Beethoven’s Violinists-material from lecture/recital given at Glasgow City Halls 25 9 14 (In Preparation)

Posted on September 30th, 2014 by


Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Beethoven’s Violinists

In this talk, I will explore the ways in which certain violinists had an impact of Beethoven and his music. By nature, these sift themselves into three categories: influences, collaborators, and advocates.

 

Viotti as musical director, his ‘bow of cotton’ firmly grasped in his ‘arm of Hercules’. The bow in this picture is not a modern ‘Tourte-model’ but a long earlier type. Perhaps Viotti preferred to not use the Tourtes, with their ‘fini precieux’ for the more risky business of directing. Berlioz recalled Habeneck’s willingness to break his bow in frustration, so perhaps conductors reserved their finer instruments for concertantes.

Viotti as musical director, his ‘bow of cotton’ firmly grasped in his ‘arm of Hercules’. The bow in this picture is not a modern ‘Tourte-model’ but a long earlier type. Perhaps Viotti preferred to not use the Tourtes, with their ‘fini precieux’ for the more risky business of directing. Berlioz recalled Habeneck’s willingness to break his bow in frustration, so perhaps conductors reserved their finer instruments for concertantes.

The first, and, perhaps, the most influential, was a musician who Beethoven never met. Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755=-1824). For all this, his influ ence is audible in much of Beethoven’s output, and not just the violin based works. Viotti cultivated a musical vision of Rousseau’s ‘Sublime Science of Simple Minds’ through a vision of , if you like, neo-neo-classicaim. Beethoven, who respected Rousseau as a composer enough to arrange a number of his vocal works, was profoundly affected by both Viotti’s musical idealism, and his disciples.. Here’s the kind of violin writing, which transmitted in the violin concerti, found its way into much of Beethoven’s output, most particularly the concerto Op 61.

IMG_3989_Edited
Beethoven’s life as a working musician mirrored the changes in concert practice, the incremental separation between performer and composer. Gradually, observers began to document the to and fro between composer and interpreter, and it’s that relationship which I would like to move to now.
Beethoven’s childhood friend, the doctor, Franz Gerhard Wegeler (August 22, 1765 – May 7, 1848) reported on just such an occasion: ‘Kraft [cellist] pointed out to him that he should mark a passage in the second trio [Op 1] ‘sulla corda G’, and that in the score of this trio, the finale, which Beethoven had marked 4/4, should be changed to 2/4’.
Beethoven’s deafness, which had become a problem by the turn of the century, would drive him away from performing and chamber music, first of all on string instruments, (the intonation issue) then from the piano, and finally from the type of ‘expressive conducting’ which he seems to have pioneered. This necessarily increased his reliance on the teams of collaborators which he built.
But to recap a little: Beethoven began his musical life studying multiple instruments and voice, and of course, harmony, counterpoint and word setting. He joined the Bonn electoral Kapell as a violinist/violist, where he was principal viola by his mid-teens, (there is some evidence that he played the flute), became the court organist, and moved up to keyboard duties (whilst never becoming good enough a violinist to be Konzertmeister, which might have been problematic in earlier eras), and then became increasingly noticed as a composer of startling accomplishment. He stood out in the midst of what was, undeniably, one of the most virtuoso collections of musicians in Northern Europe-his colleagues included Anton Reicha, Joseph Reicha, Franz Ries, Andreas and Bernhard Romberg. Our concert on Saturday will include works by three of these colleagues, I would like to tempt you with the question of what happened when such musicians improvised together (which was still dominant in the 1780s)
Sent to Vienna, coincidentally as conflict was beginning to tear northern Europe apart, he was expected to burnish his accomplishments to bring greater lustre to the Bonn Court, not just as composer, by performer and all round musician. The 21 year old new arrival, sought the violin lessons which were seen as a necessary part of this study, alongside the studies of counterpoint and Italian vocal setting.
But something happened; as he became increasingly lionised as a duelling improvising keyboardist, giving him access to a strikingly catholic cross-section of salons and drawing rooms, the likelihood of his return, faded with the severity of the war-he was traumatised by what he had seen crossing the French lines that winter

However, his weekly meetings with his very young (and increasingly influential) violin teacher, Ignaz von Schuppanzigh morphed into what we might, today, describe as ‘workshop sessions’. The two met when Beethoven moved into Alserstrasse 45, the building owned by Prince Lichnowsky, These sessions, following on from the more formal quartet mornings, clearly involved music making, experimentation, singing, and copious amounts of alcohol (a common subject in their correspondence. From 1795, the responsibility for the string quartet mornings was shared with Count Rasoumovsky, who restrict his musical resources to a string quartet (still a comparatively ‘unpopular’ medium), whose fluctuating members, became the core of Beethoven’s collaborating circle. The nature of his ‘violin’ lessons changed, and his relationship with string instruments. It is clear that, comparatively late, he was still writing viola parts which were fitted to his hand and relative limitations on the instrument; works such as the ‘Augernglaesern’ Duet, and more strikingly, the Serenade Op 25 bear the imprint of having been made for his own use.
Beethoven needed Schuppanzigh’s access, not only to the leading musicians who came through the various elevated salons in Vienna, but also to the ‘wheels within wheels’ or Viennese high society, the uneasy meeting point between first and second ranks of nobility, which carried on its dance, between finance and influence, in the closed-door salons of the most rarefied masonic lodges, most particularly those linked to the Gesellschaft der Associerten Cavaliere (directed by von Swieten), at whose exclusive Liebhaber concerts a number of Beethoven’s most important chamber works were premiered – most notably, the two sonatas Op 23/24, and the String Quintet (all dedicated to von Fries, a banker/mason/art collector).
Beethoven’s collaboration with Schuppanzigh until his death. His abuse of Schuppanzigh over his weight, and later, over his problems performing the final quartets, is over referenced. It tends to overshadow the evident depth and subtlety of their collaboration.
I would like to some of the ways that Schuppanzigh and Beethoven seem worked together; these are clearly visible in the working scores which survive, most particularly, three sonatas Op 30, which Beethoven dedicated to the parricide Tsar Aleksandr 1. The exquisite manuscripts of these sonatas reveals the places where intervention has taken place at the rehearsal stage.
Beethoven did not make separate copies of the violin parts for Schuppanzigh use, so the violinist would play looking over Beethoven’s shoulder at the manuscript score on the piano music desk (which had been the practice for ‘continuo cellists’). The modern conceit of printing a piano score of a sonata or chamber music with the string part in fainter type, as a cue or mnemonic for the pianist, was a long way off. When these sonatas, and similar works were published, it was in separate ‘part books’, as was normal (we are playing the Ries Sonata on Saturday from materials published in the same way)
The three Op 30 Manuscripts, show that Beethoven brought the completed score to work with Schuppanzigh. At this point, the MS was clean, a Rheinschrift. But the reveal three separate processes at work in those rehearsals, which a musician who has collaborated with a living composer will recognise.
The first is structural alteration. Beethoven was a structural perfectionist, but also a pragmatic performer. The upshot of this was that he was on occasion willing to break the structural integrity of a work in order to render it more impressive, more effective. In the Scherzo movement of the second sonata, the C minor, the manuscript incorporates a pasted-in addition to the trio:

That is to say that Beethoven finished the movement, and brought it to Schuppanzigh. However, when they played it through, the passage did not seem effective, and so Beethoven, provided a patch, a few more bars, to emphasise his musical point. This is the kind of process that often happens when a composer hears their music for the first time; a practical musician such as Beethoven would be keen to spot such aural weaknesses, and maybe through joint improvisation, come up with an improvement. This of course, is not a ‘string player issue’ but reminds us of the function of the ‘second pair of ears’, like the artist’s mirror.

