BEETHOVEN'S MISSA SOLEMNIS
BEETHOVEN'S  ARTISTIC
AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
TOWARDS HIS LATER COMPOSITION
OF THE MISSA SOLEMNIS



 



Angels Making Music. Around 1510
Matthias Grünewald
from the Isenheim Altar
(Colmar, Alsace, France, Unterlinden Museum)
 

 

 

A LOOK AT THE BONN COURT OF THE 18TH CENTURY

 

If we want to thoroughly (at least as thoroughly as we can do that as lay people) explore the path that, on the one hand, led Beethoven to keeping the ancient Egyptian inscriptions under a glass plate on his desk that we have referred to on our start page, and that, on the other hand, led him to the composition of his Missa solemnis, we should first take a look at the musical life at the Bonn court during the 18th century in order to gain an impression of the various aspects that had an influence on Beethoven's intellectual and spiritual development that would lay the ground for his readiness to compose the work we are discussing here.  The best source for such an exploration is still the Thayer-Forbes standard biography, the first chapter of which discusses the Bonn court in detail.  

Since we already had an opportunity to look at general aspects of the form of government at the Bonn court in our Biographical Pages, we might wish to take a closer look at the 18th-century rulers of this court.  With respect to them, Thayer writes:  

"Of the last four Electors of Cologne, the first was Joseph Clemens, a Bavarian prince, nephew of his predecessor Maximilian Heinrich.  . . . the Emperor invested him with the electoral dignity December 1, 1689.  Vehse(1) says of him:

"Like two of his predecessors he was the incumbent of five sees; he was Archbishop of Cologne, Bishop of Hildesheim, Liege, Ratisbon and Freising(en)*.  His love for pomp and splendor was a passion which he gratified in the magnificence of his court.  He delighted to draw thither beautiful and intellectual women. . . . For seventeen years, that is, until the disastrous year 1706, when Fénelon consecrated him, he delayed assuming his vows.  He held the opinion, universal in the courts of those days, that he might with a clear conscience enjoy life after the manner of secular princes.  In pleasing the ladies, he was utterly regardless of expense, and for their amusement gave magnificent balls, splendid masquerades, musical and dramatic entertainments, and hunting parties."

St. Simon relates that several years of his exile were passed at Valenciennes, where, though a fugitive, he followed the same round of costly pleasures and amusements.  He also records one of the Elector's jests which in effrontery surpasses anything related of his contemporary, Dean Swift.  Some time after his consecration, he cause public notice to be given, that on the approaching first of April he would preach.  At the appointed time he mounted the pulpit, bowed gravely, made the sign of the cross, shouted "Zum April!" (April fool!), and retired amid a flourish of trumpets and the rolling of drums.{2}

Dr. Ennen{3} labors energetically to prove that Joseph Clemens' fondness in later years for joining in all grand church ceremonies rested upon higher motives than the mere pleasure of displaying himself in his magnificent robes; and affirms that after assuming his priestly vows he led a life devoted to the church and worthy of his order; thenceforth never seeing Madame de Raysbeck, mother of his illegitimate children, except in the presence of a third person. . . " (Thayer: 5-6; to * and the (en) of Freising(en) that we put in brackets:  this Bavarian writer is at a loss at the concept of a 'Bishop of Freisingen', while the city of Freising, approximately 40 km northeast of Munich, designates the actually older seat of the 'modern' Archiocese of 'München und Freising' (Munich and Freising), which leads this writer to wonder if 'Freisingen' in Thayer: 5 might not merely be a misprint).

What--at least indirectly--connects Joseph Clemens to Beethoven's family, is his role as Bishop of Liege, where Louis van Beethoven, who was born in 1712, would later work at the Cathedral as baritone singer and choir leader.  While Beethoven's grandfather Louis van Beethoven received his first musical training at the Cathedral of Malines, Joseph Clemens held his office as Cardinal and Elector of Cologne at the Bonn court up to his death on November 12, 1723.   

His successor, his Wittelsbach nephew Clemens August was the last Wittelsbach Elector at the court of Bonn, as Thayer (p. 8) reports.  He, too, held various ecclesiastical offices:  as Thayer reports, during his childhood, Clemens August was Coadjutor  of the Bishop of Regensburg, and in 1719, he was appointed as Bishop of Münster and Paderborn, and in 1722, he became Coadjutor of his uncle in Cologne and on May 15, 1724, he "made his solemn entry into Bonn as Elector".  In the same year, he was also appointed as Bishop of Hildesheim, 1725 as Provost of the Cathedral of Liege, 1728 as Bishop of Osnabrück and, finally, in 1732, as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.   

As Thayer reports, his reign was mainly characterized by the building repair and "embellishing" of palaces, hunting chalets, churches, monasteries and other "edifices".  At Bonn, he initiated the building of the palace which, today, is the seat of the University, the building of a new city call, the enlargement of the Villa Poppelsdorf, whereby it was turned into a small palace, and in Brühl, the building of the Augustusburg.   As Thayer (p. 8) further writes, Dr. Ennen reported that Clemens August spent an inordinate amount of money on his "Wittelsbacher Baulust" (the Wittelsbach nobility's passion for building, as it is well-known in Bavaria).  Moreover, he also spent money on art works, masked balls, sleigh rides, opera performances, dramatic performances and ballets.  The theater and the opera alone cost him 50,000 Talers a year.  A vivid impression of Bonn can be gained from David Hume's travel report of the European continent during the year 1748:

                                                                                                                                               "Bonne (Bonn), der 24.  März

Dies ist, ungefähr sechs League von Köln entfernt, eine angenehme, gut gebaute kleine Stadt an den Ufern des Rheins, und sie ist Sitz des Erzbischofs.  Wir haben einen halben Tag mit der Besichtigung seines Palastes verbracht, der ein ungemein prächtiges Gebäude ist.  Mit Ausnahme des Königs von Frankreich ist er bestimmt der am besten untergebrachte Fürst in Europa.  Denn außer diesem Palast und einer Art Lustschloss (33) nahebei (das eleganteste Ding auf Erden) gehören ihm noch zwei sehr prächtige Landhäuser.  Er ist der Bruder des vorigen Kaisers (34) und soll ein sehr feiner Gentleman sein, dem Vergnügen zugetan, sehr galant und höflich.  An seinem Hof beherbergt er stets eine Truppe französischer Komödianten und italienische Sänger.  Und da er sich aus Kriegen immer heraushält, durch die Heiligkeit seines Standes geschützt, hat er nichts zu hoffen und nichts zu befürchten und scheint der glücklichste Fürst in Europa zu sein.  Doch wäre zu wünschen, daß er ein wenig mehr Sorgfalt auf seine öffentlichen Straßen verwendete, selbst um den Preis, daß seine Möbel, Bilder und Gebäude etwas weniger elegant wären.  Wir sind in ein Land gekommen, wo es keine offenen Kamine, sondern Öfen, und keine Decken, sondern Federbetten gibt.  Weder das eine noch das andere mag ich, sind doch beide zu warm und stickig"  (Aus:  Aufklärung und Kritik, Zeitschrift für freies Denken und humanistische Philosophie.  Herausgegeben von der Gesellschaft für kritische Philosophie Nürnberg. 2/1998  5. Jahrgang; Prof. Dr. Gerhard Streminger  David Hume: Journal einer Reise aus dem Jahre 1748.  S. 3 - 26: S. 9; --

