The Great German Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 143 pages of information about The Great German Composers.

VI.

Yet beneath these eccentricities what wealth of tenderness, sympathy, and kindliness existed!  His affection for his graceless nephew Karl is a touching picture.  With the rest of his family he had never been on very cordial terms.  His feeling of contempt for snobbery and pretense is very happily illustrated in his relations with his brother Johann.  The latter had acquired property, and he sent Ludwig his card, inscribed “Johann van Beethoven, land-owner.”  The caustic reply was a card, on which was written, “Ludwig van Beethoven, brain-owner.”  But on Karl all the warmest feelings of a nature which had been starving to love and be loved poured themselves out.  He gave the scapegrace every luxury and indulgence, and, self-absorbed as he was in an ideal sphere, felt the deepest interest in all the most trivial things that concerned him.  Much to the uncle’s sorrow, Karl cared nothing for music; but, worst of all, he was an idle, selfish, heartless fellow, who sneered at his benefactor, and valued him only for what he could get from him.  At last Beethoven became fully aware of the lying ingratitude of his nephew, and he exclaims:  “I know now you have no pleasure in coming to see me, which is only natural, for my atmosphere is too pure for you.  God has never yet forsaken me, and no doubt some one will be found to close my eyes.”  Yet the generous old man forgave him, for he says in the codicil of his will, “I appoint my nephew Karl my sole heir.”

Frequently, glimpses of the true vein showed themselves in such little episodes as that which occurred when Moscheles, accompanied by his brother, visited the great musician for the first time.

“Arrived at the door of the house,” writes Moscheles, “I had some misgivings, knowing Beethoven’s strong aversion to strangers.  I therefore told my brother to wait below.  After greeting Beethoven, I said:  ‘Will you permit me to introduce my brother to you?’

“‘Where is he?’ he suddenly replied.

“‘Below.’

“‘What, down-stairs?’ and Beethoven immediately rushed off, seized hold of my brother, saying:  ’Am I such a savage that you are afraid to come near me?’

“After this he showed great kindness to us.”

While referring to the relations of Moscheles and Beethoven, the following anecdote related by Mme. Moscheles will be found suggestive.  The pianist had been arranging some numbers of “Fidelio,” which he took to the composer.  He, a la Haydn, had inscribed the score with the words, “By God’s help.”  Beethoven did not fail to perceive this, and he wrote underneath this phylactory the characteristic advice:  “O man, help thyself.”

The genial and sympathetic nature of Beethoven is illustrated in this quaint incident: 

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The Great German Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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