Page images

against his professional abilities, and never suffered them to have more than a superficial effect upon him. Not indifferent to the opinions of the good, he took no notice of the attacks of the malicious, and allowed them to go on unchecked, even when they proceeded so far as to assign him a place, sometimes in one madhouse, sometimes in another. “If it amuses people to say or to write such stuff concerning me, let them continue so to do as long as they please ’; this was his maxim, to which he adhered through all the vicissitudes of his professional life.

" With this trait of character was associated, already in early life, another, not less important for his professional career than the former, namely, that rank and wealth were to him matters of absolute indifference, accidents for which he had no particular respect ; hence, in a man he would recog. nise and honor nothing but the man.

* * * * * It was therefore perfectly natural, that the prince should occupy no higher place in his estimation than the private citizen ; and he held, that mind alone, that divine emanation in man, rises, according to its powers, above all that is material and accidental; that it is an immediate gift of the Creator, destined to serve as a light to others. Hence he recognised the position allotted to him from above, and its importance in the universe, and that too in all humility." — pp. 46 - 48.

On the arrival of Beethoven in Vienna, he is said to have known nothing of counterpoint, and very little of the theory of harmony. With a warm and active imagination, a sensitive ear, and “Pegasus ever ready," he cared little about rules of composition. He soon, however, began to receive lessons from Haydn, who, for a time, appears to have been satisfied with his pupil, but at last the tables were turned, in consequence of the discovery by Haydn that his pupil's exercises, which he had inspected, were afterward submitted to the critical examination of M. Schenk. “Haydn had been anxious, that Beethoven should write on the titles of his early works, 'pupil of Haydn'; to this Beethoven objected, saying, that although he had received some instructions from Haydn, yet he had never learnt any thing of

For a short time he was a pupil of Mozart, and in counterpoint he received instructions from Albrechtsberger, and from Salieri in dramatic music. But each was so obstinate and self-willed, Beethoven used to say, that “ his own hard-earned experience often had to teach him those things, the study of which he would not hear of.”


M. Ries tells us, that Beethoven's style of performance was very capricious, especially when playing his own compositions ; but still he adhered strictly to the time, unless desirous of producing particular effects. Thus, in performing a crescendo passage he would, by retarding the time, produce an effect, not only striking, but extremely beautiful. He rarely introduced notes or ornaments that were not in the copy before him. Of his inimitable expression, we are told, those only can have an idea who had the good fortune 10 hear him. Indeed, all music, performed by the hands of Beethoven, appeared to undergo a new creation. One of the most remarkable peculiarities of his playing, and to which so many of his wonderful effects were attributable, was bis uniform legato style. He could not endure the staccato style, terming it, in derision, “finger-dancing,” or “ manual air-sawing." The rule which he inculcated was, “ Place the hands over the key-board in such a position, that the fingers need not be raised more than is necessary. This is the only method by which the player can learn to generate tone, and, as it were, to make the instrument sing.'

“ Beethoven's playing,” says Schindler, “ was the most distinct and intelligible declamation,” and in illustration of this we have, in the second volume of the biography, a variety of extracts from the two beautiful sonatas in Opera 14, with a description of the manner in which each was played by the author. We would strongly recommend the practice of these sonatas, with careful attention to the directions and explanations given by Schindler, to every one who is desirous of performing Beethoven's music. In accentuation, so essential to expression, Beethoven gave prominent force to all appogiaturas, particularly the minor second, and " in slow movements his transition to the principal note was as delicately managed as it could have been by the voice of a singer.”

“ It was Beethoven's practice to rise at daybreak, (both in summer and winter,) and immediately to sit down to his writingdesk. There he would labor till two or three o'clock, his usual dinner-time. Meanwhile he would go out once or twice in the open air, where he would work and walk. Then, after the lapse of half an hour or an hour, he would return home to note down the ideas he had collected. As the bee gathers honey from the flowers of the meadows, so Beethoven often collected his most sublime ideas while roaming about in the

open fields. The habit of going abroad suddenly, and as unexpectedly returning, just as the whim happened to strike him, was practised by him at all seasons of the year ; cold or heat, rain or sunshine, were all alike to him.”—Vol. 11. pp. 176, 177.

He delighted to ramble for hours amid wild and romantic scenery, and even passed whole nights in such spots. When walking with a friend, he would often stop and point out the beauties of the landscape, or the incongruities and defects of new buildings. Then again would he be silent and absorbed in thought, or give utterance to his feelings in unintelligible humming. These were his moments, too, of inspiration, and he would, on his return home, commit his musical ideas to paper. Göthe's poems,'

"" said he to Madame von Arnim, “exercise over me a great sway, not only by their meaning, but by their rhythm also. It is a language that urges me on to composition, that builds up its own lofty standard, containing in itself all the mysteries of harmony, so that I have but to follow up

the radiations of that centre from which melodies evolve spontaneously. I pursue them eagerly, overtake them, then again see them, Aying before me, vanish in the multitude of my impressions, until I seize them anew with increased vigor, no more to be parted from. It is then, that my transports give them every diversity of modulation ; it is I who triumph over the first of these musical thoughts, and the shape I give it I call symphony.'” – Vol. 1. p. 279.

