Part 2 out of 5
stay father and son were feted to their hearts' content.
At Naples, their next stopping place, Wolfgang played before a
brilliant company, and excited so much astonishment, that people
declared his power in playing came from a ring he wore on his finger.
"He wears a charm," they cried. Mozart smiled, took off the ring and
played more brilliantly than ever. Then the enthusiasm was redoubled.
The Neapolitans showed them every attention and honor. A carriage
was provided for their use, and we have an account of how they drove
through the best streets, the father wearing a maroon-colored coat
with light blue facings, and Wolfgang in one of apple green, with
rose-colored facings and silver buttons.
It was indeed a wonderful tour which they made in Italy, though there
is not time to tell of many things that happened. On their return to
Rome, the Pope gave him the order of the Golden Spur, which made him
Chevalier de Mozart. Arriving at Bologna the young musician was made a
member of the Accademia Filharmonica. The test for this admission was
setting an antiphon in four parts. Wolfgang was locked in a room till
the task should be finished. To the astonishment of everybody he asked
to be let out at the end of half an hour,--having completed the work.
The travelers now proceeded to Milan, where Mozart was to work on his
first opera, for which he had received a commission. It was a great
task for a boy to accomplish and we find the young composer writing
to his mother and sister to pray for his success. The opera was called
"Mitridate," and was finished after three months' hard work. The first
performance was given in Milan, December 26, 1770, and was conducted
by Wolfgang himself. It was a proud, happy day for the father, indeed
for the whole family. "Mitridate" succeeded beyond their hopes; it was
given twenty times before crowded houses; and its success brought an
election to the Accademia, and also a commission to write a dramatic
Serenata for an approaching royal wedding. This work also was a great
success. The Empress who had commissioned Mozart to compose the work
was so pleased, that besides the promised fee, she gave the composer a
gold watch with her portrait set in diamonds on the back.
Sunshine and success had followed the gifted boy through all his
travels; but now shadows and disappointments were to come, due to
jealousy, intrigue and indifference of those in power who might have
helped him but failed to recognize his genius. Shortly after the
return of the father and son to their home town of Salzburg, their
protector and friend, the good Archbishop of Salzburg, died. His
successor was indifferent to art and held in contempt those who
followed it as a profession. He persistently refused to appoint the
young musician to any office worthy his talent or to recognize his
gifts in any way. While Mozart remained at home in Salzburg, hoping
his prospects would improve, he worked at composing with untiring
diligence. By the time he was twenty-one he had accumulated a mass
of music that embraced every branch of the art. He had a growing
reputation as a composer but no settled future. He had the post of
concertmaster, it is true, but the salary was but a trifle and he
was often pressed for money. Leopold therefore decided to undertake
another professional tour with his son. The Archbishop however
prevented the father leaving Salzburg. So the only course left open
was to allow Wolfgang and his mother to travel together. They set out
on the morning of September 23, 1777. Wolfgang's spirits rose as the
town of Salzburg faded into the haze of that September morning; the
sense of freedom was exhilarating; he had escaped the place associated
in his mind with tyranny and oppression, to seek his fortune in new
and wider fields.
At Munich where they first halted, Wolfgang sought an engagement
at the Elector's Court. He had an audience at the Nymphenburg, a
magnificent palace on the outskirts of the city. The Elector said
there was no vacancy; he did not know but later it might be possible
to make one, after Mozart had been to Italy and had made a name for
himself. With these words the Elector turned away. Mozart stood as
if stunned. To Italy, when he had concertized there for about seven
years, and had been showered with honors! It was too much. He shook
off the dust of Munich and he and his mother went on to Mannheim.
Here was a more congenial atmosphere. The Elector maintained a fine
orchestra, and with the conductor, Cannabich, Mozart became great
friends, giving music lessons to his daughter. But he could not seem
to secure a permanent appointment at Court, worthy his genius and
ability. Money became more scarce and the father and sister must make
many sacrifices at home to send money to maintain mother and son. With
the best of intentions Wolfgang failed to make his way except as a
piano teacher. The father had resorted to the same means of securing
the extra sums required, and wrote quite sharply to the son to bestir
himself and get something settled for the future.
For the young genius, Mannheim possessed a special attraction of which
the father knew nothing. Shortly after their arrival in the city,
Wolfgang became acquainted with the Weber family. The two oldest
daughters, Aloysia, fifteen, and Constanza, fourteen, were charming
girls just budding into womanhood. Aloysia had a sweet, pure voice,
and was studying for the stage; indeed she had already made her debut
in opera. It was not at all strange that young Mozart, who often
joined the family circle, should fall in love with the girl's fair
beauty and fresh voice, should write songs for her and teach her
to sing them as he wished. They were much together and their early
attraction fast ripened into love. Wolfgang formed a project for
helping the Webers, who were in rather straitened circumstances, by
undertaking a journey to Italy in company with Aloysia and her father;
he would write an opera in which Aloysia should appear as prima donna.
Of this brilliant plan he wrote his father, saying they could stop in
Salzburg on the way, when the father and Nannerl could meet the fair
young singer, whom they would be sure to love.
Leopold Mozart was distracted at news of this project. He at once
wrote, advising his son to go to Paris and try there to make a name
and fame for himself. The son dutifully yielded at once. With a heavy
heart he prepared to leave Mannheim, where he had spent such a happy
winter, and his love dream came to an end. It was a sad parting with
the Weber household, for they regarded Wolfgang as their greatest
The hopes Leopold Mozart had built on Wolfgang's success in Paris were
not to be realized. The enthusiasm he had aroused as a child prodigy
was not awarded to the matured musician. Three months passed away in
more or less fruitless endeavor. Then the mother, who had been his
constant companion in these trials and travels, fell seriously ill. On
July 3, 1778, she passed away in her son's arms.
Mozart prepared to leave Paris at once, and his father was the
more willing, since the Archbishop of Salzburg offered Wolfgang
the position of Court organist, at a salary of 500 florins, with
permission to absent himself whenever he might be called upon to
conduct his own operas. Leopold urged Wolfgang's acceptance, as their
joint income would amount to one thousand florins a year--a sum that
would enable them to pay their debts and live in comparative comfort.
To Mozart the thought of settling down in Salzburg under the
conditions stated in his father's letter was distasteful, but he had
not the heart to withstand his father's appeal. He set out from Paris
at once, promising himself just one indulgence before entering the
bondage which lay before him, a visit to his friends the Webers at
Mannheim. When he arrived there he found they had gone to Munich to
live. Therefore he pushed on to Munich. The Weber family received him
as warmly as of old, but in Aloysia's eyes there was only a friendly
greeting, nothing more. A few short months had cooled her fickle
attachment for the young composer. This discovery was a bitter
trial to Wolfgang and he returned to his Salzburg home saddened by
disappointed love and ambition.
Here in his old home he was cheered by a rapturous welcome; it was
little short of a triumph, this greeting and homage showered on him by
father, sister and friends. In their eyes his success was unshadowed
by failure; to them he was Mozart the great composer, the genius among
musicians. He was very grateful for these proofs of affection and
esteem, but he had still the same aversion to Salzburg and his Court
duties. So it was with new-kindled joy that he set out once more for
Munich, in November, 1780, to complete and produce the opera he had
been commissioned to write for the carnival the following year.
The new opera, "Idomeneo," fulfilled the high expectations his Munich
friends had formed of the composer's genius. Its reception at the
rehearsals proved success was certain, and the Elector who was
present, joined the performers in expressing his unqualified approval.
At home the progress of the work was followed with deepest interest.
The first performance of "Idomeneo" took place on January 29, 1781.
Leopold and Marianne journeyed to Munich to witness Wolfgang's
triumph. It was a proud, happy moment for all three; the enthusiastic
acclaim which shook the theater seemed to the old father, who watched
with swimming eyes the sea of waving hands around him, to set the seal
of greatness on his son's career.
The Archbishop, under whom Mozart held the meager office we have
spoken of, grew more overbearing in his treatment; he was undoubtedly
jealous that great people of Vienna were so deferential to one of his
servants, as he chose to call him. At last the rupture came; after a
stormy scene Mozart was dismissed from his service, and was free.
Father Mozart was alarmed when he heard the news of the break, and
endeavored to induce Wolfgang to reconsider his decision and return to
Salzburg. But the son took a firm stand for his independence. "Do not
ask me to return to Salzburg," he wrote his father; "ask me anything
And now came a time of struggling for Mozart. His small salary was cut
off and he had but one pupil. He had numerous friends, however, and
soon his fortunes began to mend. He was lodging with his old friends
the Webers. Aloysia, his former beloved, had married; Madame Weber
and her two unmarried daughters were now in Vienna and in reduced
circumstances. Mozart's latest opera, "The Elopement," had brought
him fame both in Vienna and Prague, and he had the patronage of many
distinguished persons, as well as that of Emperor Josef.
Mozart had now decided to make a home for himself, and chose as his
bride Constanza Weber, a younger sister of Aloysia, his first love. In
spite of Leopold Mozart's remonstrance, the young people were married
August 16, 1782.
Constanza, though a devoted wife, was inexperienced in home keeping.
The young couple were soon involved in many financial troubles
from which there seemed no way out, except by means of some Court
appointment. This the Emperor in spite of his sincere interest in the
composer, seemed disinclined to give.
Mozart now thought seriously of a journey to London and Paris, but
his father's urgent appeal that he would wait and exercise patience,
delayed him. Meanwhile he carried out an ardent desire to pay a visit
to his father and sister in Salzburg, to present to them his bride.
It was a very happy visit, and later on, when Mozart and his wife were
again settled in Vienna, they welcomed the father on a return visit.
Leopold found his son immersed in work, and it gladdened his heart to
see the appreciation in which his playing and compositions were held.
One happy evening they spent with Josef Haydn who, after hearing some
of Mozart's quartets played, took the father aside, saying: "I declare
before God, as a man of honor, that your son is the greatest composer
I know, either personally or by reputation. He has taste, but more
than that the most consummate knowledge of the art of composition."
This happy time was to be the last meeting between father and son.
Soon after Leopold's return to Salzburg, he was stricken with illness,
and passed away May 28, 1787. The news reached the composer shortly
after he had achieved one of the greatest successes of his life. The
performances of his latest opera, "The Marriage of Figaro," had been
hailed with delight by enthusiastic crowds in Vienna and Prague; its
songs were heard at every street corner, and village ale house. "Never
was anything more complete than the triumph of Mozart and his 'Nozze
di Figaro,'" wrote a singer and friend.--"And for Mozart himself, I
shall never forget his face when lighted up with the glowing rays of
genius; it is as impossible to describe as to paint sunbeams."
Despite the success of Figaro, Mozart was still a poor man, and must
earn his bread by giving music lessons. Finally the Emperor, hoping
to keep him in Germany, appointed him Chamber-composer at a salary
of about eighty pounds a year. It must have seemed to Mozart and his
friends a beggarly sum for the value his Majesty professed to set upon
the composer's services to art. "Too much for the little I am asked to
produce, too little for what I could produce," were the bitter words
he penned on the official return stating the amount of his salary.
Mozart was inclined to be somewhat extravagant in dress and household
expenditure, also very generous to any one who needed assistance.