-- a note to our English-speaking readers:  the above translation into German has been arranged by the Austrian Hume expert, Professor Kurt Streminger, of the University of Graz, to which he holds the copyright; at this time, we have no access to the English original; therefore, we can only try to approximately describe the content of this report, as follows:  Hume writes that Bonn is a pleasant, well built small city at the Rhine, approximately six leagues from Cologne and that it is the seat of the Archbishop.  Hume and his travel companions visited the palace for half a day.  Hume found it a very splendid building and points out that, with the exception of the King of France, the Archbishop (Clemens August) must surely be the best-situated ruler of Europe.  As Hume further explains, in addition to the Bonn Palace, he also has a Palace nearby and two country seats.  He describes Clemens August as the brother of the former Emperor and as a fine, polite and gallant gentleman of leisure who always has troupes of French comedians and Italian singers at his court.  In addition, the fact that he can stay neutral in wars, due to his office as a church ruler, puts him, as Hume reports, into a position in which he has nothing to hope and nothing to fear, which probably makes him the happiest ruler of Europe.  However, as Hume also points out, he could spend more money on the upkeep of the roads in his city and in his country, even if that might mean that he would have less money to spend on furniture, paintings and buildings.  Hume then regrets the fact that this is a country without open fireplaces and blankets but rather a country with stoves and down quilts, as he does not like either one, as they are too hot and stuffy for him).

Thayer/Fobes (p. 9) appears to confirm Hume's report of Clemens August: 

"He was a bad ruler, but a kindly, amiable and popular man.  How should he know or feel the value of money or the necessity of prudence?  His childhood had been spent in captivity, his student years in Rome, where, precisely at that period, poetry and music were cultivated, if not in very noble and manly forms, at least with a Medicean splendor" (Thayer: 9).

If we recall the first section of our Biographical Pages, we will remember that, very likely, Clemens August also heard Beethoven's grandfather Louis van Beethoven sing at the Cathedral of Liege so that he very likely invited him to seek office at the Bonn court as a singer and that Louis van Beethoven followed this invitation in the year 1733.  This means that Louis van Beethoven spent nearly thirty years of service under Clemens August as baritone singer.  Also his son Johann began his service as tenor singer in his service, in the year 1756.   With respect to Clemens Augusts' end in the year 1761, Thayer reports:    

"This Elector is perhaps  the only archbishop on record to whose epitaph may truthfully be added:  "He danced out of this world into some other";--which happened in this wise:  Having, in the winter of 1760-61, by some unexpected stroke of good fortune, succeeded in obtaining from the usually prudent and careful bankers of Holland a loan of 80,000 thalers, he embraced the opportunity of making a long-desired visit to his family in Munich.  Owing to a sudden attack of illness he was once on the point of turning back soon after leaving Bonn.  He persevered, however, reached Coblenz and crossed over to the palace of the Elector of Treves at Ehrenbreitstein, where he arrived at 4 p.m., February 5, 1761.  At dinner an hour later he was unable to eat; but at the ball, which followed, he could not resist the fascination of the Baroness von Waldendorf--sister of His Transparency of Treves--and danced with her "eight or nine turns."  Of course he could not refuse a similar compliment to several other ladies.  The physical exertion of dancing, joined to the excitement of the occasion and following a dreary winter-day's journey, was too much for the enfeebled constitution of a man of sixty years.  He fainted in the ballroom, was carried to his chamber and died next day" (Thayer: 9-10).

After this sudden death of the last "Wittelsbach" Bonn Elector, the office went to another house, namely to  Maximilian Friedrich of Königsegg-Rothenfels (from Swabia).  Thayer reports that Maximilian Friedrich was the fourth in his family who held the office of the Dean of the Cathedral of Cologne and on April 6, 1761, he was "elevated to the electorship" of Bonn, while in the year after, to that of the ecclesiastical principality of Münster.   As Thayer confirms, Maximilian Friedrich would only hold two offices.  As Thayer further reports, he was a good-natured, friendly man who left it to his minister, Kaspar Anton von Belderbusch, to reduce expenses and to turn the Electorate of Cologne into one of Germany's most flourishing states.  As Thayer (p. 15) further reports, the latter immediately stopped all construction activity, dismissed some actors and reduced the number of concerts and balls, cancelled all expensive hunting events, reduced the salaries of the court officials as well as the budget for the Electoral kitchen in order to improve the Court's finances.  The dismissal of the previous Kapellmeister, Touche Moulin, created an opening and an opportunity for Beethoven's grandfather Ludwig to apply for this position that he, in the absence of Moulin, already filled.  The court decree of July 16, 1761 confirmed his appointment for an annual salary of 387 Talers in comparison to his previous annual salary as court singer of 292 talers.  The kind of problems he had to put up with in this position is shown in a petition that the new Kapellmeister directed to the Elector in the year 1768.  It also provides us an idea of his duties that we might otherwise not have come to know in his own words:   

                                                                                               "I.

                                          Most Reverend Archbishop and Elector, Most Gracious Lord, Lord.

Will Your Electoral Grace deign to listen to the complaint that when Court Singer Schwachhofer was commended in obedience to an order of His Excellency Baron von Belderbusch to alternate with Jacobina Salomon in the singing of the solo in the church music as is the custom, the said Schwachhofer in the presence of the entire chapel impertinently and literally answered me as follows:  I will not accept your ordre and you have no right to command me.

Your Electoral Grace will doubtless recall various disordre on the part of the court chapel indicating that all respect and ordonance is withheld from me. each member behaving as he sees fit, which is very painful to my sensibilities.

Whenever my humble prayer reaches Your Electoral Highness that the public affront of Schwachhofer be punished to my deserved satisfaction and that a decree issue from Your Highness to the entire chapel that at the cost of Your Gracious displeasure or punishment according to the offence my ordre shall not be evaded.

                                                                                                                 Your Electoral Grace's

                                                                                                       Humble and Most Obedient Servant

                                                                                                              Ludovicus van Beethoven

                                                                                                    II.

To Kapellmeister van Beethoven

Concerning the Court Musicians.

                 M.F.E.

Receive the accompanying Command to the end that its contents be conveyed to all of our court musicians or be posted on the "toxal".  We remain, etc.

                                                                                                                 Bonn, April 26, 1768.

                                                                                                    III.

                                                                              Command respecting the Court Musicians

Having learned with displeasure that several of our court musicians have tried to evade the order issued by our Kapellmeister or refused to receive them from  him, and conduct themselves improperly amongst themselves, all of our court musicians are hereby earnestly commanded without contradiction to obey all the commands given by our Kapellmeister in our name, and bear peaceful relations with each other, since we are determined to proceed with rigor against the guilty to the extent of dismissal in certain cases.

                                                                                                                     Sig. Bonn, April 26, 1768" (Thayer: 20-21). 