“ He was very fond, especially in the dusk of ihe evening, of seating himself at the piano to improvise, or he would frequently take up the violin or viola, for which purpose these two instruments were always left lying on the piano. In the latter years of his life, his playing at such times was more painful than agreeable to those who heard it. The inward mind alone was active ; the outward sense no longer coöperated with it ; consequently, the outpourings of his fancy became scarcely intelligible. Sometimes he would lay his left hand flat upon the key-board, and thus drown in discordant noise, the music, to which his right was feelingly giving utterance.

The most painful thing of all was to hear him improvise on stringed instruments, owing to his incapability of tuning them. The music he thus produced was frightful, though in his mind it was pure and harmonious.” – Vol. 11. pp. 174-176.

“ The use of the bath was as much a necessity to Beethoven as to a Turk ; and he was in the habit of submitting himself to frequent ablutions. When it happened that he did

* * * * *

not walk out of doors to collect his ideas, he would, not un. frequently, in a fit of the most complete abstraction, go to his wash-hand basin, and pour several jugs of water upon his hands, all the while humming and roaring, for sing he could not.

Alter dabbling in the water till bis clothes were wet through, he would pace up and down the room, with a vacant expression of countenance, and his eyes frightfully distended; the singularity of his aspect being often increased by an unshaven beard. Then he would seat himself at his table and write ; and afterwards get up again to the wash-hand basin, and dabble and hum as before. Ludicrous as were these scenes, no one dared notice them or disturb him while engaged in his inspiring ablutions, for these were his moments, or I should rather say hours, of profoundest meditation. It will be readily believed, that the people in whose houses he lodged were not very well pleased when they found the water trickling through the floor to the ceiling below, as sometimes happened ; and Beethoven's change of lodging was often the consequence of these occurrences. On such occasions comical scenes sometimes ensued."

pp. 177, 178.

On one occasion he addressed to Schindler a note containing merely the following words, unaccompanied by any explanation, knowing that he would understand their import.

“ CERTIFICATE. “ The fish is alive.

66 Vidi.

“ Pastor ROMUALDUS.”. This was in allusion to his being required to procure a certificate from the curate that he was actually alive, in order to receive his quarterly pension.

Should we follow ihe career of the great composer with the minuteness we should like, our notice would extend to an unwarrantable length. We must, therefore, be content to pass over many things, that would be acceptable to the general reader as well as to the musician and amateur. We do this the more willingly, as we have no doubt the work will be made accessible, in the usual less expensive American style, and would recommend the republication of it, confident that it must meet with a ready sale, and, at the same time, have a beneficial influence on the progress of music and the public taste. The two volumes contain much valuable musical criticism, and an abundance of highly interesting personal anecdote.

-p. 179.

The scattered anecdotes of Beethoven which have appeared from time to time, are not always to be relied upon. We have often heard of his deafness, and of his eccentricities and moroseness. But we have heard little of his private griefs, or of the sufferings, mental and bodily, under the pressure of which his immortal works were produced. From the volumes before us, we see that he was at heart a man of kindness, feeling, and resignation. His early days were embittered by the irregularities of bis father, and his after years by the misconduct of his brothers, and the ingratitude of an adopted son, to whom he was warmly attached, and for whom he had made great pecuniary sacrifices. Add to this, that, in the prime of life and the unbroken strength of his great powers, he began to be afflicted with the most terrible of all maladies that can come upon the musician, and that, from day to day, in defiance of all applications he felt it to increase, until, long before he had accomplished all that he knew himself capable of, his deafness had not only become excessive but permanent.

M. Schindler has divided the life of Beethoven into several distinct periods, the first closing with the year 1800. It was in the latter part of this period that his deafness began to affect bis temper, and he became “ inexpressibly miserable.” We shall not follow the order in which the events of his life are related.

His situation and feelings are touchingly portrayed in a conversation with Madame von Arnim.

“ I have no friend. I must live all to myself ; yet I know that God is nearer to me than to my brothers in art. I hold converse with him, and fear not, for I have always known and understood him. — Vol. 1. pp. 276, 277.

On the outside of his will he wrote ;

" As the leaves of autumn fall withered to the ground, so is that hope (viz. of the restoration of his hearing) become withered for me. Nearly as I came here, I go away. O Providence ! grant that a day of pure joy may once break for me! How long have I been a stranger to the delightful sound of real joy! When, O God! when can I again feel it in the temple of nature and of men ? Never ? Nay that would be too hard."

In 1802 Beethoven was attacked by a severe illoess, on his recovery from which he wrote bis remarkable will. This was published after his death ; and the original manuscript,

- pp. 86, 87.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »