During the course of his lifetime (1770–1827), the composer Ludwig van Beethoven
enjoyed relationships with many of his musical contemporaries. Beethoven was famously difficult to get along with, and the history of his relationships with contemporaries is littered with arguments, misunderstandings, and reconciliations. Beethoven had well-known falling outs with his one-time teacher
, Joseph Haydn
, with the piano virtuoso
and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel
, and the German
composer Carl Maria von Weber
Beethoven and Joseph Haydn
Perhaps the most important relationship in Beethoven's early life, and certainly the most famous, was the young pianist's tutorship under the Austrian
composer Joseph Haydn
. Beethoven studied with a number of composers and teachers in the period 1792–1795, including Antonio Salieri
and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger
. However, of all Beethoven's teachers, Haydn enjoyed the greatest reputation having just returned from his first successful voyage to London
. In the year before his second trip to London (1794), Haydn agreed to take on Beethoven as a student.
There is evidence that Haydn assigned his student composition exercises based on the Fux text Gradus ad Parnassum. During the course of the year, however, the relationship between the two men soured. According to contemporary accounts, the issue surfaced most notably upon the publication of Beethoven's first compositions, the Trios Op. 1. (See List of works by Beethoven). Wishing to assist the young composer, Haydn suggested that Beethoven include the phrase 'pupil of Haydn' underneath his name in order to garner advantage from Haydn's considerable fame. There is generally strong evidence of Haydn's goodwill toward Beethoven, including an interest in taking his pupil with him on his second London voyage, and the personal missives Haydn sent Beethoven's early patron Maximilian Francis of Austria, Elector of Cologne.
Beethoven, however, seems to have harboured ill-will toward Haydn. At the suggestion that he include the phrase pupil of Haydn, Beethoven bristled. According to the account left by Ferdinand Ries "Beethoven was unwilling to because, as he said, although he had some instruction from Haydn he had never learned anything from him." The bad feelings produced by the Opus 1 Trios were compounded upon their first performance. Haydn, present in the audience, is reported to have recommended against the publication of the C minor Trio (Opus 1, no. 3) since he suspected the music would not gain public acceptance. Beethoven interpreted this as an indication of Haydn's envy and jealousy.
Despite this, however, Beethoven and Haydn remained on generally good terms until Haydn's death in 1809. Haydn's towering reputation in Vienna made it hard for Beethoven to be openly antagonistic. However, Haydn was also genuinely admiring of Beethoven's compositions, a trait that usually succeeded in earning Beethoven's goodwill.
Beethoven and Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
, born in 1778, was a fixture in the Viennese musical world. A child prodigy and former pupil of W.A. Mozart
, Hummel was renowned for his incredible virtuosity at the keyboard and legendary prowess at improvisation. Alongside Beethoven, he was widely considered the finest performer of his day. For many years, Hummel enjoyed a close friendship with Beethoven.
Several incidents, however, marred their relationship. In a famous incident, Beethoven was invited by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy to write a mass for his wife in 1807. Beethoven agreed and produced the Mass in C, which was performed at the prince's estate, Eisenstadt. Hummel was at the time the Kapellmeister, having been appointed Haydn's successor to the Esterhazy court. The performance did not go well, and the prince is purported to have made a barbed remark to Beethoven afterwards. According to Schindler, Hummel laughed at the prince's words, compounding the always-sensitive Beethoven's feelings of humiliation and persecution. Beethoven promptly left Eisenstadt and carried the grudge for years aftwerward. This incident, however, likely did not prompt the eventual falling-out between the two men.
A more likely source of contention between them was artistic. Hummel was well-known for his keyboard arrangements of Beethoven's works, particularly his symphonies. Beethoven disliked Hummel's style of performance and composition, and according to Ignaz Moscheles objected to Hummel's arrangements. Some time in the late 1810s, disagreement surfaced, the exact cause of which is unknown, but which may well have centered on discord over Hummel's arrangements of Beethoven's music.
Hummel spent most of the 1820s at the Weimar Court, where he was a friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and did not see Beethoven again until a remarkable reconciliation took place between the two men upon Beethoven's deathbed. Hummel, hearing of Beethoven's serious illness, travelled from Weimar to Vienna to visit his erstwhile friend. According to the account left by Hummel's then-student Ferdinand Hiller (who accompanied his teacher), Hummel may have been motivated by more than compassion. Hummel solicited Beethoven's signature upon a petition he was taking to the Bundestag in order to protect his (and others) compositions from illegal copying. All told, Hummel visited Beethoven three times upon his death bed, the last being on March 23, 1827, just three days before his death, and was present at his funeral.