What we can learn from this petition and the resulting decree with respect to church music at the Bonn court are, unfortunately, only the facts that off and on, the Kapellmeister had his deal of sorrows with his singers and that they worked in the "toxal" (choir gallery).  Unfortunately, from the time of Maximilian Friedrich's reign, there remain only a few sources with respect to church music details.  One of these few sources are notes with respect to various performances as, for example, on the occasion of the Elector's birthday on May 13, 1767.  Let us quote this list from Thayer:  

"1767.  May 13.  The Archbishop's birthday.  Here is the programme condensed from the long description of the festivities in the Bonnische Anzeiger:

1.  Early in the morning three rounds from the cannon on the city walls;
2. The court and public graciously permitted to kiss His Transparency's hand;
3. Solemn high mass with salvos of artillery;
4. Grand dinner in public, at which both papal nuncios, the foreign ministers and the nobility were the guests; and the  eating was accompanied by "exquisite table-music";
5. After dinner "a numerously attended assembly";
6. "A serenata composed especially for this most joyful day" and a comic opera in the palace theatre;
7. Supper of 130 covers;
8. Bal masqué until 5 a.m." (Thayer: 26).

What we can see from this list is also confirmed by Thayer's further report (p. 27), namely, that, at that time, Bonn's court singers and musicians were employed in the Court church, at the Electoral dining table and at the Court theatre, where the singers had to be fluent in the Latin of the masses, but also in the German, Italian and French of the opera and operetta performances.  Maximilian Friedrich's birthday on May 13, 1773, apparently offered Beethoven's grandfather Ludwig one of his last opportunities to perform on stage as baritone singer, namely in Lucchesi's opera, L'Inganno scoperto, overo il Conte Caramella.  

As we already know from our Biographical Pages, after Kapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven's December 1773 death, Lucchesi became his successor.  With respect to him and to Cajetano Mattioli, whom Christian Gottlob Neefe described as "Capelldirector" and who was hired on as concert master on May 26, 1774 and who was promoted to music director on April 24, 1771, we can at least acquaint you with Thayer's quote of Neefe's brief report of their contributions to the musical life of the Bonn court in general and with respect to church music, in particular:  

"He studied in Parma with the first violinist Angelo Moriggi, a pupil of Tartini, and in Parma, Mantua and Bologna conducted grand operas like Orfeo, Alceste, etc. by the Chevalier Gluck with success.  He owed much to the example set by Gluck in the matter of conducting.  It must be admitted that he is a man full of fire, of lively temperament and fine feeling,  He penetrates quickly into the intentions of a composer and knows how to convey them promptly and clearly to the entire orchestra.  He was the first to introduce accentuation, instrumental declamation, careful attention to forte and piano, or all the degrees of light and shade in the orchestra of this place.  His bowing has great variety.  In none of the qualifications of a leader is he second to the famed Cannabich of Mannheim.  He surpasses him in musical enthusiasm, and, like him, insists upon discipline and order.  Through his efforts the musical repertory of this court has been provided with a very considerable collection of good and admirable compositions, symphonies, masses and other works, to which he makes daily additions; in the same manner he is continually striving for the betterment of the orchestra.  Just now he is engaged in a project for building a new organ for the court chapel.  The former organ, a magnificent instrument, became a prey of the flames at the great conflagration in the palace in 1777.  His salary is 1,000 fl.

The kapellmeister [appointed May 26, 1774] was Mr. Andrea Lucchesi, born May 28, 1741, at Motta in Venetian territory.  His teachers in composition were, in the theatre style, Mr. Cocchi of Naples; in the church style, Father Paolucci, a pupil of Padre Martini at Bologna, and afterwards Mr. Seratelli, Kapellmeister of the Duke of Venice.  He is a good organist and occupied himself profitably with the instrument in Italy.  He came here with Mr. Mattioli as conductor of an Italian opera in 1771.  Taken altogether he is a light, pleasing and gay composer whose part-writing is cleaner than that of most of his countrymen.  In his church-works he does not confine himself to the strict style affected by many to please amateurs."

Neefe enumerates Lucchesi's compostions as follows:  nine works for the theatre, . . . various intermezzi and cantatas; various masses, vespers and other compositions for the church; . . . " (Thayer: 33-34).

Since Lucchesi was still serving as Kapellmeister during Beethoven's service as young court musician at the Bonn court, our brief look at the 18th century Bonn court and our attempts at tracing its church music comes to its conclusion, here.   We are very aware that the information offered here does not present a thorough, well-rounded picture of the actual situation.  What we can learn from this information is, on the one hand, the all-too-human behavior of Bonn's 18th-century rulers and the role church music played at this court that was representative of its time, namely as that of only one aspect of the musical life at this court at which instrumental and secular music, as elsewhere in the 18th century, played an increasing part.  This situation therefore also formed the background of Beethoven's instruction in music.  


 

A BRIEF LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S CHILDHOOD

 

After we have taken a look at the 18th-century Bonn court and at its church music, we should take a look at Beethoven's childhood and there follow the traces of Rhenish Catholicism in his native city and try to find connections from it to his own particular situation.  

In the context of this English version of our look at Beethoven's intellectual and spiritual development towards his later composition of the Missa solemnis, it might not be as easy as in its German version to refer to the implicitness of Catholicism as an everyday companion of life in a Rhenish-Catholic Electorate, as German-speaking readers will have an easier time at understanding the relationship of this general context to the particularly Rhenish savoire-vivre (as Heinrich Böll "explains" it without "explaining" in his absurd story, Christmas Every Day, which, in essence, is a spirit that cherishes the celebration of Carnival over the celebration of Christmas).    

If we keep this general frame of reference in mind and try to, in our imagination, combine it with the conditions that prevailed in the 18th century, we might first be able to try to imagine the Beethoven family, as we have come to know it from our Biographical Pages, as taking their place in this context as Bonn court musicians.  In doing so we will, of course, realize that the general frame of reference that pertains to a particular geographical region only provides a stage on which the individual characteristics of each Beethoven family member come into play, in particular.   

In the life of the pre-schooler Ludwig van Beethoven, the piety of his mother, Maria Madgalena van Beethoven, as his friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler related it in his Biographische Notizen and as Thayer (p. 51) quotes from his report, served as his most important link to religion.  What we can not know, today, is, from what age on small children in the Bonn of the 18th century were encouraged to and taken along to attend church.    

From this, there arises in this writer the question what religious and general impressions were those that might have been added to Beethoven's immediate, first contact with religion through his mother.  However, we might safely assume that the December 1773 death of his grandfather and the subsequent keeping of his memory alive in Beethoven through the tales of his mother must have formed permanent impressions in the then three-to-five-year old Ludwig so that he might have gained a first idea what might be expected of a male member of this family of court musicians to whose duties also belonged the performance and knowledge of church music.  

We might also safely assume that at least at the time of the beginning of his school attendance at the Bonn  Tirocinium, at the age of five to six years, Beethoven would also have been used to attending Sunday Mass with his mother, while his father's place was on the choir gallery as tenor singer as part of the court chapel.  

