In this group, our man on the scene attends the premiere of the 5th and 6th Symphonies.....and more!
December 25th, 1808. "Last week, when the theatres were closed and the evenings devoted to public concerts, my zeal and determination to hear everything caused me no little embarrassment, particularly on the 22nd, when the resident musicians gave their first performance this year in the Burg Theatre, in aid of their large and excellent orphanage, and Beethoven gave his benefit concert in the large Vorstadt Theatre (Theater an der Wien) at which only his own compositions were to be performed. I could not possibly miss this, so about mid-day I accepted with many thanks the kind offer from Prince Lobkowitz of a seat in his box. There we sat from 6.30 till 10.30, in the most bitter cold, and found by experience that one might have too much even of a very good thing. But I should have been as loath to leave before the end of the concert as the goodnatured and polite Prince, whose box is in the front row, quite close to the stage, the orchestra, with Beethoven as conductor, being directly below and quite close to us. Poor Beethoven, who was to receive from this concert his only pecuniary profit for the whole year—except what he gets by his compositions—met with a great deal of opposition and very little help in his preparations and arrangements. Chorus and orchestra were composed of very heterogeneous elements, and it had been found impossible to have one complete rehearsal, although all the pieces were full of the greatest difficulties. You will, indeed be astonished at what was performed during these four hours, all the work of this fruitful and indefatigable genius.
"First, a Pastoral Symphony, or reminiscence of country life. Each movement was very long, perfectly developed, full of gorgeous painting, and brilliant images ; and this single symphony lasted as long as one of our state concerts (in Cassel).
"Then followed as a sixth piece, a long Italian scene (ah perfido) sung by Mdlle. Killizky, the charming Bohemian with the beautiful voice. In such bitter cold, the pretty girl could not be blamed for trembling more than singing, for we were shivering in our close boxes, wrapt in our furs and cloaks.
"Seventh number—a Gloria with chorus and solos (from the first mass), the performance of which was unfortunately quite spoiled. Eighth number—a new Pianoforte Concerto (in G) of monstrous difficulty, but which Beethoven played marvellously well in the quickest time. In the adagio, a masterpiece of beautiful, sustained melody, he made the instrument sing with a deep pathos which went to my heart. Ninth number—a grand Symphony (No. 5, in C minor), fully developed and too long. A gentleman beside us declared he had noticed, at the rehearsal, that the violoncello part alone, which was very elaborate, occupied thirty-four pages.
"Tenth number—Sanctus, with chorus and solos ; like the Gloria, very badly performed.
"Eleventh number—a long Fantasia, in which Beethoven displayed all his masterly power; and, last of all, another Fantasia, in which the orchestra and chorus took part (the so-called Choral Fantasia). The rendering of the original ideas contained in this piece was spoilt by such a complete confusion amongst the band, that Beethoven, carried away by his feelings, and quite unmindful of the place and the audience, called out to the performers to leave off and go back to the beginning. You can imagine our sensations. For the moment I wished I had had the courage to leave sooner."
Dec. 31st, 1808. "I have had another musical evening. First, the quartet party at Mdme. Erdody's, Beethoven playing in a masterly manner in the new Trios (Op. 70), in which there is a heavenly cantabile movement, in 3-4 time, A flat major—the loveliest and most graceful piece of writing I have ever heard by him or any other composer. My soul is still stirred by the recollection of it. He will shortly publish the trios at Leipsic."
