THE BEETHOVEN FILE - INTRODUCTION
This file contains published and unpublished articles dating from 1982 onwards on topics relating to Beethoven's interest in radical politics, the reflection of that interest in his music, and his relations with patrons who shared that interest, notably Prince Karl and Princess Marie-Christiane Lichnowsky.
My motivation for researching this topic has a genesis which is anything but academic, and I have to begin by disclosing that my motive for reading around it from 1980 onwards was entirely personal in the first instance. I feel that this disclosure is necessary so that you are aware of the subjective element in my writing!
The CD listing on this site, in any case, shows that one of my own works (Clarinet Quintet No. 1 in D) purports to be a portrait in music of Princess Lichnowsky, and her likeness is on the cover. In a stroke of what psychiatrist Carl Jung called synchronicity in 1979 I became closely involved with a woman who I later found bore an extraordinary resemblance in both appearance and personality to Princess Marie-Christiane. Unnerving as this was at the time, the coincidence would have simply remained a curiosity in my life, and would have been " filed away" when the association ended.
However, reviewing Beethoven's life through the prism of his association with the Lichnowskys revealed a web of connections which seemed to crosslink his music, his political credo, his social connections, his romances, his health, his sexuality and, finally, his membership of, or close link to a radical secret society called the Illuminati.
What has puzzled me is that, although the information suggesting these crosslinks is openly available in the literature on Beethoven, something is missing in the conclusions, in the overview presented of the composer's life and work. I have dug a little in the articles presented here, but I have only scratched the surface. A closer inspection of Viennese archives on the Lichnowskys and on their connection through Count Waldstein with the Illuminati, might reveal as yet undisclosed data - and might reveal that the Princess Lichnowsky, intellectually and emotionally, played the same role in Beethoven's life that Clara Schumann played in the life of Brahms.
If anyone feels inclined to purpose this line of enquiry, I would be most interested to know the result of the research! Please email Derek Strahan at firstname.lastname@example.org
SYDNEY MUSIC DIARY, 1989 February Edited by Ulo Joasoo
Also published (slightly abridged) in The Sydney
Morning Herald, Tuesday, October 19, 1982
The Princess, however, was not overtly flirtatious, although not without a capacity for sexual mischief. On one occasion she "manoeuvred to have (Karl) bidden to a house of ill repute where she met him, her own husband, in disguise"(2). She was a highly intelligent woman, well versed in the philosophies of the Enlightenment which gave rise to the French revolution; and exceptionally musical. But she was paradoxical by nature, and in this she had much in common with her protege, Ludwig van Beethoven, five years her junior.
In one area only was Beethoven "indiscreet" and this was in the matter of dedications of his works. In this area he was safe because not all of his dedications were inspired by romantic attachments, and those that are, we know to have been so inspired by hindsight. The first work Beethoven dedicated to Princess Christiane was a set of variations for piano and cello on a theme by Handel (from Judas Maccabaeus ): See The Conquering Hero Comes. Beethoven enjoyed investing inconsequential material with significance through the theme and variations form, so it is possible that the title of the piece may have had a private significance for Beethoven and the Princess.
The work was written in 1796 while Beethoven was still in residence with the Lichnowskys.
The next work dedicated to her is dated 1901, by which time the early signs of deafness had become apparent. It is the ballet music Creatures of Prometheus. This work is programmatically linked to the earlier piece through the concept of the hero; though now, from being perhaps a private joke, the concept has deepened into that of the individual locked in a struggle against Fate. Prometheus, who defied the gods by bringing the arts to mankind, endured the most painful punishment for his audacity. He was chained to rock, an eagle gnawing at his liver.
The Prometheus music theme from the ballet is also the main theme from the last movement of the 3rd Symphony - the Eroica ! The symbolism of the hero persists! So does the Lichnowsky connection!
Of the two piano works dedicated to Prince Karl, the first is the Pathetique Sonata, generally acknowledged to be a generic romantic work in which the formal structures of 18th century music are employed in an utterance of unrequited passion. The work is dated 1798, by which time Beethoven had moved to his own lodgings. The second piano sonata dedicated to the Prince, Op.26 (written at the same time as the Prometheus ballet music) features as its slow movement a funeral march marked "on the death of a hero." The slow movement of the Eroica symphony is a similar piece, marked with an identical inscription. The Prometheus connection persists!
An omnivorous reader, Beethoven well understood that symbols operate on multiple levels: political, mythic and private. In his music we find, as a flawed hero, Napoleon, the failed democrat, whose dedication on the title page of the Eroica, Beethoven tore out when Napoleon declared himself Emperor. Simultaneously, from mythology, as we have seen, Prometheus, the embattled hero, by strength of will, turns defeat into victory. Is there also another level, the level of personal involvement, of sexuality where the "conquering hero", as lover, can only be received in secret? And whose identity, as a "hero", thus "dies"?
Beethoven was not, sexually, an unfulfilled man. His unrequited passion was for domesticity, for the love and acceptance of a family circle, in which his sexuality would be, not a burden, but a blessing. His correspondence makes this clear.