Religiösous instruction as well as some rudimentary Latin were, as Thayer (p. 59) imparted on Beethoven during his four-year attendance of the Tirocinium, while he, himself, to a gradually increasing degree, gained an understanding of his own role in church as musician through his organ training (Thayer: 60, 61) and through his voluntary help as organist at early Mass in one or the other Bonn church (Thayer: 61-62).  Perhaps we should take a look at Thayer's report with respect to this:  

"A strong predilection for the organ was awakened early in the lad and he eagerly sought opportunities to study the instrument, apparently even before be became Neefe's pupil.  In the cloister of the Franciscan monks at Bonn there lived a friar named Willibald Koch, highly repsected for his playing and his expert knowledge of organ construction.  We have no reason to doubt that young Ludwig sought him out, received instruction from him and made so much progress that Friar Willibald accepted him as assistant.  In the same way he made friends with the organist(12: Herr Pater Hanzmann.  He is mentioned in the Fischer manuscript) in the cloister of the Minorites and "made an agreement" to play the organ there at t o'clock morning mass.  It would seem that he felt the need of a familiarity with a larger organ than that of the Franciscans.  On the inside of the cover of a memorandum book which he carried to Vienna with him is found the note;  "Measurements (Fussmass) of the Minorite pedals in Bonn."  Plainly he had kept an interest in the organ.  Still another tradition is preserved in a letter to the author from Miss Auguste Grimm, dated September, 1872, to the effect that Heinrich Theisen, born in 1759, organist at Rheinbreitbach near Honnef on the Rhine, studied the organ in company with Beethoven under Zenser, organist of the Münsterkirche at Bonn, and that the lad of ten years surpassed his fellow student of twenty.  The tradition says that already at that time Ludwig composed pieces which were too difficult for his little hands.  "Why, you can't play that, Ludwig," his teacher is said to have remarked, and the boy to have replied:  "I will when I am bigger" (Thayer: 61-62).  

As we can see from Thayer's report, the child Ludwig van Beethoven gained a definite self-understanding and self-confidence as organist.  How this understanding would deepen is what we will try to find out in our look at his youth up to his first journey to Vienna. 

 


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S YOUTH UP TO HIS FIRST JOURNEY TO VIENNA

 

From our Biographical Pages we know that, after Beethoven left the Bonn Tirocinium, the autodidact Saxon composer Christian Gottlob Neefe who had come to Bonn in 1779 with Grossmann's Theater company and who had been appointed as Bonn Court organist on January 17, 1781, took him under his wings as a court music apprentice.  

 


Christian Gottlob Neefe

Since we have already discussed the relationship between pupil and teacher in our Biographical Pages and in our article on Beethoven's intellectual development in our subsection Nietzsche and Beethoven, we want to concentrate here on extracting out of this information what is relevant to us in the context of our present discussion.  

With respect to this it is important that we do not underestimate Neefe's intellectual influence on Beethoven with respect to Beethoven's musical and spiritual development towards his later composition of his Missa solemnis.  In this context we have to consider that Neefe, as Thayer (p. 78) reports, was not a Catholic but rather a Calvinist, but also a free thinker who, up to its voluntary dissolution, served as the Bonn head of the Bavarian-originated Illuminati who also played a vital role in the life of the subsequently formed Bonn Reading Society.   

Here, we might also, not without reason, ask ourselves whether or not the young Beethoven, who, through his role as volunteer organist at early masses in one or the other Bonn church, had already been used to a more practical participation at Mass as an organist rather than as a regular churchgoer,  through Neefe's influence, might have moved further away from an inner necessity of a strict adherence to formal Catholicism in form of regular church attendance, although his daily routine still kept up his outer connection to this life rhythm.  We might also raise the question as to whether Neefe might have contributed to Beethoven's personal dealing with religious questions.   

With respect to Beethoven's musical progress at the organ and the practical outcome of it on the extent of his duties under Neefe, we may quote Thayer directly:  

"On this day, June 20, 1782," Neefe writes of himself and the Grossmann company, "we entered upon our journey to Münster, whither the Elector also went.  The day before my predecessor, Court Organist van den Eeden, was buried;  I received permission, however, to leave my duties in the hands of a vicar and go along to Westphalia and thence to the Michaelmas fair at Frankfurt."  The Düsseldorf documents prove that this vicar was Ludwig van Beethoven, now just eleven and a half years of age" (Thayer: 65).

That Beethoven, whom Neefe introducted to composition, used his newly-acquired skills not only for the composition of secular works, can at least be seen in his composition of an Organ Fugue in D-Major, WoO 31, from the year 1783.  

As we already know from our Biographical Pages, Beethoven's 1784 appointment as assistant court organist led to the absurd situation that, intially, he was to only earn 50 florins less annually than his teacher Neefe whose salary had been reduced to 200 florins annually after the death of Maximilian Friedrich, in the course of Max Franz' succession of the latter.  However, we also know that this situation had soon been rectified in that Neefe's salary was adjusted at 400 florins annually, while Beethoven's salary was adjusted to 100 florins annually.  In this connection, we might find the following Bonn court notices interesting that we quote directly from Thayer:  

"Ludwig van Beethoven, age 13, born at Bonn, has served two years, no salary.  Ludwig Betthoven, a son of the Betthoven sub no. 8, has no salary, but during the absence of the Kapellmeister Luchesy he played the organ, is of good capability, still young, of good and quiet deportment and poor.

. . .

Item.  If Neffe were to be dismissed another organist would have to be appointed, who, if he were to be used only in the chapel could be had for 150 florins, the same is small, young, and a son of one of the court musici, and in case of need has filled the place for nearly a year very well" (Thayer: 79).

After our look at Beethoven's relationship to Neefe, there arises the question as to whether other Bonners might also have had a relevant influence on Beethoven, in the context of our present discussion.  We can confirm this by our familiarity with the fact that, in addition to the impressions of his childhood and of his tutorship by the free thinker Neefe, there opened itself up to him the opportunity of his close contact with the von Breuning family that provided him with a further opportunity at personal growth, from the year 1784 on.  

 

 



Silhouette of the von Breuning family


With respect to this we can note that in the von Breuning house, Beethoven was not only accepted as a piano teacher and friend of the children of the family and that he was not only acquainted with German literature there, but that in this house, he also found adults who, as substantial people, helped him wherever and whenever they could.  Since we already discussed Helene von Breuning's influence on Beethoven in our Biographical Pages, we might, here, take a look at further adult members of this family and quote Gerhard von Breuning's reports from his Memories of Beethoven - Erinnerungen aus dem Schwarzspanierhause:

"A brother of my grandfather, Johann Lorenz von Breuning, a canon in Neuss (always known in the family as the "Neuss uncle"), moved to Bonn at once to take charge of educating the four infant children and, as head of the family of his dead brother, to take care of the family's affairs, which he did until his death in Bonn in 1796, at the age of 58" (von Breuning: 25);

"There was still another brother of the deceased who had an influential place in the family.  This was the brother-in-law in Kerpen mentioned above, Johann Philipp von Breuning, born in Mergentheim in 1742 and a priest from 1769, who soon thereafter went to Kerpen as a canon and died there on June 12, 1832.  He was a very clever and extremely kind man; up to the time of his death, his house was the favorite playground all summer for the entire family and its friends, sometimes including Beethoven, who often played the organ in the church there" (von Breuning: 25).

In Beethoven's contacts with the 'clerical' von Breuning's, he also had an opportunity to broaden his 'religious outlook'.  Since, unfortunately, we do not have a direct report of his playing of the organ at Kerpen, we might 'substitute' Thayer's report of Beethoven's activity as Bonn assistant court organist:  

"On one occasion, in the week ending March 27, 1785, the vocalist was Ferdinand Heller, too good a musician to be easily disconcerted, the accompanist Ludwig van Beethoven, now in his fifteenth year.  While the singer delivered the long passages of the Latin text to the reciting note the accompanist might indulge his fancy, restricted only by the solemnity fitted to the service.  Wegeler relates that Beethoven "asked the singer, who sat with unusual firmness in the tonal saddle, if he would permit him to throw him out, and utilized the somewhat too readily granted permission to introduce so wide an excursion in the accompaniment while persistently striking the reciting note with his little finger, that the singer got so bewildered that he could not find the closing cadence.  Father Ries, the first violinist, then Music Director of the Electoral Chapel, still living, tells with details how Kapellmeister Lucchesi, who was present, was astonished by Beethoven's playing.  In his first access of rage Heller entered a complaint against Beethoven with the Elector, who commanded a simpler accompaniment, although the spirited and occasionally waggish young prince was amused at the occurrence" (Thayer: 81-82).