The second collaborative result is most evident in the exquisite manuscript of the G major Sonata, Op. 30 No 3. The  alterations to dynamics and articulation in these works seems to have been made in  course of rehearsal with his colleague, hence for their scrawled and blotched appearance, in marked contrast to the neatness of the writing underneath. Beethoven has a completely unjustified reputation for bad handwriting. Admittedly, the scores of his solo piano sonatas can sometimes be almost indecipherable to the untrained eye, but where he needed the copy to be as legible, because Schuppanzigh or later Bridgetower read over his shoulder as they played, these scores are beautiful, with the exception of the emendations and alterations under consideration. The simple explanation for the scruffy appearance of these changes is that Beethoven did them in haste, as he and his partner experimented, perhaps trying to write with his ever more stubby quill pen on the music desk of his piano; even if he turned to an adjacent table or desk to do this, somewhat unlikely in the white heat of ‘workshopping’ with Schuppanzigh, this explains blotches on, say, the first page of the G major sonata Op 30 no3.

 

The opening shows dramatic changes have been made to the dynamic. Inkblots obscure the barely visible original ‘f’, the original dynamic given to the whirling motif of the opening.

This was the obvious volume at which a movement like this should begin, particularly, notated, as it is in unison triple octaves. However, one imagines the two musicians trying it out, and then one of them, whether Beethoven or Schuppanzigh, it matters not, blurting out, ‘but what if it was piano?’. From a performer’s point of view, this is a vital piece of information. Knowing that this opening is not a ‘pure’ ‘piano’, but in point of fact, a suppressed ‘forte’, lends it a completely different tenor.

Demonstrate

This notion of a ‘suppressed’ dynamic brings us to a third type of collaboration which these scores suggest. The Variation movement of the first of the set, in a major, Op. 30 no 1, includes triple and quadruple stops, notorious, for their awkwardness. The difficulty arises from the fact that in the score these chords are marked to be played ‘piano’. At no other point in Beethoven’s output for violin does he mark stressed three and four note chords so quiet,  The manuscript reveals that this variation was initially more traditional, balancing ‘forte’ violin chords with the piano’s soft and rather chorale-like response, played as one would expect, quietly. This point, does call to mind the joshing relationship that Beethoven had with Schuppanzigh, whom he and his friends were accustomed to taunt as ‘Sir Falstaff’, and to whom he later, famously said: ‘What care I for you and your damned fiddle when the spirit moves me.’ One might speculate that Schuppanzigh seized on the opportunity of these grand chords, as originally written, with great virtuosity, perhaps eliciting an oath from the composer at the piano.  Hence the somewhat frantic scratching out visible on the autograph, and the overwritten ‘piano’, simply to spoil ‘Falstaff’s’ fun. This change introduces introduce a novel feeling of delicate bulk to the hitherto sui generis chords.

Demonstrate

It is worth noting that Beethoven’s cruel ‘Musikalischer Scherz’, ‘Lob auf den Dicken’ (Hymn to the Fat), was written in the same year as these sonatas. It begins with the soloists singing: “Schuppanzigh ist ein Lump, Lump, Lump…”

As Beethoven’s need for Schuppanzigh’s influence grew, so did his hunger, as I see it, for new instrumental influences. This was reflected, in the violinists that he sought out in the years leading up to the premiere of his last piano violin sonata Op 96. In the year that that sonata would be written, he made a note in his Tagebuch which is instructive:

‘Every day, share a meal with musicians, where one “Every day share a meal with someone, such as musicians, where one can discuss this and that-instruments etc, violins, cellos, and so on.” Entry 36, Tagebuch 1812

 

This does not tell us simply that Beethoven recognised the importance of spending time can discuss fingering and strings, and such’ (1812)) with string players (and by implication the other specialists, such as Punto, or Raum, from whom he learnt so much), but that he was aware that he was not spending so much time in the ‘workshop situation’ as formerly, and that (in a note to self), this was something which he was missing.

 

But to back up a little. In the years following his premiere of the Op 30 Sonatas, a variety of different violinists had begun to influence him. I would say, that, briefly, he was excited by the prospect of collaboration with players who were close to being his artistic equals (as he might have felt it at the time), and perhaps, dangerously, his intellectual superiors. He was given access to these through the extraordinary diversity of his Vienna world. He met August Polgren Bridgetower through his Esterhazy contacts, and through Haydn; this however, was very much a Royal connection, as this British based musician was the soloist for the Prince Regent, who had sent him to Vienna  (much as Beethoven himself had been send a decade earlier), to bring new brilliance back to his newly refurbished Pavilion in Brighton.

 

Their meeting was, to put it mildly, pugilistic, even explosive, resulting in a sonata, which came very close to being a joint work, both of composition and of shared and competing virtuosity.

Bridgetower-Slide

“A curious debut which aroused much interest was that of M. Bridge-Tower, a young Negro from the colonies, who played several concertos for the violin with a neatness, a facility, and execution and even a sensibility which are rarely met with at so tender an age (he is not yet ten years old). His talent, as genuine as it is precocious, provides one of the best answers that one can make to the philosophers who would deny to those of his nation and of his colour the faculty of distinguishing themselves in the arts.”
(Mercure de France reviews Bridgetower’s first appearance in a Concert Spirituel on 13th April 1789)

Bridgetower, a British national, was of somewhat mysterious African and Polish ancestry. His father was personal page to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy (1765-1833). He made his first appearance as a soloist on April 13th 1789 at a Concert Spirituel in Paris, billed as the son of an ‘Abyssinian Prince’. Typically for the time, as can be seen from the review above, his age was misrepresented, a humiliation which had also been visited upon the young Beethoven. With the revolution, he came to England, where he studied with, amongst others, Mozart’s student, Thomas Attwood. On the 2nd June 1790, he gave a joint concert with the ten-year old Franz Clement, who late premiered Beethoven’s violin concerto and led all the early performances of the Eroica Symphony Op 55, which Beethoven was sketching out whilst writing the Kreutzer Sonata. He soon found himself working as solo violinist for George, Prince of Wales, later George IV (1762-1830), at the Brighton Pavilion.

Bridgetower’s trip had much in common with Beethoven’s own journey to Vienna from Bonn in 1792. As Beethoven’s patron in Bonn Count von Waldstein (1762-1823) put it, Beethoven was sent to Vienna on a training visit ‘to receive the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn’ – and to bring it gloriously back to his employer’s court. But, like Bridgetower, Beethoven never returned to his employer.

The short, tempestuous relationship between Bridgetower and Beethoven resulted in the composition of the Sonata for Piano with Violin Op 47, now called the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. It was originally dedicated to Bridgetower, and the two premiered the work in the Augarten on the 24th May 1803. That much is clear from the dedication on the ‘Forautograph’ manuscript kept in the collection of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn. Little is known of the working relationship between the composer and the British violinist. It is likely that the cause of the meeting was the aforementioned Franz Clement, with whom Beethoven was sharing apartments in the Teater an der Wien at that time. The friendship ended almost as soon as it began, foundering, according to Bridgetower, because of a disagreement over a woman. Most likely their passionate temperaments were the cause of their parting… The manuscript breaks off half way through the first movement, and is in Beethoven’s sketchiest hand, as if written in some haste. Perhaps Beethoven had to work up the sonata from his sketches for the first rehearsal. (This may be why he re-used the last movement of his earlier Sonata in A major, Op 30 No 1, as the finale for this work.)

