Engraving of Vienna from Nussdorf by Joseph and Peter Schaffer (published by Artaria, Vienna, 1785). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
This online exhibit was made possible by a generous grant from Mary and Douglas Scrivner (Los Altos Hills, California) and the Farrington Historical Foundation (San José, California). We would also like to thank the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José and the members of the American Beethoven Society.
William Meredith and Patricia Stroh
Website design: Kyung Lee
Website development: Patricia Stroh
Engraving of Vienna by Wunder (published by F. Campe, Nuremberg, ca. 1820). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
“To everyone who is susceptible of the enjoyments of life, particularly to the artist, and perhaps still more especially to the musician, Vienna is the most agreeable and cheerful residence in Europe. It possesses, in a very high degree, whatever distinguishes a great capital.
The nobility and gentry are rich, well informed, lovers of the arts, hospitable, and of polished manners; the middling classes and tradesmen are opulent, sociable, and there is no want among them of accomplished and intelligent men and of amiable families; while the lower classes are wealthy, good-humoured, and merry.
All of them are fond of pleasure and good living; and provision has been made, that they should enjoy every diversion that is now-a-days in request, with perhaps greater convenience and safety than in any other city in the world.” —“Some Account of Vienna and its Inhabitants,” Ackermann’s Journal of the Arts, August 1810
Engraving by Joseph and Peter Schaffer showing a view of Nussdorf with Vienna in the distance (published by Artaria, Vienna, 1785)
The sixteen-year-old Beethoven first arrived in Vienna in 1787 and stayed for several weeks, meeting and playing for Mozart before he starting back for his hometown Bonn. He returned to Vienna in December 1792 and remained there (with the exception of a few early tours and summer sojourns in the country) for the rest of his life.
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Position” (Ch. 1)
“Under the 34th eastern longitude [today measured as the 16th] and under the 48th northern latitude on the southern bank of the magnificent Danube River rises a hill of moderate size, on which the Romans constructed a fort in [the province of] old Pannonia, formerly called Vindobona, and which became today’s Vienna.
Vienna’s surroundings are varied, beautiful, delightful: to the north, islands covered with richly shaded woods, through which the ten-armed Danube willfully snakes; to the west [of the Danube], the beautiful view of the Kahlenberg crowned with its buildings, from which a chain of middle-sized hills clothed in tasteful green stretches to the south; to the east, a fertile and broad expanse towards blessed Hungary; to the south varied scenes of hills, hollows, country homes, and meadows to the circumscribed horizon.
If one wants to obtain a bird’s-eye view of this pleasant landscape, one climbs St. Stephen’s tower, walks up the Kahlenberg, or takes up station in Count Cobenzl’s country house, or in Prince Galitzin’s. Splendid views of Vienna are also to be had from the gallery of the Prince Kaunitz’s garden pavilion in Mariahilf [the 6th district], or from the upstairs windows of the Belvedere.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1: “Lage,” pp. 9-11, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Engraving showing a general view of Vienna (published by Daumont, Paris, 18th century)
This eighteenth-century print shows the suburbs of Vienna, the open area separating the suburbs from the inner city (the Glacis), the moat that once surrounded the city, and the fortified inner city with its ramparts (Basteien). Though the city looks attractive in this hand-colored engraving, foreign visitors often found it less attractive than other Europeans capitals and more striking for the mix of people from countries to the east of Vienna.
"Some Account of Vienna & Its Inhabitants," 1810
“Among all the capitals of Europe, Vienna is one of the least handsome. No exterior decoration attracts the eye; the streets are irregular, and many of them, besides the native inhabitants, exhibit a singular mixture of Turks, Poles, Hungarians, Croats, Cossacks, Calmucks, and other foreigners. Nearly in the center there is a street thrown across another street, so that carriages and passengers going along the former, are often just over those in the latter; a sight which cannot fail to raise the curiosity of the traveller [Wipplingerstrasse adjacent to the bridge "Hohe Brücke" crossing the Tiefer Graben].
For persons whose taste has been formed among the classic monuments of Italy, the public places, theatres, and churches of Vienna, have no great attractions. The imperial palace, situated in the middle of the city, is only a large square, without regularity or elegance: but to make amends for this, the arsenal is one of the finest in the world. ... Vienna having been till lately a fortified city, the houses are very closely crowded together. It is rarely the case that a whole house is occupied by one family, because the second floor of a great number belongs to the emperor, a concession by which the inhabitants purchased the favour of having their sovereign in their midst. These floors are given over by the court to its servants and officers, and constitute part of their emoluments.” —Ackermann’s Journal of the Arts, August 1810
Ground plan of Vienna and its surroundings (published by F. Härter'schen Buchhandlung, Vienna, 1825)
This extraordinary map is included in volume 3 of Wien’s Geschichte und seine Derkwürkdigkeiten(Vienna’s History and Its Memorable Things), published by Franz Härter’schen Buchhandlung in Vienna in 1825. The map is a greatly reduced version of a famous map from 1770 made by Joseph Nagl and represents Vienna the year that Beethoven was born during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia and her son Joseph II.
Many of the places mentioned in Johann Pezzl’s descriptions are easy to locate here, including the inner city with its ramparts, the Imperial Palace (1) and Library (2), the Neumarkt (5), the Graben (6), Hohemarkt (15), Kärntnerthor (IV), and the Burgtor (V). The Augarten and Prater are seen at the top, along with the two alleys they shared in common. In the middle of the map on the far right side is the Rennweg, the street that leads to the Belvedere and its neighbor, the summer Schwarzenberg Palace.
“Vienna is a singular city in its form and arrangement. We have before observed that it stands on a plain, where the Danube breaks into several branches. On the southernmost of these the capital is built, forming three concentric circles; the first, is the old city, surrounded by its wall and rampart; the next, is a plain called the Glacis, which forms a complete circle of gardens and pleasure-grounds, except where the city is washed by the arm of the Danube; and the third, which encloses the other two, is the suburbs; an immense mass of houses, more open and loosely arranged than the inner city. The low level space of ground (the Glacis), which thus divides Vienna into two distant parts, is nearly a quarter of a mile in width; and it was originally designed for the protection of the capital, in case of attack, by rendering the city, properly so called, a separate defence, which, it was thought, might hold out with success, even if the suburbs were in the hands of an enemy. … [W]hen the French were about to take their departure in 1809, they began busily to destroy [the bastions], and before they left, had made such extensive breaches as it would have required great labour and expense to repair. … The Austrians wisely resolved to convert what remained into places of public recreation, and use them for promenading; a purpose for which their breadth and elevation rendered them excellently adapted.” —The Saturday Magazine, March 1834
The city ramparts (Basteien) that surrounded the inner city were popular spots for strolls for the middle class, as can be seen in the foreground. The broad piece of land that separated the city from the suburbs was called the Glacis. (A Glacis is a gently sloping bank that slopes down to a fort.) The Landstrasse on the other side of the Glacis is Vienna’s third district and contained many palaces during Beethoven’s lifetime, including the famous Belvedere and that of his patron Count Razumovsky.
Engraving of Vienna from the original by L. Janscha (published by P. Didot, Paris, 1821). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
The Glacis, here shown with a number of military troops in formation, was built to provide an additional layer of protection against invasions after the first Turkish attack of 1582. The Basteien (ramparts) sourrounding the city are clearly illustrated as well. Today only remnants of the Basteien remain, including one near Beethoven’s favorite apartment in the Pasqualati-Haus.
Engraving of Vienna by Carl Schütz (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, ca. 1843). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The engraving depicts the ramparts protecting the inner city across the tree-lined Glacis. The foreground depicts a poodle barking at what is perhaps a cleric, a peasant hauling wood in a basket, and a couple, servant, and soldiers out for a promenade.
On December 20, 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph gave the go-ahead for the razing of the city ramparts and the construction of the Ringstrasse. Vienna became a huge construction zone. Demolition began in 1858 and the first section was completed by 1865. The Parliament, City Hall, and University were built on the former exercise grounds for the army.
A vue d’optique is an engraving viewed through an optical machine such as a zograscope or “peep box” with a curved lens and mirror that makes the print appear to be three-dimensional. Prints that were designed as optical vues always have the title of the engraving in mirror image at the top so that it can be read correctly through a zograscope.
In the middle of this vue d’optique stands the External Burgtor or Heldentor (Hero’s Gate) designed by Peter von Nobile and erected between 1821-24. The arch commemorates the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 when Austria and its Allies defeated Napoleon. Originally built into city’s defensive walls, as seen here, today it stands alone in front of the Imperial Palace.
Map of the city and suburbs of Vienna (published by J.B. Homann, Nuremberg, between 1735-62). Gift of the American Beethoven Society in honor of William Meredith
This important map shows a bird’s-eye view of the city above a panorama engraving of the buildings from the Löwel-Bastei to the Bastei auf der Keller Stunden, with a key to the main buildings in and outside of the city center. Beethoven’s favorite apartment, in the Pasqualatihaus, looked over the Mölkerbastei (see “1”). His last apartment was on the top (American third) floor of the Schwarzspanierhaus apartment building across the Glacis (see “2”).
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Suburbs” (Ch. 6)
“A great rivalry exists between the inhabitants of the city and those of the suburbs. The clothes maker from the city looks down his nose at the suburban tailor; the city shoemaker engages two assistants from the suburbs to do repairs in his name. … The new citizen opens his workshop first in the suburbs, and has no greater wish than that he will become a master in town after a few years. The young journeyman begins work in the suburbs, and considers that he has made great progress if after 9 months he arrives in a city workshop, to the secret envy of his colleagues. This ambition is not altogether groundless.
Everything that is important, grand, noble, and wealthy finds it way into the city—the suburbs are the domestics serving the lady of the house enthroned in their middle. There are few people of the suburbs who do not have to go into town at least one a day, whether it is to seek protection, carry out business, fetch materials for their work, sell the products of their labor, raise money, make visits, speak to friends, see the great and beautiful world, or to enjoy desired pleasures.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 6: “Die Vorstädte,” pp. 32-34, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Engraving of the Graben, ca. 1800. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
“Yet there are some large squares and open spaces, … but they are totally unlike our squares in London, for they are not railed off in the middle, and planted with trees and shrubs, nor are they encompassed with the splendid mansions of the noble and the wealthy. They are clean, open, well-paved places, surrounded by the busy shops and the comfortable dwellings of the substantial citizens, and commonly ornamented with fountains, or religious monuments of some kind. [This engraving] represents the Graben, a broad space in the very heart of the town,—one of its busiest thoroughfares, and yet entered at both extremities by the narrowest and most inconvenient lanes in Vienna. It is adorned with two fountains … and they are themselves decorated with statues of a strange and ill-chosen kind. There is also to be seen a tall curious monument, of 66 feet high, dedicated to the most Holy Trinity, and raised by the Emperor Leopold the First, in memory of the plague which ravaged his capital in 1679. … We may mention, likewise, the Joseph-Platz, where is a colossal equestrian statue, in bronze, of the Emperor Joseph the Second; the Hof, which is ornamented with a statue of the Virgin, and two fountains; the Neumarkt, the Hohemarkt, the Kohlmarkt, and the Burg Platz, on which stands the Burg, or Imperial Palace.” —The Saturday Magazine, March 1834
The amount of detail in this hand-colored engraving of the Graben draws the viewer into the busy scene. On the right foreground, for example, one worker cleans the inside of one of the two famous fountains on the street (Josefsbrunnen) while filling it with water from a tank on a two-horse carriage, while a woman scrubs the exterior.
The Graben “is never deserted, whatever the time of day. Anyone with half an hour to spare or one who wants some exercise walks up and down the Graben a few times. … In the summer months, the whole of the lower side of the Graben is occupied with chairs from 7 p.m. to midnight, and here one can order ices—a favorite treat of the Viennese—from the two coffee-houses nearby, and other refreshments are served.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 126: “Plätze,” p717, 1788 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 57)
The key at the foot of this engraving points out the Capuchin Church containing the burial crypt for the Habsburg monarchs, the Schwarzenberg Winter Palace, the Mehlgrube where balls and concerts took place, and a parade of court sleds in the snow. Beethoven frequently went with friends to the White Swan, an inn next to the Mehlgrube (today a bookshop!). View a photograph of the market in 1914 before the beginning of World War I
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Dwellings, Rented Rooms” (Ch. 48)
“Housing is one of the most important and expensive items in Vienna. …
The ground floor (rez de chaussée) of almost all houses in Vienna is not lived in; it serves as space for shops, taverns, stables, workshops, storage places, apothecaries, coffeehouses, etc. The floors below street level [cellars] are not counted, only those above the first flight of stairs. The first floor [U.S. second] … is not considered the best part of the vaulted ground floor below, because the rooms are affected by dust from the street, the smells of stables and sewers, and the noise of wheeled vehicles passing by …; furthermore, in the narrower streets these apartments receive the least daylight and are more expensive to light.
