace ii. 148.
  9. Nohl, Leben, iii, 716. Deutsche Musik-Zeitung, Mar. 8, 1862.