Tellingly, the manuscript does not include any of the cadenza material in the first movement as we have it today. Bridgetower himself clarifies this point and tells us a great deal about the working relationship that Beethoven had with the violinist. He describes a moment where Bridgetower imitated Beethoven’s improvised piano cadenza, playing it spectacularly, an octave higher, racing into the stratosphere of the violin’s range. Beethoven stopped, shocked, and then shouted ‘Noch Einmal, mein lieber Bursch!’ (Once again, my dear fellow!) This time holding the sustaining pedal of the piano down so that the violin was not left bare and unaccompanied as it flew up the C major arpeggio. This done, he leapt from the piano bench and embraced his colleague. Carl Czerny (1791-1857), who was studying with Beethoven in 1803, recalled that Bridgetower’s extrovert playing made him laugh out

 

Perhaps this was the only time that Beethoven worked with a string player whom he regarded as a peer, whether as a friend or artist. The original dedication on the sonata is both affectionate and mocking: ‘Sonata mulattica. Composta per il Mulatto Brischdauer – gran pazzo e compositore mulattico.’ (‘Mulatto Sonata. Composed for the Mulatto Brischdauer [sic] – great lunatic and mulatto composer.’)

Beethoven’s attitude to improvisation and ornamentation was revealingly inconsistent. He often shocked and even angered his colleagues by inserting unexpected and unwonted cadenzas into his chamber music, such as the Quintet for Wind and Piano Op 16. But he also remonstrated with junior colleagues and pupils such as Carl Czerny (1791-1857) and Ferdinand Ries for taking precisely the same liberties that had brought him fame with the self-same works. Looking at the first edition of the Sonata Op 47, one finds no violin cadenza where Bridgetower would have played it at the first performance. By the time the work was published their relationship had gone sour; Beethoven had changed the dedication to honour the French virtuoso and technical theorist Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831), who in fact never performed the sonata. He was later to be seen running from a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with his hands over his ears. Kreutzer

Rodolphe Kreutzer met Haydn on his first trip to Vienna with General Bernadotte, the putative French Ambassador. Ludwig van Beethoven met him at Bernadotte’s house at this time. Five years later he wrote to his Bonn publisher, Nikolaus Simrock (1752-1833), “This Kreutzer is a good dear fellow who gave me much enjoyment when he was here-his modesty and his natural ways appeal to me far more than all the exterieur or interieur of our virtuosos.”[i]

 

 

Franz Clement SLIDE

This relationship inevitably ‘blew up’, but Beethoven seems, immediately to have sought another like it, and found it in Franz Clement (1780-1842) (Schikaneder’s music director at the Teater am Wien), Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 1806., which explored another type of collaboration, one which veered very close to theft on Beethoven’s part He was one of the greatest talents of early 19th Century Vienna, and directed the premiere of the Eroica Symphony. By the time Bull met him, he was almost forgotten; there is no documentation of their encounter, nor that Bull played this piece, is kept today in the Bergen Public Library.

 

Introduce the caprice

 

It must be said the that cooling of the friendship with Schuppanzigh, took time, but that the important chamber works (most notably the 5 quartets from Op 59-95) revealed the impact of the musicians around Schuppanzigh-not just the other violinists, such as the brilliant Joseph Mayseder, but Linke, Weiss and Kraft. For all this, I would say that, in order for Beethoven to achieve the miraculous re-imagining of string instruments which marks out the writing of the late quartets and the 9th Symphony, it was necessary for him to move away from instruments. This move away from the quiddity (thingness) of instruments and music making marched in step with his complete deafness, and the isolation that incurred, and the phenomenal success which his music began to enjoy, internationally, with the Congress of Vienna.

A taste of this creative distance can be sampled in the working method which resulted in the miraculous Piano/Violin Sonata Op 96. This was the only work that I can think of, where Beethoven gave careful consideration to the technical and artistic needs and characteristics of a violinist whom he had not met, and one, let’s be honest, that he felt that it would be politick, to humour, Napoleons musicien de chambre, Pierre Rode. Both he and his Royal student, the Erzherzog Rudolph, were writing for this most international of players, and they discussed both the Parisian style (what was known in Vienna at the time as Viott’sche Schule), and the technical limitations which had resulted from his Erysipelas. The manuscript bears evidence that Beethoven had gone back to the violin himself (the final fingering) as well as a layering of ‘Parisian-style’ bowing combinations which may have formed the substance of a short working period with Rode over Christmas 1812-13.

SLIDE of RODE

The Sonata was premiered on 29th December 1912, in a private concert that the Archduke gave with the great French virtuoso, Pierre Rode in the Lobkowitz Palace. The ‘public’ premiere took place on the 7th January 1813. The first edition of the Sonata appeared in the imprint of Steiner and Co (Vienna), in July 1816, as well as in a London edition published by Birchall and Co the same year.

Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode (1774-1830) had been a pupil of Viotti, was appointed Napoleon Bonaparte’s solo violinist in 1800, before going to St Petersburg in 1803 as first violinist to Tsar Alexander 1st, to whom Beethoven had dedicated his Op 30 Sonatas for Piano and Violin. He had returned to Paris in 1808 after 5 stressful years in the intrigues and cabals of the Russian court; it was widely rumoured that the experience had broken both his spirit and his playing.

There is little evidence of how it was decided to play concerts with Rode, but plenty that both Rudolph and Beethoven were anxious about the choice of string player. One is almost driven to speculate that it might have been something that was foisted upon them.

However, in the autumn of 1812, Beethoven was concerned about the prospect of working with this essentially unknown eminence grise, particularly since he was not in the habit of collaborating with musicians not part of his circle, of his ‘team’

Beethoven had good reason to be worried; letters from the Archduke Rudolph warned him that Rode was past his prime. However, Rudolph counselled him to ‘customise’ the new sonata to fit the Rode’s limitations. Josef Meyerbeer, who heard Rode in Paris one month before the Vienna concert, observed the falling-off audible in his playing:

‘In November Pierre Rode came and played at court and gave a public concert. His beautiful tone is the same as it was ten years ago; on that occasion, however, I found greater passion and warmth in his playing. It has been left with a dubious correctness that left me quite cold…the reception and the opinions of this were much divided.’ Giacomo Meyerbeer-Diaries December 1812

The main issue of concern for Beethoven and his royal pupil was the veteran violinist’s right hand, his bowing arm.

‘Tomorrow very early the copyist will be able to begin the last movement. As I myself, meanwhile am writing several other works, I have not hastened very much with this last movement for the sake of mere punctuality: and all the more, as in writing it, I must take into account Rode’s style of playing. We are fond of rushing passages in out finales. Yet that does not suite Rode, and that really troubles me. Everything else will go to plan.’ Beethoven to the Archduke Rudolph December 1812

But first a small act of homage,

 

The result was extraordinary, almost unprecedented within Beethoven’s oeuvre, a sonata specifically tailored not only to the requirements, but the limitations of its intended performer. Up till this point, there was not a Beethoven single sonata for piano with violin that did not exploit the violin and piano’s shared ability to articulate with great variety and brilliance at speed. From the classicising Op 12 Sonatas, up to the pugnacious Sonata that Beethoven wrote for the fiery George August Polgren Bridgetower, both instruments are pushed to the limit of high-speed ‘separate-bow’ virtuosity As Rudolph pointed out, Rode could not play effectively with fast separate bows, ruling out spiccato, staccato, balzato, jeté, all the Rossini-esque feux d’artifice that distinguished much of his violin writing to date. This provided dazzling peroration to the quartet that was being finished as he wrote this sonata, the F minor Op 95 ‘Serioso’. In Beethoven’s decision to avoid this type of writing lies the character of the whole of the Op 96 sonata; ever the ‘integrating’ composer, Beethoven not only took Rudolph’s advice, but built much of the work out of long slurred lines, only writing brilliant roulades of semiquavers when the bow was resolutely legato, and made this style the very heart of his new sonata, and one might observe, opened up a new possibilities for the future of the Sonata Finale, that would lead to the refulgent lyricism of Op 109 and the Op 132 Quartet over the ensuing decades.

