Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Miscellanea

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Miscellanea

Article excerpt

SEVERAL MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF THE AMERICAN BEETHOVEN SOCIETY HAVE SENT US REPORTS OF THEIR TRAVELS AND NEWS ITEMS IN THE PAST MONTHS, and we thought it was time to gather them together for your delight and edification.

The first comes from the music and dance critic for the San José Mercury News, Paul Hertelendy, who recently returned from a trip to Vienna and the Brunswick estate in Maitonvasar. He writes: "Floating down the Danube puts you in walking distance of sites that shaped Beethoven's life and destiny. All over Vienna there are Beethoven sites galore. Just as we have signs boasting thai 'George Washington slept here' all over the map, the Austrian capital has 'Beethovenhaus' signs seemingly on every other Strasse (big street) and Gasse (small street). You can skip most of them. But do not miss his museum-residence in Heiligenstadt, tomay a north-western suburb of Vienna. In the summer Beethoven liked to leave the city center for fresh air, a new environment, a cool breeze or two, and of course inspiration. Heiligenstadt lies between Dobling ard the rolling wooded peaks of Leopoldsberg and Kahlenberg, on the gentle slopes where the vineyards begin. White wine is found in abundance here, especially the brash vinnouveau called 'Heurige' (literally, 'this year's'), which can pack a mighty headache punch by the second or third glass. The wines probably attracted Beethoven, who was known to savor the grape with relish.

"Beethoven is said to have occupied at least three different premises within a few blocks of each other in the quaint and quiet hamlet of Heiligenstadt. For the visitor, the most significant is found at Probusgasse 6, where with characteristic efficiency the Viennese levy two different admission charges for a single building. Here local legend maintains that Beethoven reached the depths of despair in 1802, penning that anguished tome bearing the city's name. The Heiligenstadt Testament suggests a near-suicidal despair prompted by his encroaching deafness and the frustrations of his personal life at the age of only thirty-one.

"An intimate courtyard with a lominant sinuous tree stands between the two museums: on the Probusgasse side, a small one-room museum (fairly new) devoted to the composer's life and testament; on the far side, facing the afternoon sun, the rooms in which in said to have Beethoven lived in 1802. (Unfortunately, no firm documentary evidence has ever established the exact location.) Photocopies of memorabilia and documents are featured in both museums in the house.

"In the years after writing the Testament, Beethoven bounced back, writing the Eroica, Fidelio, the Fourth Fortepiano Concerto, and the Violin Concerto. He also found time to teach two well-born young ladies of the aristocracy. Floating down the Danube nowadays - perhaps on the scenic Austria-to-Hungary hydrofoil - brings you to Budapest. Another twenty miles south lands you at the small town of Martonvasar, dominated by the estate of the Brunswick family. For Beethoven, the treasures here were not just the country manse, vast property, and man-made canals. Here too were the comely daughters Therese and Josephine, who were the objects of both visits and fortepiano lessons by the young Beethoven. Like many well-to-do families of the time, they maintained residences both in Hungary and in Vienna.

"Beethoven dedicated the Sonata, Opus 78, to Therese and he wrote a famous set of thirteen love letters to Josephine during that first decade of the nineteenth century. Some writers have argued that Josephine had to have been Beethoven's mysterious Immortal Beloved, though the vote is still out on that thorny issue.

"These Hungarian idylls are obliquely recalled in Beethoven's Overture to King Stephen, named after the first Hungarian King. The 1,000th anniversary of Stephen's crowning will be observed in the year 2000, presumably with elaborate celebrations (yet another reason for Beethoven-related travel! …

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