Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/212

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200
BEETHOVEN.
 

him to Bach's special care. He was continually tormented with anxiety as to their future maintenance. Notwithstanding Prince Galitzin's promise, dated Nov. 10/22, 1826, no portion of the money due from him on the 3 Quartets had yet been received. The seven bank shares he would not allow to be touched, regarding them as the property of his nephew. He therefore wrote to his friends[1] in London, urging the Philharmonic Society to carry out their old intention of giving a concert for his benefit. The reply to this was a letter from Moscheles,[2] dated March 1, sending £100 from the Philharmonic Society on account of the proceeds of a concert shortly to be given. His delight at this response was great, and his answer, dated March 18 (forwarding also the metronome marks of the 9th Symphony), is full of warmth and enthusiasm. Meantime a fourth tapping had taken place on Feb. 27, and a great discharge was caused by his emotion at the receipt of Moscheles' letter on March 17.

During his illness he had a few visitors besides Schindler and the two Breunings, who were his daily attendants, and Holtz, who came frequently. Breuning mentions Johann Beethoven and the nephew (in the early part of the time only), Tobias and Carl Haslinger, Diabelli, Baron Eskeles, Rauch, Dolezalek, Clement. Strangers occasionally arrived, amongst whom Hummel with his pupil Ferdinand Hiller, then a boy of 15, who saw[3] him on March 8, are worthy of note. But the friends of his earlier days—Fries, Erdödy, Ertmann, Brunswick, Gleichenstein, Zmeskall, Seyfried, the Streichers, Czerny, Schuppanzigh, Linke—those who had been honoured by his dedications, or had reaped the glory of producing his compositions were either dead or otherwise occupied; at any rate none appeared. The absence of all trace of the Archduke Rudolph at this time, or of any reference to him in the correspondence of the last few years, is very remarkable.

Neither Beethoven himself nor any of his friends seem to have been aware that death was near. His letter to Moscheles of March 18 is full of projects, and a conversation reported by Breuning (p. 97) shows that he contemplated a tenth Symphony, a Requiem, Music to Faust, and an instruction book for the Piano—'to be something quite different from that of any one else.' To Moscheles he speaks of the Symphony as lying 'in his desk fully sketched,'—much as Coleridge used to talk of works as complete of which the title pages only had been put on paper; for nothing which can be identified with the description has been found. Indeed, the time of both projects and fulfilment was over—the night was come in which no man can work. The accumulation of water increased alarmingly, the wounds inflamed, lying became painful, and it was evident that the end was near. On the 10th he wrote to Schott desiring the dedication of the C# minor Quartet to be altered in favour of Baron von Stutterheim, in token of his obligation to him as colonel of his nephew's regiment. On the 18th, after dictating his letter to Moscheles, he settled the dedication of his last Quartet (in F, op. 135) to Johann Wolfmayer,[4] a Vienna merchant for whom he had much respect. On the following day he spoke of writing to Stumpff and Smart, but was compelled to relinquish the task to Schindler. Plaudite amici, comoedia finita est, said he to his two faithful friends, with a touch of his old good humour—the play was over, the lifelong symphony ended, and it was time to draw the curtain. On the 23rd, with the help of Breuning, he added with his own hand a codicil to his will, appointing his nephew Carl his sole heir, but without power over the capital of the property bequeathed. Thus two of his latest acts were inspired by his nephew. Several people appear to have come in and out during the last few days to look once more at the departing composer. Amongst these Schubert is said to have remained a long time, and to have been recognised by Beethoven, though he failed to understand the signs made by the dying man. He left the room at length deeply moved. On the 24th Beethoven received the Sacraments of the Roman Church, and at about one in the afternoon of the same day he sank into apparent unconsciousness, and a distressing conflict with death began which lasted the rest of that day, the whole of the next, and until a quarter to six on the evening of the 26th, the constant convulsive struggle and the hard rattle in the throat testifying at once too painfully to the strength of his constitution and the fact that he was still alive. Stephen Breuning and Schindler had gone to the Währinger Cemetery to choose the spot for the grave; the little Breuning was away at his lessons; Johann Beethoven's wife and Anselm Hüttenbrenner (the friend of Schubert) alone[5] were in the sick room. As the evening closed in, at a quarter to six, there came a sudden storm of hail and snow, covering the ground and roofs of the Schwarz-spanierplatz, and followed by a flash of lightning, and an instant clap of thunder. So great was the crash as to rouse even the dying man. He opened his eyes, clenched his fist, and shook it in the air above him. This lasted a few seconds while the hail rushed down outside, and then the hand fell, and the great composer was no more. [App. p.534 "He died Monday, March 26, 1827."]

He was 56 years old on the 16th of the previous December.

The seven bank shares (for 1000 florins each) were discovered the next day after long search in a secret drawer in the writing desk, together with the two passionate and mysterious letters so often supposed—though to all appearance inaccurately—to be addressed to the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi.

The post mortem examination was made on the evening of the 27th by Dr. Wagner in the presence of Wawruch. During the 28th the

  1. Feb. 8 to Stumpff; Feb. 22 to Mocheles and to Smart; March 6 to Smart; and March 14 to Moscheles.
  2. See the account in Moscheles' Leben, i. 138–175.
  3. Hiller's Beethoven (1871), p. 73.
  4. Schindler, ii. 142.
  5. See the Wiener Abendpost, 24 Oct. 1858.