Beethoven’s Sonata exists in an extraordinary manuscript from 1812, which also incorporates his adjustments made around the time of the work’s first publication four years later. The work was typically printed in multiple cities around Europe, as, by this time, Beethoven was a past master of coordinating publication with any number of Verlag, all of whom were typically under the impression that they were getting exclusivity over the piece. At this time, the manner in which a publisher ensured their unique rights over any piece was by having the manuscript, not a copy, sent to them. Beethoven was not above creating ‘fake’ manuscripts, as in the case, famously of the violin concerto. These extra versions were not fair copies, Rheinschriften, but apparent ‘working’ texts. The result was obvious. In the case of the violin concerto, the two versions, created for the reason above, are different. It was simply impossible for a composer and improvising performer like Beethoven to write out a piece, without engaging his creative, his interpretative faculties. The result was that each ‘copy’ became a further or different compositional step, to a degree, an act of ‘transcription’. Busoni would throw his hands in the air and say, ‘ what did you expect to happen!?’ This has ramifications for Beethoven’s manuscripts in general; all of them contain the ‘charge’, the energy of the ‘composer-performer-transcriber’ (all of which Beethoven was), constantly re-evaluating and interpreting with every ink stroke. In the case of this manuscript, we have an almost unique circumstance of a major accompanied chamber work, in which the piano part was explicitly written for another player than Beethoven himself; after all, it must not be forgotten that Beethoven had been a string player of professional accomplishment, who had begun his studies in Bonn with the distinguished pedagogue Franz Ries, father of Ferdinand, who studied the piano with Beethoven in Vienna. The manuscript itself was not given to Rudolph to play from, as is clear from two factors. Firstly the letter quoted above-‘ Tomorrow very early the copyist will be able to begin the last movement.’- of his hands to be used in rehearsal and performance. Clearly Beethoven had no intention of letting his original out of his hands, indicating that the various sections were being sent to Rudolph to study as Beethoven finished them, and secondly, the state of the manuscript itself compared to Beethoven’s other ‘accompanied’ sonata works, Op 23, 24, and 30, which of course were all written to be Ignaz Schuppanzigh.

The alterations in Op 96 betray no such signs of haste; they range from harmonic alterations, rewriting of figuration, to refinement of accents, rerouting of slurs and staccato marks.

SLIDE-Parisian concerns Play

Remember the reference to the copyist; were Beethoven to have been sitting watching the rehearsal, score in hand, observing the movements of Rode and Rudolph, he would no doubt, like any composer, have sat there with this score in hand, maybe on a desk or table in front of him, perhaps notating the results of their rehearsal as all three tried out refinements of syntax or dynamics. This would have enabled him to adjust the manuscript comparatively neatly. This might also explain the presence of some extraordinary violin fingerings, written on the full score of the last movement in ink, in a firm hand, which is apparently Beethoven’s. The last virtuoso flight of the violin, smartly imitated by the piano, is a ‘broken chord’ in G major, reaching up to the stratosphere of the early nineteenth century violin. The fingering that Beethoven marked on the last four notes as the player goes off the end of the fingerboard is ‘4-4-4-4’.

Slide-Play

This has often been treated with a degree of circumspection by writers and players, but can be seen as a window into the expressive vocabulary of contemporaneous performers. There are a number of exciting possibilities. This might be a technique that Beethoven demanded of Rode, either to introduce more energy in into the arpeggio, to avoid a first finger ‘anchor’ on one of the notes used, which would introduce an undesirable sense of harmonic resolution, to make the ‘fireworks’ even more ‘dangerous’. Perhaps this was a fingering which Rode himself suggested, producing the classic French expressive portamento, the porte de voix. Even more excitingly is the possibility that this fingering was a reflection of a piano fingering, perhaps a ‘chopping’ finger repetition to the top of the instrument; perhaps the reason that this was not written into the piano part as well was that this was something that he had discussed extensively with Rudolph, in advance of the rehearsals with Rode in November 1812. Whatever the origin of this fingering, it opens exciting possibilities for performance today. What is somewhat extraordinary, in my experience, is that this instruction, and instruction it surely is, is usually ignored-it was pointed out to me one of my professors, a distinguished musician, who really should have known better, as an amusing example of impractibility of Beethoven’s fiddle writing, rather than a challenge to be faced.

 

 

 

However, this is the last large scale chamber work, where one might say that Beethoven was writing with consideration of the player in mind. At this point, it is important to say, that Beethoven’s largest chamber output involving the violin, on which he was actively engaged from as early as 1806 until his last years, the 250plus folksong arrangements for Thomson of Edinburgh, demanded that he constantly ‘reign in’ his technical demands, just as he would with the two sets of Bagatelles for piano Op 119, and Op 126, and the two sets of Piano/flute variations Op 105 and 107. Thomson, empowered by the unprecedented amounts of money that he could pay his composers, repeatedly reject Beethoven’s writing until he mastered, as it were, the art of writing for technically limited amateurs. Beethoven had an ever keener eye to his profit margin, so this would quite naturally be a consideration in the composition of works, such as variations, aimed at the dilettante, bourgeois audience, huddled around their new fortepianos in the evenings.

Beethoven was writing chamber music for both ‘audiences’ simultaneously, skilled dilettante amateurs, and the rarefied circle of intellectuals around Baron von Swieten. A few years later, Beethoven sent George Smart the score for the aforementioned Op 95 F Minor quartet, pointedly named ‘Serioso’. In the letter attached to this Quartet, he wrote:

‘Nota Bene; this quartet is written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public.’

 

 

So it’s all the more fascinating that the 1820s would see the writing of the string quartets which evolved a new form of ‘loaded virtuosity’ which would not have emerged when he was still so ‘close’ with his players, and taking the challenge offered by the new piano virtuosity which was beginning to sweep Europe. In this, it must be observed that Beethoven was not alone. The astonishing virtuoso Joseph Mayseder (member of Schuppanzigh’s Quartet) (who like Beethoven, never left the locality of Vienna), was also producing works with inventive virtuoso equivalent challenges.

Mayseder-Caprice

He was aware that these challenges would be initially rejected by Schuppanzig, and famously retorted to his onetime collaborator’s complaining ‘what care I for your damn fiddle when the spirit moves me!’ However, this masked the fact that he had contracted a second group to practise for a second performance, led by Pierre Rode’s student Joseph Boehm, who would later teach Beethoven’s greatest posthumous advocate, Joseph Joachim. An element of collaboration emerged here, when Boehm persuaded Beethoven to change the tempo of the Coda for Op 127, although Beethoven added the (undoubtedly) sarcastic ‘commodo’ to the new notation.  Within weeks, the same work was to be heard as far away as St Petersburg, in the suite of Prince Nikolas Galitzin (1794-1866), whom Beethoven had met when the Prince had been ambassador to Vienna. The St Petersburg performance was given by Beethoven specialists (who were now spread all over Europe), including the great Lipinski and he cellist Bernhard Romberg, who had been with the young composer in the Electoral orchestra in Bonn.