The final act of significant patronage by the Lichnowskys relates to the re-writing of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. It is impossible to imagine anyone having the power to persuade the stubborn and intransigent composer to change a note of his music - yet this was the achievement of Princess Christiane. The opera in its original form ran to only three performances in 1805, partly because the French had just marched into Vienna. In 1806 a crucial meeting took place at the insistence of the Lichnowskys to discuss what changes were necessary to have
the opera accepted into the repertoire. Fidelio generally acknowledged to be Beethoven's celebration in music of a conjugal happiness he was never able to achieve in his life. In Fidelio the hero, imprisoned for his political views, is rescued by his wife. Political freedom. Social freedom. Perhaps the theme of the opera had a special significance for both Beethoven and the Princess. It is a fact that it was at her special insistence that he made the massive revisions and cuts which resulted in Fidelio as we know it today.
By 1806 the Princess had been through a period of severe illness which resulted in mastectomy. It seems strange that both Beethoven and the Princess suffered sicknesses which assaulted self-esteem, and by which each was marked for life. One of Beethoven's most cherish possessions was a pendulum clock in the shape of an inverted pyramid on which was engraved in alabaster the head of a woman. It remained on his desk until his death. It was a gift from the Princess Christiane Lichnowsky.
1 .Beethoven by Maynard Solomon (Granada)
2. Beethoven. Biography of a Genius. by George R. Marek (William Kimber & Co.)
3. My Life, Memoirs from Austria's Great World by Countess Lulu Thurheim (from 2)
As published in Sydney Music Diary, 1989
Editor: Ulo Joasoo
BEETHOVEN: TRAUMA AND CREATIVITY
by DEREK STRAHAN
The mental process is well documented by which Beethoven transmuted his despair at encroaching deafness into a transcendent creative impulse: to defy fate and to fulfil his artistic destiny. In the summer of 1802, aged 32, Beethoven retreated to the quiet village of Heiligenstadt, on the advice of his doctor, and there wrote a letter to his two brothers, Carl and Johann, inscribed "to be read and executed after my death" in which he described both his state of suicidal depression, and his determination to overcome it.
"But how humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or if somebody heard a shepherd sing and again I heard nothing. Such experiences almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life - The only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works that I felt urged to compose".
There are two significant points to note from this document. The first is that it is addressed to Beethoven' brothers. The second is that Beethoven's primary difficulty with his deafness was a feeling of humiliation. We know that his deafness was not total till the last decade of his life, and that for about fifteen years it was an intermittent condition. Only gradually did it affect his ability to perform and conduct in public. To begin with it was less a professional handicap than a severe embarrassment. It was Beethoven's self-esteem which was hurt by the idea as much as the fact of a deaf composer. He feared ridicule.
The second humiliating blow to Beethoven's self-esteem was the failure of his many attempts to form a permanent heterosexual relationship. There is evidence to suggest that whereas Beethoven's creativity survived the social and professional humiliation of his deafness, it was very seriously impaired by the continuing disappointment of his romantic hopes. The data available on this suggests that some interesting conclusions may be drawn about the psychopathology of composing music. In the case of Beethoven, we seem to have evidence that a great composer for a period of seven years, virtually ceased to compose because of a trauma which caused a drastic re-channelling of the sexual drive. Of particular significance is the fact that, in coping with the trauma of deafness, Beethoven turned to his brothers for solace; but in coping with the trauma of sexual rejection, Beethoven gratuitously attacked his brothers in a way that suggests a profound envy of their success in an arena where Beethoven failed: the male-female relationship.
However, before presenting the relevant data, let me offer a construction which places aspects of artwork, in particular music and dance (though the same could be said for painting), in the general context of human sexual behaviour.
Throughout the animal kingdom of which humans form a part, the rituals of sexual courtship are associated with song, dance and visual display. These activities are known to be a form of self-advertisement practised to attract a mate. Most humans do not have to invent the songs which they sing, or the dances which they dance (although most do their own self-painting and choose their own bodily adornments). The invention of songs and music for dancing is the task of the creative artist who, in a sense, acts as surrogate for others in providing the content of sexual ritual.
In male-female courtship, the female, in assessing the prospective male partner, has traditionally looked not only at the individual, but also at his material territory. This approach has been a natural consequence of woman's traditional role of keeping, but not acquiring the home. This circumstance has placed the male, heterosexual composer in a uniquely unfavourable situation. As the inventor and, frequently, performer of music artworks he has been a notably conspicuous practitioner of sexual self-display. However, since the job of composing (as distinct from performing) is notoriously badly rewarded by society, in the material sense, the composer, as such, has very little territory wherewith to seal the process of attracting a mate. At best, he is confronted with a conflict between performing and composing (Liszt eventually renounced performance in favour of composition); or at worst, in the case of non-performers like Berlioz and Wagner, the male territory attached to composing is not baited with the allure of high earnings. In plain terms, it is easy for a composer to have affairs with women; it is much harder for a composer to find a permanent female mate.
The twice-married J.S. Bach spent his working life in a series of secure permanent postings as composer/performer. Hector Berlioz, who was a bad guitarist and worse pianist (but a brilliant orchestrator) spent seven years in pursuit of Irish actress Harriet Smithson, before, finally, marrying her. Would she have acceded earlier, had Berlioz been, as well as a composer, a pianist with the popular following and theatrical allure of Franz Liszt? (Postscript 1997. By the time Ms. Smithson agreed to marry Berlioz, her career was on the wane. The marriage did not last long.)
