ERNST ORTLEPP ON BEETHOVEN 


 



View of Droyßig, Ortlepp's Birth Place
 


INTRODUCTION

Inge Buggenthin (Hollenstedt) submitted for publication to the website of the Ernst Ortlepp Gesellschaft two PDF documents containing Beethoven texts by Ernst Ortlepp.  These German texts can be accessed at that website under "Werke":

 

Ernst Ortlepp Website

 

The first of them was published in:

"Das Buch der Welt
ein Inbegriff
des
Wissenswürdigsten und Unterhaltendsten aus den Gebieten der Naturgeschichte, Naturlehre, Länder- und Völkerkunde, Weltgeschichte, Götterlehre u.

Neunte Lieferung, Stuttgart
Hoffmann'sche Verlags-Buchhandlung
1845

P. 26 - 30".

Our translation of it into English reads as follows:

BEETHOVEN

Born at Bonn, the 17th of December 1770,
died in Vienna, the 26th of March, 1827

There is something wonderful and mysterious about the essence of great artists: they stand before us as unsolvable mysteries that not only provide reasons for thought to their own era, but for all future ages.   In this vein, we are bound to be filled with amazement about a mind that, precisely there where art appears to already have been fulfilled, suddenly took it up with an apparently new approach and lifted it up to an even higher level.  Such a mind was that of Beethoven.  Who would have found it possible that, after Handel, Gluck, Haydn and Mozart, there could come an even greater artist?  And yet, such an artist came--a very unique, profound genius that stood entirely separate and apart, which we will now consider more closely.  However, here, we have to limit ourselves to a few cursory strokes of the brush, since the complete image of this great man would fill an entire book.

When Haydn, returning from his first journey to England, also touched Beethoven's native city, Bonn, Beethoven presented to him a Cantata; Haydn praised the attempt and encouraged the young composer to continue along the path that he had chosen.  Already then, Beethoven adopted the principle of pursuing his goals without regard for any opinions and attacks.  "If it amuses people," he said, "to write about me, then, in God's name, may they enjoy it.  I want to let them have their fun."  To this character trait of his, another was added:  rank and wealth were mere coincidences to him, and to bow before money, he considered the greatest indignity for a talented mind.

When, in the year 1792, Beethoven turned to Vienna, he still knew little about counterpoint and harmony.  Disregarding rules, he followed the inspirations of his genius, and father Haydn, whom he showed his work, found little to criticize.  Since general attention soon turned on him, his creative talent felt doubly encouraged.  Publishers paid him the fees for his works that he demanded, and thus his general circumstances were quite pleasant.  In 1800, he wrote his First Symphony in C major, which is still kept in an entirely Mozartian style.  On a brief journey to Leipzig and Berlin, he attracted great attention.

After this fortunate period, all of a sudden, his hearing began to suffer.  All remedies were tried, but in vain; with every passing year, this malady grew worse and would ultimately render him deaf.  What a fate for such a great master of music!  To this misfortune, trouble with his relatives was added, very often, as well as the pursuit by those who were envious of him.  This period saw the composition of his oratorio "Christ on the Mount of Olives" which he, as he did later (in 1805) with his opera Fidelio, composed in the thicket of the woods of Schönbrunn palace, sitting between the trunks of two oak trees, about two feet above the ground.  He also emerged with the fiery Symphony in D major that, here and there, is still reminiscent of Mozart.

In the year 1802, it occurred to him to immortalize the hero of that time, Buonaparte, with a great instrumental work.  However, he only began with this work in 1803, and its completion was delayed until 1804 by some other work that came in-between.  Thus the wonderful work was created that we know by the title "Sinfonia eroica".  However, when news reached Vienna that   N a p o l e o n   B u o n a p a r t e had crowned himself Emperor of France, he tore the title page off and renamed the Symphony.

In the years 1804 - 1805, he was preoccupied with his work on his opera  F i d e l i o , which had to suffer one revision after another.  Thus, he wrote alone four overtures for this work; the last in C-major was the one that was kept.   Moreover, he also had problems with the singers.   When the work was finally ready to be performed, his anger about the lack of its success-- which did not fulfill his expectations--made him swear to himself that he would never think of composing another opera.