The second floor [U.S. third] is considered the most comfortable, hence the most expensive. On this basis, rent decreases the higher one mounts: the more stairs you climb, the cheaper it gets, the better the air, and the finer the views; but it is hard work carrying the necessities of life, wood, water, etc. to these heavenly heights, and while the number of steps brings a reduction in rent, it increases the price to be paid for delivery of goods carried up 150 steps ten times a day.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 2, Chapter 48: “Wohnungen, Miethzimmer,” pp. 268, 272-73, 1789, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Engraving of the Augarten by J. Ziegler (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, after 1800). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Augarten” (Ch. 123)
“Without intentionally being designed that way, this amusement park is for Vienna what the Tuilerie [Gardens] are for Paris. It lies just to the north of the city at the end of the Leopoldstadt, directly on the Danube Island, and has two alleys in the middle in common with the Prater. It is rectangular in shape … and bounded on the north by an arm of the Danube. The entrance is at the southeast corner. Above the middle gate is a well-known inscription in large German letters: ‘Place of Recreation Dedicated to All People from Their Admirer’ [Emperor Joseph II]. All numbered carriages, i.e. hackney-carriages, must stop outside the gate, and only the carriages of the nobility … are allowed to enter the great courtyard. Here there are four alleys and a pavilion containing two large eating and dancing halls, a billiard room and a few other rooms. … After passing through the building, one sees to the right the very simple dwelling-house of the Emperor with a small flower garden. … When the Emperor is in Vienna, he often mingles with the public in the company of ministers, generals, or ladies. … To provide an added pleasure for himself and the early morning visitors to the Augarten, every year he orders a number of nightingales to be purchased and releases them into the garden.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 5, Ch. 123: “Der Augarten,” pp. 696-702, 1788, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Part of the Augarten remains a public park in Vienna today. One of its historic buildings (seen on the following screen) today holds the factory and museum of the famous porcelain manufacturer named after the park. The original factory produced wares from 1718 through 1864. It was revived in 1923 in the Augarten Castle and can be visited today. Porcelain from Beethoven’s lifetime is on display in the museum.
Engraving of the Augarten (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, ca. 1840)
This engraving depicts the exterior of one of the buildings that served food. You can see pots of chocolate or coffee on the round table in the foreground.
The hall in the Augarten was used for concerts beginning in the later eighteenth-century. The concerts took place in the summer in the morning hours. Mozart played there in 1782 with an organizer named Martin. An important anecdote about Beethoven concerns a later concert at the Augarten that was recounted by the widow of the composer and fortepianist Johann Baptist Cramer: “At an Augarten concert the two pianists were waling together and hearing Mozart’s Pianoforte Concerto in C Minor, K. 491; Beethoven suddenly stood still and, directing his companion’s attention to the exceedingly simple, but equally beautiful motive which is first introduced towards the end of the piece, exclaimed, ‘Cramer, Cramer! We shall never be able to do anything like that!’ As the theme was repeated and wrought up to the climax, Beethoven, swaying his body to and fro, marked the time and in every possible manner manifested a delight rising to enthusiasm.” (Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, ed. Elliot Forbes, rev. ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967, p. 209)
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Prater” (Ch. 104)
“The name of this pleasure garden comes presumably from the Spanish Prado, corrupted into Prater by the Viennese populace. … Inhabited by deer, pheasants, and wild boar, it is the favorite place of recreation for the Viennese. One enters through alley of chestnut trees in the suburb of Jägerzeil onto a large, open half-circle: from these lead five alleys into the pleasure-grove. In the central part are a number of taverns, summer-houses, tables, bowling alleys, a carousel, and other games providing opportunities for exercise. … On holidays, the Prater is very crowded and has an altogether picturesque appearance—hundreds of carriages passing to and fro along the alleys; under the trees are tables with roast chicken and bottles of wine, all around there are games, music, the cries of children, the sound of happy laughing people. … At the southeastern end, close to an arm of the Danube, is the Lusthaus [summer- or pleasure-house], a round free-standing pavilion. … This Lusthaus is open to the public all year round. … On fine summer days, and especially in the spring before the nobility depart for their summer residences, this Lusthaus is very crowded: the whole road leading to it is packed with people, horses, and carriages.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 4, Ch. 104: “Der Prater,” pp. 569-74, 1787, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
The lithograph shows the Lusthaus, a pavilion in the Prater. On October 18, 1814, the Lusthaus was the center of a great celebration of the defeat of Napoleon. All of the monarchs of Europe attending the Congress of Vienna gathered there for a great feast. Eighteen-thousand people including members of the infantry and cavalry of the victorious armies surrounded them on the Prater grounds.
Emperor Maximilian II bought the land that became the Prater in 1560 to be a hunting ground. In 1766 Joseph II opened the area to the public and allowed the establishment of coffee-houses and cafes. Hunting continued until 1920.
Engraving of the interior courtyard of the Imperial Palace based on the original by S. Kleiner (published by J.A. Pfeffel, Augsburg, 1725). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s 1786 Sketch of Vienna: “Physiognomy of the City”
“Vienna is not remarkably beautiful, but it is much more beautiful than it is reputed to be abroad. … The principal building in the city is the Imperial Castle [the Hofburg], which, as is well known, has an undistinguished exterior, but inside is worthy of a great monarch. The joke of a pamphleteer who wrote that ‘the Emperor’s horses are more finely housed than the man himself’ is literally true. Among the fine buildings of the first rank are the Imperial Chancellory [Reichskanzlei], the Imperial Library, the Belvedere [Palace], the building that houses the High Courts (where Prince Eugene used to live), the Schwarzenberg Palace on the Rennweg, the buildings of the new Josephianian Academy of Surgeons [Josephenium] in the Währingergasse, the Hungarian Chancellory, the Lobkowitz Palace, the Imperial Stables, the Karlskirche, the Liechtenstein Palace in the city and that in the Rossau suburb. [All of these buildings are extant, 1990].”
—Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 4: “Fysiognomie der Stadt,” pp. 23-24, 25-26, 1786 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 57)
This detailed engraving depicts the interior courtyard at midday. Among other points of interest, the key identifies the Burgtor on the left (b), the new gate that opens on the Kohlmarkt (c), and the Kahlenberg, from which one has one of the best views of Vienna (h).
The sprawling Imperial Palace today contains some of the most important museums and collections in Vienna.
Panorama of the Curiosities of Vienna (ca. 1803). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
This early nineteenth-century French panorama points up highlights of Vienna, including six palaces that played a role in Beethoven’s Vienna life: Esterhazy, Fries, Lobkowitz, Liechstenstein, Schwarzenberg, and Belvedere. The panorama also includes many other noteworthy sites, including markets (Kohlmarkt, Neuer Markt as “N. Markt,” Hoher Markt as H. Markt”), the “Villa Gallitzin” between the Augarten and the Prater, the “Rasomovsky” Garden by the Danube River, the Prater, and the Augarten. The ramparts of the inner city are indicated with double lines; the secondary set of walls outside the suburbs by a single black line.
Engraving of the Lobkowitz Palace and St. Augustine’s Church and Monastery by G. Prixner (published by R. Sammer, Vienna, ca. 1832). Gift of the American Beethoven Society, 1999.
The Lobkowitz Palace, one of the most beautiful buildings of Vienna, is the most important palace in Beethoven’s biography. An obsessive lover of music, Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz (1772-1816) was one of Beethoven’s most important patrons. Beginning in 1809 he, along with Archduke Rudolf and Prince Kinsky, began paying Beethoven an annual salary of 4,000 gulden. But Lobokwitz had begun supporting Beethoven as early as March 2, 1795, when “un nommé Bethofen de Bon” played in a concert at the palace. Beethoven dedicated the Six String Quartets, Opus 18; the Eroica, Fifth, and Sixth Symphonies; the String Quartet, Opus 74; the Triple Concerto; and the aria “In questa tomba oscura” to the prince.
The palace contains a spectacularly beautiful small concert hall on the second floor that Lobkowitz had built in 1799. The hall is 50 feet long, 26 feet wide, and two stories tall. In 1804 Beethoven’s Eroica was first rehearsed in the hall and later performed in the winter of 1804-05. The Fourth Symphony and the Triple Concerto were also first performed in the palace’s concert hall.
In 1782 Emperor Joseph II, as part of his Enlightenment reforms of Roman Catholicism, closed the “Convent of Poor Clares Mary, Queen of Angels” and divided the convent into several building sections. Count Johann von Fries acquired one section and had it rebuilt as his palace. According to Johann Pezzl, “The cost of construction of the new palace for Count Fries on the Josephsplatz—now completed—was estimated at 400,000 gulden. The court furniture-maker delivered goods to the value of 60,000 gulden, and the mirror-manufacturers charged 15,000 gulden for mirrors on the walls” (Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 4, pp. 27, translated by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer Books, 1991, p. 58). His son Moritz, one of the richest men in all of Austria, became one of Beethoven’s early patrons. The palace is across the street from the Imperial Library and near the Lobkowitz Palace.
In April 1800 the palace was the site of two music duels between Beethoven and the traveling virtuoso Daniel Steibelt. At the second duel, Beethoven took the cello part of one of Steibelt’s fortepiano quartets, turned it upside down, and hammered out a theme to improvise on. The improvisation may have been the origin of the famous melody and bass themes Beethoven used in the Eroica Variations and Symphony.
For more information, see: William Meredith, “The Westerby-Meredith Hypothesis: The History of the Eroica Variations and Steibelt’s Fortepiano Quintet, Opus 28, no. 2,” The Beethoven Journal 27, no. 1 (2012): 26-44.
Engraving of the summer Liechtenstein Palace based on the original by I.E.F. van Ert (published by J. Bowles, London, 1747). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
This was the summer palace of the Liechtenstein family located in the Rossau district (today the Alsergrund district, no. 9). The Liechtensteins were an old aristocratic family of great wealth and also possessed mansions in Vaduz, the capital of the principality of Liechtenstein.
The palace is still owned by the princely Liechtenstein family and may be seen by booking a tour.
Engraving of the winter Liechtenstein Palace on the Herrengasse (published by Maria Geisler, Vienna, ca. 1812). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Liechtenstein palace on the Herrengasse dates back to Christoph von Liechtenstein, who bought a house there in 1443 and had it enlarged. Around 1792, Prince Alois von Liechtenstein (1759-1805) hired an architect to remake the complex of buildings into a palace in neoclassical style with seventeen large front windows. The palace contained a library that was one of the finest in Vienna.
Beethoven became acquainted with the family of Alois’ successor, Prince Johann Joseph von Liechtenstein, through the family of Prince Karl Lichnowsky. In 1802 Beethoven dedicated his Fortepiano Sonata in E-flat Major, Opus 27, no. 1, to Princess Liechtenstein (1776-1843). Johann Joseph ruled as prince of Liechtenstein from 1805-1806 and 1814-1836. The palace was demolished in 1912.
Vue d’optique of the summer Schwarzenberg Palace engraved by J.-G. Huquier (published by Huquier fils, Paris, between 1760-80). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Prince Joseph Johann Nepomuk Schwarzenberg (1769-1833) was a noted music lover, kept his own orchestra, and arranged performances of oratorios and chamber music in his winter palace in the Neuer Markt of the inner city. His summer palace is at the foot of the hill of the gardens of the Belvedere; today parts of the palace are a five-star hotel with forty-four luxury rooms. Beethoven dedicated his Fortepiano Quintet in E-flat Major, Opus 16, to the prince in 1801.
