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On his own works


80. "I haven't a single friend; I must live alone. But well I
know that God is nearer to me than to the others of my art; I
associate with Him without fear, I have always recognized and
understood Him, and I have no fear for my music,--it can meet
no evil fate. Those who understand it must become free from all
the miseries that the others drag with them."

(To Bettina von Arnim. [Bettina's letter to Goethe, May 28,
1810.])

81. "The variations will prove a little difficult to play,
particularly the trills in the coda; but let that not frighten
you. It is so disposed that you need play only the trills,
omitting the other notes because they are also in the violin
part. I would never have written a thing of this kind had I not
often noticed here and there in Vienna a man who after I had
improvised of an evening would write down some of my
peculiarities and make boast of them next day. Foreseeing that
these things would soon appear in print I made up my mind to
anticipate them. Another purpose which I had was to embarrass the
local pianoforte masters. Many of them are my mortal enemies, and
I wanted to have my revenge in this way, for I knew in advance
that the variations would be put before them, and that they would
make exhibitions of themselves."

(Vienna, November 2, 1793, to Eleonore von Breuning, in
dedicating to her the variations in F major, "Se vuol ballare."
[The pianist whom Beethoven accuses of stealing his thunder was
Abbe Gelinek.])

82. "The time in which I wrote my sonatas (the first ones of
the second period) was more poetical than the present (1823);
such hints were therefore unnecessary. Every one at that time
felt in the Largo of the third sonata in D (op. 10) the
pictured soulstate of a melancholy being, with all the nuances
of light and shade which occur in a delineation of melancholy
and its phases, without requiring a key in the shape of a
superscription; and everybody then saw in the two sonatas
(op. 14) the picture of a contest between two principles, or
a dialogue between two persons, because it was so obvious."

(In answer to Schindler's question why he had not indicated the
poetical conceits underlying his sonatas by superscriptions or
titles.)

83. "This sonata has a clean face (literally: 'has washed
itself'), my dear brother!"

(January, 1801, to Hofmeister, publisher in Leipzig to whom he
offers the sonata, op. 22, for 20 ducats.)

84. "They are incessantly talking about the C-sharp minor sonata
(op. 27, No. 2); on my word I have written better ones. The
F-sharp major sonata (op. 78) is a different thing!"

(A remark to Czerny.)

[The C-sharp minor sonata is that popularly known as the
"Moonlight Sonata," a title which is wholly without warrant. Its
origin is due to Rellstab, who, in describing the first movement,
drew a picture of a small boat in the moonlight on Lake Lucerne.
In Vienna a tradition that Beethoven had composed it in an arbor
gave rise to the title "Arbor sonata." Titles of this character
work much mischief in the amateur mind by giving rise to fantastic
conceptions of the contents of the music. H. E. K.]

85. "The thing which my brother can have from me is 1, a Septett
per il Violino, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabasso, Clarinetto,
Cornto, Fagotto, tutti obligati; for I can not write anything
that is not obligato, having come into the world with obligato
accompaniment."

(December 15, 1800, to Hofmeister, publisher, in Leipzig.)

86. "I am but little satisfied with my works thus far; from today
I shall adopt a new course."

(Reported by Carl Czerny in his autobiography in 1842. Concerning
the time at which the remark was made, Czerny says: "It was said
about 1803, when B. had composed op. 28 (the pianoforte sonata in
D) to his friend Krumpholz (a violinist). Shortly afterward there
appeared the sonatas (now op. 31) in which a partial fulfillment
of his resolution may be observed.")

87. "Read Shakespeare's 'Tempest.'"

(An answer to Schindler's question as to what poetical conceit
underlay the sonatas in F minor. Beethoven used playfully to
call the little son of Breuning, the friend of his youth, A&Z,
because he employed him often as a messenger.)

["Schindler relates that when once he asked Beethoven to tell
him what the F minor and D minor (op. 31, No. 2) meant, he
received for an answer only the enigmatical remark: 'Read
Shakespeare's "Tempest."' Many a student and commentator has
since read the 'Tempest' in the hope of finding a clew to the
emotional contents which Beethoven believed to be in the two
works, so singularly associated, only to find himself baffled.
It is a fancy, which rests, perhaps, too much on outward things,
but still one full of suggestion, that had Beethoven said: 'Hear
my C minor symphony,' he would have given a better starting-
point to the imagination of those who are seeking to know what
the F minor sonata means. Most obviously it means music, but it
means music that is an expression of one of those psychological
struggles which Beethoven felt called upon more and more to
delineate as he was more and more shut out from the companionship
of the external world. Such struggles are in the truest sense of
the word tempests. The motive, which, according to the story,
Beethoven himself said, indicates, in the symphony, the rappings
of Fate at the door of human existence, is common to two works
which are also related in their spiritual contents. Singularly
enough, too, in both cases the struggle which is begun in the
first movement and continued in the third, is interrupted by a
period of calm, reassuring, soul-fortifying aspiration, which,
in the symphony as well as in the sonata, takes the form of a
theme with variations."--"How to Listen to Music," page 29.
H. E. K.]

