Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Letters to the Editor

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

Dear Editor,

In a review of a recording of Beethoven's Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, in the summer 2006 issue of this journal, David Wyn Jones is reported to have written, "Beethoven had never seen the sea." Other writers have made a similar observation-for example, George Marek in his 1969 Beethoven biography. Although it is of only little significance, this topic warrants further examination.

Is the statement correct? Well, possibly, but not unconditionally. Indeed, there is no proof that Beethoven ever faced the sea. But the same is true of the contrary. Beethoven has left us no information on the matter. Any answer to die question whether he saw the sea or not is therefore speculative.

Maybe he did see the sea after all. As a boy of twelve, in the last months of 1783, Beethoven and his mother traveled by boat to Rotterdam, where they stayed for several weeks, probably even months. "They were absent for quite a while," their neighbor in Bonn, Mr. Fischer, recollected. It is difficult to imagine that the Beethovens, staying in Holland for a lengthy period of time, avoided the beach, which was so very easy to reach.

Rotterdam itself did not provide an opportunity for Beethoven to see the "real" sea; at best he saw the mouth of the Rhine there. Things were different, though, when he visited The Hague. We know that on November 23, 1783, he gave a concert there at the Stadhouderlijk Kwartier, the residence of Prince William V in the very center of the city. The concert is documented by a "Reeckening" (account), found in 1968, which specifies that young Beethoven received 63 florins for this performance at court. (Curiously, the scholarly world hesitates to put aside Deiters' old date of 1781 for Beethoven's visit to Holland; it is, for instance, still mentioned in the Beethoven Compendium?)

Numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century traveling journals show that foreign visitors to The Hague used the opportunity to take a stroll from the center of the city to the fishing village of Scheveningen, which is now well known for its beaches, hotels, and boulevards. …

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