Seen in this sociological context, we are not surprised that, during Beethoven's early and middle periods of composition (when he was also a performer), he was involved in a series of affairs with women. However, as with Liszt, the aspect of ritual self-display became, through composition, fused with intellectual and metaphysical aspects of personality. Thus one is not surprised to find romantic, political and spiritual symbols interacting in the composer's conceptual processes. (For a more detailed analysis of this process, I refer you to my earlier article "Beethoven: Sexuality of the Hero", published in Sydney Music Diary, February 1989.) Nevertheless, however attenuated by metaphysics, there must remain in music composition (because it is intended for performance, or display) a primal, motivic force, which is biological. This is intrinsic, because of human nature, and irrespective of the sex or sexual preference of the composer. With display comes the expectation of response and reward from the desired partner.
In the case of Beethoven there is no question that he yearned for a mate and for domestic stability: his desire for the married state was constantly articulated to friends and in letters. We now come to a crucial year in Beethoven's life, 1812, in which, aged 42, he experienced what we call today, a mid-life crisis. Concern about his increasing deafness was a contributory factor, in that he could no longer perform in public; but, as we shall see, the primary cause of trauma was sexual rejection, and the dashing of Beethoven's romantic hopes, seemingly forever.
At his death, a mysterious letter was found among Beethoven's private papers, which, in the English-speaking world, is known as the "Letter to the Immortal Beloved". It bore a date, but no year. The recipient was not named. Successive biographers have offered different candidates, but the lady's identity remains a mystery. Modern methods of detection have been applied to the letter and, by a process of deduction involving type of paper and water marks, it has been possible to place the letter in the year 1812. In it we read of the failure of a relationship. Why the letter was in Beethoven's possession, instead of with the lady, we do not know.
However, what we do know is that in the summer of 1812 Beethoven, in poor health, left the Bohemian Spa, Teplitz (where it is thought the "letter" was written), to visit his brother Johann, in Linz, Austria. The purpose of his visit was quite specific: to break up a romance between Johann and his housekeeper. Beethoven made representations to the local bishop and to the police to have the woman banished from town. His only achievement, was to push his brother into marriage.
On the face of it, now that we know the date of the famous "letter", and in the light of the findings of modern psychiatry, it seems that Beethoven's rage against his brother's immoral behaviour was a re-channelling of the composer's own sexual energy, following the failure of his own liaison (which was equally immoral since his affair with the "immortal beloved" was an adulterous relationship!) This interpretation is, in fact, reinforced by a later, and much more serious event in Beethoven's life, an event which very seriously affected his creativity, and which is outlined below.
To put it in simple terms, there is evidence that when Beethoven gave up on love, he gave up on composing. From 1812 to 1815 the creative impulse began to wind down, and Beethoven's output was of a frankly "commercial" nature, exploiting the circumstance of the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna with such works as the deliberately simplistic "Wellington's Victory" Symphony and some celebratory cantatas.
From 1815 to 1822 Beethoven experienced a "dry" period, during which he composed comparatively little music. This period coincides with Beethoven's litigious dispute with the widow of another of his brothers, Caspar Carl, over the custody of Beethoven's nephew, Karl. The terms of Caspar Carl's will were quite clear: he desired that his wife, Johanna, and his brother Ludwig should be joint guardians, and he even indicated his willingness that Ludwig and Johanna should marry. There is no space here to detail the many pathological acts to which Beethoven resorted in dragging Johanna through the courts and in, ultimately, driving his nephew to attempting suicide. For a lucid account of these I refer you to Maynard Solomon's biography, "Beethoven", published by Granada. Let a brief quotation from that work suffice here to indicate some of the complexities of Beethoven's emotional and sexual probiems.
"The death of Caspar Carl may have opened up for Beethoven the road to a surrogate wife. Johanna became "available" to Beethoven, perhaps activating in him impulses towards union with a mother figure and mobilising the terror of paternal retribution which often follows from fantasies of such a union. From the start, then, Beethoven's aggression against Johanna can be seen as a denial of his desire for her. This may be why he chose to regard her as a prostitute; for such fantasies degradation of a woman often has its source in the wish to make her sexually available to one who dreads union with a feminine ideal."
(Postscript 1998. The psychology underlying Beethoven's attitude to Johanna makes it highly unlikely that Johanna was the "Immortal Beloved" as was suggested in the US film of that name starring Gary Oldman in an otherwise convincing portrayal of the composer.)
For the purpose of this enquiry, the key phrase in the above is the one in italics (mine) which points to both the cause and nature of Beethoven's sexual trauma. It seems no coincidence that, while he was in the grip of such negativity, his artistic industry was greatly reduced. Conceptually, however, his mind remained active, and the very few works written during this "dry" period, which include the Hammerklavier Piano Sonata and some sections of the Missa Solemnis, laid the basis for his late style.
Postscript 1998. The psychology underlying Beethoven's attitude to Johanna makes it highly unlikely that Johanna was the "Immortal Beloved" as was suggested in the US film of that name starring Gary Oldman in an otherwise convincing portrayal of the composer.)
The point is not that Beethoven couldn't work, but that he wouldn't. In modern terms, he went on strike! And, since we are seeking a connection between sexual psychopathology and artistic productivity, it is vital to distinguish between sexual energy as a component in the creative process and overt sexual activity. In Beethoven, for a period, the former was blocked; the latter never was. His sexual activity continued unabated; and later, while he was writing his most ethereal and spiritual final works, his sexual contacts were either with prostitutes or, permissively, with the wives or lovers of friends. Asked a visitor of Beethoven in 1822 (the composer being aged 52): "Where were you going today at seven o'clock near the Bauermarkt?" Beethoven replied frankly (and in bad Latin):"Culpam trans genitalium (Blame it on the genitals)!" (I quote here, again, from Maynard Solomon's "Beethoven".) It's also relevant, here, to mention that Ludwig and Johanna van Beethoven were eventually reconciled, in a healing process which was probably essential, if Beethoven were if Beethoven were to resume composing.
Unpublished article. This is a spin-off from the other two articles on Beethoven on this site. It contains data and comment that could not be included in those because of length. There is slight duplication of factual reference for the sake of coherence. Purely musical evidence supporting the views expressed here can be found in a fourth unpublished article "BEETHOVEN: THE ILLUMINATI & THE RECYCLED THEMES".
THE CONQUERING HERO
by DEREK STRAHAN
A meditation on Beethoven's early work: 12 Variations in G on "See The Conquering Hero Comes" from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" for piano & cello.
In 1796 Beethoven accompanied Prince Karl Lichknowsky on a European tour very similar to an earlier one on which Mozart was the companion. In Berlin on June 21 and 28 Beethoven was present at rehearsals of Judas Maccabeus by the famous Singakademie. The Prince was already familiar with the oratorio having heard a performance in Sweden in 1794. Beethoven's variations on the work's most famous passage were composed in the same year and dedicated to the Princess Marie-Christiane Lichnowsky. This places it within the first two years of Beethoven's lifelong stay in Vienna, and during the period when he lived in rooms at the Lichnowsky palace. It may be fortuitous that the term "hero" forms part of the title of the aria; but it is equally likely that both Beethoven and the Princess found philosophic significance in the heroic nature of the music, and, if so, this links the work to later and more profound utterances. The reason why I suggest that there is an important extra-musical dimension in this work is because of the character of the dedicatee. (See also BEETHOVEN: SEXUALITY OF THE HERO)
Biographer George R. Marek quotes "astonishing testimony" about the Princess from a member of her circle, the Countess Lulu Thurheim, who "describes the extraordinary Princess as a product of the Enlightenment, a woman who was able to understand abstruse questions easily and discuss philosophical subjects lucidly. She was a master of dialectics, schooled in the 'sophism of imagination'."
Such a woman would not have been content merely to accept the dedication of a piece of music. She would have asked Beethoven what he understood by the term "hero" and they would undoubtedly have had considerable discussion on this topic. If, by any chance, it also happened that Beethoven and the Princess were intimately involved, I do not hesitation to suggest that the title of the piece could also have had an alternative and much more frivolous meaning. Beethoven loved puns.
There, in my view, is a profound and unresolved mystery about Beethoven's relationship with the Prince and Princess Lichnowsky. They virtually adopted him from the time of his arrival in Vienna in 1794, and he lived in their house for the first years of his lifelong stay in the capital. This was quite unusual since musicians had the social status of servants. Artists could rent meagre rooms in parts of an aristocrat's palace, and that is how Beethoven first lodged. But the Lichnowskys took such a liking to Beethoven that he soon moved into the main part of the premises "as a guest". Biographer Maynard Solomon comments that "so close were (Beethoven's) ties to the Prince that for many years after he took his own, separate lodgings, he chose his rooms with a view to remaining in close proximity to the Lichnowskys."
As a commoner, moving freely among the nobility, Beethoven's later, documented romantic attachments were frequently the result of his being "adopted" by a household, and then becoming "attached" either to the wife or to one of the daughters of the household. But his first such "home" was at the Lichnowskys, and it is during this period that we have least knowledge about Beethoven's romances, because the facts were suppressed by his nineteenth century biographer, Thayer. I quote: "The names of two married women might here be given ... names which have hitherto escaped the eyes of literary scavengers, and are therefore here suppressed." So was the documentation providing the information. In justification of this act of prudish vandalism, Thayer offers the prim justification: "Let such matters, even if detail concerning them were not attainable, be forgotten".
Beethoven's relationship with the Lichnowskys was thus unusually close, and there are signs that more was involved than a formal relationship between musician and patrons. There is, of course, ample documentary evidence that the primary bond was musical. Both the Prince and Princess were among the better pianists in Vienna, and the Princess seems to have played a role as mentor in Beethoven's life very similar to that played by Clara Schumann in Brahms' life. In each case the lady was older. Beethoven brought many of his piano pieces to both the Prince and the Princess for an opinion as to their suitability for publication (degree of difficulty was a factor to be considered, as regards marketability). Both were extremely able pianists. As an indication of Princess Christiane's musicianship we note that, during the famous meeting in 1806 to discuss making cuts in "Fidelio" (then "Leonora") she accompanied the run-through on piano reading from the full orchestral score. It is clear that the Lichnowskys were the driving force in presenting Beethoven to the upper echelon of Viennese society, where he found the patrons who would subsidise his career.
As mentioned above, there was another an important bond, perhaps of equal importance to the musical one. This was an interest in the radical philosophies of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. During Beethoven's youth in Bonn, many of his tutors and influential friends were members of a radical sect called the Illuminati. These included Count Waldstein (dedicatee of the famous Piano Sonata). It was he who introduced Beethoven to the Lichnowskys. The Illuminati were as radical as the French Jacobins, and went underground after the French Revolution, at which time it became dangerous to express radical opinions. Nevertheless Beethoven retained his passion for revolutionary politics throughout his life, and the evidence for this surfaces frequently in his music.
