Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven was recalled from Vienna by the serious illness of his mother, who died of consumption, July 17, 1787, when Ludwig was in his eighteenth year. The following were dark days; death visited the Beethoven home again and the bur-den of the family, the harsh, dissolute father, weighed heavily upon Ludwig. The father's pittance was small, and the son had to give lessons to help in the general support, though teaching was ever distasteful to him. But this gloom and depression were brightened by the coming into his life of new friends, the family of Stephen von Breuning, a fellow-pupil under Franz Ries. This cultivated, hospitable family, in welcoming young Beethoven to their circle, opened up a new world for him. Madame von Breuning was a woman of much tact and intelligence, intimacy with whom awakened in the boy an interest in the classics and in German and English literature. On their side, they de-lighted in his playing, especially in the improvisations and the friendship was of mutual pleasure and benefit. He gave lessons to the daughter Eleanore, to whom some of his later compositions were dedicated and with whom he kept in touch after leaving Bonn. Another important friendship of this time was that with a young noble, Count Waldstein, an enthusiastic amateur musician. They were on terms of close intimacy, Waldstein in as delicate a manner as possible assisting Beethoven not only pecuniarily, but in every way in his power. It is thought Count Waldstein's influence was what induced the Elector of Cologne to awaken at last to recognition of Beethoven's rare ability, which recognition resulted in his finally being sent to Vienna.
When only nineteen Beethoven had to take the place he had long borne the burden of head of the family; his drunken father being now so irresponsible that the decree was issued that part of his salary be paid over to Ludwig. Beethoven was at this time working hard on his studies and making great progress as Court musician, his chief recreation being long walks in the country, of which he was passionately fond. In 1788, the Elector established at Bonn a national theatre modeled after the one maintained at Vienna by his brother, the Emperor Joseph, and here both opera and drama were produced. The orchestra, in which Beethoven played second viola for four years, included a number of illustrious musicians, among these Franz Ries, Andreas and Bernhard Romberg, and Christian Neefe, who was pianist and stage manager. Association with these artists was of greatest value, and inspiration, the listening to noteworthy opera and play representing the best in literature. In 1792, Haydn, passing through Bonn, heard a cantata of Beethoven's, which he warmly praised and added to the praise the suggestion that the author be allowed opportunity for further study. The Elector shortly arranged that Beethoven depart for Vienna on this mission and in November, of 1792, he left Bonn, not to return again. The Bonn days end with Beethoven twenty-two years old.
The compositions of these days are, relatively, of inconsiderable importance; a few songs a rondo; a minuet; three preludes; a trio and three quartets for piano; a string trio; four sets of piano variations; a rondino for wind instruments; the Ritter ballet with orchestra; and a few other works. Beethoven's creative powers developed slowly. Grove says, "If we compare them (his composition up to this time) with those of other composers of the first rank, such as Mozart, Schubert, or Mendelssohn, it must he admitted that they are comparatively few and unimportant . Against Mozart's twenty-eight operas, cantatas, and masses for voices and full orchestra, composed before he was twenty-three, Beethoven has absolutely nothing to show."
In Vienna, musical center of the world, Beethoven was to spend the remainder, and the greater part of his life. He arrived late in the autumn of 1792, and as soon as he was established began lessons under Haydn, with whom he remained until January, 1794, though not satisfied with the progress made or the cursory attention given him by the very busy Haydn. On the departure of the latter for England, Beethoven, under Albrechtsberger, continued the study of counterpoint, and under other teachers studied violin and vocal composition. It is interesting to note that neither Haydn nor Albrechtsberger regarded their pupil as one from whom much was to be expected; the latter making the unfortunate prophecy that he would never do anything in decent style; while conservative Haydn, holding to due respect for superiors and for established rules, looked with disapproval on the young man's independence of thought and manner, and in ridicule nicknamed him "The Grand Mogul." Appreciation of his playing was quickly yielded by the Viennese. He had brought letters from the Elector and Count Waldstein which gave him introduction to the aristocracy, by whom his extraordinary ability was soon recognized, the doors of many great houses were open to him and his playing, especially his improvisations, created a remarkable sensation among the many cultivated musicians of Vienna society. Rough, blunt, eccentric, Beethoven found him-self in the midst of a society made up of people of fashion and culture. Prince and Princess Lichnowsky, both excellent amateur musicians, were among his first friends. They treated him with the greatest kindness and consideration; set aside for him a pension of 600 florins a year, he became a member of their household and in their home his prejudices were respected and his eccentricities condoned. Prince Lobkowitz was a disciple and friend, as was Baron von Swieton, also Count Brunswick, at whose home he was a frequent visitor and on terms of intimacy with the Count's sisters.