When he had somewhat recuperated from his anger, he composed his Symphony in B-major, this well-rounded, fiery work, full of soul and life.  This, in the years 1806, 1807 and 1808, was followed by the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, in addition to many other compositions.  At their premieres, he usually conducted the works, himself.

During this time,  B e e t h o v e n  received many valuable presents that, however, soon would vanish without a trace.  When he was asked about where this watch or that ring went, he would ponder this for a while and then reply, "I do not know."  However, he only knew too well, but was too fine of feeling that he would embarrass others by disclosing their embezzlements.

Foreigners of all nationalities went to see  B e e t h o v e n .   Generally, they were well received by him.  Towards them, he never mentioned anything of his misfortune; however, it could not be hidden, and most of them left with tears in their eyes.

Among the visitors was also  B e t t i n a   B r e n t a n o , who saw a second Goethe in him, in spite of the great difference between the Weimar Privy Council and the Viennese musician.  Through   B e t t i n a , Beethoven became acquainted with the Brentanos in Frankfurt who, in times of need, proved their friendship to him.  Also the 1812  T e p l i t z  meeting between Goethe and Beethoven had been initiated by Bettina.   However, Beethoven would not gain from it since the great poet and minister forgot Beethoven only too soon, and in 1823, when he [Goethe], without much trouble, would have been able to do Beethoven a great favor, did not even deign his letter worthy of a reply.

In the years 1811 - 1812 he [Beethoven] was very intensively engaged in his work.  He had already composed around 100 works, and the fees for his works increased year by year.  However, to the same degree, Beethoven's needs, caprices and peculiarities increased and cost him a great deal of money.  Alone his frequent change of apartments cost him a lot, since, often, he even held on to three or four apartments at the same time.  In all of Vienna, he was known as a noisy tenant, on account of which it was often difficult to find a suitable apartment for him.

He took so little heed of his wardrobe needs that often, he did not even have a complete coat or a complete shirt.  It was Frau   N a n e t t e    S t r e i c h e r  who earned the privilege of bringing some order into his domestic chaos.

The time of the Congress of Vienna was advantageous for  B e e t h o v e n .   A welcoming cantata was performed before the royalties, together with the Battle of Victoria and the Symphony in A-major, and from various parties, he received sizeable presents.  Moreover, he received a great number of visits by the prominent foreigners who were in Vienna.  Later, he would often joke about the way in which he had them do him "the honors" and on which occasions he had held himself "admirably."

After the death of his older brother Karl he wanted to become the guardian of his talented, neglected son.  On account of this, legal proceedings took place, whereby he behaved very peculiarly, often enough.  When he, for example, was asked to prove his nobility that did not appear to be guaranteed by the Dutch word "van", he emphatically said, pointing to his head and to his heart, "my nobility is here and here!", which, of course, was not sufficient before the courts of law.

In the year 1819, at  M ö d l i n g , he composed his second Mass.  In order to gain an impression of his domestic situation at that time, let us feature a few lines from his diary.  Thus, for example, he would ask:


1. "What does one give two servants to eat at noon and in the evening, both with respect to quality and with respect to quantity?"
2. "How often does one give them roast? Does this occur at noon and in the evening?"
3. "That which is meant for the servants to eat, is it the same that the master eats, or do they prepare their food separately, i.e. do they prepare other food than the master's?"
4. "How many pounds of meat does one calculate for three persons?"
Further:
1819, May 22, arrived at Mödling
Miser et pauper sum
May 24, the servant has started her job, at six florins monthly.
May 29, the housekeeper has been dismissed.
1820 on April 17, the kitchen maid has begun her service.
April 19, a bad day (i.e. he had nothing to eat, since all dishes were spoiled due to the long waiting time)
May 16, the kitchen maid has been dismissed.
May 19, the kitchen maid has left.
May 30, the woman has begun her service.
July 28, evenings, the kitchen maid has fled.
The four "terrible days", the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of August, ate at Lerchenfeld.

In the years 1821 - 1822, he wrote the three Piano Sonatas, Op. 109, 110 and 111.  The grand Sonata in B-major, Op. 106, he still composed during the time of the guardianship trials.

Let us feature a few characteristic anecdotes, here. -- Once, his brother Johann boasted and said:  "You will, after all, not get as far in life as I have!"  When, after a few days, a visiting card of his brother was presented to him [Beethoven], that was signed "Johann van Beethoven, land owner", he immediately wrote on its back side:  "Ludwig van Beethoven, brain owner."

