Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven's Tribute to Antonio Salieri in the Rondo of His Fortepiano Concerto in C Major, Opus 15 (and Beethoven's Hand-Copied Excerpts from Les Danaïdes)

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven's Tribute to Antonio Salieri in the Rondo of His Fortepiano Concerto in C Major, Opus 15 (and Beethoven's Hand-Copied Excerpts from Les Danaïdes)

Article excerpt

IN DETERMINING THE INFLUENCE OF ONE MUSICAL GENERATION UPON ANOTHER, inquisitive musicologists often find themselves asking the classic queries so often encountered in elementary journalism class: who, what, where, when, why, and how?

In the case of Beethoven's studies in Vienna, these questions-especially when-yield a variety of simple and complex answers. Beethoven went to Vienna in November 1792 for the express purpose of studying with Joseph Haydn and, over die next decade, also studied, sometimes regularly and sometimes occasionally, with cathedral Kapellmeister Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809), theatrical composer Johann Baptist Schenk (1753-1836), free-lance composer Emanuel Aloys Förster (1748-1823), and, of course, the Academy-Award-winning court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri.

Salieri was born in Legnago in the Veneto on August 18, 1750. Orphaned at age fifteen, he was sent to study in Venice, where he was discovered by the visiting Florian Leopold Gassmann, who, in turn, virtually adopted the talented youngster and took him back with him to Vienna.1 Once in the Habsburg capital, Salieri-encouraged by both Gassmann and Christoph Willibald Gluck-ingratiated himself with Emperor Joseph II and eventually united in himself virtually all of the major compositional, conducting, and administrative positions at court. At the same time, his operas were performed throughout Europe, and he himself journeyed to Milan and Paris for several premieres. When Joseph died in 1790, his successor Leopold II had little taste for Salieri, his style, and his mistress Catarina Cavalieri, and relieved him of most of his collective posts except, strangely enough, the conductorship of the Hofkapelle. Having married into the wealth of the minor nobility and having received excellent terms for his operatic commissions, Salieri could still live quite comfortably, gpvinggratis or inexpensive lessons in composition or singing to the next generation of Viennese composers and performers.

Salieri suffered a major physical and mental decline in October 1823 and had to be taken to the state of the art Allgemeines Krankenhaus (General Hospital), but not to its Narrenturm (a round building devoted to the mentally ill). He attempted to cut his throat once, possibly even twice, and in his senile delirium, early in 1824, fantasized that he had poisoned Mozart. He must have spent much of his final year in an almost continuous state of silence and died quietly on May 7, 1825. Most of musical Vienna attended his funeral in the Augustiner Church, with burial in the Matzleinsdorfer Cemetery, except for Beethoven, who was twenty miles away in Baden, nursing his own ill health.

Determining when Beethoven studied with Salieri, the regularity of his studies, and the nature of the material that they covered together are questions not easily answered. In the 1870s, Gustav Nottebohm (1817-1882), the pioneer researcher into Beethoven's sketches, hypothesized that the surviving sheets and bifolia containing Beethoven's written exercises for Salieri span the decade from 1792 to 1802.2 Over a dozen a cappella Italian songs by Beethoven also survive and, in the years following World War II, Willy Hess identified several of them as studies with Salieri, dating from his earliest years in Vienna, from roughly 1793 to 1796 or 1797.3 In 1973, however, Richard Kramer argued, on the basis of then-current watermark studies, that "the entire portfolio [of Beethoven's exercises with Salieri] can be dated roughly 1798-1801," with other vocal and theatrical works influenced by Salieri emerging only in or after 1800: the ballet Die Geschöpft des Prometheus in kte 1800 and early 1801, the scene No, non turbarti and the trio Tremate, empi, tremate in 1801 to 1802, and so on.4 Carrying Kramers concept one step further, James Webster has asserted that Beethoven's studies with Salieri "did not take place until c. 1801-02."5 Thus, recent researchers seem to suggest that Beethoven did not study with Salieri until age thirty, after he himself had composed such works as Ah! …

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