Beethoven and Luigi Cherubini
Beethoven met the composer Luigi Cherubini
upon the latter's voyage to Vienna in 1805. Cherubini, a longtime resident of Paris
, was invited to mount a production of his opera Die Tage der Gefahr
(or Der Wasserträger
) after the success of his 1791 opera Lodoïska
, which was staged by Emanuel Schikaneder
on March 23, 1803 at the Theater an der Wien
. Cherubini's time in Vienna was generally unhappy, but he did have the opportunity to meet Beethoven. Cherubini was in attendance for the first performances of Beethoven's Opera Fidelio
, to which he reacted sneeringly. He also described Beethoven's piano style as "rough," and more famously the man himself as "an unlicked bear." It is remarkable, therefore, that Beethoven, normally so quick to take offense, named Cherubini as the greatest contemporary composer. This extraordinary judgment persisted; upon nearing his death, Beethoven remarked to his friend Karl Holz that he considered Cherubini's Requiem
of 1816 a superior composition to Mozart's!
Beethoven and Franz Liszt
On April 13
, the twelve year old Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt
gave a concert
and it is often said that the 53-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven
gave him a kiss
-- the so-called Weihekuss
, or 'kiss of consecration' -- for his marvellous playing, although this is unlikely to be true as Beethoven was profoundly deaf
by this time. A more reasonable account of the Beethoven kiss event is reported in the reminiscences of the pianist Ilka Horovitz-Barnay
- "The most memorable time I experienced with Liszt was when he told me of his meeting with Beethoven. 'I was about eleven years old', he began, 'when my highly esteemed teacher Czerny introduced me to Beethoven. He had long before told him about me and had asked him to hear me play. But Beethoven had aversions against prodigies and for a long time refused to hear me. Finally though he was persuaded by my indefatigable teacher Czerny and said: "Then for God's sake – bring the little rascal".
- "'It was one morning about ten o'clock when we entered the two small rooms of the Schwarzspanierhaus, where Beethoven lived. I was somewhat embarrassed – but Czerny kindly encouraged me. Beethoven was sitting by the window at a long narrow table working. For a moment he looked at us with a serious face, said a couple of quick words to Czerny but turned silent as my dear teacher signaled to me to go to the piano.
- "'First I played a small piece of Ries [Ferdinand Ries, another pupil of Beethoven]. When I had finished Beethoven asked if I could play a fugue by Bach. I chose the C minor fugue from Wohltemperiertes Klavier. "Can you transpose this fugue?" Beethoven asked.
- "'Fortunately I could. After the finishing chord I looked up. Beethoven's deep glowing eyes rested upon me — but suddenly a light smile flew over his otherwise serious face. He approached me and stroked me several times over my head with affection.
- "'"Well – I'll be blowed" he whispered, "such a little devil".
- "'Suddenly my courage rose: "May I play one of your pieces?" I asked with audacity. Beethoven nodded with a smile. I played the first movement of his C major piano concerto [nr. 1]. When I had finished Beethoven stretched out his arms, kissed me on my forehead and said in a soft voice:
- "'"You go on ahead. You are one of the lucky ones! It will be your destiny to bring joy and delight to many people and that is the greatest happiness one can achieve"'.
- "Liszt told me this with great emotion; his voice trembled but you could feel what divine joy these simple words had given him. Never did Liszt – the human being – make a greater impression on me. The flamboyant man-of-the-world, the revered artist was gone; this great moment he had experienced in his childhood still resounded in his soul. For a little while he was silent – then he said quietly:
- "'This was the proudest moment in my life – the inauguration to my life as artist. I tell this very rarely – and only to special friends.'"
This story is somewhat more convincing, although Beethoven was just as deaf in 1822 as in 1823. It's possible, however, to speculate that Beethoven felt the vibrations of the piano with his hands as he is said to have been able to do, as well as observe Liszt's fingerings. Also, at the time it is meant to have occurred Beethoven was not residing in the Schwarzspanierhaus — but when Liszt told this story he was in his latter years, and his memory may have been a little foggy, if the story itself was not a confabulation.