 

 

Schuppanzigh clearly rose to the challenge of the new style, emboldened and irritated, no doubt by the competing performances. In the meantime, this most large scale of violinists was also dealing with the virtuosic challenges offered by the young Schubert-premiering the G Major Schubert quartet, which demands flights of brilliance far beyond what any other quartet composer would demand for 50 years. The over three decades, the  relationship had swapped; teacher had become the servant, acolyte even, the student had torn up every rule book, and was daring his erstwhile tutor to catch up.

But there was more to this than meets the eye. From the middle of 1820, Paganini’s 24 Capricci had been available in Vienna published by Ricordi. Paganini would not arrive in Vienna until the year after Beethoven’s death, but his influence had been felt, earlier than this publication, from the musicians who had encountered him, to their cost, in the Italian principalities, and retired hurt, no unlike the pianists who ventured improvising in competition with Beethoven some decades earlier.

Slide-Play

The tiny two-stave canon, which Beethoven wrote in August 1825, is a fragment of evidence of his sawareness of the new-emerging world of string virtuosity, one which, had he lived another ten years, he would have driven into territory which we can only imagine.

 

[i] Letter from Beethoven to N. Simrock, Vienna, 14th October 1804, Quoted in: Beethoven, H.C.Robbins Landon, Thames and Hudson, Macmillan, New York City, 1970, P.151

I began this talk by introducing a violinist ideal for Beethoven’s generation, Viotti. It would be another ideal, a violinist who would style himself the ‘servant of art’, Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), who in 1844, took on the mantle of ‘Beethoven violinist’ par exce

llence. Just as Francois Habeneck had initiated a performance tradition for the symphonies as early as 1807, Joachim’s debut at the Philharmonic Society in London, under his mentor Felix Mendelssohn, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, set a standard, and a model, which was unsurpassed over 60 years. He became a voice for Beethoven; one who brought together the ideals to which the composer had reached, and the cosmopolitan approach to the instrument which he had sought out. I will finish with something very un-Beethovenian, a little ‘Schottische Melodie’ which Joachim left in a visitors book in the 1850s.
Joachim-Scottish Melody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCERT
We are forced to confront an awkward truth; most musicians’ collaborative activities, behind the closed doors of the salon, working together in collaboration, as new works were and are forged, are denied to us. We can only guess at these through written accounts, many of which are at best, sensationalist. For example, it is clear that Beethoven enjoyed a healthy musical relationship with Andreas (1767-1821) and Bernhard (1767-1841) Romberg, and the flute player Antoine Reicha (1770-1836), during their time together working in the electoral orchestra in Bonn. All of these musicians were distinguished improvisers. Indeed, to be a musician at the end of the 18th century, and not to improvise, would have been unthinkable. It seems clear enough, that they were all profoundly affected by their shared experience of performing Mozart operas under the direction of Joseph Reicha, most particularly Figaro. All of them published sets of variations, on the popular Se vuol Ballare, from the same opera, within a few years of this; indeed, Beethoven’s set which he sent to his beloved Eleonore von Breuning (1771-1841), shortly after his arrival in Vienna in 1792, was originally published by Artaria as ‘opus 1’, a title that it soon ceded to the first set of piano trios, dedicated to Haydn. The Rombergs’ published an extraordinarily innovative co-composed set, for violin and cello, whilst Reicha’s version is for the same duo, plus his own instrument, flute. Looking at the various combinations involved, and bearing in mind the circumstances under which all of these composer/improvisers first encountered this work, as performers, it is incredible that they would not have first experimented with the melody in an improvised session, whether in a salon situation, or in private. There are simply too many aspects of their respective sets of variations in common for this not to be, at least, a possibility. But the only evidence that we have are the publications; we know nothing of what might have gone on whilst the players played extempore , as no one would have thought that it was necessary, or even desirable, to write it down.

 

Concert
The most influential musician in post-Revolutionary Paris was the Bohemian-born Antoine Reicha (1770-1836), Beethoven’s exact contemporary and close friend. As teenagers, the two had been colleagues in the Bonn Electoral Orchestra, co-conspirators in the forging of new chamber and contrapuntal languages in Vienna from 1801-1808. After an unsuccessful first visit to Paris in 1799, Reicha settled there permamently after leaving Vienna in 1808. Reicha came to be a close colleague of Pierre Baillot, and intimate of many French intellectuals. He was professor of counterpoint and fugue at he Conservatoire from 1818; in Paris, his students included Baillot, Habeneck, Rode, Berlioz, Liszt, Gounod, and Franck.
Reicha’s long-term collaboration with Beethoven has received scant attention, resulting in Reicha’s belittlement as the dogmatic theorist or, as Mendelssohn put it, one of the ‘dried up chrysalises’ that he found on his second visit to Paris in 1826. However, his music flies in the face of this prejudice, whether one considers the bravado of the 3 Quintets Op 2 , written for the ‘Boccherini’ combination so popular with Baillot circle, the inventiveness of 12 Duos for violin and cello, which Baillot and Lamarre premiered, or the sheer innovation of the set of 6 Quartets Op 48 & Op 49 written as a real-time response and stimulus for Beethoven’s Quartets Op 18.
Reicha’s quartets are the equal of Beethoven’s in inventiveness. They are replete with the easy sonority and good humour, that would be the benchmark of much of the chamber music by the post-revolutionary generation Parisian performers and players. His 3 Quartets Op 94, were dedicated to Baillot, and the Op 95, to Pierre Rode.
Perhaps Reicha’s most distinctive chamber work is his sonata for piano and violin, a Duo Concertant, dedicated to Pierre Baillot in 1826. This pokes fun at Beethoven, using the opening of the Kreutzer Sonata Op 47, but presto, all the awkward double-stopping in place, as a high-speed fanfare in a Haydn-esque finale. Such challenging writing would have suited Baillot’s athletic playing ideally.
François Antoine Habeneck