These trials, added to the fact that his wife was frequently in
ill health, and not very economical, served to keep the family in
continual straits. Occasionally they were even without fire or food,
though friends always assisted such dire distress. Mozart's father had
declared procrastination was his son's besetting sin. Yet the son was
a tireless worker, never idle. In September, 1787, he was at Prague,
writing the score of his greatest opera, "Don Giovanni"; the time was
short, as the work was to be produced October 29. On the evening of
the 28th it was found he had not yet written the overture. It only
had to be written down, for this wonderful genius had the music quite
complete in his head. He set to work, while his wife read fairy tales
aloud to keep him awake, and gave him strong punch at intervals. By
seven o'clock next morning the score was ready for the copyist. It was
played in the evening without rehearsal, with the ink scarcely dry on
Even the successes of "Don Giovanni," which was received with thunders
of applause, failed to remedy his desperate financial straits. Shortly
after this his pupil and patron, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, proposed he
should accompany him to Berlin. Mozart gladly consented, hoping for
some betterment to his fortunes. The King of Prussia received him
with honor and respect and offered him the post of Capellmeister, at
a salary equal to about three thousand dollars. This sum would have
liberated him from all his financial embarrassments, and he was
strongly tempted to accept. But loyalty to his good Emperor Josef
caused him to decline the offer.
The month of July, 1791, found Mozart at home in Vienna at work on a
magic opera to help his friend Salieri, who had taken a little theater
in the suburb of Wieden. One day he was visited by a stranger, a tall
man, who said he came to commission Mozart to compose a Requiem. He
would neither give his own name nor that of the person who had sent
Mozart was somewhat depressed by this mysterious commission; however
he set to work on the Requiem at once. The composing of both this and
the fairy opera was suddenly interrupted by a pressing request that he
would write an opera for the coronation of Leopold II at Prague. The
ceremony was fixed for September 6, so no time was to be lost. Mozart
set out at once for Prague. The traveling carriage was at the door.
As he was about to enter it, the mysterious stranger suddenly appeared
and enquired for the Requiem. The composer could only promise to
finish on his return, when hastily entering his carriage, he drove
The new opera, "La Clemenza di Tito," was finished in time and
performed, but was received somewhat indifferently. Mozart returned to
Vienna with spirits depressed and body exhausted by overwork. However,
he braced himself anew, and on September 30th, the new fairy opera,
the "Magic Flute," was produced, and its success increased with each
The Requiem was not yet finished and to this work Mozart now turned.
But the strain and excitement he had undergone for the past few months
had done their work: a succession of fainting spells overcame him, and
the marvelous powers which had always been his seemed no longer at his
command. He feared he would not live to complete the work. "It is for
myself I am writing the Requiem," he said sadly to Constanza, one day.
On the evening of December 4, friends who had gathered at his bedside,
handed him, at his desire, the score of the Requiem, and, propped up
by pillows he tried to sing one of the passages. The effort was too
great; the manuscript slipped from his nerveless hand and he fell back
speechless with emotion. A few hours later, on the morning of December
5, 1791, this great master of whom it was prophesied that he would
cause all others to be forgotten, passed from the scene of his many
struggles and greater triumphs.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
The Shakespeare of the realm of music, as he has been called, first
saw the light on December 16, 1770, in the little University town
of Bonn, on the Rhine. His father, Johann Beethoven, belonged to the
court band of the Elector of Cologne. The family were extremely poor.
The little room, where the future great master was born, was so low,
that a good-sized man could barely stand upright in it. Very small
it was too, and not very light either, as it was at the back of the
building and looked out on a walled garden.
The fame of young Mozart, who was acclaimed everywhere as a marvelous
prodigy, had naturally reached the father's ears. He decided to train
the little Ludwig as a pianist, so that he should also be hailed as
a prodigy and win fame and best of all money for the poverty-stricken
family. So the tiny child was made to practice scales and finger
exercises for hours together. He was a musically gifted child, but how
he hated those everlasting tasks of finger technic, when he longed to
join his little companions, who could run and play in the sunshine. If
he stopped his practice to rest and dream a bit, the stern face of his
father would appear at the doorway, and a harsh voice would call out,
"Ludwig! what are you doing? Go on with your exercises at once. There
will be no soup for you till they are finished."
The father, though harsh and stern, wished his boy to have as thorough
a knowledge of music as his means would permit. The boy was also sent
to the public school, where he picked up reading and writing, but did
not make friends very quickly with the other children. The fact
was the child seemed wholly absorbed in music; of music he dreamed
constantly; in the companionship of music he never could be lonely.
When Ludwig was nine his father, regarding him with satisfaction and
some pride, declared he could teach him no more--and another master
must be found. Those childhood years of hard toil had resulted in
remarkable progress, even with the sort of teaching he had received.
The circumstances of the family had not improved, for poverty had
become acute, as the father became more and more addicted to drink.
Just at this time, a new lodger appeared, who was something of a
musician, and arranged to teach the boy in part payment for his room.
Ludwig wondered if he would turn out to be a more severe taskmaster
than his father had been. The times and seasons when his instruction
was given were at least unusual. Tobias Pfeiffer, as the new lodger
was called, soon discovered that father Beethoven generally spent his
evenings at the tavern. As an act of kindness, to keep his drunken
landlord out of the way of the police, Tobias used to go to the tavern
late at night and bring him safely home. Then he would go to the
bedside of the sleeping boy, and awake him by telling him it was time
for practice. The two would go to the living room, where they would
play together for several hours, improvising on original themes and
playing duets. This went on for about a year; meanwhile Ludwig studied
Latin, French, Italian and logic. He also had organ lessons.
Things were going from bad to worse in the Beethoven home, and in the
hope of bettering these unhappy conditions, Frau Beethoven undertook
a trip through Holland with her boy, hoping that his playing in the
homes of the wealthy might produce some money. The tour was successful
in that it relieved the pressing necessities of the moment, but the
sturdy, independent spirit of the boy showed itself even then. "The
Dutch are very stingy, and I shall take care not to trouble them
again," he remarked to a friend.
The boy Ludwig could play the organ fairly well, as he had studied it
with Christian Neefe, who was organist at the Court church. He also
could play the piano with force and finish, read well at sight and
knew nearly the whole of Bach's "Well Tempered Clavichord." This was
a pretty good record for a boy of 11, who, if he went on as he had
begun, it was said, would become a second Mozart.
Neefe was ordered to proceed with the Elector and Court to Muenster,
which meant to leave his organ in Bonn for a time. Before starting
he called Ludwig to him and told him of his intended absence. "I must
have an assistant to take my place at the organ here. Whom do you
think I should appoint?" Seeing the boy had no inkling of his meaning,
he continued: "I have thought of an assistant, one I am sure I can
trust,--and that is you, Ludwig."
The honor was great, for a boy of eleven and a half. To conduct the
service, and receive the respect and deference due the position, quite
overwhelmed the lad. Honors of this kind were very pleasant, but,
alas, there was no money attached to the position, and this was what
the straitened family needed most sorely. The responsibilities of the
position and the confidence of Neefe spurred Ludwig on to a passion of
work which nothing could check. He began to compose; three sonatas
for the pianoforte were written about this time. Before completing his
thirteenth year, Ludwig obtained his first official appointment from
the Elector; he became what is called cembalist in the orchestra,
which meant that he had to play the piano in the orchestra, and
conduct the band at rehearsals. With this appointment there was no
salary attached either, and it was not until a year later when he was
made second organist to the Court, under the new Elector, Max Franz,
that he began to receive a small salary, equal to about sixty-five
dollars a year. We have seen that the straits of the family had not
prevented Ludwig from pursuing his musical studies with great ardor.
With his present attainments and his ambition for higher achievements,
he longed to leave the little town of Bonn, and see something of the
great world. Vienna was the center of the musical life of Germany; the
boy dreamed of this magical city by day as he went about his routine
of work, and by night as he lay on his poor narrow cot. Like Haydn,
Vienna was the goal of his ambition. When a kind friend, knowing his
great longing, came forward with an offer to pay the expenses of the
journey, the lad knew his dream was to become a reality. In Vienna he
would see the first composers of the day; best of all he would see and
meet the divine Mozart, the greatest of them all.
Ludwig, now seventeen, set out for the city of his dreams with the
brightest anticipations. On his arrival in Vienna he went at once to
Mozart's house. He was received most kindly and asked to play, but
Mozart seemed preoccupied and paid but little attention. Ludwig,
seeing this stopped playing and asked for a theme on which to
improvise. Mozart gave a simple theme, and Beethoven, taking the
slender thread, worked it up with so much feeling and power, that
Mozart, who was now all attention and astonishment, stepped into the
next room, where some friends were waiting for him, and said, "Pay
attention to this young man; he will make a noise in the world some
Shortly after his return home he was saddened by the loss of his
good, kind, patient mother, and a few months later his little sister
Margaretha passed away. No doubt these sorrows were expressed in some
of his most beautiful compositions. But brighter days followed the
dark ones. He became acquainted with the Breuning family, a widow
lady and four children, three boys and a girl, all young people. The
youngest boy and the girl became his pupils, and all were very fond
of him. He would stay at their house for days at a time and was always
treated as one of the family. They were cultured people, and in
their society Beethoven's whole nature expanded. He began to take an
interest in the literature of his own country and in English authors
as well. All his spare time was given to reading and composition.
A valuable acquaintance with the young Count Von Waldstein was made
about this time. The Count called one day and found the composer at
his old worn out piano, surrounded by signs of abject poverty. It
went to his heart to see that the young man, whose music he so greatly
admired should have to struggle for the bare necessities of life while
he himself enjoyed every luxury. It seemed to him terribly unjust. He
feared to offend the composer's self-respect by sending him money, but
shortly after the call Beethoven was made happy by the gift of a fine
new piano, in place of his old one. He was very grateful for this
friendship and later dedicated to the Count one of his finest sonatas,
the Op. 53, known as the "Waldstein Sonata."
With a view of aiding the growth of the opera, and operatic art, the
Elector founded a national theater, and Beethoven was appointed viola
player in the orchestra besides still being assistant organist in the
chapel. In July, 1792, the band arranged a reception for Haydn, who
was to pass through Bonn on his way from London, where he had had
a wonderful success, to his home in Vienna. Beethoven seized the
opportunity to show the master a cantata he had just composed. Haydn
praised the work and greatly encouraged the young musician to go
forward in his studies. The Elector, hearing of Haydn's words of
praise, felt that Beethoven should have the chance to develop his
talents that he might be able to produce greater works. Therefore
he decided to send the young composer, at his own expense, to
study strict counterpoint with Haydn. He was now twenty-two and his
compositions already published had brought him considerable fame and
appreciation in his vicinity. Now he was to have wider scope for his
He bade farewell to Bonn in November of this year and set out a second
time for the city of his dreams--Vienna. He was never to see Bonn
again. He arrived in Vienna comparatively unknown, but his fine piano
playing and wonderful gift for improvising greatly impressed all
who heard him. He constantly played in the homes of the wealthy
aristocracy. Many who heard him play, engaged lessons and he was
well on the road to social success. Yet his brusque manners often
antagonized his patrons. He made no effort to please or conciliate;
he was obstinate and self-willed. In spite of all this, the innate
nobleness and truth of his character retained the regard of men and
women belonging to the highest ranks of society. With the Prince and
Princess Lichnowsky Beethoven shortly became very intimate, and was
invited to stay at the Palace. The Princess looked after his personal
comfort with as motherly an affection as Madame Breuning had done.
The etiquette of the Palace however, offended Ludwig's love of
Bohemianism, especially the dressing for dinner at a certain time.
He took to dining at a tavern quite frequently, and finally engaged
lodgings. The Prince and his good lady, far from taking offense at
this unmannerly behavior, forgave it and always kept for Beethoven a
warm place in their hearts, while he, on his part was sincere in his
affection for his kind friends.
Beethoven began his lessons with Haydn, but they did not seem to get
on well together. The pupil thought the master did not give him enough
time and attention. When Haydn went to England, about a year after the
lessons began, Beethoven studied with several of the best musicians
of the city, both in playing and composition. Albrechtsberger, one of
these, was a famous contrapuntist of his time, and the student gained
much from his teaching. The young musician was irresistible when he
seated himself at the piano to extemporize. "His improvisating was
most brilliant and striking," wrote Carl Czerny, a pupil of Beethoven.
