"Applaude my friends, the comedy is over"
Beethoven on his deathbed
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn. At the age of five he starts his music classes, which are hold by his father, a chapel master. He is an extremely strict teacher. Soon he realizes, that his son has an extraordinary talent. When Beethoven is 10 years old, he begins to study music from different teachers in piano keyboard and composition. At the age of 13, the young Beethoven releases his very first public work, which are a bunch of keyboard variations on the piano. He subsequently gets the position of the organist in the court chapel of “Kurfürst” of Bonn. Beethoven is known as promising talent and his steep musical career begins.
On the right side you can listen to Bernstein and his interpretation of Beethoven’s music: according to him it is „…endlessly satisfying… perhaps the closest music that has come closest to universality… that dubious cliche music being a universal language almost comes true with Beethoven…“
Vienna, Alser Straße (9th district)
Beethoven came to Vienna the first time in 1787 for a few months and the second time in 1792 to stay forever. Before his departure in 1792, one of his most important patrons in Bonn, Count of Waldstein, wrote the following dictum „Through uninterrupted diligence you get: Mozart’s spirit from Hayden’s hands“. The elector endowed him with a scholarship of 100 Reichstaler. Beethoven dedicated his sonata in C Major Op. 53, today called „Waldsteinsonata“, to him (See the interpretation of M. Pletnev on the right side).
Beethoven’s first place in Vienna was a one bedroom apartment in the 9th district (Alser Straße 30).
Beethoven quickly established good contacts in Vienna and successfully introduced himself to the art-loving aristocratic circles of the music metropolis. However, he did not live very sparingly and Beethoven could not live from the money that he received from the elector, nor could he even cover the rent. Through various secondary activities such as teaching and appearances in the noble salons as a pianist, he quickly established himself as an artist and later received support from the nobility as a composer.
Vienna, Pasquali House
Through Waldstein he got in contact with many aristocrats in Vienna.
Carl von Lichnowsky: He became one of his most important supporters. He accompanied hin to a trip to Prague. Until Beethoven got a solid employment (which actually never happened) Lichnowsky payed him 600 Guilder per year. In a letter Beethoven called Lichnowsky his most loyal friend and supporter of music. He dedicated many pieces to him, for example the Piano Sonata No. 8, which you can hear on the bottom of this page. This friendship ended in 1806 when Beethoven was a guest at Grätz castle and refused to play for French officers, Lichnovskys guests. „Prince! What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand of princes; there is only one Beethoven.“
Franz Joseph Maximilian of Lobkowitz: He was one of the people who arranged vor Beethoven’s musical works to be performed in public concerts. In his palace the Eroica were 1st performed in public.
Ferdinand Kinsky: He was one of the biggest supporters of Beethoven.
Archduke Rudolf from Austria: Rudolph was a big fan of Arts. In the beginning of the 19th century he was the last student of Beethoven. Through the lessons they became friends and the Archduke became a big supporter. To him Beethoven dedicated most of his major works including the opera Fidelio.
Together Lobkowitz, Kinsky and Archduke Rudolf paid Beethoven a lifelong pension.
On the left you see the Pasqualatihouse, where you can find one of the Viennese Beethoven Museums. This was his favourite places to live in Vienna due to the amazing view. He lived in the top floor and today this is a treasure among Viennas Museums. Between 1804 and 1815 Beethoven lived here 6 times. Here he worked on Fidelio, his 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th symphony.
Finally, you can watch Georg Rihas intermission film of the New Year’s Concert 2020 „Beethoven’s Whirl of Leaves“, presenting the most important places together with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
The next Beethoven Museum is in the 19th district in Probusgasse. What a fantastic Museum!
Beethovens hearing problems, which in time deteriorated to almost complete deafness, quickly ended the career of the pianist. The disease provoked a crisis that Beethoven testified in his will in Heiligenstadt in 1802. The famous Heiligenstadt Testament is a letter addressed to his brothers, where Beethoven expressed also his despair over his worsening deafness. This letter however was never sent.
(Max Lunacek and Oliver Kisgyörgy)
Listen to the Heiligenstadt Testament read by Max Lunacek:
Theater an der Wien and Wiener Staatsoper
Fidelio is Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera in two acts – or in the original version under the title Leonore three acts. The libretto was written by Joseph Sonnleithner, Stephan von Breuning and Georg Friedrich Treitschke; the opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal (1798; libretto: Jean Nicolas Bouilly, music: Pierre Gaveaux) served as a model. The premiere of the first version of Fidelio took place on November 20, 1805 at the Theater an der Wien, that of the second version on March 29, 1806, and the final version on May 23, 1814 at the Wiener Kärntnertortheater.
The plot: Florestan is incarcerated as a political prisoner in the governor of Don Pizarro. Leonore, Florestan’s wife, wants to free her husband on her own. She can be hired in men’s clothing under the name Fidelio as an assistant to the jailer Rocco. Rocco’s daughter Marzelline falls in love with Fidelio.
The Minister (and rival of Don Pizarro) Don Fernando announces a visit to the prison. Don Pizarro panics and instructs Rocco to kill Florestan before the Minister’s visit. Rocco refuses and Pizarro wants to do it himself. Rocco and Leonore have to dig the grave. In order to find her husband, Fidelio asks Rocco to let the prisoners out in the light. But she doesn’t find him.Then she goes to the prisoner who was not allowed to come to light. Leonore recognizes her husband by his voice. He doesn’t recognize her. Don Pizarro arrives with his gun drawn to kill Florestan. Fidelio throws himself in between and shouts: First kill his wife! At that moment the trumpets sound and announce the arrival of Don Fernando. Pizarro flees. The rescued Leonore and Florestan fall into each other’s arms. The dungeons are opened, all are free.