François Antoine Habeneck – at the beginning of an illustrious career
The violinist François Antoine Habeneck was the first great string player to be entirely trained in the Paris Conservatoire. Following his 1804 premier prix, he was awarded the direction of les Exercises, the student orchestral concerts, for year. This was tremendously successful, and at the end of this year, a delegation of professors demanded that his tenure be made a permanent one. This offered him an opportunity to develope new ideas and techniques for presenting the modern Viennese repertoire.
Without Habeneck, there would never have been a true orchestral tradition built in France, and that in 1813, the Philharmonic Society in London would have been ‘going it alone’.
In 1807, the Allgemeine Musikalisches Zeitung in Vienna noted the success of Habeneck’s work with the conservatoire orchestra. His name was not famous outside Frances, so much of his success was put down to Cherubini’s leadership. However, the article speaks of Habeneck’s understanding in Beethoven’s orchestral works, which had grown, along with his players’ expertise, in the years immediately following his 1804 ¬premier prix:
“Cherubini, with the collaboration of several faithful colleagues and teachers, has imparted to the zeal of the conservatoire students not only impetus, but a new direction…the Beethoven Symphonies. The 1st received a masterly performance. Since this work is very lively and easy to understand….some applause was to be expected, but no one expected such a large success as this.”
In 1809, the amateur, the Baron de Trémont, then ‘Auditor to the Council of State’, came to Vienna after the bombardment of that city. He sought out Beethoven, and offered to defray the cost his visit to Paris; a visit which never happened. The great composer was very aware of the new orchestral standards that Habeneck was pioneeringat the Conservtoire:
“I should like to hear Mozart’s symphonies – (he mentioned neither his own nor those of Haydn) – in Paris; I am told that they are played better at the Conservatoire than anywhere else.”
IN 1826 Habeneck initiated the Société des Concerts with a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, in 1826. This replaced the long – defunct Concerts Spirituels. Vidal takes up the story:
“In November 1826, on St Cecilia’s day, he organised a meal at his home for the most fervent ones, and he begged them to bring their instruments. The guests arrived, and they found the parts for a ‘heroic symphony’, unknown to them all, on the music stands. Habeneck asked for a reading; so they set to work; the day passed in the in the enthusiasm of labour. Four hours passed; everyone, host and guests, had forgotten about lunch, which Madame Habeneck, guessing what would happen, had taken care not to let go cold. She transformed it into an excellent supper, to which the hardy symphonists did honour, all thinking it excellent. The result, due to the tenacity and intelligence of Habeneck and sanctioned by the public, was the first seed of our admirable Société des Concerts, which was not long in being organised. The first took place in the actual hall, on Sunday 9th March at 1828, at two o’clock, and began the evenings with the ‘Heroic Symphony’ of which we have just been speaking.”
Hector Berlioz remembered the struggle that began with Habeneck’s appointment to the conservatoire Exercisesin 1804, up to and beyond the founding of the Société des Concerts in February 1828:
“It is thanks to him that his great institution, today famous throughout the civilised world, was founded at all. It was a hard struggle; and before he could secure adequate performances, he had to persuade a large body of players to share his enthusiasm for totally unfamiliar music which had the reputation of being eccentric and difficult to play; he had to overcome an indifference which turned to hostility at the prospect of endless rehearsals and unremunerative toil stretching ahead.”
Ironically, it was Habeneck’s innovation of the trained large orchestra that gave Berlioz the impetus for his very own ‘exercises’ in orchestral excess. Habeneck’s skill with large forces made works such as the Symphonie Fantastique possible. But it was also Habeneck who later provided the institutional resistance which Berlioz later attempted to break down, most particularly as his work requires the true conductor, working with a full score, rather than a violinist, given to taking snuff during performances.
Perhaps the most visible Stradivarius, most regularly seen on the Paris, was the magnificent 1734 example that Habeneck played. He was able to use the sheer power of this instrument, to great advantage as an orchestral director. Unsurprisingly, he was not noted as chamber musician, so there were not many works for small groups written for him. Only two quartets seem to have been dedicated to him during his lifetime-one by the gifted amateur, Georges Onslow (1784-1853), the other, a group of three by Zamboni, a conductor at the Théâtre Italièn.
Concert
Ferdinand Ries
In October 1801, the young pianist and composer Ferdinand Ries arrived in Vienna. He had come to study the piano intensively with the composer. Like Beethoven, he also went to study counterpoint with Albrechtsberger. This was, in many ways, the repayment of a debt. Ferdinand’s father, Franz had given violin lessons to Beethoven in Bonn, and effectively treated him as a member of his family. It seems that there had been a long-standing understanding that Beethoven should reciprocate in some way. He performed Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto on the 1st August 1804, to the great delight of his teacher.

Ries’s Op 38 Sonata, was published after Ferdinand had moved to London in 1813. However, stylistically, it seems likely that was written during this period, demonstrating Ries’ familiarity with Beethoven’s op 30 sonatas, and the ‘Rondo alla Zingarese’ of Beethoven’s own teacher, Joseph Haydn. It is notable that the Sonata was published with Stichnotenin the piano part which would enable this work to be played by pianist alone.

In 1803 Ries described his lessons with Beethoven to the Bonn publisher Nicholas Simrock:

“Beethoven takes more trouble with me than I could have ever believed. Each week I receiver three lessons, usually from 1 o’clock to 2:30. I can almost play his ‘Sonate Pathétique'(Op 13), which might give you pleasure, because the precision than he demands is hard to imagine. To hear him improvise, however, may not be
Schuppanzigh
Schuppanzigh had been Beethoven’s violin teacher, from 1794, a replacement for Ferdinand Ries’ father, Franz, his teacher in Bonn. A memo written that year reveals that he was taking three lessons a week, along with his technical studies with Johann Albrechtsberger and Anton Salieri. Information is sketchy at best, but is seems clear that their regular lessons gradually morphed into consultations on string techniques and eventually into what, for better or worse, can best be described as workshops. As ever, Beethoven’s correspondence is unhelpful on this subject. He did not habitually write to the people that he saw very regularly.
An example of this was the Czech composer and flutist Anton Reicha (1770-1836), his exact contemporary. Reicha was his colleague in the Bonn court orchestra, and then was in Vienna for eight years from 1802. There is evidence of a deep collaboration between the two, of mutual development of ideas, but practically no surviving correspondence. Nor would there needs be, for as a rule, the closer artists collaborate, the more frequently they work together, the less documentation there will be of that collaboration. Their communication takes place face to face, over the dining table, or in the rehearsal room.
And so it is with Ignaz Schuppanzigh (the dedicatee of the first three Sonatas for Piano and Violin, Op. 12. Schuppanzigh had been pupil of Anton Wranitsky. In the mid-1790’s he had become leader of the Prince Lichnowsky’s private quartet. Wranitsky’s other pupil, Josef Mayseder, who Beethoven called, ‘the Genius Boy’, became the most successful composers of Polonaises in Vienna, and the second violin of Schuppanzigh’s quartet.