"In whatever company he might be, he knew how to produce such an
effect upon the listeners that frequently all eyes would be wet,
and some listeners would sob; there was something wonderful in his
expressive style, the beauty and originality of his ideas and his
spirited way of playing." Strange to say the emotion he roused in
his hearers seemed to find no response in Beethoven himself. He would
sometimes laugh at it, at other times he would resent it, saying, "We
artists don't want tears, we want applause." These expressions however
only concealed his inner feelings--for he was very sympathetic
with those friends he loved. His anger, though sharp, was of short
duration, but his suspicions of those whose confidence he had won by
his genius and force of character, were the cause of much suffering to
himself and others.
Beethoven in appearance was short and stockily built; his face was not
at all good looking. It is said he was generally meanly dressed and
was homely, but full of nobility, fine feeling and highly cultivated.
The eyes were black and bright, and they dilated, when the composer
was lost in thought, in a way that made him look inspired. A mass of
dark hair surmounted a high broad forehead. He often looked gloomy,
but when he smiled it was with a radiant brightness. His hands were
strong and the fingers short and pressed out with much practise. He
was very particular about hand position when playing. As a conductor
he made many movements, and is said to have crouched below the desk in
soft passages; in Crescendos he would gradually lift himself up
until at the loudest parts he would rise to his full height with arms
extended, even springing into the air, as though he would float in
Beethoven as a teacher, showed none of the impatience and carelessness
that were seen in his personal habits. He insisted on a pupil
repeating the passage carefully a number of times, until it could be
played to his satisfaction. He did not seem to mind a few wrong notes,
but the pupil must not fail to grasp the meaning or put in the right
expression, or his anger would be aroused. The first was an accident,
the other would be a lack of knowledge of feeling.
Beethoven loved nature as much or more than any musician ever did. How
he hailed the spring because he knew the time would soon come when he
could close the door of his lodgings in the hot city, and slip away to
some quiet spot and hold sweet communion with nature. A forest was a
paradise, where he could ramble among the trees and dream. Or he
would select a tree where a forking branch would form a seat near the
ground. He would climb up and sit in it for hours, lost in thought.
Leaning against the trunk of a lime tree, his eyes fixed upon the
network of leaves and branches above him, he sketched the plan of his
oratorio "The Mount of Olives"; also that of his one opera "Fidelio,"
and the third Symphony, known as the "Eroica." He wrote to a friend,
"No man loves the country more than I. Woods, trees and rocks give the
response which man requires. Every tree seems to say 'Holy, holy.'"
Already, as a young man, symptoms of deafness began to appear, and
the fear of becoming a victim of this malady made the composer more
sensitive than ever. He was not yet thirty when this happened, and
believing his life work at an end, he became deeply depressed. Various
treatments were tried for increasing deafness; at one time it seemed
to be cured by the skill of Dr. Schmidt, to whom out of gratitude he
dedicated his Septet, arranged as a Trio. By his advice the composer
went for the summer of 1820 to the little village of Heiligenstadt
(which means Holy City) in the hope that the calm, sweet environment
would act as a balm to his troubled mind. During this period of rest
and quiet his health improved somewhat, but from now on he had to give
up conducting his works, on account of his deafness.
It may be thought that one so reticent and retiring, of such hasty
temper and brusque manners, would scarcely be attracted to women.
But Beethoven, it is said, was very susceptible to the charm of the
opposite sex. He was however, most careful and high-souled in all his
relations with women. He was frequently in love, but it was usually a
Platonic affection. For the Countess Julie Guicciardi he protested
the most passionate love, which was in a measure returned. She was
doubtless his "immortal beloved," whose name vibrates through the
Adagio of the "Moonlight Sonata," which is dedicated to her. He wrote
her the most adoring letters; but the union, which he seemed to desire
so intensely, was never brought about, though the reason is not known.
For Bettina von Arnim, Goethe's little friend, he conceived a tender
affection. Another love of his was for the Countess Marie Erdoedy,
to whom he dedicated the two fine Trios, Op. 70, but this was also
a purely Platonic affection. The composer was unfortunate in his
attachments, for the objects were always of a much higher social
standing than himself. As he constantly associated with people of rank
and culture, it was natural that the young girl nobly born, with all
the fascinations of the high bred aristocrat, should attract him far
more than the ordinary woman of his own class. And thus it happened
that several times he staked his chances of happiness on a love he
knew could never be consummated. Yet no one needed a kind, helpful,
sympathetic wife more than did our poet-musician. She would have
soothed his sensitive soul when he suffered from fancied wrongs,
shielded him from intrusion, shared his sorrows and triumphs, and
attended to his house-keeping arrangements, which were always in a sad
state of confusion. This blissful state was seemingly not for him. It
was best for the great genius to devote himself wholly to his divine
art, and to create those masterpieces which will always endure.
In 1804 Beethoven completed one of his greatest symphonies, the
"Eroica." He made a sketch, as we have seen, two years before. He had
intended it to honor Napoleon, to whose character and career he was
greatly attracted. But when Napoleon entered Paris in triumph and was
proclaimed Emperor, Beethoven's worship was turned to contempt. He
seized the symphony, tore the little page to shreds and flung the work
to the other end of the room. It was a long time before he would look
at the music again, but finally, he consented to publish it under the
title by which it is now known.
When we consider the number and greatness of Beethoven's compositions
we stand aghast at the amount of labor he accomplished. "I live only
in my music," he wrote, "and no sooner is one thing done than the next
is begun. I often work at two or three things at once." Music was his
language of expression, and through his music we can reach his heart
and know the man as he really was. At heart he was a man capable of
loving deeply and most worthy to be loved.
Of the composer's two brothers, one had passed away and had left his
boy Carl, named after himself, as a solemn charge, to be brought up by
Uncle Ludwig as his own son. The composer took up this task generously
and unselfishly. He was happy to have the little lad near him, one of
his own kin to love. But as Carl grew to young manhood he proved to
be utterly unworthy of all this affection. He treated his good uncle
shamefully, stole money from him, though he had been always generously
supplied with it, and became a disgrace to the family. There is no
doubt that his nephew's dissolute habits saddened the master's life,
estranged him from his friends and hastened his death.
How simple and modest was this great master, in face of his mighty
achievements! He wrote to a friend in 1824: "I feel as if I had
scarcely written more than a few notes." These later years had been
more than full of work and anxiety. Totally deaf, entirely thrown in
upon himself, often weak and ill, the master kept on creating work
after work of the highest beauty and grandeur.
Ludwig van Beethoven passed from this plane March 26, 1827, having
recently completed his fifty-sixth year, and was laid to rest in the
Waehring Cemetery near Vienna. Unlike Mozart, he was buried with much
honor. Twenty thousand people followed him to his grave. Among them
was Schubert, who had visited him on his deathbed, and was one of the
torch bearers. Several of the Master's compositions were sung by a
choir of male voices, accompanied by trombones. At the grave Hummel
laid three laurel wreaths on the casket.
CARL MARIA VON WEBER
As we have already seen in the life stories of a number of musicians,
the career they were to follow was often decided by the father, who
determined to form them into wonder children, either for monetary gain
or for the honor and glory of the family. The subject of this story is
an example of such a preconceived plan.
Franz Anton von Weber, who was a capable musician himself, had always
cherished the desire to give a wonder child to the world. In his
idea wonder children need not be born such, they could be made by the
proper care and training. He had been a wealthy man, but at the time
of our story, was in reduced circumstances, and was traveling about
Saxony at the head of a troupe of theatrical folk, called "Weber's
Company of Comedians."
Little Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst, to give his full name, was born
December 18, 1786, at Eutin, a little town in Lower Saxony. He was the
first child of a second marriage, and before the baby boy could
speak, his career had been planned; the father had made up his mind
to develop his son into an extraordinary musical genius. It is not
recorded what his young mother, a delicate girl of seventeen, thought
about it; probably her ideas for her baby son did not enter into the
father's plan. Mother and child were obliged to follow in the train
of the wandering comedians, so baby Carl was brought up amid the
properties of stage business. Scenery, canvas, paints and stage lights
were the materials upon which Carl's imagination was fed. He learned
stage language with his earliest breath; it is no wonder he turned to
writing for the stage as to the manner born.
As a child he was neither robust nor even healthy, which is not
surprising, since he was not allowed to run afield with other
children, enjoying the sweet air of nature, the flowers, the sunshine
and blue sky. No, he must stay indoors much of the time and find his
playmates among cardboard castles and painted canvas streets. This
treatment was not conducive to rosy cheeks and strong, sturdy little
legs. Then, before the delicate child was six years old, a violin was
put into his hand, and if his progress on it was thought to be too
slow by his impatient father, he was treated to raps and blows by way
of incentive to work yet harder. His teachers, too, were continually
changing, as the comedians had to travel about from place to place.
After awhile he was taken in hand by Michael Haydn, a brother of the
great Josef. Michael was a famous musician himself and seldom gave
lessons to any one. But he was interested in Carl and took charge of
his musical education for some time.
It was not long before Carl Maria's genius began definitely to show
itself, for he started to write for the lyric stage. Two comic operas
appeared, "The Dumb Girl of the Forest," and "Peter Schmoll and his
Neighbors." They were both performed, but neither made a hit.
When Carl was seventeen, the father decided he should go to Vienna,
for there he would meet all the great musicians of the time. The
boy was at the most impressionable age: he was lively, witty, with
pleasant manners and amiable disposition; he soon became a favorite in
the highest musical circles. It was a gay life and the inexperienced
youth yielded to its allurements. In the meantime he did some serious
studying under the famous Abbe Vogler. The following year the Abbe
recommended him to the conductorship of the Breslau Opera House. This
was a very difficult post for a boy of eighteen, and he encountered
much jealousy and opposition from the older musicians, who did not
relish finding themselves under the leadership of such a youth. A year
served to disgust him with the work and he resigned. During the year
he had found time to compose most of his opera "Rubezahl."
For the next few years there were many "ups and downs" in Carl's life.
From Breslau he went to Carlsruhe, and entered the service of Prince
Eugene. For about a year he was a brilliant figure at the Court. Then
war clouds gathered and the gay Court life came to an end. Music
under the present conditions could no longer support him, as the whole
social state of Germany had altered. The young composer was forced to
earn his livelihood in some way, and now became private secretary to
Prince Ludwig of Wurtemburg, whose Court was held at Stuttgart. The
gay, dissolute life at the Court was full of temptation for our young
composer, yet he found considerable time for composition; his opera
"Sylvana" was the result, besides several smaller things. During the
Stuttgart period, his finances became so low, that on one occasion he
had to spend several days in prison for debt. Determined to recruit
his fortunes, he began traveling to other towns to make known his art.
In Mannheim, Darmstadt and Baden, he gave concerts, bringing out
in each place some of his newer pieces, and earning enough at each
concert to last a few weeks, when another concert would keep the wolf
from the door a little longer.
In 1810, when he was twenty-four, he finished his pretty opera "Abu
Hassan," which, on the suggestion of his venerable master, Vogler,
he dedicated to the Grand Duke. The Duke accepted the dedication with
evident pleasure, and sent Carl a purse of gold, in value about two
hundred dollars. The opera was performed on February 6, 1811, and its
reception was very gratifying to the composer. The Grand Duke took one
hundred and twenty tickets and the performance netted over two hundred
florins clear profit. It was after this that Carl Maria went on a tour
of the principal German cities and gave concerts in Munich, Prague,
Berlin, Dresden and other places. He was everywhere welcomed, his
talents and charming manners winning friends everywhere. Especially in
Prague he found the highest and noblest aristocracy ready to bid him
Weber paid a visit to Liebich, director of the Prague theater, almost
as soon as he arrived in town. The invalid director greeted him
"So, you are _the_ Weber! I suppose you want me to buy your operas.