Unfortunately, in our next section, we will have less opportunity to also render cheerful reports of Beethoven's carrying out of his church music duties.  


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S LAST BONN YEARS

 



Silhourette of the 16-year-old Beethoven


In our Biographical Pages, we discussed Beethoven's first journey to Vienna in the spring of 1787 and his sudden return to Bonn on account of his mother's final illness.  His letter of September 15, 1787 to Joseph Wilhelm von Schaden allowed us some insight into his emotional state.  Let us quote the relevant passage from this letter:   

" . . . sie war mir eine so gute liebenswürdige mutter, meine beste freundin; o! wer war glücklicher als ich, da ich noch den süßen namen mutter aussprechen konnte, und er wurde gehört, und wem kann ich ihn jezt sagen? den stummen ihr ähnlichen bildern, die mir meine einbildungskraft zusammensezt?  so lange ich hier bin, habe ich noch wenige vergnügte stunden genoßen; die ganze Zeit hindurch bin ich mit der engbrüstigkeit behaftet gewesen, und ich muß fürchten, daß gar eine schwindsucht daraus entstehet; dazu kömmt noch melankolie, welche für mich ein fast eben so großes übel, als meine krankheit selbst ist. . . . das schiksaal hier in bonn ist mir nicht günstig."(6:  Wohl eine Anspielung auf seine familiären Verhältnisse.  Nach dem Tod der Mutter war für drei jüngere Geschwister zu sorgen, die Brüder Kaspar Anton Karl (13 Jahre alt) und Nikolaus Johann (11 Jahre alt) und die anderthalb Jahre alte Schwester Maria Margarete Josepha, die schon am 26.11.1787 starb.  Wie weit der Vater, Johann van Beethoven, in dieser Zeit noch in der Lage war, seiner Familie vorzustehen, lässt sich schwer ermessen.  Er wurde 1789 vom Dienst suspendiert und starb am 18.12.1792 im Alter von 52 Jahren.  Seine Trunksucht dürfte 1787 schon weit fortgeschritten gewesen sein.  Wie sein Gesuch um Gehaltsvorschuss (24.7.1787) zeigt, war die Familie stark verschuldet, s. Schiedermair a.a.O., S. 191" (Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Band 1, Brief Nr. 3, p. 5-6;

" . . . she was such a good, loving mother to me, my best friend; oh, who was happier than I when I was still able to call out the sweet name mother and it was heard, and to whom can I say it now?  to the silent images of her likeness that my imagination conjures up?  as long as I have been here, I have enjoyed few pleasant hours; all the time, I have been plagued by shortness of breath and I have to fear that this might even turn into consumption; to this is added melancholy that, to me, is an almost as great evil as my illness, itself. . . . fate here in Bonn is not kind to me;" the 'Gesamtausgabe refers to the fact that the last comment might be a hint at Beethoven's family situation since after the death of his mother, three children had to be cared for: his brothers Kaspar Anton Karl (13 years old) and Nikolaus Johann (11 years old) and his little sister Maria Margarete Josepha, who was only one and a half years old and who died on November 11, 1787.  The Gesamtausgabe also states that it is not certain to what extent Beethoven's father Johann was still able to look after is family and that, in 1789, he was suspended from his service and died on December 18, 1792, at the age of 52 years, and that it can be assumed that in 1787, his alcoholism must have progressed to a great extent.  As the Gesamtausgabe further notes, a petition for an advance (of July 24, 1787) shows that the family was in serious debt).

What we can discern from Beethoven's lines is his grief over the loss of his mother, his possible infection with tuberculosis that, if that was the case, his youthful constitution must have overcome, naturally, his melancholy and his dismal prospects in Bonn, while the "Gesamtausgabe" comments speak for themselves.  What we might also discern is that the sixteen-year-old assistant organist Beethoven, due to the practical cares and worries he had to deal with at that time, was not able to come to terms with his experiences, right away but rather that he had to set this working-through aside for the time being.  

From our Biographical Pages we also know that he would, however, have a chance to musically express some of his feelings:  As Barry Cooper (p. 23) reports, the first chance offered itself to him in his composition of the Sinfonia fragment from his so-called 'dark years' between 1786 and 1790, while, as Cooper further reports, the second chance to do so was his 1790 composition of his Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II, thus in secular works.  What possible influence the loss of his mother had on his further religious development, can not be ascertained from the facts that are available to us.  

What we can still take a look at with respect to Beethoven's last years in Bonn is his work as court musician.  With respect to this, we might ask ourselves in what areas he was employed.  As Thayer (p. 95) reports, in 1788, Maximilian Franz concentrated on the permanent establishment of a Court Theatre for drama and opera performances.  With respect to this, Thayer points out that Joseph Reicha was the director of the theatre orchestra, Christian Neefe its pianist and stage manager, and that Franz Ries, Andreas Romberg (violin), Ludwig van Beethoven (viola), and Anton Reicha (flute) were part of the orchestra and that a comparison of the lists of the court calendar of 1788 with that of the following years shows that many court musicians worked both in the court chapel and in the theater orchestra.  Beethoven's name, continues Thayer, appears both as organist and as member of the orchestra.  With respect to this, Thayer still reports: 

"(12) In a letter to Grossmann in April, 1791, Neefe makes the statement  '. . . everyone (with the exception of Steiger) has been appointed to serve together for life in the theatre, the church, and the concert'" (Thayer: 95).

From this it can be concluded that in his daily duties, Beethoven dealt with secular music in the court orchestra and with church music as organist of the chapel.  

While Beethoven's secular work, the so-called Joseph Cantata, very likely offered him a chance to travel to Vienna, for the second time, in the next section, we want try to find out to what extent he might have had a chance to also develop his musical skills with respect to church music further during his Vienna study years. 


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S VIENNA STUDY YEARS

 

A further 'dark spot' with respect to Beethoven's personal/emotional as well as spiritual and intellectual development is the December 1792 death of Beethoven's father, shortly after his arrival in Vienna, so that we have to concentrate on his musical development here.  

From what we already know from our Biographical Pages, it should be clear to us that Beethoven, in the midst of his counterpoint studies with Haydn and in light of his task of establishing himself as a successful piano virtuoso, that he might not have had many opportunities to expand his potential as a later composer of sacred works.  .

What can also be observed is that, due to the fact that Beethoven was no longer employed as a court organist who had to take his place during Mass at the court chapel, for many years, his direct 'musical' connection to church had been interrupted, for the time being.  Whether or not this might have prompted him to resume church attendance as a Christian lay person, we do not know.  

However, Beethoven's change in teachers from Haydn to Albrechtsberger that was caused by Haydn's departure on his second journey to England, offered him some opportunities to also develop his skills at the composition of church music.  With respect to this, we want to invite you to take another look at our page on the subject of Beethoven and Albrechtsberger.

Perhaps, you might also want to listen to some interesting listening samples of Beethoven's work under Albrechtsberger, at the Church Music Page of the 'Unheard Beethoven' Website, and we wish you a great deal of listening enjoyment for this visit!  ! 