joseph mayseder

Three years before the premiere of the Kreutzer Sonata, a young Viennese violinist, the son of an impoverished painter, gave a spectacular debut at the Augarten. Josef Mayseder (1789-1863) was just eleven years old, and a student of Anton Wranitzky (1761-1820). Like Beethoven, Wranitzky had studied composition with Haydn and Albrechtsburger; he was now Prince Lobkowitz’ Kapellmeister, and also the teacher of Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830), with whom Beethoven had begun a collaboration from the moment of arriving in Vienna in 1792(As well as premiering all of Beethoven’s quartets, Schuppanzigh also premiered all of Beethoven’s earlier sonatas for piano with violin, Op 12, Op 23, Op 24 and Op 30). Within a few years, Mayseder was doing distinguished service in Schuppanzigh’s quartet. Ignaz von Mösel wrote:
‘Schuppanzigh, who understood so perfectly how to interpret Haydn’s and Mozart’s ideas, was perhaps even more qualified to perform Beethoven’s compositions. The early flowering of Mayseder’s talents first found recognition in that circle and it was there that he developed that union of taste and elegance which are the characteristics of his playing.’
Beethoven held the gifted teenager in the highest esteem, referring to him as the ‘genius boy’. In 1814 he wrote to him:
‘I hope that on this occasion too Herr von Mayseder will not refuse my request to support me with his fine talent. My desire for perfection in the performance of my works will excuse my having to trouble him. The performance is at 12 o’clock sharp…’
In the same year, Mayseder led the first performance of a mass in F major by a young composer, the first commission received by a gifted 17-year-old young student of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), Franz Schubert (1797-1828).
By the age of twenty years old, Mayseder was given the gold ‘Salvatormedal’ by the city of Vienna, and the freedom of the city five years later. In 1820, he was appointed the solo violinist to the imperial court. By the time of the Congress of Vienna, Mayseder had achieved huge popular acclaim as the composer of Polonaises, the craze of the moment, and for a while, his renown as a dance composer eclipsed his justifiable fame as a virtuoso. He was a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral. In his transcription of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Joseph Joachim even requested that one particular polonaise-like section be played à la Mayseder. His extraordinary Grosse Sonata Konzertirend dates from the time of the concert series that he gave with Giulani and Hummel, the Dukaten Konzerte, and was most likely written for him to play with Hummel, which probably goes a long way to explain its punishing piano writing.
Mayseder’s Grosse Sonata Konzertirend was the first major duo work to respond to the challenge thrown down by Beethoven’s Op 47, his Sonata scritto in un stilo (brillante-erased) molto concertante, quasi come d’ un concert(the revised title on the rededicated sonata). Like Beethoven’s work, both instruments are given free virtuoso rein, with competing runs, roulades and cadenzas. Unlike many of his contemporaneous virtuoso violin composers, Mayseder did not confine himself to the ‘comfortable’ keys; despite its brilliance and velocity, the work reaches many remote keys, which are uncomfortable on the violin, revealing the composer as a player of quite unique gifts. The last movement is full of the Polonaise rhythms that made him so popular.
The great Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901) heard Mayseder play in old age at a private concert (he retired from public concert life in 1835).He wrote: ‘I was surprised to hear him play with such pure intonation and so much fire.’ However, upon hearing him at a private concert in Paris, Giacomo Meyerbeer was less impressed:
‘Called on Polessi…Attended the rehearsal of Herr Mayseder’s concert. He draws beautiful sounds from his instrument and masters the greatest difficulties with ease; his playing is, however, a little monotonous. What amazed me most was a run of three octaves through broken thirds that ‘ in alt’ (top octave) became chromatic. I cannot recall having ever heard the violin played like this.’ (Diary August 1812)
He might have been describing the violin writing in the sonata, where both instruments vie in Liszt-ian bravura. Indeed, when Anton Diabelli (1781-1858) published his collection of fifty composers’ variations on a waltz of his in 1824, Mayseder’s contribution followed on from Variation 41, written by ‘Franz Liszt, Knabe von 11 Jahren, geboren in Ungarn’. Liszt (1811-1886) toured performing Mayseder’s chamber works, and most particularly his Piano Trio Op 50 at the beginning of his career; in 1826 he could be found playing one of Mayseder’s ever-popular Polonaises in Paris with the sixteen year-old violinist Karl Ebner, a programme that he shared with the celebrated mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran.
Later in Beethoven’s life, Mayseder was one of the friends who were concerned at Beethoven’s living conditions. He wrote to a friend, Schloesser:
‘This is not the first time that Beethoven’s friends have taken his clothes during the night and laid down new ones in their place; he has not the least suspicion of what has happened and puts on whatever lies before him with entire unconcern.’
In Beethoven’s conversation books for the spring of 1825, there is a record of a conversation between two of his friends as to the relative merits of Mayseder and Joseph Böhm, before the second ‘premiere’ of the Op 127 E Flat Major quartet (after Schuppanzigh’s disastrous first attempt).
‘Karl: Mayseder plays more brilliantly, Böhm more expressively.
Holz: I believe that Mayseder would play it better- he conducts the other three while Böhm lets it (the quartet) play itself.’
ConcertBut back to the variations. The published dedication,
‘a Mademoiselle Eleonore de Breuning’
Should be read in the context of the relationship between Beethoven and Breuning family, of which became a ¬de facto member. His ‘Dearest and Best Friend’, Dr Franz Gerhard Wegeler, wrote that as Beethoven’s home life (his father was an alcoholic) deteriorated, the Hofraetin Helene von Breuning (Eleanor’s mother)
‘…soon became a second mother to him. In many ways she exercised a moderating influence on the occasionally hot-headed obstinacy of his character … a lasting bond of friendship was established between the children and Beethoven.’
Helenne, the widow of Court Councillor von Breuning, lived in a big house on the Muenster-platz, Bonn. Wegeler noted that:
‘Before the War, this was a prosperous household, so it is easy to understand that it was here that Beethoven experience the first happy discoveries of his youth. [He] was soon treated as a son of the house. Not only did he spend the greater part of the day her, but sometimes the night… here he received his first introduction to German literature, particularly poetry.’
…Beethoven became particularly close to Stephan, the second son, and the two of them shared violin lessons with the great Franz Ries, whose son, Ferdinand, would later become Beethoven’s piano student in Vienna, repaying the debt of the lessons that Beethoven could never afford. As Haydn noted in his letter to the aggravated Elector Maximillian Franz, Beethoven was often short of money. In a similar way, Stephan Breuning later repaid a debt of friendship to Beethoven. His son, Gerhard, came to live with Beethoven at the end of his life, and attended to him on his death bed.
His relationship with Eleanor was confused; it seems clear that she saw him as Sibling, whereas, he, not surprisingly, imagined something more. She became a distant ideal for him, and of course, would become the central, re-imagined womanly ideal of Fidelio originally named, for her, Leonora. It is worth reminding ourselves that Beethoven was always in and out of love, often with a number of women at the same time, so she may have been glad of the distance which the long war would impose between them.
A note that Eleanor penned to her young friend as he left for Vienna draws my attention to the literary conversations and banter of the Muensterplatz house. In the Stammbuch which a number of his admirers put together on his departure from Bonn in November 1792, she wrote a quote from Johann Gottfried Herder’s Zerstreute Blaetter (vol 4). This was the newest thing-the volume which she quoted from was only published that year.
‘Friendship with one who is good
Grows like the evening shadows
Until the sun of life sets…
…your true friend [etc.}’
Beethoven’s communications with her were often far from being so respectful. A year later, Beethoven send the dedicated Variations to her, with a long letter, from which I must cherry-pick.
‘Accept this trifle and realize that it comes from a friend who holds you in high esteem. Oh, if it only gives you pleasure, then I am fully rewarded. …/ … I add a request, that I may be lucky enough … to possess again a waistcoat worked from you in [yellow] angora… I still have the first one which you were kind enough to give me in Bonn, but it is now so out of fashion that I can only keep it in my wardrobe as a precious gift from you …/ …
PS: The Variations will be somewhat difficult to play, especially the trills in the Coda. Don’t let that alarm you. It is so arranged that you need only play the shake, the other notes you leave out, as they are also in the violin part….
Bridgetower
The Manuscript catalogue at the British Library includes the following entry, catalogue number Add.71148, an intriguing reminder of Beethoven’s often underestimated links with Britain, ranging from his arrangements of Scottish folksongs for the Scottish publisher and entrepreneur G S Thomson (1757-1851) to the commissioning of the Ninth Symphony by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. It reads: ‘Tuning fork said to have been given by Beethoven to G A P Bridgetower, with related documents, and a label in the hand of Gustav Holst.’ Holst (1874-1934) actually in turn gave it to Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), and his widow gave it to the library.
There is no record of when Beethoven gave the tuning fork to the black virtuoso violinist, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1779-1860). The object itself might seem insignificant: a small elegantly crafted fork, slighter than most modern equivalents, nestling on a blue velvet cushion in a walnut box. The simple functionality of the gift somehow adds to its romance.