One fills an evening, the other doesn't. Very well, I will give
fifteen hundred florins for the two. Is it a bargain?" Weber accepted,
and promised to return the next spring to conduct the operas. He kept
his promise, and the result was much better than he ever dreamed. For
beyond the performance of his operas, he was offered the post of music
director of the Prague theater, which post was just then vacant.
The salary was two thousand florins, with a benefit concert at a
guaranteed sum of one thousand more, and three months leave of absence
every year. This assured sum gave young Weber the chance of paying his
debts and starting afresh, which, he writes "was a delight to him."
The composer now threw himself heart and soul into improving the
orchestra placed in his charge. Before long he had drilled it to a
high state of excellence. Many new operas were put on the stage in
quick succession. Thus Weber worked on with great industry for three
years. The success he achieved created enemies, and perhaps because of
intrigues, envy and ill feeling which had arisen, he resigned his
post in 1816. The three years in Prague had been fruitful in new
compositions. Several fine piano sonatas, a set of "National Songs,"
and the Cantata, "Kampf und Sieg," (Struggle and Victory). This last
work soon became known all over Germany and made the gifted young
composer very popular. During this period Weber became engaged to
Caroline Brandt, a charming singer, who created the title role in his
opera of "Sylvana."
Weber had many kind, influential friends in Prague, who admired his
zeal and efficiency as music director. One of them, Count Vitzhum, did
all he could to secure Weber for Dresden. On Christmas morning, 1816,
he received the appointment. He wrote to Caroline: "Long did I look on
Count Vitzhum's letter without daring to open it. Did it contain joy
or sorrow? At length I took courage and broke the seal. It was joy!
I am Capellmeister to his Majesty the King of Saxony. I must now rig
myself out in true Court style. Perhaps I ought to wear a pigtail to
please the Dresdeners. What do you say? I ought at least to have an
extra kiss from you for this good news."
He went to Dresden, and at first looked over the situation. On nearer
view the prospect was not as bright as it had appeared at first. There
was a rival faction, strongly opposed to his plans for the promotion
of German opera. There had never been anything tolerated at Dresden
but Italian opera, and there were many talented Italian singers to
interpret them. Weber was encouraged by a new national spirit, which
he felt would favor German opera, and was determined to conquer at
all costs. He finally succeeded, for, as he wrote to a friend, "The
Italians have moved heaven, earth and hell also, to swallow up the
whole German opera and its promoter. But they have found in me a
precious tough morsel; I am not easily swallowed." It was the same
kind of fight that Handel waged in England, and that Gluck fought
against the Piccinists.
"Joseph and his Brethren," by Mehul, was the first opera to be taken
up by the new conductor. He drilled the orchestra much more carefully
than they had been accustomed, and while, in the beginning, some were
sulky at the strictness they were subjected to, yet they finally saw
the justice of it and at last took pride in doing their work well.
"Joseph" was brought out January 30, 1817. The King and Court were
present, and everything passed off well, indeed remarkably well. His
majesty was greatly pleased and did not cough once during the whole
performance, as he used to do when things did not go to suit him.
In spite of Italian opposition which still continued, Weber's efforts
to establish German opera kept right on, until at last it became a
State institution, and the composer was appointed musical director for
life. With this bright prospect in view he was able to wed his beloved
Caroline. They were married on November 4. A quotation from his diary
shows the talented musician had become a serious, earnest man. "May
God bless our union, and grant me strength and power to make my
beloved Lina as happy and contented as my inmost heart would desire.
May His mercy lead me in all things."
Weber was now entering the most prolific and brilliant period of his
life. His music became richer, more noble and beautiful. The happy
union with Caroline seemed to put new life and energy into him, and as
a result his works became quickly known all over Europe. His mind
was literally teeming with original themes, which crowded each other,
struggling to be expressed. First there was the "Mass in E flat," a
beautiful, original work; then a festal Cantata, "Nature and Love,"
written to celebrate the Queen of Saxony's birthday. After this the
"Jubilee Cantata," composed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary
of the reign of Augustus, of Saxony. The Italian faction prevented a
performance of the whole work, and only the Overture was given.
When the entire work was heard it made a great sensation. Now came a
Jubilee Mass and some piano pieces, among them the charming and famous
"Invitation to the Dance," with which every one is familiar. While
writing all these works, the composer was busy with one of his
greatest operas, "Der Freischuetz." On May 8, 1820, a hundred years
ago, the score of "Der Freischuetz," was sent to the director of the
Berlin theater, and directly put in rehearsal. The rehearsals had not
proceeded very far before Weber, the tireless ceaseless worker, had
finished his important opera, "Preciosa," which was also despatched to
Berlin. "Preciosa" was brought out before "Der Freischuetz," which was
just as it should be, as the public needed to be educated up to the
"Freischuetz" music. "Preciosa" was founded on a Spanish story, "The
Gypsy of Madrid," and Weber has written for it some of his most
charming melodies, full of Spanish color, life and vivacity. Nowadays
the opera is neglected, but we often hear the overture. It is to be
noted that the overtures to each of Weber's operas contain the leading
themes and melodies of the operas themselves, showing with what skill
the artist wrought. When Weber's widow presented the original score
of "Der Freischuetz" to the Royal Library in Berlin, it was found there
was not a single erasure or correction in the whole work.
On June 18, 1821, came the first performance of Weber's masterpiece,
"Der Freischuetz." The theater was beseiged for hours by eager crowds,
and when the doors were at last opened, there was a grand rush to
enter. The whole house from pit to galleries was soon filled, and
when the composer entered the orchestra, there was a roar of applause,
which it seemed would never end. As the performance proceeded, the
listeners became more charmed and carried away, and at the close there
was a wild scene of excitement. The success had been tremendous, and
the frequent repetitions demanded soon filled the treasury of the
theater. Everybody was happy, the composer most of all. The melodies
were played on every piano in Germany and whistled by every street
urchin. Its fame spread like lightning over Europe, and quickly
reached England. In London the whole atmosphere seemed to vibrate with
its melodies. In Paris, however, it did not please on first hearing,
perhaps because it was so thoroughly German. But somewhat later, when
renamed "Robin des Bois,"--"Robin of the Forest,"--it was performed
some three hundred and fifty times before being withdrawn.
Weber kept ever at work. Two years after the production of "Der
Freischuetz" the opera of "Euryanthe" was completed. The libretto was
the work of a half demented woman, Helmine von Chezy, but Weber set
out to produce the best opera he was capable of, and to this story he
has joined some wonderful music. It was his favorite work; he wrote
to his beloved wife two hours before the first performance: "I rely
on God and my 'Euryanthe.'" The opera was produced at the Kaernthnertor
Theater, in Vienna, on October 25, 1823. The composer, though weak and
ill, made the long journey to the great city, that he might personally
introduce his favorite to the Viennese. He wrote his wife after the
performance: "Thank God, as I do, beloved wife, for the glorious
success of 'Euryanthe.' Weary as I am, I must still say a sweet good
night to my beloved Lina, and cry Victory! All the company seemed in
a state of ecstasy; singers, chorus, orchestra;--all were drunk, as it
were, with joy."
The title role was taken by Henrietta Sontag, a young girl, still in
her teens, though giving high promise of the great things she achieved
a few years later. Strange to say, a short time after its first
appearance, "Euryanthe" failed to draw. One reason might have been
laid to the poor libretto, another to the rumor, started, it is said,
by no less an authority than the great master Beethoven, that the
music of the opera was "only a collection of diminished sevenths."
The composer lost no time in laying his score before Beethoven, who
said he should have visited him _before_, not _after_ the performance.
He advised him to do what he himself had done to "Fidelio," cut out
nearly a third of the score. Weber took this advice, and remade parts
of the opera, where he deemed it necessary.
The strain of the production of "Euryanthe" told severely on the
composer's delicate health, and he returned to Dresden in an exhausted
state. There was no rest for him here, as official duties were
pressing. The malady afflicting his lungs had made rapid progress and
he began to fear he should not be long spared to his wife and little
He shook off the apathy and took up his pen once more. His fame
was known all over Europe and many tempting offers came in from all
directions. One of these was from Covent Garden Theater, London, in
the summer of 1824, which resulted in a visit to the English capital.
Charles Kemble, the director of Covent Garden, desired Weber to write
a new opera for production there. "Oberon" was the subject at last
decided upon; it was taken from an old French romance. Weber at once
set to work on the music of this fairy opera, and with the exception
of the overture, had finished the work in time to bring it to London
in 1826. He was ill and suffering at the time he left home, February
7, and it seemed as though he were bidding a final good-by to his wife
and little ones.
Arrived in London, Sir George Smart invited him to take up his
residence in his house. Here he had every comfort, a beautiful piano
too was placed at his disposal by one of the first makers in London.
"No King could be served with greater love and affection in all
things," he wrote; "I cannot be sufficiently grateful to heaven for
the blessings which surround me." Here he composed the beautiful
Overture to "Oberon" which was only completed a few days before the
first performance of the opera.
"Oberon" was given at Covent Garden on April 12. The house was packed
from pit to dome, and the success was tremendous. Next morning the
composer was in a highly nervous and exhausted state, but felt he must
keep his promise to Kemble and conduct the first twelve performances
of "Oberon." He was to have a benefit concert, and hoped through this
to have a goodly sum to take back to his little family. Sad to relate,
on the evening chosen, May 26, a heavy rain fell and the hall was
nearly empty. After the concert he was so weak he had to be assisted
from the room. The physician ordered postponement of the journey home,
but he cried continually, "I must go to my own--I must! Let me see
them once more and then God's will be done."
The next morning, when they came to call him, all was still in his
chamber; he had passed away peacefully in sleep.
Weber was buried in London. His last wish--to return home,--was
finally fulfilled. Eighteen years after, his remains were brought to
Dresden, and the composer was at last at home.
In the old Lichtenthal quarter of the city of Vienna, in the vicinity
of the fortifications, there still stands an old house. It is
evidently a public house, for there hangs the sign--"At the Red Crab."
Beside this there is a marble tablet fastened above the doorway, which
says that Franz Schubert was born in this house. At the right of his
name is placed a lyre crowned with a star, and at the left a laurel
wreath within which is placed the date, January 31, 1797.
This then was the birthplace of the "most poetical composer who ever
lived," as Liszt said of him; the man who created over six hundred
songs, eight symphonies, operas, masses, chamber works and much
beautiful piano music, and yet only lived to be thirty-one. It is
almost unbelievable. Let us get a nearer view of this remarkable
His father kept a school here; there were five children, four boys and
a girl to provide for, and as there was nothing to depend on but
the school-master's pay, it is easy to see the family was in poor
circumstances, though the wife managed most carefully to make ends
meet. They were a very devoted family altogether. Little Franz early
showed a decided fondness for music, and tried to pick out bits
of tunes of his own by ear on an old dilapidated piano the family
possessed. He made friends with a young apprentice who took him
sometimes to a piano wareroom in the city, where he was allowed to
play his little tunes on a fine piano.
When Franz was seven he began to have music lessons at home, the
father teaching him violin and his big brother Ignaz, the piano.
Franz, in his eagerness to learn soon outstripped his home teachers,
and told them he could go on alone. It was then decided he should go
to the parish choir master, Holzer, to learn piano, violin, organ,
singing and thorough bass. Soon Holzer was astonished at the boy's
progress. "Whenever I begin to teach him anything I find he knows
it already; I never had such a pupil before." By the time Franz was
eleven, his voice had come out so well that he was given the place of
head soprano in the parish church, and played violin solos whenever
they occurred in the service. He had even begun at home to compose and
write down little piano pieces and songs. The parents considered that
this remarkable talent should be cultivated further, if possible, in
order that it might assist the slender purse of the family. There was
a choir school, called the Convict, which trained its boys for the
Imperial Chapel. If Franz could prove his ability to enter this
school, he would receive free education in return for his services.
