Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/9 Auditioning for Beethoven / Archduke Finale

(Ludwig Cramolini,
B. lived in his mother's house)
Here are a couple touching anecdotes about performing chamber music for the Maestro himself:

Ludwig Cramolini, tenor and later producer at the Vienna Court Opera, tells about his last visit to Beethoven:
I saw Beethoven just one more time, at the urging of my mother. It was the 15th or 16th of December 1826. I had already been singing for two years as a tenor at the Imperial and Royal Court Opera and was engaged to be married to Nanette Schechner, an excellent singer. After a performance of "Fidelio", which Nanny sang and acted beautifully, my mother said, ‘I would never have believed the old crosspatch could write such heavenly music, music which quite squeezed the tears out of me.’ My mother had never had an opportunity to hear any of Beethoven’s music until then. ‘You should go call on him; perhaps Beethoven will remember us both. It would be ungrateful of him not to, but I can hardly believe he would be; for someone who feels so deeply, as his composition of "Fidelio" proves he does, must have a kind heart, and I have never doubted that he has.’ Nanny also urged me to go, and expressed the desire to make his acquaintance herself on the occasion. I finally agreed, and spoke to Schindler who was then the musical director of the Theater in der Josefstadt, begging him to remind Beethoven of Frau Cramolini’s son Louis, who had so often tormented him, but who was now mature enough to recognize and admire his immortal works. 

A few days later Schindler told me that Beethoven was prepared to receive us, Nanny and me, but we would have to excuse his receiving us lying in bed. We should also bring some music with us, for he wanted to hear or at least to see us sing. Thus we drove out to see him on the afternoon of that December day. When we entered the room the poor man was lying on his sick-bed seriously ill with dropsy. He looked at me, his eyes wide and glowing, then held out his left hand and said, ‘So this is young Louis, and already engaged’ Then he nodded to Nanny and said, ‘A handsome couple and, so I hear, a couple of able artists too. And how is your dear mother?’ He handed us paper and a pencil, and we carried on the ensuing conversation in writing, while he sometimes spoke rather incomprehensibly. Then he asked us to sing for him. Schindler sat down at one of the two pianos that stood side by side in the middle of the room, and we stood facing Beethoven. I wrote that I would sing his ‘Adelaide’, with which I actually made my initial reputation as a singer. Beethoven nodded affably. But when I tried to begin, my palate and throat had become so dry from anxiety that I could not sing. I asked Schindler to wait a few moments until I could collect myself. Beethoven asked what had happened and why I was not singing, and laughed out loud when Schindler wrote down the reason. Then he said, just sing, dear Louis. Unfortunately I can hear nothing; I only want to see you sing! Finally I took courage and sang, with true fervour, the song of songs, Beethoven’s divine ‘Adelaide’, When I finished, Beethoven motioned me over to him, pressed my hand cordially and said, ‘From your breathing I can see that you sing correctly, and in your eyes I have read that you feel what you sing. It has been a great pleasure for me.’ I was overjoyed at the great man’s judgment and had to dry away a tear. When I tried to kiss his hand he withdrew it quickly, saying, ‘Kiss the hand of your good mother and remember me often to her, and tell her what a joy it was for me that she still recalls me and has sent her little Louis to see me.’ 

Then Nanny sang Leonore’s aria from "Fidelio", with such intensity that Beethoven repeatedly began beating time and absolutely devoured her with his wide-open eyes. After the aria, Beethoven held his hand over his eyes for a long while, and then said, ‘You are a masterful singer, with a voice possibly somewhat like Milder’s, but she did not have the depth of feeling at her command that you do, which showed clearly in your face. What a pity I cannot .... ’ He probably wanted to say ‘hear you’, but he stopped abruptly and then went on, ‘Thank you, Fraulein, for a lovely hour, and may you both be very happy together.' Nanny was also deeply touched and pressed his hand to her heart. There was a short silence. Then Beethoven said, ‘I feel quite exhausted after all.’ We made ready to go, but before leaving we wrote our thanks and begged his pardon for disturbing him, adding the wish that God might restore him to health soon. With a smile Beethoven said, ‘Then I will write an opera for the two of you. My greetings to your father and your dear mother, and if I do regain my health I will ask Schindler to bring them to see me. Adieu my little Louis, and adieu my dear Fidelio. He pressed our hands again, looked at us sadly but amiably, and finally turned his face to the wall. We went out quietly so as not to disturb him, and were driving back towards town when Nanny broke the silence and said, ‘We have probably seen that godlike man for the last time'. The same thought had struck me. I gave Nanny my hand and we wept bitterly.
(Kerst, Frankfurter-Zeitung No 270, Sept 1907)
Read more HERE.

Touching but a bit of a downer...I hate to leave on a sad note!  This one is a bit more upbeat.

Franz Lachner on Beethoven and Nanette Streicher:
I had the privilege of making Beethoven’s acquaintance at the Streichers. Their home was the meeting place of all the leading figures in music; and so it happened that I found access, although I was merely an organist and a practising performer on the piano. One day I was there alone, and sat at the piano next to Nanette Streicher who was studying the Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 97 (Archduke), by Beethoven. Suddenly Beethoven (on whose household affairs Frau Streicher had considerable influence) entered the room just as we had reached the beginning of the last movement. He listened for a few moments, using the ear-trumpet he always carried with him, but soon showed that he was not in agreement with the too gentle execution of the principal motive of the Finale. He leaned over Nanette and played it for her, after which he left straight-away. I was so excited and thrilled by the loftiness of his aspect, his forceful action and the immediate proximity of his imposing personality, that it took some time until I was again in a tranquil state.
(FRBS, HC Robbins)

Here's the movement Lachner speaks about above - clearly these performers are using the appropriate brio....
Previn,Mullova,Schiff on Beethoven's Piano Trio No.7 Op.97 Archduke Finale

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