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Concerning art


Beethoven's relation to art might almost be described as
personal. Art was his goddess to whom he made petition, to whom
he rendered thanks, whom he defended. He praised her as his
savior in times of despair; by his own confession it was only
the prospect of her comforts that prevented him from laying
violent hands on himself. Read his words and you shall find
that it was his art that was his companion in his wanderings
through field and forest, the sharer of the solitude to which
his deafness condemned him. The concepts Nature and Art were
intimately bound up in his mind. His lofty and idealistic
conception of art led him to proclaim the purity of his goddess
with the hot zeal of a priestly fanatic. Every form of pseudo
or bastard art stirred him with hatred to the bottom of his
soul; hence his furious onslaughts on mere virtuosity and all
efforts from influential sources to utilize art for other than
purely artistic purposes. And his art rewarded his devotion
richly; she made his sorrowful life worth living with gifts of
purest joy:

"To Beethoven music was not only a manifestation of the
beautiful, an art, it was akin to religion. He felt himself
to be a prophet, a seer. All the misanthropy engendered by
his unhappy relations with mankind, could not shake his
devotion to this ideal which had sprung in to Beethoven
from truest artistic apprehension and been nurtured by
enforced introspection and philosophic reflection."

("Music and Manners," page 237. H. E. K.)




1. "'Tis said, that art is long, and life but fleeting:--
Nay; life is long, and brief the span of art;
If e're her breath vouchsafes with gods a meeting,
A moment's favor 'tis of which we've had a part."

(Conversation-book, March, 1820. Probably a quotation.)

2. "The world is a king, and, like a king, desires flattery in
return for favor; but true art is selfish and perverse--it will
not submit to the mould of flattery."

(Conversation-book, March, 1820. When Baron van Braun expressed
the opinion that the opera "Fidelio" would eventually win the
enthusiasm of the upper tiers, Beethoven said, "I do not write
for the galleries!" He never permitted himself to be persuaded
to make concessions to the taste of the masses.)

3. "Continue to translate yourself to the heaven of art; there
is no more undisturbed, unmixed, purer happiness than may thus
be attained."

(August 19, 1817, to Xavier Schnyder, who vainly sought
instruction from Beethoven in 1811, though he was pleasantly
received.)

4. "Go on; do not practice art alone but penetrate to her heart;
she deserves it, for art and science only can raise man to
godhood."

(Teplitz, July 17, 1812, to his ten years' old admirer, Emilie M.
in H.)

5. "True art is imperishable and the true artist finds profound
delight in grand productions of genius."

(March 15, 1823, to Cherubini, to whom he also wrote, "I prize
your works more than all others written for the stage." The
letter asked Cherubini to interest himself in obtaining a
subscription from King Louis XVIII for the Solemn Mass in D).

[Cherubini declared that he had never received the letter. That
it was not only the hope of obtaining a favor which prompted
Beethoven to express so high an admiration for Cherubini, is
plain from a remark made by the English musician Cipriani
Potter to A. W. Thayer in 1861. I found it in Thayer's note-books
which were placed in my hands for examination after his death.

One day Potter asked, "Who is the greatest living composer,
yourself excepted?" Beethoven seemed puzzled for a moment, and
then exclaimed, "Cherubini." H. E. K.]

6. "Truth exists for the wise; beauty for the susceptible heart.
They belong together--are complementary."

(Written in the autograph book of his friend, Lenz von Breuning,
in 1797.)

7. "When I open my eyes, a sigh involuntarily escapes me, for all
that I see runs counter to my religion; perforce I despise the
world which does not intuitively feel that music is a higher
revelation than all wisdom and philosophy."

(Remark made to Bettina von Arnim, in 1810, concerning Viennese
society. Report in a letter by Bettina to Goethe on May 28,
1810.)

8. "Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning
this great goddess?"

(August 11, 1810, to Bettina von Arnim.)

9. "In the country I know no lovelier delight than quartet
music."

(To Archduke Rudolph, in a letter addressed to Baden on July 24,
1813.)

10. "Nothing but art, cut to form like old-fashioned hoop-skirts.
I never feel entirely well except when I am among scenes of
unspoiled nature."

(September 24, 1826, to Breuning, while promenading with
Breuning's family in the Schonbrunner Garden, after calling
attention to the alleys of trees "trimmed like walls, in the
French manner.")

11. "Nature knows no quiescence; and true art walks with her hand
in hand; her sister--from whom heaven forefend us!--is called
artificiality."

(From notes in the lesson book of Archduke Rudolph, following
some remarks on the expansion of the expressive capacity of
music.)

Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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