Crucial to Beethoven's political credo was the concept of "the hero". The first incarnation of the reformist hero in Beethoven's life was the eccentric Emperor Joseph II, among whose advanced policies was an early form of Medicare, and the repeal of a law requiring Jews to identify themselves by wearing a star. In the article BEETHOVEN: THE ILLUMINATI & THE RECYCLED THEMES you may find a detailed survey of music themes recycled for their symbolic importance. We note here, briefly, that a theme from the "Cantata on the death of Joseph II" (1790) resurfaces in 1804 in the opera "Leonora" (later "Fidelio") as a hymn of thanksgiving in the final act, after the Joseph-like Don Fernando intervenes to save the life of the political prisoner, Florestan.
Beethoven believed passionately in the importance of human rights, as set out in the revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man - hence his anger on learning that erstwhile hero Napoleon had declared himself Emperor. Tearing out the title page of his new symphony in E flat, and removing the dedication to Bonaparte Beethoven raged: "Is he then nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he, too, will trample on all the rights of man and indulge only his ambitions. He will exalt himself above all others and become a greater tyrant than anyone!" The symphony was retitled, ironically: Sinfonia Eroica - Composed to Celebrate the memory of a Great Man"
The Masonic or radical influence is also obvious in the libretti of both the Choral Fantasy and the Ninth (Choral) Symphony. We note in passing that when Leonard Bernstein altered the word "Joy" to "Freedom" for a performance of the Ninth Symphony in Berlin he was, in fact, restoring Schiller's verse to its original form. At the time of its first publication Schiller, for reasons of political censorship had to substitute the word "Joy" for "Freedom" . The famous "Ode to Joy" is really "Ode to Freedom".
Can we then see, in Beethoven's choice of a theme for the Handel variations of 1796, an early expression of radical fervour, shared with the Princess Lichnowsky, through dedication? This supposition finds support in the "programme" of the next work which he dedicated to her - the ballet music "The Creatures Of Prometheus" . The myth of Prometheus was central to 19th century radical thought. The Greek God of Fire incurs the wrath of Zeus by daring to reveal forbidden secrets to the human race. For 19th century radicals Prometheus embodied the defiant hero who confronts repressive authority. There is, of course, an echo here of Lucifer, also a rebellious demi-god, whose very name means light-bringer and who was also punished for revealing forbidden knowledge. Lucifer, as the Wise Serpent, was a hero of the Gnostics (whereas Jehovah to them was a "deluded demon", the Demiurge). The interconnection between the terms Enlightment, Light-Bringer and Illuminati and not accidental. We are dealing here with manifestations of the so-called "underground stream" in European culture - dealing with it at source!
The interconnections linking radical thought, Beethoven's music and the Lichnowskys become even clearer when we observe that the "Prometheus" theme from the ballet music became the principal theme of the final movement of the "Eroica" (heroic) Symphony.
Because of the way in which Beethoven recycled musical themes it is necessary to move backwards and forwards in time picking up the threads. In 1794 or 1795 Beethoven set to music words by the poet Burger. The direct passion of the words finds a later echo in Beethoven's "Letter to the Immortal Beloved" ( the woman whose identity is still a mystery (see BEETHOVEN; SEXUALITY OF THE HERO) The melody of the second part of this song, the "Gegenliebe", was, in 1808, used for the Choral Fantasy, which we know to be a first sketch for the Choral Symphony. Here, at least, is a direct connection between personal love and radical passion. (For a comparison of the libretti of the Choral Fantasy and the Ninth Symphony, see BEETHOVEN; THE ILLUMINATI & THE RECYCLED THEMES).
There is one final and most terrible speculation to be made. Between 1800 and 1806 both Beethoven and the Princess Christiane suffered humiliating illness. Beethoven began to lose his hearing. The princess developed a condition which, in the end, required her to endure mastectomy. Is it possible that these were both stress-induced hysterical symptoms? Beethoven's medical records have of course been thoroughly scrutinised. I invite music scholars to investigate the medical records of the Princess.
The most inexplicable reference in Beethoven's correspondence is to be found in a letter written in 1805 to Josephine Brunsvik, widow of Count Deym, a lady whom Beethoven had hopes of marrying. The curious passage reads: " Well, it is true that I have not been as diligent as I ought to have been - but a private grief - robbed me for a long time of my usual energy. And for some time after the feeling of love for you, my adored, began to stir within me, this grief increased even more - As soon as we are together again, with no one to disturb us, you shall hear all about my real sorrows and the struggle within myself between life and death, a struggle in which I was engaged for some time. For a long period a certain event made me despair of ever achieving any happiness during my life on this earth ."