Between 1805 and 1814 the opera had three debut performances, because Beethoven revised it 2 times. The first version of “Fidelio” which was called “Leonore” and was a failure, since it is said that solo, duo and choral singing were strung together in a row and the form and structure of the text is disregarded and is only taken as an occasion to make music. The poem is flooded with music and runs the risk of drowning in it. Above all the main cause of its failure is that Napoleonic troops marched into Vienna a week before so many people fled out of the city. The audience then were mainly French soldiers that didn’t speak German and therefore didn’t understand Beethoven’s message of liberation.
Beethoven expressed freedom, justice and progress. Fidelio is a huge ode of freedom and love. In the final-chorus you can hear a ringing Credo for justice and humanity. Since this opera is considered a „liberation opera“, it was the first opera to be performed in the Vienna State Opera after its reconstruction and the Second World War on November 5, 1955.
On the left side you can see a pictures of Beethovens apartment in Theater an der Wien and the Vienna State Opera in March 1945 (after it had been devastated during a bombing at the end of Second World War) and today. And you can see also the video of the performance in Theater an der Wien, staged by Christoph Walz in March 2020 and he performances in Vienna State Opera in 1955. On the Website of the Vienna State Opera you can read about the 1955 performance „… the whole world understood that life was beginning again for this country that had just regained its independence.“ Finally you can listen to the most beautiful area in Fidelio „Mir ist so wunderbar“. (1978 at Vienna State Opera under L. Bernstein)
Baden is a spa town in the south of Vienna. Beethoven spent the summer months of 1821, 1822 and 1823 here in Rathausgasse 10 and underwent several cures himself.
He took long walks in the area around Baden. Famous is one episode where during a walk to Wiener Neustadt he was arrested by the police and imprisoned for vagrancy. After a short time the misunderstanding was cleared up and he was released.
In Baden Beethoven composed essential parts of his 9th symphony. In the museum shows a special recording of the 9th Symphony, which was recorded at Royal Albert Hall in London directed by Daniel Barenboim – which is directly linked to the respective notes simultaneously. Great!
Beethoven spent the late summer and fall of 1826 with his nephew Karl at his brother’s house in Gneixendorf. After selling 2 pharmacies in Linz, the latter had bought an estate consisting of 2 country houses (Schloss Wasserhof and Trauttingerhof and a „Schüttkasten“) in Gneixendorf near Krems and wanted to try his hand at farming. After an argument with his sister-in-law, Karl and Beethoven left. On the trip to Krems in an open carriage, Beethoven caught a severe cold. His health was already very poor. The following months were to be the last in Beethoven’s life.
Today, there is an interesting debate between the two owners of Schloss Wasserhof and Trautingerhof, which of the two houses is the „real“ Beethoven house. Studies by the Viennese University of Music and performing Arts revealed the remark of nephew Karl in Beethoven’s conversation book „… There is a sundial in front of your window“.
Vienna, Schwarzspanier Straße (9th district)
On the 26th March 1827 in his last apartment in the 9th district of Vienna, at the age of 56 Beethoven died on the consequences of his illnesses. Witnesses reported: at about 5 in the afternoon there was a flash of of lightning and a clap of thunder. Beethoven opened his eyes, lifted his right hand and looked up for several seconds, not another breath, not a heartbeat more. He was death. His last doctor was Andreas Ignaz Wawruch. Many people visited his death-bed and also some strands of his hair were kept.
His funeral was on March 29th, 1927. Approximately 20.000 people were present and 2nd movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata op. 26 was played because this composition is a funeral march.
Beethoven was originally buried at the local cemetery in Währing, north-west of Vienna, which is not the Schubertpark. When cemetery was transformed into a park Beethovens body was brought to the central cemetery of Vienna.
Task 2: Aristocrats Memo
Beethovens first and one of the most important patrons was Duce Karl von Lichnovsky. Before, Lichnovsky had also sponsored Mozart and Haydn. He and his wife were lovers and experts in music.
You still remember Beethovens argument with Lichnovsky.
Howerer, Beethoven had dedicated many important pieces to him for example the famous Piano Sonata No. 8 („Pathetique“).
On the left side you can listen to the sonata and read the notes.
(Sophie Kriegl, Anna Reinelt)
Lichnovsky was not the only one. There were many more. Play the Aristocrats Memo and find out more about them.
Beethoven on his deathbed by Josef Danhauser – Foto Peter Geymayer
Beethovenhouse Bonn, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beethovenhaus_1_db.jpg 14.12.2020
Count of Waldstein: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Count_von_Waldstein.jpg 14.12.2020
Pasqualatihouse: Foto: Werner Holzheu 12.08.2020
Beethovenhouse Probusgasse: Foto: Werner Holzheu 17.07.2020
Theater an der Wien: Foto: Werner Holzheu 8.09.2020
Wiener Staatsoper: Foto: Werner Holzheu 20.10.2020
Beethovenhouse Baden: Foto: Werner Holzheu 16.07.2020
Trauttingerhof and Schloss Wasserhof Gneixendorf: Foto: Werner Holzheu 20.09.2020
Beethovens Funeral as depicted by Franz Stöber 1827 (Wikimedia, Original is in the Beethoven-House Museum in Bonn)