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S FIRST YEARS AS COMPOSER (1795 - 1800)

 

As we know from our Biographical Pages and from Thayer, these years were mainly shaped by Beethoven's attempts at gradually mastering the various genres of instrumental composition, but also by his continued success as a piano virtuoso who composed works for this genre, while his intermediate contact with church music under Albrechtsberger ended with his instructions from this teacher. 

To what extent his lessons in vocal composition under Antonio Salieri had any effect on his composition of sacred vocal music, we can not determine with certainty.  

What is more certain is the possibility that his gradual loss of hearing that might have begun around 1796 had a long term effect on his intellectual and spiritual development, certain evidence of which we will be confronted with during his 1800 - 1802 crisis period.  


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S CRISIS YEARS FROM 1800 TO 1802

 

What should be of interest to us here, after our thorough discussion of this crisis in our Biographical Pages and in other creation histories are Beethoven's own references to his relationship to religion and to God during this time. 

 



Beethoven around 1800



In his letter of June 29, 1801 to Franz Gerhard Wegeler in Bonn, in which he, as we know, mentions his loss of hearing to him, for the first time, Beethoven also tried to 'pull himself together' with these words:  

"wering sagt, daß es gewiß besser werden wird, <obwohl ich es> wenn auch nicht ganz -- ich habe schon oft den schöpfer und mein daseyn verflucht, Plutarch hat mich zu der Resignation geführt, ich will wenn's anders möglich ist, meinem schicksaal trozen, obschon es Augenblicke meines Lebens geben wird, wo ich das unglücklichste Geschöpf gottes seyn werde. . . . " (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 1, Letter No. 65, p. 80; --

-- Wering says that it will certainly get better, <although I> although not entirely--on many occasions, I have cursed the creator and my existence, Plutarch has led me to resignation, I shall, if at all possible, oppose fate, although there will be moments in my life in which I will be God's most unhappy creature. . . . ").

Only two days later he wrote, among other things, the following to his friend Carl Amenda in Wirben:

"                                                                                                                             Vien den 1ten Juli [1801]

mein lieber, mein guter Amenda, mein herzlicher Freund!

. . . wie oft wünsche ich dich bey mir, denn dein B. lebt sehr unglücklich, im streit mit Natur und schöpfer, schon mehrmals fluchte ich letzerm, daß er seine Geschöpfe dem kleinsten Zufall ausgesezt, so daß oft die schönste Blüthe dadurch zernichtet und zerknikt wird, wisse, daß ich <den> <für mich> bey> mir der edelste<n> Theil mein Gehör sehr abgenommen hat, . . . " (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 1, Letter No. 67, p. 84-85; --

-- " . . . my dear, good Amenda, my sincere friend!

. . . how often do I wish you to be with me, since your B. lives very unhappily, at odds with nature and creator, already several times, I have cursed the latter, that he subjects his creatures to the slightest coincidences, so that often, the most beautiful blossom is destroyed and crushed, you must know that <the) <for me> <with> my noblest part, my hearing, has declined greatly, . . . ").

Over a year later, he wrote in the Heiligenstadt Will: 

"                                                                                           [Heiligenstadt, 6. und 10. Oktober 1802]

. . . -- Gottheit du siehst herab auf mein inneres, du kennst es, du weist, daß menschenliebe und neigung zum Wohlthun drin Hausen, . . .

. . .

emphelt euren <nach> Kindern Tugend, sie nur allein kann glücklich machen, nicht Geld, ich spreche aus Erfahrung, sie war es, die mich selbst im Elende gehoben, ihr Danke ich nebst meiner Kunst, daß ich durch keinen selbstmord mein Leben endigte --  . . .

. . .

-- o Vorsehung -- laß einmal einen reinen Tag der Freude mir erscheinen -- so lange schon ist der wahren Freude inniger widerhall mir fremd -- o wann -- o Wann o Gottheit -- kann ich im Tempel der Natur und der Menschen ihn wider fühlen -- Nie? -- nein -- o es wäre zu hart" (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 1, Letter No. 106, p. 122 - 123; --

-- " . . . -- Godhead, thou lookest down into my innermost, thou knowest it, thou knowest that love of man and inclination to do good dwell in it. . . . 

. . . 

recommend virtue to your childen, it alone can make one happy, not money, I speak from experience, it was what lifted me up even in despair, to it, in addition to my art, I owe it that I did not end my life with suicide-- . .  .

. . .

--O providence--let once appear to me a pure day of joy--for so long, the resounding of true joy has been alien to me--O when--O when--O Godhead--can I feel it again in the temple of nature and man--Never?--No--that would be too hard").

What we can discern from these lines, in any event, is that Beethoven's spiritual development was exposed to serious challenges that he tried to meet in his own way.  


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S YEARS OF SUCCESS FROM 1803 TO 1812 

 

 


Beethoven around 1804
Portrait by Willibrord Mähler

To what extent these serious mental challenges found their expression in Beethoven's sacred works of the following year, namely in his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, Op. 85, and in his six Gellert-Lieder Op. 48, will be discussed in our page on Beethoven's sacred works that he composed before the Missa solemnis, to which you will find a link right below.

However, that during these years, Beethoven's striving as a composer was mainly directed at secular works and their possibilities for musical expression, we already know from our Biographical Pages and from some of our Creation Histories.  

However, in the year 1807, Beethoven found yet another opportunity to compose a sacred work, namely his first mass, the Mass in C Major Op. 86, that  was commissioned by Prince Esterhazy.  We will also discuss this work in the following page:

Beethoven's Sacred Works before the Missa solemnis

Whether or not Beethoven's financially somewhat 'meager' years of 1806-1809 brought with them a process of his further development towards the composition of the Missa solemnis, can not be ascertained.  

However, that he, after the political situation had calmed down somewhat in the fall of 1809, increasingly turned to reading up on subjects that interested him, is confirmed by Thayer as follows: 

"Strikingly in point is the interest which he exhibits during these and following years in the oriental researches of Hammer and his associates. His notes and excerpts prove a very extensive knowledge of their translations, both published and in manuscript; and, moreover, that this strange literature was perhaps even more attractive to him in its religious, than in its lyric and dramatic aspects. In these excerpts,--indeed, generally in extracts from books and in his underscoring of favorite passages in them--Beethoven exhibits a keen perception and taste for the lofty and sublime, far beyond the grasp of any common or uncultivated mind. . . . The following, given here from his manuscript, is perhaps the finest transcription from Hindu literature:
God is immaterial; since he is invisible he can have no form, but from what we observe in his works we may conclude that he is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent--The mighty one is he who is free from all desire; he alone; there is no greater than he.
Brahma: his spirit is enwrapped in himself. He, the mighty one, is present in every part of space--his omniscience is in spirit by himself and the conception of him comprehends every other one; of all comprehensive attributes that of omniscience is the greatest, for it there is no threefold existence. It is independent of everything. O God, thou art the true, eternal, blessed, immutable light of all times and all spaces. Thy wisdom embraces thousands of always, and yet thou dost always act freely and for thy honor. Thou wert before all that we revere. To thee be praise and adoration. Thou alone art the truly blessed one (Bhagwan); thou, the essence of all laws, the image of all wisdom, present throughout the universe, thou upholdest all things. . . ." (Thayer: 480 - 481).

