Now that Beethoven is landed in Vienna—as it turns out, never again to leave it and is left to his own resources, it may be convenient to pause in the narrative of his life, and sketch his character and person as briefly as possible. He had already a large acquaintance among the aristocracy of Vienna. Among his kindest friends and most devoted admirers were the Prince and Princess Karl Lichnowsky. They devoured his music, gave him a quartet of valuable instruments for the performance of it, put up with his caprices and eccentricities, gave him an annuity of £60, and made him an inmate of their house for years. He was also frequently at the houses of Baron van Swieten, Prince Lobkowitz, Count Fries, and other noblemen, at once leaders of fashion and devoted amateurs. At these houses he was in the constant habit of playing, and in many of them no doubt he taught, but as to the solid results of this no record remains—nor do we know the prices which he obtained for his published works, or the value of the dedications, at this period of his career. Musical public, like that which supported the numerous concerts flourishing in London at this date, and enabled Salomon to risk the expense of bringing Haydn to England, there was none; musicians were almost directly dependent on the appreciation of the wealthy.
That Beethoven should have been so much treasured by the aristocracy of Vienna notwithstanding his personal drawbacks, and notwithstanding the gap which separated the nobleman from the roturier, shows what an immense power there must have been in his genius, and in the absolute simplicity of his mind, to overcome the abruptness of his manners. If we are to believe the anecdotes of his contemporaries his sensitiveness was extreme, his temper ungovernable, and his mode of expression often quite unjustifiable. At the house of Count Browne, when playing a duet with Ries, a young nobleman at the other end of the room persisted in talking to a lady: several attempts to quiet him having failed, Beethoven suddenly lifted Ries's hands from the keys, saying in a loud voice 'I play no longer for such hogs'; nor would he touch another note nor allow Ries to do so, though entreated by all. On another occasion, when living in the house and on the bounty of the Lichnowskys, the prince, knowing how sensitive Beethoven was to neglect, ordered his servants whenever they heard Beethoven's bell and his at the same time to attend to Beethoven's first. No sooner however did Beethoven discover that such an order had been given than he engaged a servant of his own to answer his bell. During one of the rehearsals of 'Leonora,' the third bassoon was absent, at which Beethoven was furious. Prince Lobkowitz, one of his best friends, tried to laugh off the matter, saying that &f the first and second were there the absence of the third could not be of any great consequence. But so implacable was Beethoven that in crossing the Platz after the rehearsal he could not resist running to the great gate of the Lobkowitz Palace and shouting up the entrance 'Lobkowitzscher Esel'—'ass of a Lobkowitz.' Any attempt to deceive him, even in the most obvious pleasantry, he could never forgive. When he composed the well-known 'Andante in F' he played it to Ries and Krumpholz. It delighted them, and with difficulty they induced him to repeat it. From Beethoven's house Ries went to that of Prince Lichnowsky, and not being able to contain himself played what he could recollect of the new piece, and the Prince being equally delighted, it was repeated and repeated till he too could play a portion of it. The next day the Prince by way of a joke asked Beethoven to hear something which he had been composing, and thereupon played a large portion of his own 'Andante.' Beethoven was furious; and the result was that Ries was never again allowed to hear him play in private. In fact it led in the end to Beethoven's ceasing to play to the Prince's circle of friends. And on the other hand, no length of friendship or depth of tried devotion prevented him from treating those whom he suspected, however unjustly, and on however insufficient grounds, in the most scornful manner. Ries has described one such painful occurrence in his own case à propos to the Westphalian negotiations; but all his friends suffered in turn. Even poor Schindler, whose devotion in spite of every drawback was so constant, and who has been taunted with having 'delivered himself body and soul to Beethoven,' had to suffer the most shameful reproaches behind his back, the injustice of which is most surely proved by the fact that they are dropped as suddenly as they were adopted. When Moritz Lichnowsky, Schuppanzigh, and Schindler were doing their utmost to get over the difficulties of arranging a concert for the performance of the Choral Symphony and the Mass in D, he suddenly suspected them of some ulterior purpose, and dismissed them with the three following notes:—'To Count Lichnowsky. Falsehoods I despise. Visit me no more. There will be no concert. Beethoven.' 'To Heir Schindler. Visit me no more till I send for you. No concert. Beethoven.' 'To Heir Schuppanzigh. Visit me (besuche er mich) no more. I give no concert. Beethoven.'
The style of the last of these three precious productions—the third person singular—in which the very lowest rank only is addressed, seems to open us a little door into Beethoven's feeling towards musicians. When Hummel died, two
notes from Beethoven were found among his papers, which tell the story of some sudden violent outbreak on Beethoven's part. 'Komme er (the same scornful style as before) nicht mehr zu mir! er ist ein falscher Hund, und falsche Hunde hole der Schinder. Beethoven.' And though this was followed by an apology couched in the most ultra-affectionate and coaxing terms—
- These were in his possession for more than 20 years, and are now in the Bibilothek at Berlin. Pohl. Jahresbricht des Conservatoriums 20. p. 16
- See Pohl, Haydn in London, 7–88.
- Ries, p. 92.
- See also the Letter to Zmeakall on the Countess Erdödy's influences over her servant; Nohl, Briefe Beethovens, No. 54.
- Thayer, ii, 299.
- Ries, p. 108.
- Ibid. p. 95
- Schindler, ii. 65.
- See Briefe, Nos. 278, 280, 284.
- Thayer, ii. 54.