It is possible that Beethoven was here referring to his deafness (but would he refer to this as "an event"?); and would not Josephine already know of this affliction? And Beethoven had resolved his suicidal feelings about deafness two years earlier in 1803 (the Heligstad Testament). Complicating this issue is the fact that the real purpose of this letter was to tell Josephine that Beethoven's patron, Prince Lichnowsky, had learned about their attachment by finding the manuscript of a song Beethoven had dedicated to her! It seems the Lichnowskys intervened here in such a way as to disrupt the romance! It was a familiar pattern. It is well known that the "Moonlight" Sonata (0p.27, No.2) is dedicated to the Countess Guiletta Guiccardi, with whom Beethoven declared himself "in love" around 1801. What is less well known is that Guilietta got second choice! Beethoven's first choice for her was the Piano Rondo in, Op. 51, No. 2. , but, at the insistence of Prince Karl Lichnowsky, this piece was switched to Karl's sister, Henriette!
Of course, on first consideration, it would seem strange to suppose that the Prince and Princess would conspire to frustrate Beethoven's romantic plans, as a result of any former attachment between the composer and the Prince's wife. However, this possibility must be considered. We know that the Lichnowsky marriage was not a love match, and that the Prince neglected his wife, sexually, in favour of other women. Marek quotes the Countess Lulu Thurheim as commenting that Princess Marie-Christiane was "never untrue to her husband" but imputes no moral virtue to this by also adding that "by nature she a frigid woman". She also comments that the Prince " would willingly have forgiven (his wife's infidelity) because he himself was a'cynical lecher'". We may need to allow for some cattiness in these comments, since Countess Lulu's sister succeeded Marie-Christiane's sister as the second wife of Prince Rasumovsky! However, there may have been some fire behind this smoke screen! Is it possible that the Prince, to facilitate his own wanderings, might have encouraged his wife to have her own little fling, with a servant (albeit a talented one?) The "little fling" may have got quite out of hand! Beethoven could no longer reside at the Lichnowsky home (he left in 1796). But, as we noted earlier, Maynard Solomon comments that thereafter, when finding lodgings, Beethoven " chose his rooms with a view to remaining in close proximity to the Lichnowskys".
A small clue to the bedroom games played in Vienna at this time comes from a report that on one occasion the Princess Christiane had the Prince lured to a brothel where she met him (her own husband!) in disguise.
Is there enough substance in these speculations to encourage scholars to probe further? I hope so. I repeat that it would be interesting to compare the medical records of the Princess and of Beethoven. Hopefully those of the Princess still exist in Viennese archives.
At present, there is only supposition; and the music itself. The Handel Variations were written after, but in the same period as the "Gegenliebe". Reading the libretto, it is inconceivable that the song was not written for someone. For whom? "Reciprocated Love".
"If I knew that you cared for me and valued me a little, and felt only a hundredth part of what I feel for you; (if I knew) that your thanks would prettily meet my greeting halfway and your lips would gladly give and take an exchanged kiss: then, O heaven, my heart, beside itself, would completely go up in flame! I would not be able to let you demand my body or my life in vain! Reciprocated favour heightens favour, love is nourished by reciprocated love, and that which would have remained a tiny spark amid the ashes flares up into a blazing fire!"
Approx. 2,500 words
This article is an Appendix to the first three articles which comprise THE BEETHOVEN FILE, and details works in which Beethoven made use of themes from earlier works. It presents the fact that in every case there is a "Lichnowsky connection" and suggests that this is more than coincidence. It should be read in conjunction with:
BEETHOVEN: THE ILLUMINATI & THE RECYCLED THEMES
By Derek Strahan
The idea of the hero appears in Beethoven's music at three levels. The mythological, the political and the personal. In a psychological sense, all three levels are interrelated. In music the synthesis is complete, since it is in the nature of music to make such synthesis. It is also interesting that wherever the idea of the hero surfaces explicitly in the extra-musical program of a work, there is a connection with either the Prince Karl or the Princess Marie-Christiane Lichnowski. Although this link is evident it seems to me that none of Beethoven's various biographers have explored the reason why it exists. I don't claim to have the answer, although I have explored some of the possible reasons in the three earlier articles in this file. My speculative explanation is that all three levels of involvement came into play in Beethoven's complex relations with the Lichnowsky couple in a way that profoundly affected his intellectual life, his emotional life and his creativity - and possibly also his health.
During Beethoven's formative years in Bonn, he came into contact with a number of "freethinkers", notably Count Waldstein, who were members of a radical sect called the "Illuminati". Beethoven's alienation from his father lead to an emotional dependence on and identification with members of this circle of freethinkers, in which he was greatly helped by his association with the Breuning family who provided a congenial venue for informal meetings. These "support groups" are well documented in most biographies of the composer. Bonn was a "university city" in which ideas freely circulated during the years leading up to the French Revolution; translations of works by the major French writers of the Enlightenment were freely available. It was in Bonn that Beethoven began his lifelong habit of reading widely . He was among those composers profoundly influenced by literature.
The role of the "Illuminati" in Beethoven's life is so germinal that I quote here in full a telling passage from Maynard Solomon's biography: "Despite the receptivity to Enlightenment ideas, advanced and radical thinkers were constantly on the alert for signs of repression. A Freemason's lodge had been founded in 1776 but it soon disappeared, perhaps because (the Empress) Maria Theresa had suppressed Freemasonry within the Austrian territories. Its place was taken by a secret, anticlerical Order of Illuminati, founded in 1781, which combined Enlightenment notions of 'progress through reason' with quasi-Masonic ritual. Its members included many who were associated with Beethoven ... The order was uncovered and suppressed in Bavaria - its headquarters - in 1784-85, and the Bonn Illuminati, fearing a prohibition, dissolved their group in favour of a less dangerous forum, the Lese-Gesellschaft (Reading Society), which was founded in 1787 by thirteen 'friends of literature', who included most of the former Illuminati. Soon its membership numbered 100 ..."