Thayer then also refers to Beethoven's concurrent interest in Goethe's West-Östlichen Diwan, his "collection of exquisite imitations of (then) fresh notices of the manners, customs, books and authors of Persia" (Thayer: 481).

In this context, Thayer also refers to Beethoven's interest in ancient Egyptian inscriptions that he might most likely have become acquainted with through his possible reading of Schiller's Essay "Die Sendung Moses" (The Mission of Moses) and that he then kept under glass at his desk.  Let us quote Schiller directly and then the translation of this text that Thayer features:  

"Die Epopten erkannten eine einzige höchste Ursache aller Dinge, eine Urkraft der Natur, das Wesen aller Wesen, welches einerlei nur mit dem Demiurgos der griechischen Weisen.   Nichts ist erhabener als die einfache Größe, mit der sie von dem Weltschöpfer sprachen.   Um ihn auf eine recht entscheidende Art auszuzeichnen, geben sie ihm gar keinen Namen.   Ein Name, sagten sie, ist bloss ein Bedürfnis der Unterscheidung; wer allein ist, hat keinen Namen nötig, denn es ist keiner da, mit dem er verwechselt werden könnte.    Unter einer alten Bildsäule der Isis las man die Worte: 'Ich bin, was da ist,' und auf einer Pyramide zu Sais fand man die uralte merkwürdige Inschrift: 'Ich bin alles, was ist, was war und was sein wird: kein sterblicher Mensch hat meinen Schleier aufgehoben.'  Keiner durfte den Tempel des Serapis betreten, der nicht den Namen Iao oder I-ha-ho--ein Name, der mit dem hebräischen Jeovah fast gleichlautend, auch vermutlich von dem nämlichen Inhalt ist--an der Brust oder Stirn trug; und kein Name wurde in Ägypten mit mehr Ehrfurcht ausgesprochen, als der Name Iao.   In dem Hymnus, den der Hierophant oder Vorsteher des Heiligtums dem Einzuweihenden vorsang, war dies der erste Aufschluss, der über die Natur der Gottheit gegeben wurde.  'Er ist einzig und von ihm selbst, und diesem einzigen sind alle Dinge ihr Dasein schuldig'" (Schiller, Gesamtausgabe, Vol 6/2: 270-271);

"The epopte (Egyptian priests) recognized a single, highest cause of all things, a primeval force, natural force, the essence of all essences, which was the same as the demiurgos of the Greek philosophers.  There is nothing more elevated than the simple grandeur with which they spoke of the creator of the universe.  In order to distinguish him the more emphatically they gave him no name.  A name, sad they, is only a need for pointing a difference; he who is only, has no need of a name, for there is no one with whom he could be confounded.  Under an ancient monument of Isis were to be read the words: "I AM THAT WHICH IS," and upon a pyramid at Sais the strange primeval inscription: 'I AM ALL, WHAT IS, WHAT WAS, WHAT WILL BE; NO MORTAL MAN HAS EVER LIFTED MY VEIL."  No one was permitted to enter the temple of Serapis who did not bear upon his breast or forehead the name Iao, or I-ha-ho--a name similar in sound to the Hebrew Jehovah and in all likelihood of the same meaning; and no name was uttered with greater reverence in Egypt than this name Iao.  In the hymn which the hierophant, or guardian of the sanctuary, sang to the candidate for initiation, this was the first division in the instruction concerning the nature of the divinity: "HE IS ONLY AND SOLELY OF HIMSELF, AND TO THIS ONLY ONE ALL THINGS OWE THEIR EXISTENCE" (Thayer: 481-482).

Already at this juncture, Thayer discusses Beethoven's religious outlook that he must have formed, by that time.  However, whether and to what extent Beethoven's views might be considered "formed" and "final" can not be determined without considering Beethoven's further personal, written remarks on the subject.  

What we can determine in conclusion of our look at this period of his life is that during it, Beethoven added further compositional successes to his already impressive list of successful compositions that would contribute to the fact that, during his crisis years of 1812 - 1815, he would outwardly arrive at the height of his fame. 

 


A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S CRISIS YEARS FROM 1812 TO 1815 

Beethoven's life and work of this period was shaped by the events that are already known to us from our Biographical Pages, namely the end of his so-called second creative period, thus the end of his heroic style, with the seventh and eighth Symphonies, with the revision of his opera Fidelio in the year 1814, but also with his bread work and potboiler, the so-called Battle Symphony on Wellington's Victoria at Victoria, his fight for the stabilization of his annuity, his relationship to the Immortal Beloved, her loss, his grieving period over that loss and his renewed compositional activities and his popularity in the wake of the political events of 1814/15 at the Congress of Vienna.  

 



Beethoven's  Life Mask, 1812


From this we can at least conclude that many influences moved Beethoven during that time, from further existential problems to his final renunciation of real or imagined happiness at the side of his Immortal Beloved to his grief over this loss, followed by personal neglect and renewed compositional activities of various kinds and the zenith of his popularity in the wake of political events.   

How much of that which plagued and influenced him he was actually able to artistically express in his secular works and how much of it he had to carry on as burden, we can not know.  That his burden would not become lighter during the ensuing years we can discern from our look at the next period in his life.  

 


 

A LOOK AT BEETHOVEN'S YEARS
BEFORE HIS COMPOSITION OF THE MISSA SOLEMNIS (1815-1818)



 


Beethoven 1815
Portrait by Willibrord Mähler

What a difference we can see in Beethoven's facial expression in the above Mähler portrait to that from the year 1804:  there, we see an idealized hero at the beginning of his musical triumph, here, we see the face of a man who has come to know all kinds of human sufferings--and yet, he had not even begun to embark on his most challenging and tragic human endeavor, namely his struggle for his guardianship of his nephew Karl after the death of his brother on November 15, 1815.   

A look at his correspondence of winter, 1816, provides us with some insight into the further progress of this matter: 

1.  On January 9, 1816, the Austrian "Landrecht" informed Beethoven that he was awarded the exclusive guardianship of his nephew and that he should appear before them on January 19, 1816, to swear his oath; Karl's mother Johanna also received notice of this decision; 

2.  Am January 21, 1816, Beethoven wrote to Nikolaus von Zmeskall: " . . . ist's mir möglich, so erscheine ich heute bey ihnen u. zwar mit meinem Neffen, als dessen Vormund ich vorgestern in Voller Rathsversammlung bey dem L.[and[ r.[echten] dem Presidenten den Handschlag gebeben. -- ich werde also nun in diesem meinem lieben Neffen allen meinen Feinden u. Freunden suchen etwas besseres herzovzubringen als ich selbst. . . . " (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 880, p. 211-212; italics by the website author; " . . . if possible, I shall appear before you, today, together with my nephews, as whose guardian I shook the Landrecht President's hand, two days ago, before the full assembly of that body.--thus I will seek to bring forth something better than myself in this, my dear nephew, for all of my enemies and friends (to see)");

3.  On February 1, 1816, Beethoven wrote to Cajetan Giannattasio del Rio that he would bring Karl to him, the next day, and Karl, too, had to write a few dutiful lines:  "Ich freue mich sehr zu Ihnen zu kommen.  Und bin Ihr Carl van Beethoven" (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 893, p. 219; "I am very much looking forward to attend your school and am your Carl van Beethoven");

