Beethoven did not pass the summer of 1806 at the usual spots, but went to the country-house of his friend Count Brunswick—whose sisters were also his great allies in Hungary. Here he wrote the magnificent Sonata in F minor, than which nothing more impetuous, more poetical, or more enduring ever came from his pen. His letters may have been full of depression—but it vanished when he spoke in music, and all is force, elevation, and romance. In October he left Count Brunswick for the seat of Prince Lichnowsky, near Troppau, in Silesia, 40 miles N.E. of Olmütz. The war was in full progress (Jena was fought on Oct. 16), and the Prince had several French officers quartered upon him. They were naturally anxious to hear Beethoven, but he refused to play to them; and on being pressed by his host and playfully threatened with confinement to the house, a terrible scene took place—he made his escape, went off by night post to Vienna, and on his arrival at home was still so angry as to demolish a bust of the Prince in his possession. He brought back with him not only the Sonata just named, but the Pianoforte Concerto in G, the Symphony in B flat (No. 4), the Rasoumoffsky Quartets, and the 32 Variations in C minor. The Quartets were played frequently in MS. during the winter at private concerts, but the larger orchestral works were not heard till later. The Violin Concerto (op. 61) was first played by Clement—a well-known virtuoso, and at that time principal violin of the Theatre an der Wien—at his concert on Dec. 23, and there is evidence to show, what might have been assumed from Beethoven's habit of postponing bespoken works to the last, that it was written in a hurry, and Clement played his part without rehearsal, at sight. What chance can such great and difficult works, new in spirit and teeming with difficulties, have had of influencing the public when thus brought forward? No wonder that the Concerto was seldom heard till revived by Joachim in our own time. The MS. shows that the solo part was the object of much thought and alteration by the composer—evidently after the performance.
The publications of 1806 consist of the Sonata in F, op 54 (April 9); a trio for two Violins and Viola (April 12), adapted from a trio for two Oboes and Cor Anglais, and afterwards numbered op. 87; the Andante in F (May) already mentioned as having been originally intended for the Waldstein Sonata; and lastly, on October 29, in time for the winter season, the Eroica Symphony, dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. In addition to these an arrangement of the 2nd Symphony as a Pianoforte trio, by Beethoven's own hand, was published at Vienna.
The first external musical event of 1807 was the performance of the new Symphony, No. 4, which took place before a very select audience in the middle or end of March. The concert was organised for Beethoven's benefit, no doubt to compensate him for his disappointment with the Opera, and was largely subscribed to. No programme of equal length was probably ever put together; it contained the 1st and 2nd Symphonies, the Eroica—hardly known as yet, and in itself a programme—and the new work—2½ hours of solid orchestral music without relief! A second performance of the Symphony was given at a public concert on Nov. 15. The overture to 'Coriolan'—a tragedy by Collin—must have occupied him during the opening of the year, since it is included with the new Symphony, the new Concertos for Violin and Piano, and the 3 String-quartets in a sale of copyrights for England, which Beethoven effected on April 20 to Clementi, who had for some years been at the head of a musical business in London. For these and an arrangement of the Violin Concerto for Piano (dedicated to the wife of Stephen von Breuning), Clementi paid £200 down, Beethoven binding himself to compose three new Sonatas for the sum of £60 more—a part of the bargain which was not carried out. Beethoven's finances were thus for the time flourishing, and he writes in high spirits on his prospects.
Another overture belonging to this period is that in C, known as op. 138, and erroneously styled 'Leonora No. 1,' the fact being that it was written as 'a new Overture' for the production [App. p.533 "proposed production (it appears never have to have taken place"] of 'Fidelio' in Prague in the spring of this year. Another great work approaching completion during the summer was the Mass in C, which was written for Prince Esterhazy, Haydn's patron, and after considerable delay was first sung in the Chapel at Eisenstadt on Sept. 13, the name-day of the Princess Marie of Esterhazy. Beethoven and his old rival Hummel—then the Prince's Chapel-master—were both present. After the mass the Prince, perhaps puzzled at the style of the music, so different from that to which he was accustomed in his Chapel hinted as much to Beethoven, in the strange question 'What have you been doing now?' Hummel overheard the remark, and probably amused at the naïveté of the question (for Hummel can have found nothing to question in the music) unfortunately smiled. Beethoven saw the smile, misinterpreted it, and left the Palace in a fury. This occurrence possibly explains why the name of Esterhazy, to whom the mass is dedicated in Beethoven's autograph, is replaced by that of Prince Kinsky in the published copy (1812).
The date of the C minor Symphony has not yet been conclusively ascertained, but there is good ground for believing that it and the Pastoral Symphony were completed, or at any rate much advanced, during this year, at Heiligenstadt and in the country between that and the Kahlenberg, as Beethoven pointed out to Schindler in 1823—the visit to Eisenstadt being probably undertaken for the sake of the Mass only.
- 'Lieber, lieber Brunswick … küsse deine Schwester Therese.' Letter, May 11. His favourite Sonata, op. 78, was dedicated to this lady.
- Breuning's letter of October, in Thayer, ii. 312.
- Composed in or about 1794. Nottebohm, Catalogue, op. 87.
- B. & H. 90.
- A. M. Z. ix. 300.
- Schindler, i. 142.
- To Brunswick, 'an einem Meytage.' Nohl, Neue Briefe, No. 7.
- Nottebohm, Beethoveniana, p. 70, etc.
- Schindler, i. 153.