Rossini could write best when he was under the influence of Italian wine and sparkling champagne. Paesiello liked the warm bed in which to jot down his musical notions, and we are told that “it was between the sheets that he planned the ‘Barber of Seville,’ the ‘Molinara,’ and so many other chefs-d’oeuvre of ease and gracefulness.” Mozart could chat and play at billiards or bowls at the same time that he composed the most beautiful music. Sacchini found it impossible to write anything of any beauty unless a pretty woman was by his side, and he was surrounded by his cats, whose graceful antics stimulated and affected him in a marked fashion. “Gluck,” Bombet says, “in order to warm his imagination and to transport himself to Aulis or Sparta, was accustomed to place himself in the middle of a beautiful meadow. In this situation, with his piano before him, and a bottle of champagne on each side, he wrote in the open air his two ‘Iphigenias,’ his ‘Orpheus,’ and some other works.” The agencies which stimulated Beethoven’s grandest thoughts are eminently characteristic of the man. He loved to let the winds and storms beat on his bare head, and see the dazzling play of the lightning. Or, failing the sublimer moods of Nature, it was his delight to walk in the woods and fields, and take in at every pore the influences which she so lavishly bestows on her favorites. His true life was his ideal life in art. To him it was a mission and an inspiration, the end and object of all things; for these had value only as they fed the divine craving within.
“Nothing can be more sublime,” he writes, “than to draw nearer to the Godhead than other men, and to diffuse here on earth these Godlike rays among mortals.” Again: “What is all this compared to the grandest of all Masters of Harmony—above, above?”
seemed an arch, wherethrough
Gleamed that untraveled world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever as we move.”
The last four years of our composer’s life were passed amid great distress from poverty and feebleness. He could compose but little; and, though his friends solaced his latter days with attention and kindness, his sturdy independence would not accept more. It is a touching fact that Beethoven voluntarily suffered want and privation in his last years, that he might leave the more to his selfish and ungrateful nephew. He died in 1827, in his fifty-seventh year, and is buried in the Wahring Cemetery near Vienna. Let these extracts from a testamentary paper addressed to his brothers in 1802, in expectation of death, speak more eloquently of the hidden life of a heroic soul than any other words could: