Haydn, Mozart, & Beethoven: Studies in the Music of the Classical Period

By Sieghard Brandenburg | Go to book overview

18
Some Romantic Images in Beethoven

MAYNARD SOLOMON


1. The Talking Trees

Always impatient with the written word and ever eager to return to his music, Beethoven was prone to slips of the pen. Quill flying, mind wandering, he would place on his letters such improbable dates as AD 1089 and AD 1841. He would render the village of Heiligenstadt as 'Heiglnstadt'. Or, responding to a dear friend who felt that he had been neglected, he would write: 'You believe that my goodness of heart has diminished. No, thank Heaven, for what made me behave to you like that was deliberate, premeditated wickedness on my part . . .'1 Fortunately, he proof-read his letter to Franz Wegeler and modified the word 'deliberate' by an interlineated 'no'.

Such errors provide a happy hunting ground for those of us who like to turn up interesting new confirmations of the psychopathology of everyday life. Thus, I was pleased but not at all surprised when, in the course of investigating Beethoven's religious outlook, I found what appeared to be a clear mental error--what Freud's translators used to call a 'parapraxis' or 'symptomatic action'. Such actions, wrote Freud, 'give expression to something which the agent himself does not suspect in them, and which he does not as a rule intend to impart to other people but to keep to himself'.2 On a leaf of sketches dated late September 1815 Beethoven addressed himself to God: 'Almighty in the forest! I am happy, blissful in the forest: every tree speaks through Thee (jeder Baum spricht durch Dich)'.3 Surely, I thought,

____________________
1
Letter of c. 1794-6, to Franz Gerhard Wegeler, in The Letters of Beethoven, ed. and trans. Emily Anderson , 3 vols. ( London, 1961), i. 21 (No. 15).
2
Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of everyday Life, trans. Alan Tyson, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud and assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson, 24 vols. ( London, 1953-75), vi. 191. For several 'bizarre' parapraxes in Beethoven's letters, see Tyson, "'Prolegomena to a Future Edition of Beethoven's Letters'", in Tyson (ed.), Beethoven Studies 2 ( London, 1977), 6-7.
3
Cited in Beethovens Sämtliche Briefe, ed. A. C. Kalischer, rev. Theodor von Frimmel, 5 vols. ( Berlin and Leipzig, 1908-11), ii. 291 n. (Formerly in the Joseph Joachim collection.)

-253-

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