The famous Belvedere Palace was built between 1717-23 by Prince Eugene as his summer palace. Though French by birth, the prince was given extensive property in Hungary after he defeated the Turks in 1697. After the prince’s death without heirs in 1736, his cousin Anna Victoria first sold his possessions and then, in 1752, his palaces to Empress Maria Theresia. The empress moved the Imperial Art Collection to the Belvedere and, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, opened the grounds and palace to the public in 1779. The Belvedere remains a public art museum today with a rich collection of Austrian art, including works by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, who painted Beethoven’s portrait in 1823.
Designated as a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, Schönbrunn has played important roles in Vienna’s turbulent history for five centuries. The site of the current palace was sold to Emperor Maximilian II in 1569. Developed as a private hunting lodge, it was badly damaged first by the Hungarians in 1605 and again in 1683 by the Turks. Originally known as the Katterburg Mansion, the name was changed in 1642 to Schönbrunn—Beautiful Spring. When Empress Maria Theresa ascended to the throne in 1740, she made Schönbrunn her permanent residence and rebuilt the palace and grounds. After her son opened the grounds and its attractions to the public in 1779, Schönbrunn became a favored destination for residents and visitors. In the summers of 1801 and 1805, Beethoven moved to the village Hetzendorf. The famous gardens of Schönbrunn were only a ten-minute walk, and he is said to have composed parts of his only opera Leonore/Fidelio sitting in the crotch of a favorite oak tree in 1805. Its other most famous “visitor” during Beethoven’s lifetime was Napoleon, who made the palace his headquarters during the French invasions of Vienna of 1805 and 1809. Following Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814, the Congress of Vienna met at Schönbrunn in 1814-15 to redraw the boundaries of the continent. In 1918 Charles I signed the papers to abdicate the crown in the Blue Chinese Room of the palace, thereby marking the end of 640 years of Habsburg rule and the demise of the monarchy.
Schönbrunn is reportedly the most visited tourist destination in Austria, which is no surprise given its rich history, palace tours, zoo, greenhouse, Gloriette, and beautiful parks. Information on visiting
Map of Schönbrunn Palace and gardens by Benedikt Piringer (printed by P. Didot L'Ainé, Paris, 1821)
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Vienna’s Surroundings” (Ch. 168)
“Pride of place goes above all to Schönbrunn, which was the regular summer residence of Maria Theresa, but is not lived in at all by the current Emperor. The palace is rather magnificent but laid out in somewhat a too artful taste. The gardens are open to everyone all year long. If it were up to me to choose, I would favor it above all other gardens. It has many very pleasant sections, magnificent shady walks, pretty marble statues, obelisks, [newly built Roman] ruins, waterworks, a zoo, whose most important piece was an elephant, who died of a throat infection in October 1784, and since that time has not been replaced. In the greenhouse one sees many remarkable foreign plants.
On the back side of the palace, on the hill, stands a colonnade [the Gloriette, 1775] with a sala terrana [a large formal room with direct access to a garden, today the Café Gloriette], decorated round about with military trophies of colossal size. On the terrace in front of this colonnade and on the sala terrena, one has a charming view in front of one of a part of Vienna and its surroundings; looking backwards over Hetzendorf, a view of the small mountain of Baden.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 6, Ch. 168: “Gegend um Wien,” pp. 968-69, 1790, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Engraving of a dromedary and a camel at the Schönbrunn zoo by J.A. Klein (published in Vienna 1817). Acquired with funding from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José, 2012.
Founded in 1759 by Emperor Franz Stephan—husband of Empress Maria Theresa—the Schönbrunn zoo is the oldest zoo in the world still in existence and one of the most popular. The imperial couple occasionally took breakfast in the magnificent central pavilion that was at the center of the animals’ enclosures. In 1779 the zoo and gardens were opened to the public without charge and instantly became favorite destinations. A history of the zoo’s pavilion and animals
“Vienna has over 3,000 coaches belonging to the nobility, 599 numbered hackney-carriages, 300 coaches for hire and about 300 country carriages and chaises belonging to private individuals. Cabriolets [two-wheeled, one-horse carriages] are not customary. The army of all the riding and draught horses within the Linie (the line encompassing the entire city) numbers 22,000. The fondness for these beasts borders on the exaggerated. Many a saddle-horse is bought for 2,500 gulden. Several princely houses have 80 or 100 in their stables.
The dangers are endless, particularly on the main streets, and even more so on the holidays than on ordinary days. If on a Sunday evening, you go and stand in the Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, in the Graben, in the Kohlmarkt, between eight and ten o’clock you are in the midst of a tremendous clatter. Carriages press through all the gates of the city: everyone who has been out in the countryside, in the suburbs, in the Prater and Augarten, rushes home. A man from the provinces who is in the capital for the first time crawls along like a thief in front of the houses. At every coachman’s cry, he fancies himself crushed under wheels and horses’ hoofs.” —Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 13: “Anhang zur Bevölkerung,” pp. 67-69, 1786 Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
The best story about Beethoven and a horse comes from his student Ferdinand Ries. In 1797 Beethoven “received a handsome riding-horse from Count Browne as a gift [for the dedication of the Twelve Variations on a Russian Dance from the Ballet Das Waldmächen by Paul Wranitzky and Joseph Kinsky, WoO 71, to his wife Countess Anna Margarete]. He rode the animal a few times, soon after forgot all about it and, worse than that, its food also. His servant, who soon noticed this, began to hire out the horse for his own benefit and, in order not to attract the attention of Beethoven to the fact, for a long time withheld from him all bills for fodder. At length, however, to Beethoven’s great amazement he handed in a very large one, which recalled to him at once his horse and his neglectfulness.” (Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, ed. Elliot Forbes, rev. ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967, p. 191.)
The most famous horses in Vienna during Beethoven’s lifetime were the Lipizzaner horses at the winter Spanish Riding School. Between 1729-35 Emperor Karl VI commissioned the famous architect Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to design the magnificent hall that was used for riding and training the white stallions. After Karl’s death, it was also used for jousting contests, masked balls, and carousels. During the Congress of Vienna in 1814 and 1815, it was a popular destination of the most important rulers and politicians working at the congress.
The engraving depicts the many horses on the newly created avenue lined with 400 young trees in the Leopoldstadt District (second district). The village of Döbling, where Beethoven spent part of the summer of 1804, is in the distance.
Engraving of the High Market in Vienna based on the original by Carl Schütz (published by Artaria, Vienna, ca. 1833). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
“According to Mr. de Lucca, the bulldogs, greyhounds, poodles, Pomerians, pugs, Bolognese, in short, the sum of all the dogs that live in Vienna is 30,000. I think Mr. de Lucca has calculated 6,000 dogs too many. However, even if there are only 24,000, and they each eat but a quarter of a pound of bread daily, that amounts to 6,000 pounds of bread in a single day. Apart from dogs owned by butchers, gardeners, and wagoners, the rest are a true burden for the public. This leads me to suggest levying an annual tax for the benefit of the poorhouse on these useless, food-consuming beasts.
The worst thing about this whole dog business is the shameful, soulless, and truly stark-mad blind love held by some foppish men, hideous prudes, and antiquated women for their favorite dogs. These pernicious beasts sleep on pillows, are periodically bathed, and cleaned; are fed with chicken broth, chocolate, and pheasant; and servants and chambermaids are put to trouble and even mistreated on their account.” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 13: “Anhang zur Bevölkerung,” pp. 70-71, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Please note: chocolate is poisonous, even deadly, for dogs because of the chemical theobromine—Pezzl must have been exaggerating because of his extreme prejudice against pet dogs.
The Hohe Markt is the oldest square in Vienna, dating back to 1208. During Beethoven’s time, tradespeople sold food and merchandise there once a week. Always a popular destination in the inner city, horse-drawn carriages and single riders on horses added to the bustle of the square. Three pet dogs are featured in the foreground of the engraving. Like all city dwellers, the Viennese remain devoted to dogs today.
Aquatint engraving of the Dianabad in Vienna based on a drawing by Moreau Arch., from Alexandre de Laborde’s Voyage pittoresque en Autrich (published by P. Didot, Paris, 1821). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: "Climate" (Ch. 13)
“This constant rain of dust is one of the great plagues of Vienna. It is the dried-out dust of chalk and gravel; it irritates the eyes and causes all sorts of lung illnesses. Servants, runners, hairdressers, coachmen, soldiers, who must be out on the streets a great deal, die principally of pneumonia, pulmonary consumption, consumption, chest infections, etc.
An outsider who has not seen this dust with his own eyes can hardly imagine what it is like. Many carriage wheels and horses’ hooves incessantly passing along the streets at all hours stir it up. If there is a little more wind than usual, the city, the suburbs, and especially the Esplanade are over-run with it. If you leave your house after a lovely warm day on a Sunday evening at 8 o’clock, it is like traveling through fog: one sees the lanterns darkly flickering through the dust … In five minutes, one’s shoes, clothes, and hat are covered with dust. Sixteen thousand carriage-wheels with their horses, plus an army of more than 200,000 pedestrians, have covered all of Vienna in fog. The worst situation occurs when, after several warm days, a strong storm arises. In two minutes everything is buried in an Egyptian manifest darkness.” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 3: “Klima,” pp. 16-18, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
To combat the dust of Vienna, its citizens took advantage of the baths in town and on the Danube. Built around 1806 along the Danube canal, the Dianabad was first used as a bath house by the upper classes and then later as a swimming pool. In 1917 the original bath was torn down and replaced with a six-story spa, which was torn down in 1967.
Engraving of the Schiffbad Institute by J.W. Zinke (published by the Bureau der Theaterzeitung, Vienna, ca. 1827). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: "Baths" (Ch. 110)
“The Viennese would find it particularly indispensable to diligently immerse their bodies in water because of the eternal dust, and because the heavy damp atmosphere of this city particularly dirties its inhabitants. To be sure, they bathe themselves, but not long enough. Several years ago one was forbidden to bathe in the Danube on account of the supposed offence and dangers of drowning. To make amends therefore a half dozen bathhouses now exist, duly noted: six bathhouses for Vienna, but that is truly nothing for such a large city. The smallest price for one person in these baths is 17 kreuzer, approximately as much as the common man makes in a day, ruling out his use of the bath. The state should set up some provision by which the children of the lower classes in particular, without charging their parents on this account, could frequently be bathed and really would be bathed. …
A trustworthy, good, and comfortable provision of this kind [I recommend] are the cold baths that Doctor Ferro has set up in the Augarten hard by the Danube. They lie on large ships: one finds one’s self on account of a trellis framework in the natural living current of the Danube. Dr. Ferro has also in these same years designed these baths for splashing water, so that one can sprinkle one’s whole body all at once …” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 4, Ch. 110: “Bäder,” pp. 599-601, 1787, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
The new building, which illustrates the kind of bathhouse built over the Danube, was located next to the Kettenbrücke on the Prater side.
Engraving of a Slavic man selling reed mats by Johann Christian Brand (published in Vienna, after 1798). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José, 2012.
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Population” (Ch. 12)
“A pleasant spectacle for the eyes here is the variety of national costumes from different lands. The city is not limited to the usual German costumes, as in most cities [mentioned above]. Here you can often meet the Hungarian, striding stiffly, with his fur-lined jacket with cape-like sleeves, his close-fitting trousers reaching almost to his ankles, and his long pigtail; or the round-headed Pole with his monkish haircut, and flowing sleeves: both nations die in their boots—Armenians, Wallachians and Moldavians, with half Oriental costumes, are not uncommon.—The Serbians with their twisted moustaches live on a whole street. — The Greeks in their wide heavy dress can be seen in hordes, smoking their long-stemmed pipes in the coffeehouses on the Leopoldstädter Bridge.—And bearded Muslim men, with broad murdering knifes in their belts, trot heavily in yellow slippers through the muddy streets. As if to scare away the birds, the Polish Jews present themselves swathed in black with disappearing faces overgrown with beards and hair all twisted in knots. … Bohemian peasants with their long boots; Hungarian and Transylvanien waggoners with sheepskin greatcoats; and Croats with black tubs balanced on their heads—they all provide entertaining accents in the general throng.” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 12: “Bevölkerung,” pp. 63-65, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
One of the most famous picture books of life in 18th-century Vienna is Professor Johann Christian Brand’s Drawings of Common People, Particularly of Occupations in Vienna from 1798. The third edition of 1798, which is extremely rare, contains 45 beautifully colored plates. Brand taught at the Vienna Academy for the Arts and made the drawings from life.