Among these were the composer Christian Gottlob Neefe, one of Beethoven's tutors; Franz Ries, Court musician, family friend and violin tutor to Beethoven (his son Ferdinand in turn became a pupil of the composer in Vienna); the revolutionary Professor Eulogius Schneider and the aforementioned Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel Waldstein und Wartemberg von Dux, Knight of the Teutonic Order! It should not surprise that aristocrats numbered among radicals of the period. The "enlightened" saw reform as essential to prevent violent revolution and looked to a "good prince" to bring about change.
The influence of the group of people with whom Beethoven associated thus resulted in the young composer's admiration for the reformist emperor Joseph II, who provided the first embodiment of the 'hero' in Beethoven's music, in 1790, in the "Cantata on The Death of Joseph II". The libretto was written by a local poet Severin Anton Averdok for a memorial service held by the Reading & Recreation Society of Bonn (i.e. the Illuminati) . It was Professor Eulogius Schneider who suggested that the service include a musical tribute and commissioned Beethoven to write one. After describing the victory of Joseph over "a monster called Fanaticism" Averdok's libretto continues: " Here slumbers in peace a mighty hero whose generous heart bore sorrowfully the welfare of mankind right up to the end".
This eccentric ruler was Beethoven's first ideological hero. Reforms were his hobby! Some of them were not popular. He banned the famous German gingerbread cookie, the Lebkuchen since, in his opinion, it was bad for the digestion. He also essayed a short-lived ban on coffins, and decreed that the dead should be buried in just a plain sack. (This, by one account, is why Mozart was buried with little dignity - not because he was a pauper. True?) But Joseph was an early champion of human rights. He declared torture to elicit confessions illegal. He abolished the death penalty. He outlawed serfdom. He built orphanages and poorhouses and established the General Hospital. His most famous law was :The Patent of Tolerance (1781 and 1982) which permitted Jews to stop wearing the yellow band by which they had been forced to identify themselves. (The above information on Joseph is courtesy of "Beethoven: Biography of a Genius" by George R. Marek. William Kimber 1970).
Although a commissioned work, the "Joseph" Cantata was not performed during Beethoven's lifetime (the premier was cancelled because the wind parts were thought too difficult). The score was lost until it turned up at in a second hand bookshop in 1884 (having actually been in the possession of the composer Hummel since he bought it at an auction 1813!). The work provides us with the first example of Beethoven "recycling" a musical theme. The melody of the beautiful soprano aria from "Joseph" reappeared in 1804 (14 years later) in the hymn of thanksgiving in the final act of "Leonora", Beethoven's only opera, revised as "Fidelio". In the original, "Leonora" version the chorale begins, as does the "Joseph" aria, with an oboe solo stating the theme. The "thanks" are directed to Don Fernando, the Minister, a Joseph-like character, who intervenes to rescue the political prisoner, Florestan, from unjust death at the hands of a corrupt Prison governor.
There is a Lichnowsky connection in the writing of "Leonora/Fidelio". But first we must explore the strange case of the simple country dance theme (one of a set of Contra-Dances for Orchestra) which Beethoven recycled several times and in which he invested great significance, far in excess of its musical status! The first work which Beethoven dedicated to the Princess Marie-Christiane Lichnowsky is the Variations on "See The Conquering Hero Comes" from Handel's "Judas Maccabeus" . (See THE CONQUERING HERO) The second work dedicated to her also invokes a heroic figure. The ballet music "The Creatures of Prometheus" (1800) characterises the Greek God of Fire by the use of the aforementioned German Dance tune with which Beethoven became obsessed. He anatomised the tune in the Op.35 Piano Variations (1802) which he dedicated to the Countess Thun (Marie-Christiane's mother) and then again used it in 1803 as the principal theme of the final movement of the Symphony No. 3 in E flat, originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, but later known as the "Eroica" after the composer removed the dedication in a fury, upon learning that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor (thus betraying the ideals of the Enlightenment). Beethoven's sketches for the Symphony reveal that he conceived the last movement first and expanded his ideas to embrace a larger structure. The "hero" theme was thus always the core of the work.
Another musical idea links the "Eroica" Symphony to a Piano Sonata composed earlier (in 1800) and dedicated to Prince Karl Lichnowsky. The second movement of the symphony is in the form of a Funeral March on the death of a hero. The third movement of the Op.26 Piano Sonata was an earlier exercise in this form. In itself, this is not so remarkable, since music in the form of a Funeral march or Oration was common in French revolutionary music (by which Beethoven was much influenced). However, a similar linkage between a symphony and a piano work would have been repeated had the composer lived to complete his tenth symphony. In this he intended to recycle the theme of the slow movement of an even earlier Piano Sonata, the Op. 13, the "Pathetique", which was, moreover, also dedicated to the Prince Lichnowsky and composed in 1798.
