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5 - The Sanctification of Beethoven in 1827–28

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2020

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Summary

To the readers of the weekly Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Beethoven's death on March 26, 1827 was announced at the end of the monthly report from Vienna. The reviewer came to the end of his comments about a concert held on March 22, at which Beethoven's “Sanft, wie du lebtest,” a vocal quartet with string accompaniment, had premiered. He praised the harmonies of the work for breathing “the blessed peace of a better world,” and then quoted its text:

“Gentle, as you lived, have you completed, too holy for the pain! No eye cries at the heavenly spirit's homecoming!” Words such as this, with their deeply felt melancholy, must be doubly grasped in the blink of an eye, because we fear that we shall lose the creator of such melodies.—It has happened! On the evening of the 26th, at ten minutes before six, Beethoven went on to his eternal rest; painless, after hours of continual agony.

By the time this account was published in the April 25 issue, Beethoven had been buried for over three weeks, and the commemorative round of concerts and events was well underway. The extraordinary public response to Beethoven's death began in Vienna with the prescribed rituals of public grief, but these soon gave way to a year of organized tributes throughout Europe. Whether out of grief for his loss or from a desire to help define how he would be remembered, the tributes came from all corners of the artistic world: performers gave concerts (both public and private), sculptors chiseled, poets mused, critics expounded, publishers published, and composers composed.

My intent in examining how musicians and others in German-speaking lands and in England responded to Beethoven's death is not to chronicle the creation of the mythical Beethoven (though I will briefly examine some early manifestations of this), it is not to trace the reception history of early works as opposed to late (though issues of repertoire will figure prominently), and it is not to show how composers who survived Beethoven honored him with new compositions (though instances of musical citation and allusion will arise); rather, I hope to show how all of these issues were interrelated, how poets, performers, and composers had common responses to Beethoven's death and to life after Beethoven.

Type
Chapter
Information
The New Beethoven
Evolution, Analysis, Interpretation
, pp. 89 - 120
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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