4.  On February 6, 1816, Beethoven wrote to Antonie Brentano in Frankfurt: " . . . derweil habe ich gefochten um ein armes unglückliches Kind einer unwürdigen Mutter zu entreißen, und Es ist gelungen[3] -- te deum laudamus -- macht mir viele jedoch Süße Sorgen . . . (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 897, p. 222; " . . . meanwhile I have fought in order to wrest a poor, unhappy child from his mother, and I succeeded--te deum laudamus--however, it brings me much sorrow . . . ");

5.  On February 10, 1816, Beethoven wrote to Cajetan Giannattasio del Rio:  " . . . -- in Ansehung der Mutter ersuche ich Sie Selbe einige Täge, unter dem Vorwande daß er beschäftigt sey, gar nicht zu ihm zu laßen, kein Mensch kann das besser wissen u. beurtheilen als ich, . . . ich werde selbst mit ihnen verabreden, wie die Mutter künftig Karln sehn kann, . . . -- alle Verantwortung deswegen nehme ich über mich, u. was mich selbst betrift, So haben mir die Landrechte volle Gewalt u. Kraft gegeben, alles ohne Rücksichten zu beseitigen, was wider das wohl des Kindes ist, hätten Sie Selbe als rechtliche Mutter ansehn können, So  würden Sie Sie gewiß nicht von der Vormundschaft ausgeschloßen haben. . . . " (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 900, p. 260; " . . .--with respect to the mother I request that, with the excuse that he is very busy, to not let her see him, at all, no man can know and judge this better than I, . . . I will arrange with you, myself, how his mother can see Karl in future, . . .--all responsibility with respect to this, I take upon myself, and as far as I am concerned, the Landrecht has granted me full power and force to remove without consideration everything that is against the well-being of the child, had they been able to see her as the rightful mother (of the child), they would certainly not have excluded her from the guardianship. . . . ");

6.  On February 11, 1816, Giannatasio asked Beethoven for a 'Auctorität', (written authority) that he does not have to grant Johanna van Beethoven access to her son, and on February 15, 1816, Beethoven confirmed this to him and wrote of the mother's conduct:   "Diese Nacht ist diese  K ö n i g i n   d e r   N a c h t  bis auf 3 uhr auf dem künstlerball gewesen nicht allein mit ihrer Verstandeßblöße sondern auch mit   i h r e r   k ö r p e r l i c h e n --für 20 fl, hat man sich in die Ohren gesagt, daß sie zu haben -- sei, o schrecklich und unter diesen Händen sollen wir unsern kostbaren Schatz nur einen Augenblick vertrauen?  nein gewiß nicht. . . . " (Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Volume 3, Letter No. 904, p. 229; "Last night, this Q u e e n   o f   t h e   N i g h t was at the Artists' Ball until three o'clock, and that not alone with the bareness of her brain but also with her p h y s i c a l  bareness--one has whispered in each others' ear that she can be had for 20 florins--oh, how terrible, and to such hands we should entrust our valuable treasure for even a moment?  No, certainly not. . . . ");

7.  Subsequently, Beethoven provided Giannatasio with the written authority the former had requested, and in his correspondence with him, he continued to describe Johanna as the "Queen of the Night", and on March 8th, 1816, Ginannatasio confirmed to Johanna in writing that, if she wanted to see her son, she would have to exclusively deal with her brother-in-law.  

As Charles Witcombe writes in his article, Beethoven's Markings in Christoph Christian Sturm's Reflections on the Works of God in the Realm of Nature and Providence for Every Day of the Year in the Beethoven Journal of Summer, 2003, much speaks for the possibility that Beethoven had acquired his copy of Sturm's "Betrachtungen" during the period of 1811 to 1816 and that he had read and that he,  "pursuing sole guardianship of his nephew in the courts . . . desperately needed spiritual comfort and guidance" and that "one source of comfort was Sturm's Betrachtungen" (Witcombe, Beethoven Journal, Sommer 2003: 12).  Of the 56 passages that Beethoven had marked, according to Witcombe, 27 deal with God, and and if one takes a look at these passages that have been translated into English.  The passages we feature below belong to the period of January 1 to March 16.  Although we do not know if Beethoven really read those entries during those days of the year 1816, the 'closeness in time' still might make us consider the possibility.  Let us take a look at these entries as they are featured in the Beethoven Journal: 

"1. Der 1. Januar: Neujahrsbetrachtung": "Reflections on New-Year's Day" (vol. 1, p. 2)

God will certainly provide me with friends in whose love I can find happiness and joy.  I shall not fear either those who threaten my life with persecution and danger or those who appear to thwart all my prudence.  I trust in the Lord, who took me into his protection during my childhood when I was exposed to a thousand daily dangers.

Marked by Beethoven's handwriting in margin: "Ach, ich habe aber zu [...]"

2.  "Der 3. Januar:  Tägliche Proben der Vorsehung Gottes" (Wednesday): "Daily Proofs of God's Providence" (vol. 1, pp. 8-9)

[Then I will very naturally be able to adopt for myself the saying of that pious patriach]: I am not worthy of all your mercy and truth, which you have given your servant.

9. "Der 15. Januar: Betrachtungen über mich selbst": "Reflections on Myself" (vol. 1, p. 41)

And that my body should be a temple 

Where your spirit always lives.

10. "Der 16. Januar:  Schaden durch außerordentliche Kälte": "Hurt Occasioned by Extraordinary Cold" (vol. 1, p. 45)

A small offense, an insignificant damage that they suffer at the hands of their best friends or benefactors often destroys the memory of the greatest kindness that they have received.  Their ingratitude and pride imagine the latter as extraordinarily small, but the former as extraordinarily large.

22. "Der 9. März:  Die Hoffnung des Frühlings": "On the Hope of Spring" (vol. 1, p. 192)

Be praised for the hope of eternity that you have won for me.  What would my life, my happiness, and my joy that I find in this world be without it if I could not cherish that sweet hope: to live eternally one day, to be eternally blessed, to be eternally joyful?  And now I have this hope!  How insignificant are all the sufferings that I have to endure here.  As rough and as long as the winter of my life may be, confidently I wait for spring and the renewal and improvement of my situation in that world.

23.  "Der 11. März:  Beförderungsmittel der Fruchtbarkeit in der Natur": "The Various Means which Contribute to the Fertility of Nature" (vol. 1, pp. 196-97) 

B.  I only ask one thing of you, my God: do not stop working on my improvement.  You may unsettle me through your threats or refresh me with your promises; you may pull me towards you through the severity of your punishment or through the grace of your blessings:  I shall welcome all the means of improvement that you deem good according to your wisdom.  Let me only return to you in whatever way it may be and become fruitful through good works.

As Witcombe confirms, the underlined passages in the texts have been underlined by Beethoven. 

Does the serious content of his above-listed correspondence and his serious striving for the well-being of his nephew that is expressed in it not correspond to Beethoven's serious search for meaning in the Sturm texts that have been quoted here?   

Of course, here, we do not wish to allow ourselves to judge the benefit or harm of Beethoven's endeavors in his guardianship over his nephew, we only tried to take a look at the intensity of his striving that might, at least in some part, also reflect the intellectual and spiritual intensity of his late works, the greatest of which--in his own opinion--we shall subsequently discuss.  

 

 


Beethoven 1818 (Sketch by Kloeber)

Before we embark on this journey, we might wish to take a look at Beethoven's inner motivation and his inner readiness for the composition of the Missa solemnis



Beethoven's inner Motivation for
the Composition of the Missa solemnis

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