January 26th, 1809 "Among the various kinds of music which I have heard within the last few days, and the description of which would fill sheets, for everything here lives and moves in music, I must particularly mention a very agreeable evening with Mdme. von Bigot. She had arranged it expressly on my behalf that I might hear the great Beethoven sonatas and trios I had been talking to her about with so much interest; also the lovely and expressive trio with the French horn, which dear Hutzler played so gloriously at the last musical party before his death, that it always rings in my ears like his tender farewell. Mdme. von Bigot had invited the violinist, Schuppanzigh, whose distinguished talents are never better displayed than in the performance of Beethoven's music. That evening he accompanied the splendid playing of the virtuosa with the most piquant originality and the utmost refinement. She played five of Beethoven's grand sonatas in a masterly manner; each seemed finer than the last, and they were in truth the blossoms of a most luxuriant art growth. In all his works there is a flood of fancy, a depth of feeling not expressible in words, only in tones, and which could come only from the heart of one living wholly in his art, dreamin of it in his waking hours, and watchful of it in his dreams."
February 2nd - He had heard at Streicher's, a "wonderfully beautiful duet for two pianos." Then he goes on to speak of a lady who was devoted to Beethoven for life—
|Dorothea von Ertmann|
"How could I ever have imagined that a still greater pleasure of the same kind was in store for me; and yet I have had such exquisite enjoyment that words fail me to describe it. Some time ago I had heard of the wife of Major von Ertmann, of the Neumeister regiment, in garrison near Vienna, as a great pianist, who played Beethoven's masterpieces wonderfully well. I went, therefore, in a state of great expectancy to see her at her sister's, the wife of the young banker, Franke, who had kindly informed me of the arrival of Mdme. Dorothea von Ertmann. The first glance at the tall, commanding figure and handsome, expressive face of this noble woman raised my expectations still higher. Never did a performance of one of Beethoven's grand sonatas more astonish me ; for I had not beheld, even in the greatest virtuosi, such a union of power and tenderness. What a soul in every finger; what force in her equally adroit and certain hands; what power to make the instrument produce all that is beautiful in singing, speaking, and playing! And the instrument was far from being as fine a one as is frequently found here. The great artist breathed her whole soul into it, drawing from it what no one else would have been able to. You can imagine how delighted I was to find that she would remain here some time and permit me to visit her."
On February 7th, 1809, Reichardt relates how he had visited the young poet, Stoll, in the enormous "Burgerspital" (now pulled down), and goes on to speak of the Royal copyist, Zmeskall—
"In the Burgerspital lives another great lover and connoisseur of music, and friend and admirer of Beethoven, Herr von Zmeskall, a good violoncellist. He has established a new quartet party, to meet in his rooms every Sunday at noon, and who gave their first performance last week. After a good rendering of a difficult Beethoven quintet (Op. 29), we had the pleasure of hearing Frau Majorin von Ertmann play a grand Beethoven fantasia (the C sharp minor Sonata) with a degree of power, expression, and finish which delighted us all. It is impossible to imagine anything more perfect on the most perfect of instruments. It was a beautiful Streicher piano, filled with the spirit of an entire orchestra. Streicher has, by Beethoven's advice and desire, abandoned the soft, yielding, and rebounding touch of the other Viennese instruments, and substituted greater firmness and elasticity, so that the virtuoso who plays with power and feeling has the instrument more under his control in sustaining and resting on sounds, and for all the more delicate marks of expression. He has thereby given his pianos more importance and variety of character, which make them satisfy more completely than any other kind the requirements of every virtuoso who studies something more than superficial brilliancy. His workmanship is also singularly excellent and enduring.
"The evening before, I was fortunate enough to hear Frau von Ertmann at a large party at her brother-inlaw Franke's. But on this occasion the dance that was to follow, and to which the young and handsome portion of the party looked forward with great pleasure, claimed the first consideration; she therefore selected short and pleasing pieces to gratify the curiosity of the numerous company. But these were performed with a precision and elegance betokening great mastership ; and she wove them into a marvellous fantasia—in C sharp minor, I believe—and the most perfect of the kind that I ever heard. But such rare talent is not indigenous in Vienna. Mdme. Ertmann was a Mdlle. Graumann, from Frankfort-onthe-Maine, but she has lived several years in this artistic country, and has derived the greatest advantage from her intercourse with Beethoven."