Letters to the Editor

The Beethoven Journal, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Letters to the Editor


To the Editor:

I was happy to see in the last issue of the Journal the segment devoted to Internet sites related to Beethoven. To those you listed I can add one that is actually a very useful research tool. On the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) it is possible to search for a composer's "filmography"; i.e., a listing not only for movies with music by Nino Rota and John Williams, but also for a reasonably complete list of movies that have used Beethoven (or Mozart or Bach) in the soundtracks. Occasionally it will specify which work is included, but usually that information is not provided. Nevertheless, it has proven useful to my own investigations into how movies incorporate classical music.

Sincerely,

Christopher Reynolds

University of California, Davis

To the Editor:

Although Susan Lund's article in the Summer 1998 issue of The Beethoven Journal describing the Brentanohaus at Winkel gives some absorbing insight into the Brentano family background - their paintings and mementos, wines and intimacy with Goethe (the nightshirt episode particularly diverting) - Lund proceeds to abandon her initial objectivity in making certain questionable assumptions and unequivocal assertions without firm foundation in fact. Appearance on the red room wall at Winkel of the early miniature of Antonie Brentano painted for her husband-to-be at the time of their arranged marriage prompts Lund to support unconditionally Maynard Solomon's tentative proposal that the woman portrayed here known to be Antonie might have been the unnamed one depicted in another miniature found among Beethoven's effects at his death. The first portrait, Lund quips, was intended for the man "to whom she was given"; the other was for the one "to whom she gave herself."

Gave herself? On what authority? Although Lund credits Solomon with "discovery of Antonie Brentano as Beethoven's Immortal Beloved," this conjecture of his, though a popular premise, remains an unestablished hypothesis. I take issue too with Lund's assumption here that the madonna-like portrait of Antonie and two of her children in the main room at Winkel - a copy of the original in Beethoven-Haus in Bonn reproduced in this and the previous issue of the Journal - was a conscious attempt to depict her as the Virgin Mary and the infant she holds as the Christ child. Lund argues that this is not daughter Fanny as generally believed but Antonie's youngest son Franz Josef whom she attempts to establish as Beethoven's son in earlier articles in The Beethoven Journal ana The Music Review. To her doubt that "so devout a Catholic [as Antonie] would have countenanced a girl child as the Christ," I would add a related question as to whether any devout Christian, not Catholic alone, would risk the sacrilege of posing with any of her children as "Mother of God."

Far more probable as I see it is an intent to portray Antonie as a loving, dedicated and devout but not holy mother. Such a woman would come closer surely to Lund's perception of a principled Catholic girl, "living by the commandment," than one she depicts as having equated herself with divinity on the one hand but capable on the other of "giving herself outside marriage in defiance of the Seventh Commandment. Somehow neither perception seems to me to ring true or be fair to the memory of one portrayed by generations of Beethoven scholars as exemplary wife and mother.

That there is no picture of Beethoven at Winkel "in a family he called my best friends in the world" does indeed appear to confirm a serious break in the relationship. But why attempt to explain this as Lund seems to do by envisaging an irate husband's fury over a supposed affair when the cause has actually long been known to rest upon a publication fracas over rights to Beethoven's Missa solemnis? …

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