Engraving of a wedding procession of farmers by Migliavacca (published by V. Batelli, Florence, 1826). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Concerning Love” (Ch. 44)
“So-called true love is not entirely unknown here. It is to be encountered frequently among the middle and lower classes, and among poorer people. … These children of nature … enjoy the delights of love without inhibition and to their hearts’ content. … And if things get too serious, the priest comes and joins them; all their cousins, aunts and uncles, and godparents help them gain a livelihood; and thus they (as it were) live happily ever after. Things are quite different in elevated social classes: there, love has dis-appeared. For such people, all attachments are determined by calculating fathers or ambitious mothers, and the young pair is simply the means by which the parents realize their intentions. If it happens that a couple from the great noble houses comes together through a genuine reciprocal attraction, this is a very rare exception to the general rule. People from the middle class … seek from love and marriage either a position or capital ... Since these intentions are quite open, and the bride fully realizes that matters turn not on her person, but on an important matter of secondary interest, she entertains no illusions about her husband’s true affections and is in no wise disappointed in her expectations. She marries him … but now she has the choice of a lover who will provide compensation for her husband’s bored indifference.” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 2, Ch. 44: “Von der Liebe,” pp. 248-51, 1789 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 111)
Engraving of farmers’ dancing by Migliavacca (published by V. Batelli, Florence, 1826). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Though Pezzl did not find the native costumes of Austria to be as exotic as those of other countries, this engraving proves otherwise: from left, a farmer from upper Austria, two farmers from Austria, and a young shop clerk from Vienna.
Engraving of a church canon by Pierre Francois Giffart (published by Louis, Paris, ca. 1792). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Common Man” (Ch. 18)
“The Viennese has one deeply rooted weakness, and that is his attachment to clerics and devotions. He could be excused for adopting this attitude, considering how almighty, how numerous, how intrusive, how cunning the venerable clerics have been until very recently; and how unified and indefatigable they were in setting out to make the poor laity wholly the machines and tools of their intentions, and the property of the church.
But, honest Viennese citizens, the time has finally come for you to free yourself from this mistake! Don’t you see that wheat and wine continue to be grown even if you have no Blackfriars [Schwarzspanier] or Whitefriars, no Dorotheans and hardly any nuns? Do you have less work, are you paid less because you are no longer registered with all those brotherhoods? Is your life any less long or healthy because you are buried without ceremony with 20 brotherhood crosses and a monk’s flock of all colors? Are your wives less fertile, your daughters less beautiful because you don’t attend a 100 little chapels and chant 20 litanies, rosaries, and vespers?” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 18: “Der gemeine Mann,” pp. 93-94, 1786, Vienna and Leipzig: Kraussischen Buchhandlung (translated by William Meredith)
Canons were clerics who lived with other clerics in a clergy-house or a house close to a cathedral. This canon of the regular order of Saint Anthony of Vienna is in city habit. Many of the street scenes of Vienna include similarly dressed clerics.
Engraving of a church canon by Pierre Francois Giffart (published by Louis, Paris, ca. 1792). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Reduction of Monasteries and Convents” (Ch. 5)
“In the Vienna of yesteryear, when it was considered impossible to lead a Christian life without monks and nuns, or to die in a state of grace, the monasteries and the nunneries played an important role. Those prisons occupied nearly a sixth of the city. In the past six years [since Emperor Joseph II came to power in 1780], as everyone knows, their numbers have been greatly reduced [as a result of Josephian reforms]. If any proof were needed to demonstrate monastic life in all its degeneracy, one would only have to print the protocols of the complaints and depositions against many convents and abbeys that the government has filed during the last five years.
Montesquieu’s axiom was once again confirmed: all aspects of ruined passions are nowhere more stirred up and stretched to breaking point than in these unnatural surroundings. …
Meanwhile, the Trinitarians, Blackfriars [Schwarzspanier], Theatines, the Dorotheans, have disappeared. The Minors have been banned from the city, the former Royal Abbey has been turned into a residence, the nuns of the Heavenly Gate and St. Nicholas Order have been secularized.” — Johann Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 5: “Kloster=Reduktion,” pp. 29, 31, 1786 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 58-59)
The canon of the regular order of Saint Anthony of Vienna is in choir dress.
Photograph of the Schwarzspanierhaus in 1903 from the French newspaper L’illustration. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Beethoven’s last apartment in Vienna was in a building called the “House of the Black Spaniards,” named after the Montserrat Benedictine black-robed monks who had previously occupied the building. (The order had auctioned the building in 1781, and it had been turned into rental units.) Beethoven moved to an apartment on the second floor in the middle of October 1825 and died there on March 26, 1827. The apartment was near that of the composer’s old friend, Stephan von Breuning. Stephan’s thirteen-year-old son Gerhard visited the composer frequently and published an important memoir about his visits in 1870 (see below). The apartment building was torn down in 1904.
Beethoven’s apartment contained eight rooms. Coming in from the stairwell, the antechamber opened straight ahead into the kitchen, housekeeping area, and servant’s room. Beethoven’s cook “Sali” and a kitchen maid worked in these rooms. The antechamber itself contained a dining room table and the portrait of Beethoven’s grandfather. Turning left from the antechamber, one came into the entrance hall. To the left of the entrance hall was a music room that contained the famous painting of Beethoven from ca. 1804 by Mähler. Beethoven’s collection of his own and others music was stored “in disorder” in this room. To the right was the largest room, a bedroom with two fortepianos. The first was the Broadwood fortepiano from 1817 that had been sent to the composer as a gift. The second was a very fine Conrad Graf fortepiano that was on loan to the composer. Proceeding through the bedroom, one found a composing room/study where his last works were composed.
For more information, see: Gerhard von Breuning, Memories of Beethoven From the House of the Black-Robed Spaniards, ed. Maynard Solomon, trans. Henry Mins and Maynard Solomon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Engraving of the Turkish invasion of Vienna in 1683 (published by Koppmayer, Augsburg, 1685). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Vienna began its life as military fortifications called Vindobona in the time of the Romans. The ruins of some of the fortifications and walls are visible today in the Michaelerplatz. With the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth centuries, the city fell into decline, and it remained a small settlement until the defeat of the Magyars in 955 by Emperor Otto the First. Only then did the city begin to develop. In 1155 Duke Henry II made Vienna his capital. The first city walls were begun around 1200. Although Habsburg rule began to be established in 1278, it took more than a century for Vienna to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, which it remained until 1918.
In 1582 Vienna, only protected by its medieval walls, was unsuccessfully attacked by the Turks. In response to the attack, eleven bastions, a moat, and the Glacis were built around the city. These improvements allowed the Viennese to hold off the Turks for two months in a second invasion of 1683 until they were rescued by the King of Poland. The two great invasions of Vienna during Beethoven’s time came in 1805 and 1809 at the hands of Napoleon’s armies, an emperor who ironically was the original inspiration for the composer’s famed Eroica Symphony.
This engraving shows the Turkish troops massed outside the city’s fortifications while they were still intact. Count Ernst von Starhemberg, leader of the remaining 11,000 troops and 5,000 citizens and volunteers, defended Vienna. After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Caesar's famous quote by saying “veni, vidi, Deus vicit”—“I came, I saw, God conquered.”
In the Battle of Vienna, the Turkish army of 138,000 men, led by Grand Vizier Mustafa, fought a combination of Polish, Austrian, and German forces of 76,500 men led by King Jan Sobieski of Poland. Noticing that the Turkish resistance was weak, Sobieski launched a surprise attack and routed the Turks. He saved not only Vienna but also all of Europe from the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish sultan had promised to “decapitate you ... We will exterminate you and all your followers ... Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before being put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable.” Even though routed, the Turks took the time to slaughter almost all of their prisoners while retreating.
Miniature portrait of Napoleon’s head by Nicolas Louis François Gosse (1787-1878). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
No political figure loomed larger in Beethoven’s life than Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Over his life the composer viewed the general with admiration, disgust and anger, ambivalence, and finally respect. According to his sometimes-reliable biographer Anton Schindler, the idea of writing a work in homage to Napoleon was suggested to the composer by General Bernadotte when the general was the French ambassador to Austria. The result was Beethoven’s Third Symphony, now titled the Eroica Symphony but originally named the Bonaparte Symphony.
The miniature portrait is a small section of a painting titled “Napoleon Receives the Queen of Prussia at Tilsit, July 6, 1807. The original is at the Château de Versailles. The miniature dates from the 1830s.
Napoleon’s invasions of Vienna in 1805 and 1809 severely disrupted Beethoven’s life. This lithograph shows Napoleon entering Austria following the victory over the Austrian troops in Ulm, Bavaria, and the surrender on October 20.
Engraving of French military officers approaching Vienna by F. Boullemier (published by Delloye, Paris, ca. 1838). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The French invasion of 1805 changed the history of Beethoven’s only opera, Leonore/Fidelio. Although it was supposed to be given on the name day of the Empress on October 15, the performance was delayed because the music was still being composed, copied, and rehearsed. As the French approached Vienna in early November, the Empress, the nobility, and the rich bankers and merchants fled the city.
Engraving of the entrance of Napoleon’s troops into Vienna, November 13, 1805, based on the original by Gudin (published in France ca. 1820). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The French planned their entry into Vienna as a grand procession: at 11:00 in the morning 15,000 officers and their troops marched into the city with flags flying and music sounding. Many members of the middle and lower classes came out to view the military parade.
Engraving of the French troops entering Vienna on November 13, 1805, based on the original by Le Compte (published by Bance, Paris, ca. 1817). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
The Empress had remained in the city until November 9, and the French troops reached the villages to the west of Vienna the next day. The French entered the city on November 13, and Leonore/Fidelio was premiered a week later to a mostly empty theater. Given only two repetitions, the opera “did not please,” in the words of one critic.
Engraving of Napoleon receiving the keys to Vienna based on the original by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (published in La France et les Français à Travers les Siècles, Volume IV, F. Roy editor, A Challamel, Saint-Antoine, 1882-84). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Girodet (1767-1824) was a well-known French painter and pupil of the famous Jacques-Louis David. Known for his paintings of the Napoleonic family, Girodet was also praised for the romanticism of many of his mythological paintings. In this imaginary recreation of the scene, Girodet shows Napoleon at Schönbrunn in 1805.
Engraving of Napoleon reviewing the troops at Schönbrunn Palace, November 15, 1805, (published in France ca. 1813). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
On November 15 Napoleon issued his proclamation from his Vienna headquarters, Schönbrunn. Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law and a field marshal, occupied the palace of Archduke Albert, and General Hulin took over the palace of Beethoven’s patron Prince Lobkowitz.
Proclamation by Napoleon at Schönbrunn to the inhabitants of Vienna after signing the Treaty of Pressburg, December 26, 1805. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The proclamation is dated “6. Nivôse an 14” according to the dating system of the new Republican calendar. After signing the treaty, Napoleon prepared to return to Paris after the French victory at Austerlitz. Napoleon alludes to his esteem for the people of Vienna and the orderly return to the rule of law, noting that 10,000 of the Austrian national guard have remained under arms to guard the city gates.
Aquatint engraving of the bombardment of Vienna on the night of May 11 until May 12, 1809, based on the original by J.N. Hoechle (published by Langlois, Paris, ca. 1822). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
On May 10, 1809, Napoleon returned to Vienna and set up his headquarters at Schönbrunn again. He demanded that Archduke Maximilian surrender. He promised to destroy the inner city if Maximilian refused. Napoleon started the bombardment with 20 howitzers that caused maximum panic in the city. The Austrians called a council of war at 1:30 a.m. and decided that the city could not be held. The surrender agreement was signed at 2:00 a.m. on May 13.
In this battle, Napoleon suffered his first serious battlefield defeat. The Austrian army was able to repeal the French army’s attempt to cross the Danube close to Vienna. This superbly detailed map captures many of the details of the battle.
Engraving of the Battle of Wagram near Vienna on July 5-6, 1809 (published by D. Fietta, Krieshaber bei Augsburg, ca. 1809). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Battle of Wagram was the deciding battle of the War of the Fifth Coalition of 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-15. Napoleon had over 180,000 men, and Archduke Charles had 155,000 men. There were approximately 74,000 casualties, an astonishingly high number. The engraver vividly captures the ferocity of the battle.