Z e l t e r , in his correspondence with Goethe, recalls:  "Lately, Beethoven entered a restaurant; he sat at the table, in deep thought, and after an hour, he called the waiter:  "What do I owe?" -- "Your honor has not eaten, yet; what shall I bring for him?" -- "Bring, what you like, leave me alone!"

When the King of Prussia offered him either a medal or 50 ducats for his new Mass, he did not hesitate but replied to the Prussian emissary, "Fifty ducats!"

In the spring of 1823,  B e e t h o v e n went again to the friendly village of Hetzendorf, to the villa of Baron von Pronay, who had reserved a number of rooms for him, and as blissful as it was for Beethoven to run through the park or to look at the pleasant surroundings from his windows, his stay there would soon turn sour on account of the Baron's making him "such devoted compliments."

Toward the end of the year 1823, he began to work on his Ninth Symphony, for which he had brought back many sketches from the countryside, and already in the spring of 1824, this musical giant was completed.  Unfortunately, this profound composition was completed at a time in which public taste was quite different.  For a number of years, Italian opera had won over German music, and particularly   R o s s i n i  swept everyone away.  Thus, the great German king of music saw himself pushed off his throne and forgotten.  Naturally, this course of events depressed him.

In such a mood, he must have written the following three notes that a peculiar with respect to their bitter brevity:

To Count Moritz L.
"Falsehoods, I despise. Do not visit me anymore!
The Academy (the concert) will not take place."
                                                          Beethoven

To Herr Sch.
"Do not visit me any more! I am not giving an Academy."
                                                         Beethoven

To Herr S.
"Do not visit me any more, until I will call for you.
No Academy.
                                                        Beethoven

On May 7th, in Vienna, his great Mass and the Ninth Symphony were performed.  At the end of the concert, a real storm of applause set in, but unfortunately, he would never see another triumph like that.--The entire fall and winter, his health was ailing; in 1825, he recuperated enough that he was able to compose a few commissioned quartets.  In the year 1826, however, he fell ill with pneumonia, again, which was soon followed by signs of dropsy.  At that time, a novel by Walter Scott fell into his hands.  He had not read in it for very long when he threw the book away and cried out bitterly:  "The devil take this smudge.  The fellow only writes for money!"

Since he steadfastly insisted on not touching his bank notes, now, he found himself without money and ill, in a truly precarious situation.  In his dire need, he wrote to  M o s c h e l e s  in London, who, at the orders of the Philharmonic Society, immediately sent him a draft for 1,000 florins.  Feeling that his end was near, he looked towards it with the greatest calm.  After he had received the sacraments in the morning of the 24th of March, at noon, at about 1 o'clock, the most terrible fight between death and life set in that lasted, without interruption, until 5 o'clock in the evening on March 26th, when, finally, the great tone poet gave up his life, accompanied by a heavy thunderstorm and lightning; [he was] 56 years, 3 months, and nine days old.  In the afternoon of March 29th, he was buried.--His estate amounted to 9,019 florins.

One of   B e e t h o v e n ' s  peculiarities was his dislike of giving music lessons.  Those who wanted to learn from him had to find the right moment.  At the table and during walks, he would speak in the most enlightening manner; only two things one was not allowed to bring up:  general bass and religion.

In summer and in winter, he always rose early and worked until noon.  In the meantime, he would run outdoors, several times, where he, as he called it, "worked while walking".  While composing, he would often go to his wash basin, pour one jug of water after another into his hands and hum and howl to it (since he could not sing), and would then, with terribly rolling eyes or with a stern look, walk across the room,  step to his desk now and then in order to jot something down, and would continue on and on with his washing and bathing.  He called this "the hour of my meditation."  In the afternoon, he would never work, but rather, after a simple meal, take excursions into nature.  At dusk, he would fantasize at the piano, or play violin or viola.  In the evenings, he usually did not work, but rather, as a rule, would go to bed without supper at ten o'clock.  His favorite beverage was water.  However, he also had a predilection for watered-down wines that, often enough, caused his weak abdomen trouble.  In the evening, he would like to drink a glass of beer and smoke a pipe of tobacco.  When he was thus engaged, the "Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung" would not be missed, the reading of which took up a great deal of his life.  Among the old writers, he particularly liked Homer and Plutarch, among the newer ones Goethe and Schiller, and, above all, Shakespeare.

Beethoven was a heavy-set man, about five foot and four inches tall.  He had a muscular body of strong bone structure and an unusually large head, with long, wild hair, that often hung around his forehead in a neglected fashion, which gave him a wild appearance, particularly when his beard grew overly long, which was often the case.  His small brown eyes hid almost completely when he laughed; however, when higher thoughts thoroughly occupied him, his eyes were protruding in an unusual way, either rolling or staring.  In such moments, he seemed entirely transformed, and with his mind, his short body appeared to be growing taller.  His mouth was nobly shaped, his lips fairly even, his nose somewhat broad.  When he smiled, his face was an expression of utter benevolence,  while, when he laughed loudly, his features were contorted, his large head appeared to be swelling even larger, his broad face appeared to grow even broader, and his entire expression was somewhat mask-like.--The color of his cheeks was yellowish; only when he spent a great deal of time outdoors, in summer, did it turn somewhat browner and redder.  

This space does not allow us to discuss his works in depth; we have to limit ourselves to a few, general remarks.--Often, Beethoven has been accused of mannerism, however, if mannerism is a mannerism of strength and not of weakness, then this criticism has to remain silent. --When   H o f f m a n n  opines that Beethoven preferably worked the levers of awe, of horror and of pain, then he is painting the image of the master too one-sidedly.  In doing so, he entirely forgets his [Beethoven's] unique art  to transform pain into jest which he shares with Jean Paul.  Also, the term of Romanticism does not suffice to describe his essence.  Beethoven's principle is humor in its higher meaning, where he comes to terms with the entire world of pain and joy, and where even intuition, dreams and insanity play their secret roles.  However, since this book is also meant for the young, we have to express ourselves more clearly:  we Germans have three great musicians, these are  H a y d n,  M o z a r t  and   B e e t h o v e n .  H a y d n  built himself a beautiful garden;  in this garden,  M o z a r t  built a beautiful palace;  B e e t h o v e n   built a high tower on top of this palace; he who wants to build even higher, will break his neck.

In conclusion, allow us to add the wonderful poem by Zedlitz, Beethoven's Todtenfeier:

 "Wohl! So hänget eure Kränze
         An dem heil'gen Hügel auf,
   Und sein gluthbeseeltes Auge
        Blicke aus den Sternen drauf!

 "Well, thus hang your wreaths
         At the holy hill,
   And his fiery eyes
         Look upon them from afar!

   Wollt ihr wissen, wo er schwebet?
         Seht der Leier goldnen Schein
   Dort am Abendhimmel glänzen!
         Bei der Leier muß er sein.

   Do you want to know where he dwells?
        See the lyre's golden glow
   Shine there in the evening sky!
        He must be near the lyre.

   Wollt ihr, wie er aussieht, wissen?
         Wollt ihr wissen, was er thut?
   Ob er, sturmbewest auf Erden,
         Nun im Himmelshause r u h t ?

   Do you want to know what he looks like?
        Do you want to know what he is doing?
   Whether he, stormy here on earth,
        Now is resting in heavenly abode?

   Auf den Wolken sitzt er sinnend
         Und es greifet seine Hand
   In die ungeheuren Saiten
         Zwischen Sternen ausgespannt.

   On clouds he is sitting, in thought,
        And his hands are touching
   The lute's immense strings
        Spun across the stars.

   Und es klingen seine Lieder,
         Und die Sel'gen stimmen ein,
   Und es staunen alle Engel,
         Und die Himmel jauchzen drein.

   And his songs are resonating,
        And the blessed are joining in,
   And all angels are amazed,
        And the heavens are chiming in.

   Und sie singen Lob dem Herren,
         Lob dem Ew'gen, der die Welt
   Und die Sterne und die Leier
         Und den Sänger hat bestellt.

   And they sing praise to the Lord,
        Praise to the Eternal, who has created
   The world, the stars, the lute
        And the singers, as well.

   Und der Lichtverstärkte blicket,
         Wie auf Erden er gethan,
   Hochentzückt, doch düster schauend,
         Jene ew'gen Wunder an.

   And the one enhanced by light is looking,
        As he did on earth,
   Highly delighted, yet in serious manner,
        At the eternal wonders.

   Wie er war, ist er geblieben,
         Kraftvoll, würdig, wahrhaft, rein,
   Ja, die edelste der Perlen
         Schloß die rauhe Muschel ein.

   As he was, he remained,
        Strong, noble, true and pure,
   Yes, the noblest of pearls
       Was surrounded by a rough shell.

 

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The second text presented by Inge Buggenthin stems from an album about Beethoven by Hermann Josef Landau of Prague, who published it, himself, in 1872.  This album also contains an essay by Ernst Ortlepp about Beethoven's piece Adelaide.  As Buggenthin reports, this undated text that was quoted without naming a source might, if one considers its spelling, have been typeset and distributed by a Swiss printer.  As she continues, in 1844, after its self-publication (by Ortlepp), when the poet could not find a suitable publisher, he had his collected works published by the Druck- und Verlaganstalt von Hegener in Winterthur/Switzerland, in 1845. Ortlepp's Beethoven text on "Adelaide" also appears to belong to this period, as Buggenthin explains, particularly if one considers that in 1845, Ortlepp also featured a description of Beethoven's life in the "Buch der Welt ein Inbegriff des Wissenswürdigsen und Unterhaltendsten aus den Gebieten der Naturgeschichte, Naturlehre, Länder- und Völkerkunde, Weltgeshichte, Götterlehre Stuttgart Hoffmann'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.  As Buggenthin writes, this above-mentioned reprint is supplemented by the following poetic essay that, stylistically, fits well with Ortlepp's other musical essays (Buggenthin refers to his essay on Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, in this context):

ADELAIDE

by

Ernst Ortlepp

---------------------

The nightingale sang in the bush--the waterfall was rushing--butterflies and mermaids frolicked by the brook--flowers and grasses swayed quietly in the breeze of the spring air--the rocks glistened in the sunshine and, on their half-mossy surfaces, showed, thousand-fold, wondrous images--and the breezes, the sunshine and the many colors of the blooming flowers were like music that, in apparently unruly disorder, threw a thousand charming melodies into the air.

    There,   L u d w i g   sat, lonely, on a grassy knoll under the shade of an oak tree, the peculiar form of which appeared to him to be like the image of his latest symphony.  The oak tree emerged from c minor, and around him, he heard only E-flat major and A-flat major.

    L u d w i g   was leaning casually against the trunk of the oak tree.  His hat lay rather far away from him, halfway in the brook that was rushing by.  He had a sheet of paper in front of him, on which Matthison's poem was written.  The more he read it, the more colorful the flowers bloomed, nay, even sang, and especially the mayflowers' bells rang quite distinctly, as if they wanted to rock him into a state of heavenly bliss.  Dreamily, he looked out into the immeasurable blue.  The waterfall played music; the faraway mountains sent echoes of sweet melodies, the leaves of the oak tree and the leaves of the surrounding bushes moved livelier and livelier and even the clouds above him, with their golden glow, were all sound and heavenly music--and everything that he saw around him, only repeated one sweet name, and that name was:

"Adelaide!"

It was a blissful dream.  Gray and ashen life took on golden colors; the dead and stern future looked at him as if it was a rosy, infinite paradise; the cold corpse of hope rose out of its grave and whispered to him:  "I am alive, again!  And soon, I will meet you, as fulfillment!"

And there, he dreamed of a Pastoral in A-major, and of a symphony in B-major and F-major and of a number of wonderful works that all flew by in suspension, in the form of lovely, heavenly maidens, enwrapped in the glow of eternal beauty.

Before he knew what he had done, a melody appeared on his music sheet that he had brought with him.--He kissed the sheet and stammered, in tears:  "Adelaide!  Adelaide!  Oh, my eternally beloved Adelaide!"

The next day, an exquisite copy of the song was in Adelaide's hands.

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Those who want to learn more about the writer of the above Beethoven texts can do so by accessing the following link under "Chronik", in an English translation of Ortlepp's life data:   

Ernst Ortlepp Website

We hope that this feature of mid-19th century Beethoven texts has provided you with some reading pleasure and also that we might add further translations in the future, whenever additional texts will be made available by the Ernst Ortlepp Gesellschaft.

At this time, we can offer you an interesting link to Google Book Search, where you can read Ortlepp's "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony" online:

 

Ernst Ortlepp: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony