The other, the so-called 'Moonlight Sonata,' is as widely played and as passionately loved as any of Beethoven's pianoforte works. It is one of his most original productions. The dedication to the Countess Guicciardi, upon which so much romance has been built, has had a colder light thrown on it by the lady herself. 'Beethoven,' said she, 'gave me the Rondo in G, but wanting to dedicate something to the Princess Lichnowsky he took the Rondo away, and gave me the Sonata in C# minor instead.'
Meantime his deafness, which began with violent noise in his ears, had gradually merged into something more serious. He consulted doctor after doctor, Frank, his friend Wegeler, and Wering, but the malady constantly increased. It gave him the keenest distress; but so great were his resolution and confidence that not even the prospect of this tremendous affliction could subdue him. 'I will as far as possible defy my fate, though there must be moments when I shall be the most miserable of God's creatures.' … 'Not unhappy: no, that I never could endure! I will grapple with fate; it shall never drag me down.' The letters to Wegeler of June 29 and Nov. 16, 1801, from which these words are taken, give an extraordinary picture of the mingled independence and sensibility which characterised this remarkable man, and of the entire mastery which music had in him over friendship, love, pain, deafness, or any other external circumstance. 'Every day I come nearer to the object which I can feel, though I cannot describe it, and on which alone your Beethoven can exist. No more rest for him!' 'I live only in my music, and no sooner is one thing done than the next is begun. As I am now writing, I often work at three and four things at once.' How truly this describes the incessant manner in which his ideas flowed may be seen from the sketch-book published by Nottebohm, and which is the offspring of this very period—Oct. 1801 to May 1802. It contains sketches for the Finale of the Second Symphony, for the 3 Violin Sonatas (op. 30); for Piano Sonatas in G and D minor (op. 31); for the Variations in F (op. 34), and in Eb (op. 35); and a large number of less important works, the themes of which are so mixed up and repeated as to show that they were all in his mind and his intention at once.
The spring of 1802 saw the publication of several very important pieces, the correction of which must have added to his occupations—the Serenade (op. 25); the Sonatas in B♭ (op. 22), A♭ (op. 20), E♭ and C# minor (op. 27); the Variations for Piano and Cello on Mozart's air 'Bei Männern,' and 6 Contretänze. It is curious to notice that up to op. 22 all the Solo Sonatas, as well as the Duet (op. 6) and the 3 with Violin (op. 12) are published 'for Clavecin or Pianoforte.' The Sonata in B♭ is the first to break the rule, which comes to an end with the two quasi-fantasias, op. 27. One would like to know if this is a mere publisher's freak—which, knowing Beethoven's care of details, it is hard to believe—or whether great works like op. 7; op. 10, No. 3; and op. 26 were intended for instruments so unlike the Piano as the whispering Clavichord or the prancing Harpsichord—for 'Clavecin' may mean either. All the works just enumerated were out by April, and were followed in the later months by the Septet, issued in two portions; the Sonata in D (op. 28); 6 Ländler; the Rondo in G (Op. 51, No. 2); and in December by the Quintet in C (op. 29).
Beethoven had recently again changed his doctor. Vering did not satisfy him, and he consulted Schmidt, a person apparently of some eminence, and it was possibly on his recommendation that he selected the village of Heiligenstadt, at that time a most retired spot, lying beyond Unter-Döbling, among the lovely wooded valleys in the direction of the Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg. Here he remained till October, labouring at the completion of the works mentioned above, which he had sketched early in the year, and which he probably completed before returning to Vienna. Here too he wrote the very affecting letter usually known as 'Beethoven's will,' dated Oct. 6, and addressed to his brothers, to be opened after his death, a letter full of depression and distress, but perhaps not more so than that written by many a man of sensibility under adverse temporary circumstances, and which does not give us a high idea of Dr. Schmidt's wisdom in condemning a dyspeptic patient to so long a course of solitude. At any rate, if we compare it with the genial, cheerful strains of the music which he was writing at the time—take the Symphony in D as one example only—and remember his own words: 'I live only in my music, … letter-writing was never my forte—it loses a good deal of its significance. Once back in town his spirits returned; and some of his most facetious letters to Zmeskall are dated from this time. On returning he changed his residence from the Sailer-Stätte, where we last left him, to the Peters-Platz, in the very heart of the city, and at the top of the house. In the storey above Beethoven lived his old friend Förster, who had won his affection by giving him hints on quartet writing on his first arrival in Vienna. Forster had a little son whom Beethoven undertook to instruct, and the boy, then just 6, long remembered having to get up in the dark in the winter mornings and descend the stairs for his lessons. This winter again there were many proofs to correct—the 2 Piano Sonatas (op. 31, 1 & 2), the 3 Violin ditto, 2 sets of Variations (op. 34, 35), all which appeared early in 1803. The Piano Sonatas he regarded as a change in his style—which they certainly are, the D minor especially. The Variations he
- This foolish sobriquet is dervied from a criticism on the work by Rellstab mentioning moonlight on the Lake of Lucerne.
- Thayer, ii. 172.
- No year is given in the date of the letter. Wegeler places it in 1800, but Thayer (ii. 155, 6) has proved it to belong to 1801.
- Ein Skiszenbuch von Beethoven, etc. Leipzig, B. & H.
- 'Well engraved,' says Beethoven to Hoffmeister, 'but you have been a fine time about it!'
- B. & H. 197.
- The autograph is in possession of Madame Lind-Goldschmidt, to whom it was given by Ernst.
- See the sensible remarks of Thayer, ii. 196.
- Thayer, ii. 188, 200.
- Ibid. 188.