Engraving of the Battle of Wagram on July 6, 1809, based on the original by H. Bellangé (published by Gavard, Paris, ca. 1840). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
This action-packed engraving shows the city of Vienna on the top left corner in front of the arms of the Danube. The battle took place on the fields to the east of the city. The foreground depicts some of the officers and more than 300,000 troops in fierce combat. Although Beethoven normally left the city for the countryside in the summers, he was unable to do so by the time of the battle. On July 26 he wrote to his publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, “I still cannot enjoy life in the countryside, which is so indispensable for me.”
Painting of The Battle of Wagram (19th century). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
On the second day of the battle, the Austrians launched attacks on the left and right flanks of the French army, but Napoleon’s grand battery of 112 guns stopped the attack. Napoleon’s army split the Austrian army in two and won the day. Five days later Archduke Charles sued for peace. The armistice signed after the battle caused an uproar at the Austrian court because of its unreasonable and harsh terms. Archduke Charles resigned on July 23. When the final peace treaty was agreed at Schönbrunn in October, Emperor Francis I's anger seemed well justified: Austria lost its access to the sea as well as 3.5 million (or one fifth) of its people, and had its army limited to 150,000 men. However, although nobody knew it, Napoleon had just concluded his last victorious war.
Coffeehouse in the Volksgarten (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, ca. 1840). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “Coffeehouses” (Ch. 100)
“After the Turks had been expelled, the Emperor bade him as a favour (as was then the custom) as a reward for loyal service; and Koltschitzky requested permission to open a public coffee-house. It was the first of its kind anywhere in Europe, … although the first coffee had arrived from the Levant at Marseilles in 1644 and had been drunk in private houses. … There are now some 70 of these institutions in Vienna and its suburbs, and so far there are no signs of any reduction in their numbers. Coffeehouses are now, as is well known, one of the indispensable ornaments of any large city … vital for idlers to while away the time, for bachelors of modest means to enjoy a quick breakfast, … and for poor souls to keep warm in winter. Since its beginnings, the institution has considerably broadened in scope, and serves not only coffee but chocolate, punch, lemonade, almond milk, egg-clip, rosoglio [something like maraschino], ices, etc. … Now one studies, plays cards, chats, sleeps, does business, talks politics, reads the newspapers, and so on in coffee-houses; in some, people are also beginning to smoke tobacco. The usual game . . . is billiards, for which usually two or three tables are provided; if well attended, they can bring in 12 gulden a day.”— Johann von Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 4, Ch. 100: “Kaffeehäuser,” pp. 551-54, 1787 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 155)
After Napoleon demolished the Burgbastei near the Imperial Palace in 1809, the open space was used to create two gardens, one reserved for the Imperial Family and the other, when it opened in 1823, open to the public. The neoclassical style of the coffeehouse matches the nearby reproduction of a temple built from 1819-23 that is based on the classical 2,500-year-old Temple of Hephaestis in Athens. The new temple is known as the Temple of Theseus because it was originally built to house a single sculpture, Antonio Canova’s Theseus and the Centaur (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum).
Biedermeier coffee grinder, ca. 1830s. Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
According to Anton Schindler, Beethoven drank coffee with breakfast. He made it himself using a glass coffee maker, counting out 60 beans per cup.
If you would like to try Beethoven’s recipe (which does work beautifully), you’ll first need to buy or borrow a hand-cranked coffee grinder. They are widely found at antique stores and online auction sites. Pick a medium-to-dark roast coffee, count out 60 beans per cup, and grind them. It might take longer than you might think. You can either make the coffee with any kind of drip system or simply pour the ground coffee into boiling water in a pot. With the latter method, the coffee is ready in 3-4 minutes or when the grounds have sunk.
Engraving of a Viennese housemaid (19th century). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
This well dressed and carefully posed young housemaid holds a book in her right hand, indicating that she has had enough education to know how to read and write. Writing was especially important for Beethoven’s servants after he became functionally deaf in 1817-18, because they had to communicate with him about household matters using his what are now called his conversation books. Beethoven also communicated with his friends, servants, and others on any available pieces of paper. These invaluable documents record countless details about Beethoven’s everyday life in his last years.
Front side of Beethoven and his housekeeper’s account leaf of July 12-13 and August 8-9, 1823(?). Gift of Ira F. Brilliant
Though we might regard this manuscript as a simple grocery list, it is an important document in the history of Beethoven’s financial affairs. Individual items and their prices were notated, and at the end of the week the totals were added up to see how much remained in the housekeeper’s budget. Beethoven wrote the pencil X’s and sums.
Back side of Beethoven and his housekeeper’s account leaf of July 12-13 and August 8-9, 1823(?). Gift of Ira F. Brilliant
In an article about this manuscript in The Beethoven Newsletter, Ira Brilliant concluded, “The greatest strength of our sheet from Beethoven’s household account book is, I believe, its revelations about the ordinary side of Beethoven, his concerns about finances (even to the smallest kreutzer) and about everyday necessities. His letters remind us constantly that he lived only by the fruits of his pen. How remarkable that alongside these traces of frugality, suspicion, and innocence were those powerful emotions and pure genius which generated a musical legacy that belongs to everyone.”
Viennese Classic Cookbook edited by Ignaz Gartler, revised by Barbara Hickmann, 24th ed. (published by J. Gerold, Vienna, 1803). Gift of the American Beethoven Society, 2008.
The detailed engraving depicts two women in a Viennese kitchen: a well-dressed servant brings in a plate of food to the busy cook, who is working over a hot wood stove. The cook holds tongs in her right hand and what appears to be a jug in her left. The round plate on the right contains carrots and a round root vegetable; the dish on the left contains what may be mushrooms. The plates on the bench next to the oven contain (left to right) a loaf of bread, a plucked chicken, and potatoes. The cookbook contains 1,600 recipes and is 732 pages long.
One of Beethoven’s favorite foods was macaroni and cheese. If you would like to make a modern version, click here to download the recipe.
Engraving of a young woman carrying firewood for sale (from the reproduction of Johann Christian Brand’s Zeichnungen nach der gemeinen Wolke (Vienna: Burgverlag, 1924). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Firewood was used for cooking and heating, and many illustrations of Vienna’s public spaces include women with bent-over backs carrying bundles of firewood. The cookbooks of the time give very general directions for how hot the oven should be: “Place the dish in a very hot oven,” etc. It could easily take an entire day for a cook or servant to shop for food in the market stalls first thing in the morning, prepare the meal, build a fire in the oven, cook all the dishes, serve, and clean up.
6 Kreuzer coin issued in 1800; 1 Kreuzer coin issued in 1812; 1 Kreuzer coin issued in 1816. Gifts of the American Beethoven Society
According to the kitchen account books of Prince Liechtenstein family, in 1800 a single lemon cost 3 kreuzer. By 1812 a lemon cost 60 kreuzer, and in 1816 a lemon cost 60-90 kreuzer. If you would like to buy some original kreuzer coins from Beethoven’s lifetime, there are many available on the Austrian eBay site for not much modern money. Just enter “kreuzer” and a year from Beethoven’s time in Vienna (1792-1827).
Lemons could only be grown in Vienna in special greenhouses called “Orangeries.” Schönbrunn had an extensive set of greenhouses. Tropical fruits like oranges and lemons were either grown in large pots that were moved outside for the summer or in the ground inside the greenhouses.
Bank note for 5 Gulden issued in Vienna in 1806. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
One of the biggest problems for Viennese citizens was the instability of the currency due to inflation from the years 1795 to 1811. The average cost of all items increased five-fold over this period, meaning that Beethoven had to earn higher and higher fees for his compositions just to keep up with inflation.
Aquatint print of a street scene in Vienna (published by J. Eder, Vienna, ca. 1820). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José, 2012.
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Lottery” (Ch. 25)
“Though still permitted, this is the most widespread of all games of chance, and the one that does the greatest possible harm, because it never stops and is indulged in by all classes of the population; and it is the neediest for whom it holds the greatest fascination.
It was established in Vienna in 1750, and up to the end of 1769 it attracted 21,000,000 gulden, of which 3,460,000 went to the court and 2,080,000 to the staff running the lottery; while 7,000,000 were paid out to winners. Hence within nineteen years more than 8,000,000 went into the pockets of the lottery’s organizers and lessees. Calculated on the basis of these figures, some 20,000,000 gulden must have been gambled [in the seventeen years] since 1769, making a total of 41,000,000 gulden in thirty-six years . . .
The owners of tobacco shops hang whole sheets of numbers outside their doors to entice the avaricious. People tear off a few numbers of their choice, placing their hopes of future prosperity on them. A large number of people make it a habit to place a certain sum on the lottery every month of their lives. Every year they spend 6 gulden in this fashion and win 45 kreuzer. Enough! They’ve won, haven’t they?” — Johann von Pezzl, Skizze von Wien, Heft 1, Ch. 25: “Lotterie,” pp. 126-28, 1786 (translated with commentary by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, New York: Schirmer, 1991, p. 80)
The humorous street scene shows three traders outside a shop where lottery tickets may be purchased. The poster in the background advertises performances of La Molinara, a popular opera by Paisiello, and Coriolan, probably the play by Collin, both works very familiar to Beethoven. Two of Beethoven’s easier variations sets for fortepiano are based on themes from La Molinara (WoO 69 and 70).
Two-page lottery ticket from 1827. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
This ticket was issued on August 31, 1827, by Gruhner et Döfling in Vienna. Because thousands and thousands of tickets were printed, the printers used inexpensive thin paper that makes them difficult to read today.
Engraving of the market stalls in the Rotenturm district of Vienna (published by Dumont, Paris, ca. 1760). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Though the sights of Beethoven’s Vienna that dazzled the eye were the Imperial Palace and all its treasures, including the interior of the Royal Library, and the many palaces of the nobility and the wealthy bankers and upper classes, the trades people of Vienna in their richly varied clothing were also visually captivating.
One of the most important collections of illustrations of the working classes was published in Vienna in 1775: Drawings of the Common People, Particularly the Occupations of Vienna. Professor Johann Christian Brand (1722-95) drew from life, skillfully capturing the clothing, equipment, and expressions of cheese sellers, milkmaids, sausage sellers, servants, men who sold mousetraps, women who sold lemons or eggs, night watchmen, women who washed clothes, and men who sold hats. The first edition included plates of 40 occupations, and was available in a colored as well as black and white edition. Even a copy of the third edition from 1798 is very rare and costly; a Viennese antiquarian dealer is currently offering a special luxurious copy of this edition for $40,000. But Brand’s work is most important for documenting the lives of the everyday people of Vienna who kept the city functioning and fed. Many of the engravings in this section come from his valuable book. Several are pirated copies that were made in Italy and France.
The extraordinary engraving shown here illustrates the shopping stalls where cooks and servants would go to buy food and other items early in the morning. Though they look like modern farmer’s markets, they functioned more like Vienna’s grocery stores.
Pezzl included an important description of the city’s market-stalls in his Sketch of Vienna: In the morning between 6:30-8:00, “there is growing activity on the Hof, in the Freyung, the Wildprettmarket, the Fischmarkt, Silerstatt, and the Bauernmarkt. The women selling herbs, fruit, milk, eggs, and poultry have set up their stalls and ranged themselves in long lines, displaying their wares for sale. The same thing happens at this hour in the main streets of all the suburbs. A whole stream of cooks descends on these stalls and takes away great piles of vegetables, fruit, butter, eggs, chickens, ducks, capons, pigeons, turkey-cocks, pheasants, rabbits, game, etc.” (Translation by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, pp. 81-82, from the wonderful Chapter 27 on “The City’s Daily Order”). In Chapter 129, “Women of the Market Stalls,” Pezzl went on to complain about the women’s rude mouths: “It is said that the Parisian fishwives are mistresses of the art of swearing. I wonder if the Viennese market-women would not win a catcalling contest with them. With only the slightest provocation, they will let rip with a stream of expletives. Such a creature is a living encyclopedia of every term of abuse in the Austrian provinces” (translation by H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart and Vienna, p. 171.)