One other recycled theme deserves consideration. In 1796, the same year that Beethoven composed the Handel Variations mentioned above (or possibly the year before) he also wrote a two-part song titled "Sigh of one who is Unloved" & "Love Returned"(Gegenliebe). The theme of the second part was recycled about 12 years later as the principal theme of the Fantasia for piano, chorus and orchestra of 1808 (also known as the Choral Fantasy). The libretti do not appear to have much in common - the first is a love song to passionate words by the poet Gottlieb August Burger; the second is set to apparently innocuous words about the power of music and art by the poet Christian Kuffner. However, Beethoven must have felt that there was a link of some kind between the two works to justify re-using the melody - because he only did this to emphasise a strong extra-musical meaning: that is, he used the music to reinforce a metaphysical meaning. In searching for the meaning we also have to allow for the fact that this melody was further recycled as the theme for the "Ode To Joy" in the Ninth Symphony. It was not repeated note for note, but the musical structure of each is identical and the melodic shapes are similar, allowing for some minimal inversions in the sequence of notes. What is undeniable is that the content of the verse in both the Fantasia and the Ode to Joy is also similar, and in each we find, in poetic code, a statement of the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment, carefully phrased to avoid political censorship. I have quoted from the libretto of the "Gegenliebe" at the close of THE CONQUERING HERO. Here now are parallel passages from the libretti of the two "political" works.
At this point I raise again the question of the Illuminati and not because this is necessarily the most logical point at which to do so. The putative presence of the Illuminati exists as an underscore in this article, as it seems to have done in the mythology of secret societies ever since it was founded. And yet it only existed openly for 6 years! We have noted that the "Joseph Cantata" was commissioned by the Illuminati in its guise as the Reading & recreation Society as Bonn. I suggest that a Chapter of the Order of Illuminati existed in Vienna, in a disguised form, of course. I further suggest that the Lichnowskys were members of it. This linkage explains Beethoven's access to the highest levels of Viennese society from his arrival in the capital. It also explains his financial independence, the result of three aristocrats (including Prince Lichnowsky) collaborating to provide him with an income. It also explains the continuing presence in Beethoven's music of a subtext of revolutionary politics. We now take this for granted as an element of Beethoven's eccentric character. But Vienna was the centre of the Hapsburg Empire, and the most conservative capital in Europe. People were arrested and imprisoned for being less outspoken than Beethoven.
I also suggest that, in one of those accidents of fate, Beethoven's passion for radical politics, which was ignited in Bonn, later became entangled in a love affair with one of Vienna's three most beautiful women, the Princess Lichnowsky, that their affair was illumined by intelligence and humour, and that the seal was set on his music, ensuring that politics, philosophy, metaphysics, music and sex were forever enmeshed inextricably. Other romances, questions of health, should all be assessed in the light of this early experience which took place during the years 1794 to 1796.
As indicated in the earlier articles in this file, and as indicated by all of Beethoven's biographers, his attachment to the Lichnowskys transcended that of the normal relationship between artist and patron. It was clearly not an "easy" relationship, but it was a deep and lasting one. The musical bond was primary. But the bond of intellectual communication was as important, as revealed by the radical subtext which keeps surfacing in music with direct "Lichnowsky" links. One can explain away the dedications as an acknowledgment by Beethoven of the continuing financial assistance he received from this pair. From 1800 this translated into a substantial annuity. But why was he lodged as a "guest" with the Lichnowskys in their home for the first two years of his stay in Vienna? In 1794 Beethoven was not yet the Beethoven known to history.
What emotional debt was he repaying when he used, as the theme for the "Ode to Joy", a close derivative of the theme of a passionate love song written between 1794 and 1796? What equation was there in Beethoven's mind between "love" and "revolution" that allowed the same music to serve each cause? What emotional debt did he intend repaying by reusing the Adagio from the 'Pathetique' Sonata in what would have been his Tenth Symphony? And why was the mythological hero Prometheus so important to Beethoven that he invested a simple, common dance tune with the burden, the duty and the punishment of the rebel angel? Let us not forget that the Gnostic tradition survives in Freemasonry, and in this tradition it is the Wise Serpent who is the intermediary between the human race and the true God. The Wise Serpent is also Lucifer, the Light Bringer, and the Light Bringer risks divine punishment by revealing Forbidden Knowledge. Prometheus is code for Lucifer, and the Illuminati embodied the Enlightenment. This equation was well known to 19th century romantics of whom Beethoven was a precursor. Other demonic rebel figures also preoccupied writers and composers during the ensuing decades - Faust, Manfred, and, on a continuing basis, Don Juan. The dedicatee of the first work embodying the figure of Prometheus (the Ballet "Creatures of Prometheus") was the Princess Lichnowsky. Coincidence?
Coincidence or not, being the woman she was, discussions would have taken place between composer and dedicatee about the significance of the ideas underlying the work.
If there is any factual basis to this speculation, it will have to be substantiated by others; it will have to involve research in situ in Vienna. To sum up: Was there a woman involved in the development of Beethoven's creativity who, more than any other in his life, was his intellectual and musical equal? Was she also a member of the secret society which sponsored Beethoven's work? Was this the same woman who fought with him over changes to his only opera to save it for posterity? He resisted. She won. The changes involved terrible mutilation of the score. By then disease had wrought havoc on each of them. But the opera was saved. An opera which celebrates what neither she nor he found in their own lives. Conjugal happiness.
In the "sophism of imagination" Beethoven was clearly "Prometheus" and he even regarded his deafness as a Promethean punishment. Who then was the Princess Marie-Christiane Lichnowsky? Was she "Liberty"? Was she "Leonora"? Was she "Joy"?