He composed four overtures for this opera at different periods, on account of the critical caprices of the Viennese public—a concession to public taste which his stern independence rarely made.
Beethoven’s relations with women were peculiar and characteristic, as were all the phases of a nature singularly self-poised and robust. Like all men of powerful imagination and keen (though perhaps not delicate) sensibility, he was strongly attracted toward the softer sex. But a certain austerity of morals, and that purity of feeling which is the inseparable shadow of one’s devotion to lofty aims, always kept him within the bounds of Platonic affection. Yet there is enough in Beethoven’s letters, as scanty as their indications are in this direction, to show what ardor and glow of feeling he possessed.
About the time that he was suffering keenly with the knowledge of his fast-growing infirmity, he was bound by a strong tie of affection to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, his “immortal beloved,” “his angel,” “his all,” “his life,” as he called her in a variety of passionate utterances. It was to her that he dedicated his song “Adelaida,” which as an expression of lofty passion is world-famous. Beethoven was very much dissatisfied with the work even in the glow of composition. Before the notes were dry on the music paper, the composer’s old friend Barth was announced. “Here,” said Beethoven, putting a roll of score paper in Earth’s hands, “look at that. I have just finished it, and don’t like it. There is hardly fire enough in the stove to burn it, but I will try.” Barth glanced through the composition, then sang it, and soon grew into such enthusiasm as to draw from Beethoven the expression, “No? then we will not burn it, old fellow.” Whether it was the reaction of disgust, which so often comes to genius after the tension of work, or whether his ideal of its lovely theme was so high as to make all effort seem inadequate, the world came very near losing what it could not afford to have missed.
The charming countess, however, preferred rank, wealth, and unruffled ease to being linked even with a great genius, if, indeed, the affair ever looked in the direction of marriage. She married another, and Beethoven does not seem to have been seriously disturbed. It may be that, like Goethe, he valued the love of woman not for itself or its direct results, but as an art-stimulus which should enrich and fructify his own intellectual life.
We get glimpses of successors to the fair countess. The beautiful Marie Pachler was for some time the object of his adoration. The affair is a somewhat mysterious one, and the lady seems to have suffered from the fire through which her powerful companion passed unscathed. Again, quaintest and oddest of all, is the fancy kindled by that “mysterious sprite of genius,” as one of her contemporaries calls her, Bettina Brentano, the gifted child-woman, who fascinated all who came within her reach, from Goethe and Beethoven down to princes and nobles. Goethe’s correspondence with this strange being has embalmed her life in classic literature.