“A curious debut which aroused much interest was that of M. Bridge-Tower, a young Negro from the colonies, who played several concertos for the violin with a neatness, a facility, and execution and even a sensibility which are rarely met with at so tender an age (he is not yet ten years old). His talent, as genuine as it is precocious, provides one of the best answers that one can make to the philosophers who would deny to those of his nation and of his colour the faculty of distinguishing themselves in the arts.”
(Mercure de France reviews Bridgetower’s first appearance in a Concert Spirituel on 13th April 1789)
BridgetowVariéer, a British national, was of mysterious African and Polish ancestry. His father was personal page to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy (1765-1833). He made his first appearance as a soloist on April 13th 1789 at a Concert Spirituel in Paris, billed as the son of an ‘Abyssinian Prince’. Typically for the time, as can be seen from the review above, his age was misrepresented, a humiliation which had also been visited upon the young Beethoven. With the revolution, he came to England, where he studied with, amongst others, Mozart’s student, Thomas Attwood. On the 2nd June 1790, he gave a joint concert with the ten-year old Franz Clement, who late premiered Beethoven’s violin concerto and led all the early performances of the Eroica Symphony Op 55, which Beethoven was sketching out whilst writing the Kreutzer Sonata. In 1791, Mayseder played solos in Salomon’s concert series; this, the year of Haydn’s visit. They no doubt had much in common, as Bridgetower’s father was in service in the Esterhazy court at Eisenstadt. Bridgetower came to royal notice in the same year, when he played a solo between the sections of Handel’s Messiah, at the Drury Lane Theatre. He soon found himself working as solo violinist for George, Prince of Wales, later George IV (1762-1830), at the Brighton Pavilion.
In 1802, Bridgetower managed to persuade the Prince that he should travel to mainland Europe, to see his mother in Dresden, and also to meet with musicians in Vienna. George, in the aftermath of his father’s ‘mad-business’ was commencing the building work that would eventually transform the ‘Marine Pavilion’ into an Oriental palace. Evidently he felt that there was little point paying a musician to work in a building site, and was happy to provide his servant with such an opportunity to improve his skills. For Bridgetower, this ‘sabbatical’ may have been the only way he could see of freeing himself from his service to the Prince. He certainly never showed any intention of coming back, so George’s liberality failed to bring any greater lustre to his music room in Brighton.
Bridgetower’s trip had much in common with Beethoven’s own journey to Vienna from Bonn in 1792. As Beethoven’s patron in Bonn Count von Waldstein (1762-1823) put it, Beethoven was sent to Vienna on a training visit ‘to receive the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn’ – and to bring it gloriously back to his employer’s court. But, like Bridgetower, Beethoven never returned to his employer.
The short, tempestuous relationship between Bridgetower and Beethoven resulted in the composition of the Sonata for Piano with Violin Op 47, now called the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. It was originally dedicated to Bridgetower, and the two premiered the work in the Augarten on the 24th May 1803. That much is clear from the dedication on the ‘Forautograph’ manuscript kept in the collection of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn. Little is known of the working relationship between the composer and the British violinist. It is likely that the cause of the meeting was the aforementioned Franz Clement, with whom Beethoven was sharing apartments in the Teater an der Wien at that time. The friendship ended almost as soon as it began, foundering, according to Bridgetower, because of a disagreement over a woman. Most likely their passionate temperaments were the cause of their parting. That ‘Forautograph’ is one of the few relics of the relationship, along with some perfunctory letters from Beethoven to Bridgetower, the tuning fork, and Bridgetower’s own description of a rehearsal of the sonata. This last document makes it very clear that the two actually played from the ‘Forautograph’ manuscript in rehearsal. The manuscript breaks off half way through the first movement, and is in Beethoven’s sketchiest hand, as if written in some haste. Perhaps Beethoven had to work up the sonata from his sketches for the first rehearsal. (This may be why he re-used the last movement of his earlier Sonata in A major, Op 30 No 1, as the finale for this work.)
Tellingly, the manuscript does not include any of the cadenza material in the first movement as we have it today. The American writer Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817-1897), one of Beethoven’s major nineteenth-century biographers, clarifies this point and tells us a great deal about the working relationship that Beethoven had with the violinist. He describes a moment where Bridgetower imitated Beethoven’s improvised piano cadenza, playing it spectacularly, an octave higher, racing into the stratosphere of the violin’s range. Beethoven stopped, shocked, and then shouted ‘Noch Einmal, mein lieber Bursch!’ (Once again, my dear fellow!) this time holding the sustaining pedal of the piano down so that the violin was not left bare and unaccompanied as it flew up the C major arpeggio. This done, he leapt from the piano bench and embraced his colleague. Here we have a fantastic account of a player boldly stepping into the territory of the great composer-improviser, which for many people today, for Beethoven’s colleagues and contemporaries, and even, to a degree, for Beethoven himself, was the privilege of his invention and imagination. Perhaps Bridgetower was the only collaborator whose extravagance of manner and gesture rivalled Beethoven’s own; Carl Czerny (1791-1857), who was studying with Beethoven in 1803, recalled that Bridgetower’s extrovert playing made him laugh out loud. Little is know of Bridgetower’s subsequent career in Vienna, but after his return to England, he decided on further study. In June 1811, he took his bachelor’s degree at Cambridge, and played in the inaugural season of the Philharmonic Society in 1813. He died in Peckham.
In common with all composers before the time of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) and Hector Berlioz, Beethoven’s fame rested as much on his impact as a performer, as on his compositions. To separate the professional virtuoso and improviser from the composer, would have seemed perverse to Beethoven’s contemporaries. Indeed, most of the laudatory accounts of Beethoven’s playing, from his arrival in Vienna onwards, speak mainly of the impact of his extemporization, his extraordinary ability to evoke atmosphere and mood through improvisation, rather than his digital brilliance or subtlety or the merits of specific works. All players of the time – soloists, orchestra players or chamber specialists – elaborated existing works with cadenzas and ornamentation. This was the great age of the instrumental duel, fought ‘to the death’ between improvising soloists. Beethoven himself fought several such duels with pianists such as Abbé Joseph Gelinek (1758-1825), Joseph Wölffl (1772-1812) and Daniel Steibelt (1765-1823).
Beethoven’s attitude to improvisation and ornamentation was revealingly inconsistent. He often shocked and even angered his colleagues by inserting unexpected and unwonted cadenzas into his chamber music, such as the Quintet for Wind and Piano Op 16. But he also remonstrated with junior colleagues and pupils such as Carl Czerny (1791-1857) and Ferdinand Ries for taking precisely the same liberties that had brought him fame with the selfsame works. Looking at the first edition of the Sonata Op 47, one finds no violin cadenza where Bridgetower would have played it at the first performance. By the time the work was published their relationship had gone sour; Beethoven had changed the dedication to honour the French virtuoso and technical theorist Rodolph Kreutzer (1766-1831), who in fact never performed the sonata. He was later to be seen running from a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with his hands over his ears.
Bridgetower shows us the great composer and his opinionated interpreter in collaboration and offers a tantalizing glimpse of the tempestuousness of Beethoven’s creativity and compositional processes. Perhaps this was the only time that Beethoven worked with a string player whom he regarded as a peer, whether as a friend or artist. The original dedication on the sonata is both affectionate and mocking: ‘Sonata mulattica. Composta per il Mulatto Brischdauer – gran pazzo e compositore mulattico.’ (‘Mulatto Sonata. Composed for the Mulatto Brischdauer [sic] – great lunatic and mulatto composer.’) The gift of the tuning fork seems equally ambiguous. It may have been a gift in the joshing spirit of their relationship: a helpful present, disguised as an insulting joke about violinists’ intonation. Most likely, the two musicians were unable to agree on a standard pitch, which éd all across Europe and was invariably an issue when players from different countries sat down to work together. (It still is.) Perhaps they had an argument over the pitch of Beethoven’s pianos, which we know, from the earliest accounts of his piano playing in Bonn onwards; he habitually mistreated and kept in wanton disrepair.
It would be typical of Beethoven to say thank you with such a backhanded compliment. He was always nastiest to his closest friends when trying to express affection. Perhaps Beethoven’s knowledge of history might have provided a subtler agenda. It was the British inventor John Ford, one of Handel’s assistants, who conceived the idea of the tuning fork in the second decade of the 18th century. If Beethoven knew this, his gift may also have been expressing his appreciation of the British contribution to musical technique and expression, from George Handel (1685-1759), Beethoven’s stated favourite composer, and Ford, to Bridgetower and the Prince Regent.

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