Engraving of an egg seller “candling” (inspecting) an egg to see if it is fresh. This is one of five engravings included in this section that was pirated from the first edition of Brand’s book. Teodoro Viero published an edition between 1783-1791 titled Raccolta di Stampe, che rappresentano, figure ed Abiti die varie Nazioni, secondo gli Originali, e le Descriziono dei piu celebri recenti viaggiatori, e degli scopritori di Paesi nuovi.
Because chickens normally lay one egg a day until they are ready to become “broody” and hatch a clutch, eggs normally stay fresh for at least three weeks, if not more, and they do not need to be refrigerated unless the protective covering has been washed off. It is difficult, however, to tell when an egg is too old. Candling is a process by which an egg is held up to a light source (today usually a flashlight) to see if the egg has already started developing or was bad. Eggs were one of Beethoven’s favorite foods, and he always insisted on the freshest eggs possible.
Engraving of laurel leaf seller. This is one of five engravings included in this section that was pirated from the first edition of Brand’s book. Teodoro Viero published an edition between 1783-1791 titled Raccolta di Stampe, che rappresentano, figure ed Abiti die varie Nazioni, secondo gli Originali, e le Descriziono dei piu celebri recenti viaggiatori, e degli scopritori di Paesi nuovi.
Engraving of woman selling honey in its original wax comb and fruit. This is one of five engravings included in this section that was pirated from the first edition of Brand’s book. Teodoro Viero published an edition between 1783-1791 titled Raccolta di Stampe, che rappresentano, figure ed Abiti die varie Nazioni, secondo gli Originali, e le Descriziono dei piu celebri recenti viaggiatori, e degli scopritori di Paesi nuovi.
Engraving of woman selling escargot (snails). This is one of five engravings included in this section that was pirated from the first edition of Brand’s book. For this illustration, the engraver printed the original Brand engraving in mirror image. Teodoro Viero published an edition between 1783-1791 titled Raccolta di Stampe, che rappresentano, figure ed Abiti die varie Nazioni, secondo gli Originali, e le Descriziono dei piu celebri recenti viaggiatori, e degli scopritori di Paesi nuovi.
Snails are a popular food in France, Spain, and Portugal, especially cooked with garlic and crumbs in a butter sauce. Like most mollusks, snails are high in protein and—until you start cooking them in butter—low in fat. Snails have been eaten since prehistoric times, and French dishes were popular in Vienna. The two most popular species are Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa. The latter species is today a horrible garden and orchard pest in California. According to an article in the April 27, 1900, issue of Science, they were introduced to California by a French emigrant named Antoine Delmas, who set up a nursery and vineyards in San José after he arrived in 1849. He released his imported French stock of snails into his vineyards on the west bank of the Guadalupe River as a food source. More information
Engraving of a chicken and songbird seller based on the original by Johann Christian Brand (published by Mollo, Vienna, 1775). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Because of the lack of refrigeration, chickens and young roosters were normally sold alive, and the seller would kill and pluck the bird for you. Songbirds were long considered a delicacy in French cuisine, though their capture today constitutes a terrible problem.
Engraving of a laundress. This is one of five engravings included in this section that was pirated from the first edition of Brand’s book. Teodoro Viero published an edition between 1783-1791 titled Raccolta di Stampe, che rappresentano, figure ed Abiti die varie Nazioni, secondo gli Originali, e le Descriziono dei piu celebri recenti viaggiatori, e degli scopritori di Paesi nuovi.
The well-dressed laundress carries what is apparently dirty laundry in two large baskets on her back accompanied by one of the thousands of dogs in Vienna that Johann Pezzl complained about (this one appears, however, to be a mixed breed rather than a pampered poodle or dachshund prized by the upper classes).
Engraving of a seller of brushes in Vienna by C.-L. Desrais (published ca. 1790), based on the original 1775 engraving by Johann Christian Brand. Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Though beautifully colored, this is one of the worst pirated copies of Brand’s edition. Besides printing it in mirror image (a lazy way to re-engrave an image), the engraver reduced the number of brushes by at least two-thirds, taking away the humor of Brand’s original.
Engraving of a seller of roses in Vienna by C.-L. Desrais (published ca. 1790). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Desrais’s depiction of a flower seller is derived from Brand’s version. In Brand’s depiction, the seller is walking away from the viewer, holding a small bouquet in her right hand and a basket or bundle with her left hand against her hip. Desrais’s engraver turned her sideways so we can see her face instead of her back, retained the exact same hat, kept the right hand holding a small bouquet that is much less detailed, and set the basket on a pedestal.
Pirating the work of other artists was common too in the field of music. Publishers in Leipzig, Paris, Berlin, London, and many other cities immediately pirated editions of Beethoven’s music. Like Brand, Beethoven received no money from these uses of his creations.
Photogravure of the great hall in the National Library (published by E. Wasmuth, Berlin, 1928). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
Johann Pezzl’s Sketch of Vienna: “The Imperial Library” (Ch. 78)
“If the muses have a magnificent, tasteful, and majestic temple anywhere in the world, it is the Imperial Library in Vienna. The unexpected great impression that one feels on entering this hall is indescribable. For my part, I must confess that no other sacred or secular building has ever so enraptured, so delighted, so overwhelmed me with pleasant elevated feelings as the view of this library.
… The library is dedicated to open use. Next to the hall is the reading room, which is open for everyone in the winter from 9 until 12 noon, and in the summer from 8 until 12 noon. Here one finds a long table for approximately forty people and several nearby tables. Everyone is free to request a book that they wish to read in this room, also to make notes and annotations from it, for which the necessary ink-stands exist. In this room a deep silence is observed, in order not to disturb the attention of those thirsting for knowledge and truth. No one is admitted into the library hall itself without being accompanied by a civil servant. The books stand therein all unguarded. And one knows how often lovers of books, otherwise very honest men, are turned into literary purse snatchers.” —Johann von Pezzl, Sketch of Vienna, Heft 3: “Kaiserliche Bibliothek,” 1787, pp. 430, 434-35 (translated by William Meredith)
The director of the Library, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, was a great connoisseur of music—especially J.S. Bach—and lived in an apartment that opened onto the library. He often asked Beethoven to stay after concerts in his apartments and play Bach fugues late at night. On December 15, 1794, Swieten wrote to Beethoven, “If you are not hindered this coming Wednesday, I wish to see you at my home at 8:30 p.m. with your nightcap in your bag. Give me your immediate answer.”
Engraving of Joseph’s Square based on the original by R. Batty, (published by Rodwell & Martin, London, 1823). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Imperial Library was designed by the famous Viennese Baroque architect Johann B.F. von Erlach. The largest Baroque library in Europe, it was built as an independent wing of the Imperial Palace in the first half of the eighteenth century.
The library is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is open today for tours.
Joseph II was emperor and co-regent of Austria from 1765-1780. After his mother Maria Theresa’s death in 1780, he was free to advance his Enlightenment ideals. These included further emancipation of the peasantry, secularization of Roman Catholic properties, and reductions in the religious orders and clergy. After his death in 1790, Beethoven began composing a funeral cantata intended for the memorial celebration in Bonn but did not complete it in time. The statue stands immediately in front of the Imperial Library.
Title page of Section 1 (Erstes Heft) of Johann Pezzl’s Skizze von Wien (published by the Kraussischen Buchhandlung, Vienna and Leipzig, 1786-90). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
One of the most important writers to chronicle Vienna during Beethoven’s lifetime was Johann Pezzl (1756-1823), a true believer in the ideals of the Enlightenment and a supporter of the reforms of Emperor Joseph II. His Sketch of Vienna appeared in six parts (Hefte) beginning in 1786. The sixth was published in 1790. A Freemason, Pezzl joined Mozart’s lodge in March 1784. His Sketch was published without his name on the title pages.
Title page of Neue Skizze von Wien (published by J.B. Degen, Vienna 1805, 1812). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Because so much had changed since the first version of Pezzl’s sketch appeared from 1786-90, in 1805 a new version titled New Sketch of Vienna appeared. The first two parts were published in 1805, the third in 1812. Pezzl’s name is still missing on the title page. Chapter 25 in this version contains an important article on the Theater an der Wien, whose director engaged Beethoven as an opera composer in 1803.
Title page of Johann Pezzl’s Neueste Beschreibung von Wien, 6th edition (published by Carl Armbruster, Vienna, 1824). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
In 1823 Pezzl died in Vienna. His Newest Description of Vienna, published the following year, bears his name on the title page. The book appeared in two forms: the more expensive version (this print) contains a foldout engraving, 7 other engravings, and a map. This version of Pezzl’s work is also updated by the editor, who is not named in the preface. Chapter 24 is of great interest to Beethoven scholars as it discusses all of the theaters and public concert halls.
Title page of Travels through Saxony, Bohemia, Moravia from Vienna and Silesia by C.G.D. Stein (published by J.G. Hinrichs, Leipzig, 1828).
The numerous travel guides of Europe published during Beethoven’s lifetime provide lively and valuable insights into life in both large and small cities. This travel guide covered trips on the Danube from Ulm in Baden-Württemburg to Pressburg in Hungary. In the chapters on Vienna, Stein describes the “excellent musical enjoyment” there, where visitors may hear both old and new “classical works in church style,” including works by “Mozart, Haydn, Preindl, Beethoven, Cherubini, Eybler etc.”
Frontispiece and title page of the Latest Description of All the Remarkable Things of Vienna, A Handbook for Foreigners and Native Austrians (published by J. Edlen von Kurzböck, Vienna, 1779).
Among the “remarkable things” are the Imperial Library, the Riding School, Superior Private Buildings (which includes the Lobkowitz Palace), and many other sites and collections. The volume is generously illustrated with beautiful foldout plates. The frontispiece shows the famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the most famous landmark of Vienna.
St. Stephen’s remains one of the most important tourist destinations in Vienna.
Writing Calendar for the Year 1826 (published by J. Miller in Graz). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
This booklet includes astrological and weather information, calendar of Catholic festivals, a genealogy of the Austrian imperial family, postal schedules, charts of currency exchanges, other practical information, and blank pages for the owner’s notes for each month of the year.
Latest Anecdote-Calendar for the Year 1827 (published by A. Haykul, Vienna). Purchased with a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of San José
In addition to practical information, this calendar includes short anecdotes from the lives of the great monarchs and famous people as well as witty dialogues for the reader’s amusement. On p. 31 appears a funny conversation between Emperor Joseph II and Mozart. The emperor had composed an aria but had tried (and failed) to conceal who had composed it. “Mozart, what do you think?” asked the emperor. The good-natured Mozart replied confidently, “The aria is very good, but he who composed it, much better.”
Music engraving tools, from "Topographic, Geographic, and Music Engraving" in Encyclopédie (1762/1777)
Music Writing and Printing
Today most composers use computer programs to notate their works. During Beethoven’s lifetime, composers had to use quill pens dipped in ink to write on paper that had been ruled with music staves (the sets of five lines). At least one small business in Vienna, G. Jasper’s Linir- und Rastrir-Anstalt, specialized in paper lined using a staff-ruling machine called a Rastral. Quill pens were most commonly made from goose, swan, or turkey feathers that had been dipped in chemicals to harden them. Almost all of the feather part was removed. Composers could either purchase pre-cut pens or cut them themselves, which took skill to do well. Steel pens first appeared in England in the first decade of the 19th century and by 1822 were being machine produced.
After Beethoven gave either a manuscript or copy of a new work to a publisher, he would arrange for multiple copies to be printed. Most publishers printed copies from engraved plates made from pewter (a mixture of tin and lead). Because the plates were easily stored, initial print runs could be quite small (from a few dozen to a hundred copies). Once the initial stock was sold, the publisher could retrieve the plates from storage and print more copies as needed. This was a major benefit of publishing from engraved plates. One disadvantage, however, was that the plates would wear out and crack over time from the force exerted on them in the printing press. (The presence and length of cracks is one way music historians can date copies of first editions.) The plates could also be corrected if mistakes were found after the first edition was released. Each new version is called an “issue,” and music editors have to study every difference in subsequent issues to determine the most accurate text.