One fine morning in October, 1808, Franz in his homespun grey suit,
spectacles shielding his bright, near-sighted eyes, his bushy
black hair covered by an old fashioned hat, presented himself for
examination by the Court Capellmeister and the singing master. The
other boys jeered at his odd appearance, but he kept his good humor.
When his turn came to sing, after solving all the problems given, his
singing of the trial pieces was so astonishing that he was passed in
at once, and ordered to put on the uniform of the imperial choristers.
The boy soon found plenty to fill his time and occupy his mind. There
was the school orchestra, in which he was able to take a prominent
place. There was daily practise, in which the boys learned the
overtures and symphonies of Mozart and Haydn, and even Beethoven. He
loved best Mozart's "Symphony in G minor," in which he said he heard
angels singing. The leader of the orchestra was attracted to the
lad's playing the very first day he entered, for he played with such
precision and understanding. One day Franz mustered courage to talk
a little to the big conductor, whose name was Spaun, and confessed he
had composed quite a good deal already, adding he would like to do
it every day, only he could not afford to get the music paper. Spaun
received this burst of confidence with sympathy, and saw to it that
the boy was, in the future, supplied with the necessary music paper.
Franz had soon made such progress on the violin, that he began to take
the first violin parts and when the conductor was absent he was asked
to lead the orchestra. Indeed by his deep earnestness and sincerity,
as well as ability, the gifted boy had become a power in the school.
When he went home to see his people, which could only be on Sundays
and holidays, it was a happy reunion for all. If he brought home a
new string quartet, the father would get out his 'cello, Ignaz and
Ferdinand would take first and second violins and the young composer
the viola. After it had been played through, then all the players
discussed it and offered their criticism. Indeed Franz was composing
at such an astonishing rate, that it was difficult to keep him
supplied with music paper. One of his works of this time was a
fantasia for four hands, in twelve movements. Then came a first
attempt at song writing, a long affair which also contained twelve
movements, and was in melancholy mood.
Five years the boy Franz Schubert remained at the Convict School and
as he had decided to give himself entirely to music, there was no
reason for his remaining longer in the school. At the end of the year
1813, he left, and his departure was celebrated by the composition of
his first Symphony, in honor of Dr. Lang, the musical director. The
lad, now seventeen, stood at the beginning of his career; he was full
of hope and energy, and determined to follow in the footsteps of the
great masters of music. Of all his compositions so far produced, his
songs seemed to be the most spontaneous. He probably did not guess
that he was to open up new paths in this field.
Hardly had he left the school when he was drafted for the army. This
meant several years of virtual captivity, for conscription could not
be avoided. The only other thing he could do was to return home and
become a teacher in his father's school. He chose the lesser evil and
qualified at once to become his father's assistant, which would also
assure him a certain amount of leisure. We can imagine him installed
as teacher of the infant class, and realize how distasteful was the
daily round of school work, and how he longed to have it over, that he
might put on paper all the lovely themes that had come to him through
the school day. Other bright spots were the happy hours he spent with
the Grob family, who lived also in the district of Lichtenthal.
The family consisted of a mother, a son and daughter. They were all
musical. Therese Grob had a fine voice and she enjoyed the songs
Schubert brought her to sing, while her brother Heinrich could play
both piano and 'cello. Many evenings filled with music were passed by
the young people. His friends at the Convict too, welcomed each new
piece he wrote. Nor did he forget his old master Holzer, the organist
of the little church where the composer himself regularly attended.
During 1814, Schubert composed his first mass, which was performed
October 16. It excited so much interest that it was repeated ten days
later at the Augustine church. Franz conducted, the choir was led
by Holzer, Ferdinand sat at the organ, and Therese sang the soprano
solos. In the audience sat old Salieri, Court Capellmeister of Vienna,
with whom Beethoven had studied. Salieri praised Schubert for his
work, and said that he should become his pupil. He kept his word and
gave the young composer daily lessons for some time. The father was
so proud and happy that he bought a five octave piano for his boy, to
celebrate the event.
Schubert added many compositions to his list this year, among them
seventeen songs, including "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel." His
acquaintance with the poet Johann Mayrhofer, with whom he soon became
intimate, was of benefit to both. The poet produced verses that
his friend might set to music. The following year, 1815, he wrote a
hundred and thirty-seven songs, to say nothing of six operas, and much
music for church and piano. Twenty-nine of these songs were written
in the month of August. One day in August eight songs were created; on
another day seven. Some of the songs were quite long, making between
twenty and thirty pages when printed.
A new friend came into Schubert's life the next year. His name was
Franz Schober, and he intended entering the University in Vienna.
Being a great lover of music and also familiar with some of Schubert's
manuscript songs, he lost no time, on arriving in Vienna, in seeking
out the composer. He found the young musician at his desk very busily
writing. School work was over for the day, and he could compose in
peace. The two young men became friends at once, for they felt the
sympathetic bond between them. They were soon talking as though they
had always known each other. In a few words Schubert told his new
friend how he was situated at home, and how he disliked the daily
drudgery of school teaching. On hearing of these trials Schober
suggested they should make a home together, which arrangement would
free the composer from the grinding life he was living and enable him
to give his whole time to his art. The proposal delighted Franz, and
the father willingly gave his consent. And so it came about that
the composer was free at last, and took up his abode at his friend's
lodgings. He insisted on giving him musical instruction, to make some
return for all his kindness, though this did not last long, owing to
the dislike Franz always had for teaching of any sort.
Schubert, at the age of twenty-four, had composed a great quantity
of music, but none of it had as yet been published. He was almost
unknown, and publishers were unwilling to undertake issuing the work
of an unknown man. When his songs were performed by good artists,
as had been done a number of times, they won instant recognition and
success. Seeing that the publishers were unwilling to print the work
of an unknown musician, two of Schubert's friends undertook to publish
the "Erlking," one of his first songs, at their own risk. At the
Sonnleithner mansion, where musicals were regularly held, the
"Erlking" had been much applauded, and when it was decided to have it
published, the decision was announced. A hundred copies were at once
subscribed for, and with this encouragement the engraving of the
"Erlking" and "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" was forthwith begun.
The pieces were sold by the music publishers on commission. The plan
succeeded beyond expectation, so that other songs were issued in the
same way, until, when seven had appeared the publishers were willing
to risk the engraving of other songs themselves. Before all this had
taken place, Johann Vogl, an admired opera singer in Vienna at the
time, had learned Schubert's "Erlking," and had sung it in March,
1821, at a public concert patronized by royalty. The song was received
with storms of applause. Schober, who knew the singer, constantly
talked to him about the gifts of his friend and begged him to come and
see Schubert. At last one day he consented. They found the composer
hard at work as usual, music sheets covering the floor as well as the
table and chair. Vogl, used to the highest society, made himself quite
at home and did his best to put Schubert at his ease, but the
composer remained shy and confused. The singer began looking over some
manuscripts. When he left he shook Schubert's hand warmly, remarking;
"There is stuff in you, but you squander your fine thoughts instead of
making the most of them."
Vogl had been much impressed by what he had seen that day, and
repeated his visit. Before long the two were close friends. Schubert
wrote to his brother: "When Vogl sings and I accompany him, we seem
for the moment to be one." Vogl wrote of Schubert's songs that they
were "truly divine inspirations."
Schubert's residence with his friend Schober only lasted six months,
for Schober's brother came to live with him, and the composer had to
shift for himself. Teaching was exceedingly distasteful to him, yet as
his music did not bring in anything for years after he left home,
he had to find some means of making a living. In these straits he
accepted a position as music teacher in the family of Count Johann
Esterhazy. This meant that he must live with the family in their
Vienna home in winter, and go with them to their country seat in the
summer. The change from the free life he had enjoyed with his
friends who idolized him and his beautiful music, to the etiquette of
aristocratic life, was great. But there were many comforts amid his
new surroundings; the family was musical, the duties were not heavy,
and so Schubert was not unhappy.
At the Esterhazy country estate of Zelesz, he heard many Hungarian
melodies sung or played by the gipsies, or by servants in the castle.
He has employed some of these tunes in his first set of Valses. In
his present position he had much leisure for composition. Indeed Franz
Schubert's whole life was spent in giving out the vast treasures of
melody with which he had been so richly endowed. These flowed from his
pen in a constant stream, one beautiful work after another. He wrote
them down wherever he happened to be and when a scrap of paper could
be had. The exquisite song "Hark, Hark the Lark" was jotted down on
the back of a bill of fare, in a beer garden. The beautiful works
which he produced day after day brought him little or no money,
perhaps because he was so modest and retiring, modestly undervaluing
everything he did. He had no desire to push himself, but wrote because
impelled to by the urge within. So little did he sometimes value his
work that a fine composition would be tucked away somewhere and quite
forgotten. His physical strength was not robust enough to stand the
strain of constant composition. Then too, when funds were very low,
as they often were, he took poor lodgings, and denied himself the
necessary nourishing food. If he could have had a dear companion to
look after his material needs and share his aims and aspirations, his
earthly life might have been prolonged for many a year. With no one to
advise him, and often pressed with hunger and poverty, he was induced
to sell the copyrights of twelve of his best songs, including the
"Erlking" and the "Wanderer," for a sum equal to about four hundred
dollars. It is said the publishers made on the "Wanderer" alone, up to
the year 1861, a sum of about five thousand five hundred dollars. It
is true that "everything he touched turned to music," as Schumann once
said of him. The hours of sleep were more and more curtailed, for he
wrote late at night and rose early the next day. It is even said he
slept in his spectacles, to save the trouble and time of putting them
on in the morning.
In Schubert's boyhood, the music of Mozart influenced him most. This
is seen in his earlier compositions. Beethoven was a great master
to him then, but as time went on the spell of his music always grew
stronger. In 1822, he wrote and published a set of variations on a
French air, and dedicated them to Beethoven. He greatly desired to
present them in person to the master he adored, but was too shy to go
alone. Diabelli, the publisher, finally went with him. Beethoven was
courteous but formal, pushing paper and pencil toward his guest, as he
was totally deaf. Schubert was too shy to write a single word.
However he produced his Variations. Beethoven seemed pleased with the
dedication, and looked through the music. Soon he found something in
it he did not approve of and pointed it out. The young author, losing
his presence of mind, fled from the house. But Beethoven really liked
the music and often played it to his nephew.
Five years later, during his last illness, a collection of some sixty
of Schubert's songs was placed in his hands. He turned them over and
over with amazement and delight. "Truly Schubert has the divine fire,"
he exclaimed. He wanted to see the composer of such beautiful music.
Schubert came and was allowed to have a talk with him first, before
other friends who were waiting. When Schubert paid another visit to
the bedside of the master, it was almost the end of his life, though
he could recognize all who stood about him. Overcome with emotion,
Schubert left the room.
A couple of weeks after this Schubert was one of the torch bearers who
accompanied the great master to the last resting place. Little did the
young man of thirty dream that he would soon follow after. His life at
this time was full of disappointments. He had always longed to write
for the lyric stage. He composed numerous operas; but they were always
rejected, for one reason or another. The last, "Fierabras," which was
on the point of being produced, was finally given up. The composer
became very dejected, and believed himself to be the most unfortunate,
the most miserable being on earth. But, fortunately for Schubert,
his cheerfulness again asserted itself and the stream of production
resumed its flow. With his temperament, at one moment he would be
utterly despairing, the next his troubles would seem to be forgotten,
and he would be writing a song, a symphony or a sonata. At all
events, constant work filled his days. The last year of his life was
productive of some of his finest works.
About the end of October, 1828, he began to show signs of a serious
breakdown. He was living at the home of his brother Ferdinand, in one
of the suburbs of the city. Although he revived a little during
the early part of November, so that he could resume walks in the
neighborhood, the weakness increased, and eleven days passed without
food or drink. Lingering till the nineteenth of November, he passed
peacefully away, still in his early manhood. The old father, the
schoolmaster at the old home, hoped to have his son buried in the
little cemetery near by. But Ferdinand knew his brother's wish, to be
placed near Beethoven in Waehringer Cemetery. The monument, erected by
his friends and admirers the following year, bears, above the name,
"Music has here entombed a rich treasure, but much fairer
Mendelssohn has often been named "Felix the Happy," and he truly
deserved the title. Blest with a most cheerful disposition, with the
power to make friends of every one he met, and wherever he went, the
son of a rich banker, surrounded with everything that wealth could
give, it was indeed no wonder that Felix Mendelssohn was happy. He did
not have to struggle with poverty and privation as most of the
other great musicians were forced to do. Their music was often the
expression of struggle and sorrow. He had none of these things to
bear; he was carefree and happy, and his music reflects the joyous
contentment of his life.
The Mendelssohn family originally lived in Hamburg. Their house faced
one of the fine squares of the city, with a handsome church on
the opposite side. The building is still there and well preserved,
although the principal story is used as public dining rooms. A large
tablet has been placed above the doorway, with a likeness of the
composer encircled by a wreath of laurel. Here little Felix was born,
February 3, 1809. There were other children, Fanny a year or two
older, then after Felix came Rebekka and little Paul. When French
soldiers occupied the town in 1811, life became very unpleasant for
the German residents, and whoever could, sought refuge in other cities
and towns. Among those who successfully made their escape was the
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy family, the second name belonged to the family
and was used to distinguish their own from other branches of the
Mendelssohn family. With his wife and children, Abraham Mendelssohn
fled to Berlin, and made his home for some years with the grandmother,
who had a house on the Neue Promenade, a fine broad street, with
houses only on one side, the opposite side descended in a grassy slope
to the canal, which flowed lazily by.
It was a happy life the children led, amid ideal surroundings. Felix
very early showed a great fondness for music, and everything was done
to foster his budding talent. With his sister Fanny, to whom he was
devotedly attached, he began to have short music lessons from
his mother when he was only four years old. Their progress was so
satisfactory, that after a while, professional musicians were engaged
to teach them piano, violin and composition, as a regular part of
their education. Besides these, they must study Greek, Latin, drawing
and school subjects. With so much study to be done each day, it was
necessary to begin work at five o'clock in the morning. But in spite
of hard work all were happy, and as for Felix nothing could dampen the
flow of his high spirits; he enjoyed equally work and play, giving the
same earnest attention to each. Both he and Fanny were beginning
to compose, and Felix's attempts at improvising upon some comical
incident in their play time would call forth peals of laughter from
the inseparable children.
Soon more ambitious attempts at composition were made, the aim being
to write little operas. But unless they could be performed, it was
useless to try and make operas. This was a serious difficulty; but
Felix was deeply in earnest in whatever he undertook, and decided he
must have an orchestra to try out his operatic efforts. It looked like
an impossibility, but love and money can accomplish wonders. A small
orchestra was duly selected from among the members of the Court band.
The lad Felix was to conduct these sedate musicians, which he did
modestly but without embarrassment, standing on a footstool before
his men, waving the baton like a little general. Before the first
performance was quite ready, Felix felt there must be some one present
who could really judge of the merits of his little piece. Who would
do so better than his old professor of thorough bass and composition,
Carl Zelter, the director of the Berlin Singakademie. Zelter agreed
to accept this delicate office, and a large number of friends were
invited for the occasion.
This was only the beginning of a series of weekly musical evenings at
the Mendelssohn home. Felix, with his dark curls, his shining eyes,
and charming manners, was the life of anything he undertook. He
often conducted his little pieces, but did not monopolize the time.
Sometimes all four children took part, Fanny at the piano, Rebekka
singing, Paul playing the 'cello and Felix at the desk. Old Zelter was
generally present, and though averse to praising pupils, would often
say a few words of encouragement at the close.
Felix was at this time but little more than twelve years old. He had
within the last year composed fifty or sixty pieces, including a trio
for piano and strings, containing three movements, several sonatas for
the piano, some songs and a musical comedy in three scenes, for
piano and voices. All these were written with the greatest care and
precision, and with the date of each neatly added. He collected his
pieces into volumes; and the more work he did the more neatly he
The boy Felix had a wonderful gift for making friends. One day he
suddenly caught sight of Carl Maria von Weber walking along the
streets of Berlin, near his home. He recognized the famous composer at
once, as he had lately visited his parents. The boy's dark eyes glowed
with pleasure at the recognition, and tossing back his curls, he
sprang forward and threw his arms about Weber's neck, begging him to
go home with him. When the astonished musician recovered himself, he
presented the boy to Jules Benedict, his young friend and pupil who
walked at his side, saying, "This is Felix Mendelssohn." For response
Felix, with a bright look, seized the young man's hand in both his
own. Weber stood by smiling at the boy's enthusiasm. Again Felix
besought them to come home with him, but Weber had to attend a
rehearsal. "Is it for the opera?" the boy cried excitedly.
"Yes," answered the composer.
"Does he know all about it?" asked Felix, pointing to Benedict.
"Indeed he does," answered the composer laughing, "or if he doesn't he
ought to for he has been bored enough with it already." The boy's eyes
"Then _you_, will come with me to my home, which is quite near, will
you not?" There was no refusing those appealing dark eyes. Felix again
embraced Weber, and then challenged his new friend, Mr. Benedict, to
race him to the door of his house. On entering he dragged the visitor
upstairs to the drawing-room, exclaiming, "Mama, Mama, here is a
gentleman, a pupil of Carl Weber, who knows all about the new opera,
The young musician received a warm welcome, and was not able to leave
until he had played on the piano all the airs he could remember
from the wonderful new opera, which Weber had come to Berlin to
superintend. Benedict was so pleased with his first visit that he came
again. This time he found Felix writing music and asked what it was.
"I am finishing my new quartet for piano and strings," was the simple
reply. To say that Benedict was surprised at such an answer from a boy
of twelve hardly expresses what he felt. It was quite true he did not
yet know Felix Mendelssohn. "And now," said the boy, laying down his
pen, "I will play to you, to prove how grateful I am that you played
to us last time." He then sat down at the piano and played correctly
several melodies from "Der Freischuetz," which Benedict had played on
his first visit. After that they went into the garden, and Felix for
the moment, became a rollicking boy, jumping fences and climbing trees
like a squirrel.
Toward the close of this year, 1821, his teacher Zelter announced he
intended going to Wiemar, to see Goethe, the aged poet of Wiemar, and
was willing to take Felix with him. The poet's house at Wiemar was
indeed a shrine to the elect, and the chance of meeting the object
of so much hero worship, filled the impressionable mind of Felix with
reverential awe. Zelter on his part, felt a certain pride in bringing
his favorite pupil to the notice of the great man, though he would not
have permitted Felix to guess what he felt for anything he possessed.
When they arrived, Goethe was walking in his garden. He greeted both
with kindness and affection, and it was arranged that Felix should
play for him next day. Zelter had told Goethe much about his pupil's
unusual talents, but the poet wished to prove these accounts by his
own tests. Selecting piece after piece of manuscript music from his
collection, he asked the boy to play them at sight. He was able to do
so with ease, to the astonishment of the friends who had come in to
hear him. They were more delighted when he took a theme from one of
the pieces and improvised upon it. Withholding his praise, Goethe
announced he had a final test, and placed on the music desk a sheet
which seemed covered with mere scratches and blotches. The boy
laughingly exclaimed, "Who could ever read such writing as that?"
Zelter rose and came to the piano to look at this curiosity. "Why, it
is Beethoven's writing; one can see that a mile off! He always wrote
as if he used a broomstick for a pen, then wiped his sleeve over the
The boy picked out the strange manuscript bit by bit; when he came to
the end he cried, "Now I will play it through for you," which he did
without a mistake. Goethe was well pleased and begged Felix to come
every day and play, while he was in the city. The two became fast
friends; the poet treated him as a son, and at parting begged he would
soon return to Wiemar, that they might again be together. During the
following summer the whole family made a tour through Switzerland,
much to the delight of Felix, who enjoyed every moment. There was
little time for real work in composition, but a couple of songs and
the beginning of a piano quartet were inspired by the view of Lake
Geneva and its exquisite surroundings.
When Felix returned to Berlin, he had grown much, physically as well
as mentally. He was now tall and strong, his curling locks had been
clipped, and he seemed at a single bound to have become almost a man.
His happy, boyish spirits, however, had not changed in the least.
About this time the family removed from their home on the Neue
Promenade, to a larger and more stately mansion, No. 3 Leipsiger
Strasse, then situated on the outskirts of the town, near the Potsdam
Gate. As those who know the modern city realize, this house, now no
longer a private residence, stands in the very heart of traffic and
business. The rooms of the new home were large and elegant, with
a spacious salon suitable for musicals and large functions. A fine
garden or park belonged to the house, where were lawns shaded by
forest trees, winding paths, flowering shrubs and arbors in shady
nooks, offering quiet retreats. Best of all there was a garden house,
with a central hall, which would hold several hundred people, having
long windows and glass doors looking out upon the trees and flowers.
Sunday concerts were soon resumed and given in the garden house,
where, on week days the young people met, with friends and elders, to
play, and act and enjoy the social life of the home. The mansion and
its hospitality became famous, and every great musician, at one time
or another, came to pay his respects and become acquainted with this
At a family party in honor of Felix's fifteenth birthday, his teacher
Zelter saluted him as no longer an apprentice, but as an "assistant"
and member of the Brotherhood of Art. Very soon after this the young
composer completed two important works. The first was an Octet for
strings. He was not yet seventeen when the Octet was finished,
which was pronounced the most fresh and original work he had yet
accomplished. It marked a distinct stage in the gifted youth's
development. The composition which followed was the beautiful
"Midsummer Night's Dream" music. He and his sister Fanny had lately
made the acquaintance of Shakespeare through a German translation, and
had been fascinated by this fairy play. The young people spent much of
their time in the lovely garden that summer, and amid these delightful
surroundings the music was conceived.
The Overture was first to spring into being. When it was written
out, Felix and Fanny often played it as a duet. In this form the
composer-pianist Moscheles heard it and was impressed by its beauty.
The fascinating Scherzo and dreamy Nocturne followed. When all were
elaborated and perfected, the complete work was performed by the
garden house orchestra for a crowded audience, who abundantly
expressed their delight. Sir G. Macfarren has said of it: "No one
musical work contains so many points of harmony and orchestration that
are novel yet none of them have the air of experiment, but all seem to
have been written with a certainty of their success."
And now a great plan occupied Mendelssohn's mind, a project which had
been forming for some time; this was nothing less than to do something
to arouse people to know and appreciate the great works of Johann
Sebastian Bach. Two years before Felix had been presented with a
manuscript score of Bach's "Passion according to St. Matthew," which
Zelter had allowed to be copied from the manuscript preserved in the
Singakademie. The old man was a devoted lover of Bach's music, and
had taught his pupil in the same spirit. When Felix found himself the
possessor of this wonderful book, he set to work to master it, until
he knew every bit of it by heart. As he studied it deeply he was more
and more impressed with its beauty and sublimity. He could hardly
believe that this great work was unknown throughout Germany, since
more than a hundred years had passed since it had been written. He
determined to do something to arouse people from such apathy.
Talking the matter over with musicians and friends, he began to
interest them in the plan to study the music of the Passion. Soon
he had secured sixteen good voices, who rehearsed at his home once
a week. His enthusiasm fired them to study the music seriously, and
before very long they were anxious to give a public performance.
There was a splendid choir of nearly four hundred voices conducted by
Zelter, at the Singakademie; if he would only lend his chorus to give
a trial performance, under Mendelssohn's conducting, how splendid that
would be! But Felix knew that Zelter had no faith in the public taking
any interest in Bach, so there was no use asking. This opinion was
opposed by one of his little choir, named Devrient, who insisted that
Zelter should be approached on the subject. As he himself had been
a pupil of Zelter, he persuaded Mendelssohn to accompany him to the
Zelter was found seated at his instrument, enveloped by a cloud of
smoke from a long stemmed pipe. Devrient unfolded the plan of bringing
this great work of Bach to the knowledge of the public. The old man
listened to their plea with growing impatience, until he became quite
excited, rose from his chair and paced the floor with great strides,
exclaiming, "No, it is not to be thought of--it is a mad scheme." To
Felix argument then seemed useless and he beckoned his friend to
come away, but Devrient refused to move, and kept up his persuasive
argument. Finally, as though a miracle had been wrought, Zelter began
to weaken, and at last gave in, and besides promised all the aid in
How this youth, not yet twenty, undertook the great task of preparing
this masterpiece, and what he accomplished is little short of the
marvelous. The public performance, conducted by Mendelssohn, took
place March 11, 1829, with every ticket sold and more than a thousand
persons turned away. A second performance was given on March 21, the
anniversary of Bach's birth, before a packed house. These performances
marked the beginning of a great Bach revival in Germany and England,
and the love for this music has never been lost, but increases each
And now it seemed best for Felix to travel and see something of other
countries. He had long wished to visit England, and the present seemed
a favorable time, as his friends there assured him of a warm
welcome. The pleasure he felt on reaching London was increased by the
enthusiastic greeting he received at the hands of the musical public.
He first appeared at a Philharmonic concert on May 25, when his
Symphony in C minor was played. The next day he wrote to Fanny: "The
success of the concert last night was beyond all I had ever dreamed.
It began with my Symphony. I was led to the desk and received an
immense applause. The Adagio was encored, but I went on; the Scherzo
was so vigorously applauded that I had to repeat it. After the Finale
there was lots more applause, while I was thanking the orchestra and
shaking hands, till I left the room."
A continual round of functions interspersed with concerts at which he
played or conducted, filled the young composer's time. The overture to
"Midsummer Night's Dream" was played several times and always received
with enthusiasm. On one occasion a friend was so careless as to leave
the manuscript in a hackney coach on his way home and it was lost.
"Never mind, I will write another," said Mendelssohn, which he was
able to do, without making a single error.
When the London season closed, Mendelssohn and his friend Klingemann
went up to Scotland, where he was deeply impressed with the varied
beauty of the scenery. Perhaps the Hebrides enthralled him most, with
their lonely grandeur. His impressions have been preserved in the
Overture to "Fingal's Cave," while from the whole trip he gained
inspiration for the Scottish Symphony.
On his return to London and before he could set out for Berlin, Felix
injured his knee, which laid him up for several weeks, and prevented
his presence at the home marriage of his sister Fanny, to William
Hensel, the young painter. This was a keen disappointment to all, but
Fanny was not to be separated from her family, as on Mendelssohn's
return, he found the young couple had taken up their residence in the
Mendelssohn had been greatly pleased with his London visit, and though
the grand tour he had planned was really only begun, he felt a strong
desire to return to England. However, other countries had to be
visited first. The following May he started south, bound for Vienna,
Florence and Rome. His way led through Wiemar and gave opportunity for
a last visit to Goethe. They passed a number of days in sympathetic
companionship. The poet always wanted music, but did not seem to care
for Beethoven's compositions, which he said did not touch him at all,
though he felt they were great, astonishing.
After visiting numerous German cities, Switzerland was reached and
its wonderful scenery stirred Mendelssohn's poetic soul to the depths.
Yet, though his passionate love of nature was so impressed by the
great mountains, forests and waterfalls, it was the sea which he loved
best of all. As he approached Naples, and saw the sea sparkling in
the sun lighted bay, he exclaimed: "To me it is the finest object in
nature! I love it almost more than the sky. I always feel happy when
I see before me the wide expanse of water." Rome, of course, was a
center of fascination. Every day he picked out some special object
of interest to visit, which made that particular day one never to
be forgotten. The tour lasted until the spring of 1832, before
Mendelssohn returned to his home in Berlin, only to leave it shortly
afterwards to return to London. This great city, in spite of its fogs,
noises and turmoil, appealed to him more than the sunshine of Naples,
the fascination of Florence or the beauty of Rome.
The comment on Mendelssohn that "he lived years where others only
lived weeks," gives a faint idea of the fulness with which his time
was occupied. It is only possible to touch on his activities in
composition, for he was always at work. In May 1836 when he was
twenty-seven, he conducted in Duesseldorf the first performance of his
oratorio of "St. Paul." At this period he wrote many of those charming
piano pieces which he called "Songs without Words." This same year
brought deepest happiness to Mendelssohn, in his engagement to Cecile
Jean-Renaud, the beautiful daughter of a French Protestant clergyman.
The following spring they were married, a true marriage of love and
The greatest work of Mendelssohn's career was his oratorio of
"Elijah" which had long grown in his mind, until it was on the eve
of completion in the spring of 1846. In a letter to the famous singer
Jenny Lind, an intimate friend, he writes: "I am jumping about my
room for joy. If my work turns out half as good as I fancy it is, how
pleased I shall be."
During these years in which he conceived the "Elijah," his fame had
spread widely. Honors had been bestowed on him by many royalties.
The King of Saxony had made him Capellmeister of his Court, and Queen
Victoria had shown him many proofs of personal regard, which endeared
him more than ever to the country which had first signally recognized
It was Leipsic perhaps which felt the power of his genius most
conclusively. The since famous Leipsic Conservatory was founded
by him, and he was unceasing in his labors to advance art in every
direction. He also found time to carry out a long cherished plan to
erect, at the threshold of the Thomas School, Leipsic, a monument to
the memory of Sebastian Bach.
Let us take one more glimpse of our beloved composer. It was the
morning of August 26, 1846. The Town Hall of Birmingham, England,
was filled with an expectant throng, for today the composer of the
"Elijah" was to conduct his greatest work, for the first time before
an English audience. When Mendelssohn stepped upon the platform, he
was greeted by a deafening shout; the reception was overwhelming, and
at the close the entire audience sprang to its feet in a frenzy of
admiration. He wrote to his brother Paul that evening: "No work of
mine ever went so admirably at the first performance, or was received
with such enthusiasm both by musicians and public." During April the
following year, four performances of the "Elijah" took place in Exeter
Hall, the composer conducting, the Queen and Prince Albert being
present on the second occasion. This visit to England which was to be
his last, had used his strength to the limit of endurance, and there
was a shadow of a coming breakdown. Soon after he rejoined his family
in Frankfort, his sister Fanny suddenly passed away in Berlin.
The news was broken to him too quickly, and with a shriek he fell
unconscious to the floor.
From this shock he never seemed to rally, though at intervals for a
while, he still composed. His death occurred November 4, 1847. It
can be said of him that his was a beautiful life, in which "there was
nothing to tell that was not honorable to his memory and profitable to
Mendelssohn's funeral was imposing. The first portion was solemnized
at Leipsic, attended by crowds of musicians and students, one of the
latter bearing on a cushion a silver crown presented by his pupils of
the Conservatory. Beside the crown rested the Order "Pour le Merite,"
conferred on him by the King of Prussia. The band, during the long
procession, played the E minor "Song without Words," and at the close
of the service the choir sang the final chorus from Bach's "Passion."
The same night the body was taken to Berlin and placed in the family
plot in the old Dreifaltigkeit Kirch-hof, beside that of his devoted
Many of the composers whose life stories we have read were surrounded
by musical atmosphere from their earliest years; Robert Schumann seems
to have been an exception. His father, August Schumann, was the son
of a poor pastor, and the boy August was intended to be brought up a
merchant. At the age of fifteen he was put into a store in Nonneburg.
He was refined in his tastes, loved books, and tried even in boyhood
to write poetry. He seemed destined, however, to live the life marked
out for him, at least for a time. It grew so distasteful, that later
he gave it up and, on account of extreme poverty, returned to his
parents' home, where he had the leisure to write. At last he secured
a position in a book store in Zeitz. In this little town he met the
daughter of his employer. The engagement was allowed on the condition
that he should leave the book store and set up his own business. But
where was the money to come from? He left the store, returned home
and in a year and a half had earned a thousand thalers, then quite a
He now claimed the hand of his chosen love and established in the book
business, labored so unceasingly, that the business increased. Then
he moved to a more favorable location, choosing the mining town of
Zwickau, in Saxony.
Here, this industrious, honorable man and his attractive, intelligent,
but rather narrow and uneducated young wife lived out their lives, and
brought up their children, of whom Robert, born June 8, 1810, was
the youngest; before him there were three brothers and a sister. All
passed away before Robert himself.
He was the so-called "handsome child" of the family, and much petted
by the women. Besides his mother there was his god-mother, who was
very fond of him, and at her home he would spend whole days and
nights. As his talents developed, the boy became the spoilt darling of
everybody. This lay at the foundation of his extreme susceptibility,
even the obstinacy of his riper years.
Little Robert at six was sent to a popular private school and now for
the first time mingled with a number of children of his own age.
The first symptoms of ambition, the source of much of his later
achievement, began to show itself, though quite unconsciously. It made
him the life of all childish games. If the children played "soldiers,"
little Robert was always captain. The others loved his good nature and
friendliness, and always yielded to him.
He was a good student in the primary school, but in no way
distinguished himself in his studies. The following year he was
allowed to take piano lessons of an old pedantic professor from
Zwickau High School. This man had taught himself music, but had heard
little of it. The kind of instruction he was able to give may be
imagined, yet Robert was faithful all his life to this kind old
In spite of inadequate guidance, music soon kindled the boy's soul.
He began to try to make music himself, though entirely ignorant of
the rules of composition. The first of these efforts, a set of little
dances, were written during his seventh or eighth year. It was soon
discovered that he could improvise on the piano; indeed he could
sketch the disposition of his companions by certain figures on the
piano, so exactly and comically that every one burst out laughing
at the portraits. He was fond of reading too, much to his father's
delight, and early tried his hand at authorship. He wrote robber
plays, which he staged with the aid of the family and such of his
youthful friends as were qualified. The father now began to hope
his favorite son would become an author or poet; but later Robert's
increasing love for music put this hope to flight.
The father happened to take his boy with him to Carlsbad in the summer
of 1819, and here he heard for the first time a great pianist, Ignatz
Moscheles. His masterful playing made a great impression on the nine
year old enthusiast, who began now to wish to become a musician, and
applied himself to music with redoubled zeal. He also made such
good progress at school that at Easter 1820 he was able to enter the
The love for music grew with each day. With a boy of his own age,
as devoted as himself to music, four-hand works of Haydn, Mozart and
Beethoven, as well as pieces by Weber, Hummel and Czerny, were played
almost daily. The greatest ecstasy was caused by the arrival of a
Steck piano at the Schumann home, which showed that father Schumann
endeavored to further his boy's taste for music. About this time
Robert found by chance, the orchestral score of an old Italian
overture. He conceived the bold idea of performing it. So a bit of
an orchestra was gathered among the boys he knew, who could play an
instrument. There were two violins, two flutes, a clarinet and two
horns. Robert, who conducted with great fervor, supplied as best he
could the other parts on the piano.
This effort was a great incentive to the boys, principally to Robert,
who began to arrange things for his little band and composed music for
the one hundred fiftieth Psalm. This was in his twelfth year.
August Schumann was more and more convinced that Providence had
intended his son to become a musician, and though the mother struggled
against it, he resolved to see that Robert had a musical education.
Carl Maria von Weber, then living in Dresden, was written to, and
answered he was willing to accept the boy as a student. The plan never
came to anything however, for what reason is not known. The boy was
left now to direct his own musical studies, just when he needed an
expert guiding hand. He had no rivals in his native town, where he
sometimes appeared as a pianist. It was no wonder he thought he was on
the right road, and that he tried more than ever to win his mother's
consent to his following music as a life work.
And now a great change took place in the lively, fun-loving boy.
He seemed to lose his gay spirits and become reflective, silent and
reserved. This condition of mind never left him, but grew into a
deeper reserve as the years passed.
Two events deeply stirred Robert's nature with great force--the death
of his father in 1826, and his acquaintance with the works of Jean
Paul. The Jean Paul fever attacked him in all its transcendentalism,
and this influence remained through life, with more or less intensity.
After his father left him, Robert found he must make a choice of a
profession. His mother had set her heart on his making a study of law,
while his heart was set on music. Yielding to her wishes for a time he
went to Leipsic in March 1828 to prepare to enter the University as
a student of law. He also gained consent to study piano at the same
time, and began lessons with Frederick Wieck. The desire to study with
Wieck was inspired by the piano playing of his little daughter, Clara,
then nine years old, who had already gained a considerable degree of
musical culture and promised to make her mark as a pianist.
Under his new teacher, Robert for the first time was obliged to study
a rational system of technic and tone production. He was also expected
to learn harmony correctly, but strangely enough he seemed to take no
interest in it, even saying he thought such knowledge useless. He held
to this foolish idea for some time, not giving it up till forced to by
realizing his total ignorance of this branch of the art.
Robert now became greatly impressed by the genius of Franz Schubert.
He eagerly played everything the master had composed for the piano,
both for two and four hands, and Schubert's death during this year,
filled him with profound grief. The young musical friends with whom
Robert had become intimate, while living in Leipsic, shared his
enthusiasm about his hero of German song, and they desired to enlarge
their knowledge of Schubert's work. They did more, for they decided
to take one representative composition and practise together till they
had reached the highest perfection. The choice fell on the Trio in B
flat major, Op. 99, whose beauties had greatly impressed them. After
much loving labor the performance was well nigh perfect. Schumann
arranged a musical party at which the Trio was played. Besides
students and friends, Wieck was invited and given the seat of honor.
This musical evening was the forerunner of many others. Weekly
meetings were held in Robert's room, where much music was played
and discussed. The talk often turned to grand old Bach and his
"Well-tempered Clavichord," to which in those early days, he gave
With all this music study and intercourse with musical friends there
was very little time left for the study of law. Yet he still kept
up appearances by attending the lectures, and had intended for some
months to enter the Heidelberg University. This decision was put into
execution in May 1829, when he started by coach for Heidelberg.
We find Robert Schumann at nineteen domiciled in the beautiful city of
Heidelberg, and surrounded by a few musical friends, who were kindred
spirits. With a good piano in his room, the "life of flowers," as
he called it, began. Almost daily they made delightful trips in a
one-horse carriage into the suburbs. For longer trips they went to
Baden-Baden, Wurms, Spires and Mannheim. Whenever Robert went with
his friends he always carried a small "dumb piano" on which he
industriously practised finger exercises, meanwhile joining in the
conversation. During the following August and September, Robert and
two or three chosen companions made a delightful journey through
Italy, the young man preparing himself by studying Latin, in which he
became so fluent that he could translate poems from one language to
The next winter Robert devoted himself to music more than
ever--"played the piano much," as he says. His skill as a pianist
gradually became known in Heidelberg and he frequently played in
private houses. But he was not content with the regular study of
the piano. He wanted to get ahead faster and invented some sort of a
device to render his fourth finger more firm and supple. It did not
have the desired effect however, but was the means in time of injuring
his hands so that he never could attain the piano virtuosity he
Before starting on the trip to Italy just mentioned, he felt that a
decision must be reached about his music. It had become as the breath
of life to him. He wrote his mother and laid bare his heart to her.
"My whole life has been a twenty years struggle between poetry and
prose, or let us say--between music and law. If I follow my own bent,
it points, as I believe correctly, to music. Write yourself to Wieck
at Leipsic and ask him frankly what he thinks of me and my plan. Beg
him to answer at once and decisively." The letter was duly written to
Wieck, who decided in favor of Robert and his plans.
Robert on hearing his decision was wild with joy. He wrote an
exuberant letter to Wieck promising to be most submissive as a piano
pupil and saying "whole pailfuls of very very cold theory can do me no
harm and I will work at it without a murmur. I give myself up wholly
With a heart full of hope, young Schumann returned to Leipsic, which
he had gladly left more than a year before. It was during this early
resumption of piano lessons with Wieck that he began the treatment
which he thought would advance his technic in such a marvelously
short time. He fastened his third finger into a machine, of his own
invention, then practised unceasingly with the other four. At last
he lost control over the muscles of the right hand, to his great
distress. He now practised unremittingly with the left hand, which
gained great facility, remarkable long after he had given up piano
Under these difficulties piano lessons with Wieck had to be given
up and were never resumed. He studied theory for a short time with
Kupach, but soon relinquished this also. He was now free to direct his
own path in music and to study--study, and compose.
One of the first pieces he wrote was "The
Papillons"--"Butterflies,"--published as Op. 2. It was dedicated to
his three sisters-in-law, of all of whom he was very fond. In the
various scenes of the Butterflies there are allusions to persons and
places known to the composer; the whimsical spirit of Jean Paul broods
over the whole.
Robert began to realize more and more his lack of thorough theoretical
knowledge and applied to Dorn, who stood high in the musical
profession in Leipsic. On his introduction, in spite of his lame hand
he played his "Abegg Variations," published as Op. 1, and Dorn was
willing to accept the timid quiet youth as pupil. He studied with
great ardor, going from the A.B.C. to the most involved counterpoint.
Thus passed two or three busy years. Part of the time Schumann had
a room in the house of his teacher Wieck and thus was thrown more or
less in the society of Clara Wieck, now a young girl of thirteen or
fourteen. Later he gave up his room--though not his intimate relations
with the family--and moved to a summer residence in Riedel's Garden,
where he spent the days in music and the evenings with his friends.
The year 1833, was one of the most remarkable in his life so far.
Not the least important event was the establishment of the "Neue
Zeitschrift fuer Musik." Schumann himself says of this:--
"At the close of the year '33, a number of musicians, mostly young,
met in Leipsic every evening, apparently by accident at first, but
really for the interchange of ideas on all musical subjects. One day
the young hot heads exclaimed: 'Why do we look idly on? Let's take
hold and make things better.' Thus the new Journal for music began.
"The youthful, fresh and fiery tone of the Journal is to be in
sharp contrast to the characterless, worn-out Leipsic criticism. The
elevation of German taste, the encouragement of young talent must be
our goal. We write not to enrich tradespeople, but to honor artists."
Schumann took up arms in favor of the younger generation of musicians
and helped make the fame of many now held in the world's highest
esteem. Sometimes, he admits, his ardor carried him too far in
recognition of youthful talent, but in the main he was very just
in his estimates. We do not forget how his quick commendation aided
The young musicians who founded the paper had formed themselves also
into an alliance, which they called the Davidsbuendlerschaft. The
idea of this alliance, which was derived from David's war with the
Philistines, seemed to exist only in the mind of Schumann himself.
It gave him a chance to write under the name of different characters,
chief of whom were Florestan and Eusebius, between whom stood Master
Raro. In Florestan Schumann expressed the powerful, passionate side of
his nature, and in Eusebius the mild and dreamy side.
He wrote to a friend: "Florestan and Eusebius are my double nature,
which I would gladly--like Raro--melt down into one man." As time
passed however, he made less and less use of these fanciful images
until they finally seemed to fade out of his mind.
An important event of 1834, was Schumann's acquaintance with Ernestine
von Fricken, who came to Leipsic from the little town of Asch, on
the Bohemian border. She lived at the Wiecks', expecting to become a
pianist under Papa Wieck's tuition. Schumann became greatly interested
in Ernestine and for some time he had in mind an engagement with her.
The noble "Etudes Symphoniques" were written this year. The theme was
suggested by Ernestine's father. The "Carnival" was partly written
in this year, but not completed till the following year. In this
collection of charming short pieces he brings in the characters of his
dreams,--Florestan, Eusebius, Chiarina (Clara), Estrella (Ernestine).
There is the March against the Philistines, and the titles of many
other of the little pieces are characteristic. It is a true Schumann
composition, full of his traits. Here we have the sweet, graceful,
elegant and the very humorous and comical finale.
The tone creations of 1835 consist of the two Sonatas, F sharp minor,
Op. 11 and G minor, Op. 22, which are held by pianists to be among his
most interesting and poetical works.
By the next year Schumann had suffered a deep sorrow in the loss of
his mother, and also his love for Ernestine began to cool, until the
partial bond was amicably dissolved. Meanwhile his affection for
Clara Wieck, who was just budding into womanhood, began to ripen into
devoted love. This, too, was the beginning of the long struggle for
the possession of his beloved, since the father had opposed such a
connection from beginning to end. Schumann wrote a friend in 1839:
"Truly from the struggle Clara has cost me, much music has been caused
and created; the Concerto, Sonatas, Davidsbuendler Dances, Kreisleriana
and Novellettes are the result." Beyond the compositions just
mentioned, he relieved his oppressed heart by a composition rich in
meaning--nothing less than the great Fantaisie, Op. 17. He meant to
contribute the profits from its sale to the fund for the erection of a
monument to Beethoven. The titles to the three movements were "Ruins,"
"Triumphal Arch," "Starry Crown." He afterwards gave up the whole
idea, and dedicated the work to Franz Liszt.
Schumann lived a quiet, busy life, and if he could have gained
the consent of Clara's father for their union, he would have been
supremely happy. He feared the principal reason of Wieck's refusal was
that the young man should earn more money first, before thinking of
settling down with a wife. Robert therefore reverted more seriously to
a plan he had thought of, to go to Vienna, and move his paper to that
city, hoping to better his fortunes. He felt, too, that he ought to
travel, as he had remained in Leipsic for eight years without change.
Thus, by the end of September, 1838, Schumann started for Vienna with
many high hopes. A friend invited him to remain at his house, which
was of much advantage. He made many calls and visits, saw musicians
and publishers, and really learned to know the city for itself. He
found it would not be profitable for him to publish the Journal there,
also that the Austrian capital was a no more propitious place to make
one's fortune than the smaller town of Leipsic. However he was able to
compose a number of works which have become among the best known and
beloved of all, including the "Arabesque," "Faschingsschwank," or
"Carnival Strains from Vienna," the "Night Pieces," Op. 24, and other
When Robert discovered Vienna was not the city to prosper in, he
thought of a return to Leipsic, to win his bride. He came back in
April, and succeeded, with the help of legal proceedings, in securing
Clara's hand in marriage. This was in 1840. From now on Schumann began
to write songs. In this one year he composed as many as a hundred and
thirty-eight songs, both large and small. He writes at this time: "The
best way to cultivate a taste for melody, is to write a great deal for
the voice and for independent chorus."
He now began to express himself not only in song but in orchestral
music. His first effort was the beautiful B flat major Symphony,
which, with the songs of that time seems to embody all the happiness
he enjoyed in winning his Clara. She proved a most admirable helpmate,
trying to shield him from interruptions and annoyance of every sort,
so he should have his time undisturbed for his work. Thus many of
his best compositions came into being in the early years of wedded
This retirement was interrupted in 1844, by a long concert tour
planned by Clara. She was firmly decided to go and made Robert
solemnly promise to accompany her to St. Petersburg. He was loath
to leave the quiet he loved, but it had to be done. Clara had great
success everywhere, as a pianist, giving many recitals during their
travels from place to place. From Russia the artist pair went to