88. "Sinfonia Pastorella. He who has ever had a notion of
country life can imagine for himself without many
superscriptions what the composer is after. Even without a
description the whole, which is more sentiment than tone
painting, will be recognized."

(A note among the sketches for the "Pastoral" symphony preserved
in the Royal Library at Berlin.)

[There are other notes of similar import among the sketches
referred to which can profitably be introduced here:

"The hearer should be allowed to discover the situations;"

"Sinfonia caracteristica, or a recollection of country life;"

"Pastoral Symphony: No picture, but something in which the emotions
are expressed which are aroused in men by the pleasure of the
country (or) in which some feelings of country life are set
forth."

When, finally, the work was given to the publisher,
Beethoven included in the title an admonitory explanation which
should have everlasting validity: "Pastoral Symphony: more
expression of feeling than painting." H. E. K.]

89. "My 'Fidelio' was not understood by the public, but I know
that it will yet be appreciated; for though I am well aware of
the value of my 'Fidelio' I know just as well that the symphony
is my real element. When sounds ring in me I always hear the
full orchestra; I can ask anything of instrumentalists, but when
writing for the voice I must continually ask myself: 'Can that
be sung?'

(A remark made in 1823 or 1824 to Griesinger.)

90. "Thus Fate knocks at the portals!"

(Reported by Schindler as Beethoven's explanation of the opening
of the symphony in C minor.)

["Hofrath Kueffner told him (Krenn) that he once lived with
Beethoven in Heiligenstadt, and that they were in the habit
evenings of going down to Nussdorf to eat a fish supper in the
Gasthaus 'Zur Rose.' One evening when B. was in a good humor,
Kueffner began: `Tell me frankly which is your favorite among your
symphonies?' B. (in good humor) 'Eh! Eh! The Eroica.' K. 'I
should have guessed the C minor.' B. 'No; the Eroica.'" From
Thayer's notebook. See "Music and Manners in the Classical
Period." H.E.K.]

91. "The solo sonatas (op. 109-ll?) are perhaps the best, but
also the last, music that I composed for the pianoforte. It is
and always will be an unsatisfactory instrument. I shall
hereafter follow the example of my grandmaster Handel, and every
year write only an oratorio and a concerto for some string or
wind instrument, provided I shall have finished my tenth
symphony (C minor) and Requiem."

(Reported by Holz. As to the tenth symphony see note to No. 95.)

92. "God knows why it is that my pianoforte music always makes
the worst impression on me, especially when it is played badly."

(June 2, 1804. A note among the sketches for the "Leonore"
overture.)

93. "Never did my own music produce such an effect upon me; even
now when I recall this work it still costs me a tear."

(Reported by Holz. The reference is to the Cavatina from the
quartet in B-flat, op. 130, which Beethoven thought the crown of
all quartet movements and his favorite composition. When alone
and undisturbed he was fond of playing his favorite pianoforte
Andante--that from the sonata op. 28.)

94. "I do not write what I most desire to, but that which I need
to because of money. But this is not saying that I write only for
money. When the present period is past, I hope at last to write
that which is the highest thing for me as well as art,--'Faust.'"

(From a conversation-book used in 1823. To Buhler, tutor in the
house of a merchant, who was seeking information about an oratorio
which Beethoven had been commissioned to write by the Handel and
Haydn Society of Boston.)

95. "Ha! 'Faust;' that would be a piece of work! Something might
come out of that! But for some time I have been big with three
other large works. Much is already sketched out, that is, in my
head. I must be rid of them first:--two large symphonies
differing from each other, and each differing from all the
others, and an oratorio. And this will take a long time. you
see, for a considerable time I have had trouble to get myself to
write. I sit and think, and think I've long had the thing, but it
will not on the paper. I dread the beginning of these large works.
Once into the work, and it goes."

(In the summer of 1822, to Rochlitz, at Baden. The symphonies
referred to are the ninth and tenth. They existed only in
Beethoven's mind and a few sketches. In it he intended to combine
antique and modern views of life.)

["In the text Greek mythology, cantique ecclesiastique; in the
Allegro, a Bacchic festival." (Sketchbook of 1818)]

[The oratorio was to have been called "The Victory of the Cross."
It was not written. Schindler wrote to Moscheles in London about
Beethoven in the last weeks of his life: "He said much about the
plan of the tenth symphony. As the work had shaped itself in his
imagination it might have become a musical monstrosity, compared
with which his other symphonies would have been mere opuscula."]

Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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