Lithograph of Beethoven composing at the fortepiano based on the original by H. Junker (published in Russia ca. 1880). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
This lithograph shows Beethoven composing at the fortepiano using a quill pen and ink. In 1823 Beethoven wrote to his composition student Archduke Rudolph that he too “should have a small table beside the fortepiano to jot down your ideas in the form of sketches. In this way, not only is one’s imagination stimulated, but one also learns to pin down the most remote ideas immediately.”
Engraving of J. Haydn based on the original by J.A. Guttenbrunn (published by Colnaghi & Co., London, 1825). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
This engraving shows Haydn, Beethoven’s most famous composition teacher, composing at the keyboard with a finely sharpened quill in hand and an inkwell resting on some lined music paper.
Beethoven’s last quill and lock of hair, 1827 (Yvonne Hummel Collection). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Inside this frame are several artifacts of Beethoven, Goethe, Herder, and the Hummel family that were collected by the singer Betty Hummel (née Elizabeth Röckel) during the 19th century. Betty was an admired friend of Beethoven and the wife of the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Three days before Beethoven died, she asked him for several mementos, including a quill pen and a lock of his hair. In a statement of authenticity that accompanies the frame, she writes that (1) Beethoven used the pen to write a letter to the publisher Schott to thank him for a gift of a basket of wine and (2) she personally clipped the lock of hair from Beethoven’s head.
Betty also collected locks of hair of her husband, the German writer J.W. von Goethe, and other famous people and family members. Most the objects are associated with Weimar, where her husband served as Kapellmeister. On the back of the frame, she carefully identified each object.
Beethoven’s sketches for the Fortepiano Sonata in D Major, Opus 10, no. 3, in the Kafka Miscellany (published in facsimile with a transcription edited by Joseph Kerman by the Trustees of the British Museum, London, 1970)
Beethoven often began the compositional process improvising at the fortepiano. As he advised the Archduke Rudolph, he liked to keep a desk next to the instrument where he could quickly write out ideas before they were lost. Once he felt ready to began composing on paper, he would notate his ideas in sketchbooks—notebooks lined with musical staves on which he wrote down themes and motives, harmonic outlines, and sometimes overview plans for multi-movement works. The sketchbooks often reveal fascinating details of his process of composing, for example, how he first notated a theme and gradually reshaped it to its final version.
The Kafka Miscellany is a loose collection of sketch leaves used by Beethoven roughly between 1786-1799. It primarily consists of drafts of about a dozen compositions from his youthful Bonn period and many of the works composed during his first years in Vienna. This page (folio 157f) contains Beethoven’s sketches for all four movements of his Fortepiano Sonata in D Major, Opus 10, no. 3, composed in Vienna between 1796-1798. On the first two staves he notated ideas for the Rondo, then used staves 3-5 for the Menuetto. On the sixth stave he sketched very recognizable ideas from the Largo e mesto, then returned to the Menuetto. He made more sketches for this work on separate sheets that are part of a collection known as the Fischhof Miscellany now located in the Berlin Library.
Beethoven’s autograph score for the Fortepiano Sonata in A-flat Major, Opus 26, published in facsimile by Friedrich Cohen in Bonn, 1896.
When Beethoven thought he was ready to move from sketches to a final version, he used a quill pen and ink to write out the entire score in his own hand. Sometimes the work took place in layers—Beethoven would go into the score, for example, after all the notes had been written out and add dynamic markings. The autographs were either given to the publisher directly for engraving or Beethoven would pay a copyist to make a clean manuscript copy. Ideally, Beethoven would check the copy to be sure that it was accurate and that it contained his latest ideas. These “corrected copies” are very valuable sources. Unfortunately, none of the original manuscripts for his fortepiano sonatas written before 1800 have survived. The autograph for the Fortepiano Sonata in A-flat Major, Opus 26, composed in 1800-1801, is the earliest extant autograph for any sonata. The publisher Tobias Haslinger purchased it at the auction of Beethoven’s estate in 1827. Today it is located in the Bibliotheka Jagiellonska in Krakow. The page shown here is from the third movement, the “Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe” (“Funeral March on the Death of a Hero”), and shows Beethoven’s pedal markings using con sordino (with the dampers) and senza sordino (without the dampers).
A copyist’s manuscript score of Beethoven's Fidelio from 1824. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Although almost all of Beethoven’s works appeared in print in his lifetime, manuscript copies continued to be used on occasion for study purposes and performances. For concerts involving orchestras and groups of singers, copyists were hired to prepare sets of parts, sometimes on short notice. This unsigned manuscript, used for the first performance of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in Hannover in 1824, contains handwritten performance markings in pencil and red crayon. According to an account of this event in George Fischer’s Musik in Hannover (Hahn’sche Buchhandlung, 1903), the opera was not successful in that city. It opened on December 7 and closed after only four performances. The box office receipts totaled a mere 37 Thaler, not nearly enough to cover expenses (the cost of copying the score, vocal, and orchestra parts was 34 Thaler alone). The page shown is for Rocco’s aria from the first act, “Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben,” in which he sings about the importance of money, an appropriate concern considering the consequences of this production!
Engraving of the Kohlmarkt based on the original by J. Wett (published by the P. Mechitaristen, Vienna, 1832).
In 1778 Artaria & Co. in Vienna became the first firm in Austria to produce engraved music editions. In 1794 Artaria opened a shop in the house “Zum englisches Gruß” located at the end of the Kohlmarkt. Artaria published several first editions of Beethoven's works, including the Fortepiano Trios, Opus 1 (1795); the Fortepiano Sonatas, Opus 2 (1796); and the Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello, Opus 5 (1797). The firm was more famous, however, for its publications of artworks, especially views and maps of Vienna and its surroundings. In 1830 and 1831 the composer Frédéric Chopin lived in this building on the fourth floor.
Earliest proof copy of the first edition of the Fortepiano Sonatas, Opus 2, prepared for Artaria & Co., Vienna, 1795. Courtesy of Dr. Matthew Malerich
After a successful experience with the publication of his three Fortepiano Trios, Opus 1, Beethoven again chose Artaria as publisher for his first sonatas for fortepiano to be given an opus number (Opus 2, nos. 1-3). After he delivered his manuscript to Artaria, the publisher then hired an engraver to transfer the music from the manuscript score to metal plates that would be inked and placed in a printing press. Using tools such as gravers and punches, the engraver copied all elements of the musical notation—staff lines and notes, key and time signatures, dynamic and tempo markings, and so on. With so many details to transfer, mistakes could easily be made. Artaria printed this proof copy so that a reader could check the plates against the manuscript and mark corrections. On this page either the engraver left out Beethoven’s fingerings or Beethoven decided he wanted them added. The proofreader (perhaps Beethoven himself) added the fingerings in ink. Other corrections appear in red crayon.
Second proof copy of the first edition of the Fortepiano Sonatas, Opus 2, printed from revised plates, 1795 or 1796. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
To make corrections to the plates for the Sonatas, Opus 2, the engraver used a pincer to mark the back of the plate where the error occurred. That area of the plate would then be hammered and scraped to smooth out the plate. It was then re-engraved with the correct notation. Artaria then ran another proof copy to check for any additional revisions. This page from the second proof copy shows that to correct the page lacking the fingerings, the engraver had to remove the slurs above the staff and then punch in the fingering numbers. The slurs were then added to the plate in a different location.
Title page of the first edition, first issue of the Fortepiano Sonatas for Fortepiano, Opus 2 (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, 1796). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
After the plates were revised and proofed at least three times, the music was ready to be printed in multiple copies for sale in the music shop. Engraved music could be expensive, primarily because of the price of the paper. According to one source, a ream of music printing paper cost 15 gulden (or 1.75 kreuzer per sheet). The first edition of Beethoven’s Sonatas, Opus 2, sold for 3 florins (or gulden), roughly the equivalent of one month’s wages for his housekeeper.
Map of Vienna (published by Artaria & Co., Vienna, 1824)
An interesting synopsis of Vienna’s theater life in the opening years of the 19th century was published in Ackermann’s Journal of the Arts in 1810: “In the city and suburbs, five theatres, of the most different descriptions, are open all the year round. At the two court theatres in the city may be seen all the principal serious and comic operas, comedies, and tragedies that Germany produces, and many of those of Italy and France. The same are also represented in the great theatre in the suburbs on the Wien [Theater an der Wien], where the great romantic magic operas are likewise given with extraordinary splendor. In all these three, grand pantomimic ballets, heroic and comic, are also frequently performed. In two smaller theatres in the Leopoldstadt and Josephstadt are exhibited popular spectacles of the most ludicrous kind. On those days when no plays are acted at these theatres, they all give concerts or performances of the most celebrated ancient and modern musical compositions. Throughout the whole winter, public concerts are, besides, frequently given by foreign and native musicians.” —from “Some Account of Vienna and its Inhabitants,” Ackermann’s Journal of the Arts, August 1810
Engraving of the Burgtheater (published by Maria Geissler, Vienna, 1812). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The first performance of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 1 in C Major, Opus 21, took place at the Burgtheater on April 2, 1800. A critic writing in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung opined that the symphony contained “very much art, novelty, and a wealth of ideas.” He continued by complaining about the writing for the wind instruments: “However, the wind instruments were used far too much so that there was more music for wind instruments than for a full orchestra” (AmZ 3, October 15, 1800). In 1805 a Berlin critic complained about the unusual beginning of the first movement: “… Beethoven began on a short upbeat with the chord of the seventh above the dominant of the principal key. No will censure an ingenious artist like Beethoven for such liberties and peculiarities, but such a beginning is not suitable for the opening of a grand concert in a spacious opera house.” (See the Berlinische musikalische Zeitung 1, 1805, 7). A new “Burgtheater” was built from 1874-88 on the Ringstrasse opposite City Hall to replace the original theater that had become outdated by the late nineteenth century.
Location of the Burgtheater (from a map published by Artaria in 1802)
This detailed section of a map from 1802 shows the Burgtheater (“National Theater”) on St. Michael’s Platz. As can be seen here, it was part of the Imperial Palace complex. To the right of the theater as shown on this map was the Imperial Riding School, the famous Redouten Saal (where concerts took place), and the Imperial Library. Directly across from the Imperial Palace was Count Fries’ Palace (no. 1224 here), where Beethoven and Daniel Steibelt had their famous musical duels in 1800.
Engraving of the interior of the Burgtheater (published by Maria Geissler, Vienna, 1812). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Burgtheater was one of two court theaters in Vienna. The building’s use as a theater dates back to 1741, when an entrepreneur turned an unused building on the Michaelerplatz into a theater. In 1776 Emperor Joseph II turned it into the official court and national theater. Three of Mozart’s operas had their premieres here (Abduction from the Seraglio,Marriage of Figaro, and Cosi fan tutte). Beethoven’s first public performance in Vienna was on March 29, 1795, at the Burgtheater, where he played his First (or perhaps his Second) Fortepiano Concerto. The First Concerto was premiered either on this occasion or on December 18, 1795, in a concert in the Redoutensaal of the Hofburg Palace. At the first rehearsal, which took place in Beethoven’s rooms, the fortepiano was a half step too low, and Beethoven had to transpose the work on sight to C-sharp Major for the rehearsal.
The Theater an der Wien (Theater on the Banks of the Vienna River) was completed in 1801. The river is covered over today with the famous Naschmarkt, an open-air market with many restaurants. Several of Beethoven’s works were premiered at the Theater an der Wien, and Beethoven lived in an apartment there for a few months in 1803 and 1804. Since 2006 the theater has become an opera house that has mounted acclaimed performances.
Location of the Theater an der Wien (from a map published by Artaria in 1824)
In this detail of the map, the Theater an der Wien is marked in orange-red with the number 26. The front of the building faced did the Theater Gasse (alley). Carriages would let audience members off at the central entrance (see the preceding engraving). Today the front of the theater faces the covered-over river. In the middle of this section at the top is the Obst Markt (Vegetable Market). In 1897 the Vienna Secessionists used the green piece of land to the left of the market to build an exhibition hall that still stands today. In 1902 it was the home for the Secession’s famous elaborate tribute to Beethoven that featured Klimt’s monumental “Beethoven Frieze” and Klinger’s god-like statue of Beethoven on a throne.
