(1795 - 1801)
Beethoven burst onto the public scene as a composer at the end of March, 1795. This is the series of activities that kept him busy for the remainder of that year:
- Benefit performances at the Burgtheater on March 29th, 30th and 31st, namely for:
- The widows of the Tonkünstlergesellschaft (Society of Tone Artists) on March 29th and 30th, whereby Thayer assumes, that he played his Piano Concerto No.1, Op. 19, and improvising on the piano, and for
- A concert organized by Konstanze Mozart, at which Thayer assumes that he played Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor, but which Cooper describes as 'unspecified' (Cooper: 55);
- Signing a contract with the Viennese publisher Artaria for the publication by subscription of his Trios Op. 1/1 -3. With 123 subscribers, he may have made a good profit;
- Throughout the year, completing various smaller compositions;
- Performing at the ball of the Gesellschaft der Bildenden Künstler (Society of Fine Artists)on November 22nd; Haydn had written a set of 12 minuets and 12 German dances for this event in 1792. In 1795, the dances for the larger room were
"Written by the Imperial Kapellmeister Süßmayr, for the smaller room by the master hand of Hr. Ludwig van Beethoven out of love for the artistic fraternity" (Thayer: 177);
- His last appearance in 1795 at the December 18th grand musical concert at the Redoutensaal given by Haydn who had returned from England in August. Beethoven played a "piano concerto of his composing". While Cooper had had a chance to clarify some of the traditional bases of our notion of Beethoven's difficult relationship with Haydn, he still refers to the fact that Beethoven often expressed that he had not learned much from his teacher (Cooper: 49). At this particular point we should mention that Beethoven is reported as having felt that Haydn meant to set limits to his creativity when he advised him not to publish the third of his Trios Op. 1, which he considered too advanced for the public to understand.
While Beethoven was also reunited with his brother Nikolaus Johannes who came to Vienna towards the end of 1795 (he soon found a position as a pharmacist), he also made plans for a journey to Prague and Berlin in 1796. His most important patron, Prince Lichnowsky, with whom he had lodged since soon after his settling in Vienna, traveled with him to Prague (as the Prince had done before with Mozart in 1789). From Beethoven's letter to Nikolaus Johannes van Beethoven of February 17th, 1796, we learn that his stay in Prague was very successful and that he found new friends there. While Prince Lichnowsky at some point returned to Vienna, Beethoven went on to Dresden towards the end of April, stayed there for about a week, played for the Elector and received a golden snuff box as a gift, and then made his way to Berlin. His stay there could be considered as the most successful part of this journey. He played before the Court of King Frederick William II the two Grand Sonatas with obbligato violoncello, Op. 5, which he had written for Duport, the King's first violoncellist. Beethoven may have received an invitation by the King to stay permanently which he did not take up on the grounds that he considered the Prussian nobles "spoilt children" who sobbed and cried during his moving improvisations. He made one exception in his appraisal by considering Prince Louis Ferdinand's piano playing as "professional".
Later in the year, Beethoven appeared successfully in Pressburg and Pesth where he also tried to promote the piano made by his piano maker friend Johann Andreas Streicher, a Stuttgarter who had previously joined his friend Friedrich Schiller in 1782 when the poet fled to Mannheim, and who later married piano maker Stein of Augsburg's daughter Nanette and moved the business to Vienna. For a period of two to three months between his return from Berlin and his journey to Hungary, Beethoven's whereabouts are unaccounted for. Researchers ponder as to whether the infection Beethoven was reported by the Salzburg physician, Professor Weissenbach (who met Beethoven in 1814) as having suffered from and which supposedly may have led to his loss of hearing occurred in 1796 or, more likely, in 1797 (Cooper: 72). It is also not certain what kind of infection he might have had or not.
The years 1797 - 1801 inclusive were years of Beethoven's cementing his success as a young composer and as an experienced performer in Vienna which saw the creation of his still popular early works in the classical tradition established by Haydn and Mozart, yet also increasingly being imbued with his own spirit. (During this period, Beethoven undertook two more journeys, of which the first took him to Prague in the fall of 1798 and a journey to Hungary in the spring of 1800, to perform in Budapest with Wenzel Stich (Giovanni Punto) and to visit the Bunsvik estate nearby.)
They also saw his growing confidence in himself and the haughty manner in which he treated those who did not share his confidence, as well as his hiding behind this haughtiness his extreme artistic sensitivity, all at once basking in the devotion shown to him by his patrons but also rejecting it if it became too much to bear.
His growing popularity as a teacher of young ladies of the noble class attached to his name that of several young ladies; Beethoven's friend Wegeler, who left Vienna in 1796 to return home, would later consider the matter of the young composer's romantic interests who, in his opinion, "was never out of love." To this, Maynard Solomon has to comment that the 1795 rejection of his marriage proposal Beethoven received from the singer Magdalena Willmann (in total described as unreliable, second-hand recollection by Cooper) as well as his Kantian code of ethics in mainly driving himself to serve society with his art, and his over-idealization of women did not entirely fit Wegeler's description of this issue.
Beethoven also made friends among certain musically active noblemen such as Baron Zmeskall (who used to sharpen Beethoven's quills) and musicians he worked with such as Johann Nepomuk Hummel or Ignaz Schuppanzigh. The closest personal friends of that period, however, were Lenz von Breuning who stayed in Vienna in 1797 (he died in 1798) and Carl Amenda, a Baltic theologian and violin player who stayed in Vienna from 1797 to 1799.
Carl F. Amenda
To these friends and acquaintances can be added the von Brunsvik family of Hungary who visited Vienna in the summer of 1799. Beethoven gave piano lessons to Josephine and Therese von Brunsvik. Josephine was immediately married off to Count von Deym, 49 years old and owner of a curiosity shop. (Beethoven's mentioning, in a letter to his parting friend Carl Amenda, in the summer of 1799, his "lacerated heart" was previously often connected with his failed marriage proposal to Magdalena Willmann. Maynard Solomon's placing this event into 1795 as well as Beethoven's later, 1804/1805 passionate, (really only one-sided?) love for Josephine von Brunsvik and her arranged 1799 marriage would invite further inquiry into this issue.
In the summer of 1801, however, Beethoven's transition from a successful young composer and pianist who was passionately revered by his patrons while also contending with certain competitors such as Cramer, Woelfl and Steibelt, to a man who was haunted by the shocking possibility of his pending loss of hearing would become apparent. We will discuss this issue in the next section.