Woodcut engraving of the Kärntnertortheater (published in Germany in 1887). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Kärntnertortheater was one of two court theaters in Vienna. It was built near the site of what was then the Kärtnertor entrance into the inner city. The theater no longer exists; it stood approximately where the current Hotel Sacher is located behind the Vienna Staatsoper house on the Ring. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was first performed there on May 7, 1824, in a concert that began at 7:00 p.m. Beethoven had only resolved to hold the concert in March, and, since it was late in the concert season, the most pressing concern was to find a location for the premiere. No less than four halls were hotly debated (the Kärtnertortheater, the Theater an der Wien, the Redoutensaal, and the Landständischer Saal). As late as April 21, it was publicly announced that the premiere would take place at the Theater an der Wien, but Beethoven at last made up his mind and decided to rent the Kärntnertortheater for 400 florins. This figure included the chorus and orchestra, as well as the light. Many other details yet remained to be worked out, and Beethoven wanted the charge more than the normal ticket prices. The Minister of Police refused his request.
Location of the Kärntnertortheater (from a map published by Artaria in 1802)
Original program for the third concert of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde on April 9, 1820. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
The Gesellschaft der Musifreunde (Society for the Friends of Music) was formally established in 1814 with the emperor’s approval. Beethoven’s most important patron, the Archduke Rudolph, was named its “Protektor” (Patron). The lawyer Joseph Sonnleithner was one of the driving forces behind the foundation of the Society and served as its volunteer secretary from its founding until his death. As would be expected of a group that included Beethoven’s patrons, the Society frequently included Beethoven’s works in its concerts. During the first five years, the following works were performed: Second Symphony (January 1817, April 1819), first movement of the Eroica Symphony (May 1818) and the complete symphony (February 1820), the Fifth Symphony (this program, April 1820), Seventh Symphony (February 1817), Violin Concerto (March 1816), Coriolan Overture (March 1818), Egmont Overture (March 1816), Prometheus Overture (May 1819), and a chorus from Christ on the Mount of Olives (this program, April 1820).
Location of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (from a map published by Artaria in 1824)
Medallion by C. Radnitzky issued by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (19th century)
Original program for the second concert of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde on December 10, 1826. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Beethoven’s works continued to be performed in the Gesellschaft’s series during the 1820s. This performance opened with Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7 in A Major, Opus 92. A year earlier, Beethoven’s name had been put forward as an honorary member, and the recommendation was approved on January 31, 1826. The diploma, dated October 26, 1826, was not actually sent to Beethoven until March 7, 1827, shortly before his death.
Never able to resist a pun and to poke fun of the seriousness of the Society, in a letter of 1818 Beethoven had made a humorous pun on the name of the society, substituting the German word for enemy (Feinde) for friend (Freunde) to rename it as the Society for the Enemies of Music.
Original program from the Concerts Spirituel series for a performance on March 1, 1827. Gift of Tressie Campen
Franz Xaver Gebauer (1784-1822) founded the Concerts spirituels in Vienna in 1819, a series of performances held every other Friday afternoon in a building known as Zur Mehlgrube. The series, which was modeled after French concerts of the same name, included eighteen bi-monthly concerts. The concerts normally included a symphony and portions or all of a sacred choral work that was to be performed the following Sunday at the St. Augustine Church, where Gebauer was choirmaster. This performance, which took place just twenty-five days before Beethoven’s death, included his latest overture (“Consecration of the House,” Opus 124) and the Gloria from the Missa solemnis. Today the site of the Mehlgrube is occupied by the Ambassador Hotel.
The Gloria ends with an extremely difficult ecstatic fugal setting of the words “in gloria dei patri. Amen” (“in the glory of God the father. Amen”) for full chorus and soloists. See a score and listen to it/p>
Location of the Mehlgrube on the Neue Markt (from a map published by Artaria in 1802)
The Mehlgrube is on the right side of the Neue Markt (no. 1108).
Image of the Mehlgrube, reproduced from Rudolf Klein, Beethoven Stätten in Österreich (Vienna, Elisabeth Lafite, 1970), p. 55.
Original program for a concert at the Theater in the Josefstadt on April 7, 1827. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
In September 1822 Beethoven had written the “Consecration of the House” Overture, Opus 124, for the dedication of this newly designed and reconstructed theater. The premiere took place on October 3, 1822, and Beethoven himself conducted with the assistance of Franz Joseph Gläser. In 1827 Beethoven had promised to participate in this benefit concert for Anton Schindler but had to ask his friend Johann Nepomuk Hummel to take his place because of his failing health. Hummel and his wife Betty visited Beethoven several times during his last months. The concert turned into a memorial to Beethoven, who had died twelve days before the event.
The Augarten began as a 17th-century imperial pleasure garden that was surrounded by the wetland forests on the banks of the Danube. In 1775 Emperor Joseph II opened the gardens to the public. In the center of the park is a building known as the Saalgebäude, which was built as an imperial palace. Beginning in 1787, the public could attend regular series of concerts in a hall at the Augarten. These early morning concerts were a place for the upper classes to meet, and Mozart was one of the famous composers who appeared there. In July 1804 Beethoven conducted a performance of this Third Fortepiano Concerto, Opus 37, with his pupil Ferdinand Ries as soloist. Today these buildings are the home of the famous Augarten Porcelain Manufacturer, founded (in another location) in 1718.
Original handbill and program for a concert at the Augartensaal on May 1, 1829. Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830), the most important violinist in Beethoven’s life, led this performance of vocal and instrumental music, including Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. From 1794-99 Schuppanzigh led a string quartet that regularly performed at the residence of Prince Karl Lichnowsky. He also conducted concerts at the Augarten during this period and became manager around 1798. His association with Beethoven dates from the composer’s earliest years in Vienna. In 1804 Schuppanzigh formed a second quartet that was the first to put on regular subscription concerts of chamber music in Vienna. In 1808 he formed another quartet for Count Razumovsky, which was not dissolved until the disastrous fire of 1814 that destroyed the count’s palace. Beethoven thought very highly of Schuppanzigh as a musician and conductor but liked to make fun of the fact that he was overweight. In 1801 he composed a musical joke for three voices and chorus titled “In Praise of the Fat Man,” WoO 100. In 1823, when Schuppanzigh returned to Vienna after several years away, Beethoven greeted his return with the comic canon “My Dear Falstaff, Show Yourself,” WoO 184. Schuppanzigh was reportedly a good-natured man and did not take offense at Beethoven’s teasing. Schuppanzigh occupied an extraordinary and unique position in Beethoven’s musical life.
Map of the Augarten grounds (from a map published ca. 1795)
Beethoven as Leader of a Performance of his Razumovsky String Quartets. Print from an unidentified newspaper, based on a painting by A. Borckmann, with depictions of: Joseph Haydn, Princess Lichnowsky, Baroness Dorothea von Ertmann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, Anton Kraft, Johann Albrechtsberger, Ludwig Sina, and Frank Weiss
Composers in Beethoven’s Vienna normally premiered their new chamber music at musical gatherings in palaces and other private spaces. The hosts and audiences for these concerts included members of the aristocracy, who themselves were often amateur musicians or patrons of the arts. Some of these aristocrats maintained their own ensembles and provided commissions for works, which composers then dedicated to their benefactors. Prince Lobkowitz converted one of the largest rooms in his winter palace in the heart of Vienna into a small concert hall. Both Prince Lichnowsky and Count Razumovsky hired the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh to lead a string quartet ensemble for regular concerts in their palaces. These names figure prominently in Beethoven’s success as a composer of string quartets and other works.
Members of the nobility were not, however, the only audiences for Beethoven’s string quartets. A growing “second society” of middle-class bankers, manufacturers, and professionals, as well as an emerging class of less affluent professionals, musicians, shop owners, and lower-level civil servants, also became consumers of this music. The amateur cellist Nikolas Zmeskall von Domanovez, to whom Beethoven dedicated his String Quartet in F Minor (“Serioso”), Opus 95, gave concerts in his own large flat at the Bürgerspital in central Vienna. Another admirer and supporter of Beethoven was J.N. Wolfmayer, a cloth merchant to whom Beethoven dedicated his last String Quartet, Opus 135. This middle class would eventually come to dominate the musical scene in Vienna and exerted more influence on the careers of Beethoven’s younger contemporaries than the aristocracy.
Title page of the first edition of the String Quartets, Opus 18, nos. 1-6, dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz (published by T. Mollo in Vienna, the Comptoir d’Industrie in Leipzig, and Gayle & Hedler in Frankfurt, 1801). Gift of Ira Brilliant
The August 26, 1801, issue of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung printed the following notice from Vienna: “Distinguished among the recent works appearing here are splendid pieces by Beethoven (Mollo and Co.). Three quartets [Opus 18, no. 1-3] offer valid proof of his art, but they must be played frequently and well since they are very difficult to perform and are by no means popular.” Translation from The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s Compositions by His German Contemporaries, ed. Wayne Senner, Robin Wallace, and William Meredith (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), vol. 1, p. 153.
Inside the Lobkowitz Palace is a small concert hall on the second floor now called the Eroica Hall because two trial performances of the Third Symphony took place there in June 1804 and another two half-public performances in 1805. Though he originally intended to dedicate the symphony to Napoleon and call it the “Bonaparte” Symphony, Beethoven changed the dedication to Prince Lobkowitz after Napoleon declared himself Emperor. Beethoven also dedicated his String Quartets, Opus 18, nos. 1-6, and Opus 74, to Prince Lobkowitz. The Eroica Hall is today part of a theater museum that is open to the public, and chamber music concerts are given there on occasion. The magnificent frescoes on the ceiling of the Eroica Hall, which are an allegory on all the fine arts, were painted by the Dutch painter Jacob van Schuppen between 1724-29.
Engraving of the Razumovsky Palace (published by Maria Geissler, Vienna, 1812). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
A great patron of the arts and a violinist, Count Andrey Kyrillovich Razumovsky (1752-1836) maintained a beautiful ballroom, art collection, and a large library at his palace. From 1808-16, he maintained his own string orchestra and string quartet, which included the famous violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Beethoven performed at the palace as early as April 23, 1795, and Razumovsky was one of the subscribers to the Fortepiano Trios, Opus 1. Unfortunately most of the palace and his collections were destroyed in a great fire in late December 1814 after a party for the Russian Tsar during the Congress of Vienna. Beethoven dedicated his String Quartets, Opus 59, nos. 1-3, to Count Razumovsky.
Title page of the first edition of the String Quartets, Opus 59, nos. 1-3, dedicated to Count Razumovsky (published by the Bureau d’arts et d’industrie in Vienna and Schreyvogel & Co. in Pest, 1808). Gift of Ira Brilliant
Beethoven completed the three Rasumovsky Quartets in the spring of 1806, but the publisher did not issue the first edition until January 1808. In the meantime, the Viennese first heard the quartets in a private or semi-private concert on February 27, 1807, and in other concerts later that spring. The March 18, 1807, issue of a music journal published in Leipzig, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung(Amz), printed the following notice from Vienna: “Three new, very long and difficult violin quartets by Beethoven, dedicated to the Russian ambassador, Count Razumovsky, also attract the attention of all connoisseurs. They are deep in conception and marvelously worked out, but not universally comprehensible, with the possible exception of the third one, in C major, which by virtue of its individuality, melody, and harmonic power must win over every educated friend of music.” Two months later, on March 5, 1807, the AmZ stated, “In Vienna Beethoven’s newest, difficult but substantial quartets are giving ever more pleasure; the amateurs hope to see them soon in print.” Translations from The Critical Reception of Beethoven’s Compositions by His German Contemporaries, ed. Wayne Senner, Robin Wallace, and William Meredith (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), vol. 2, pp. 52-53.
Title page of the first edition of the String Quartet in F Minor, Opus 95 (“Serioso”), dedicated to Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovetz (published by S.A. Steiner & Co., Vienna, and others, 1816). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
Beethoven composed this unusual quartet in 1810, but it remained unpublished for six years. In 1816 Beethoven wrote to the English conductor Sir George Smart asking him to arrange for some performances of his works in London for the composer’s benefit. In this letter Beethoven stated that this quartet was “written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public” (quoting from Ludwig van Beethoven, Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, ed. Sieghard Brandenburg, Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 1996, vol. 3, p. 306 [letter no. 983]). The music journals of the era contain no mention of either a public or private performance during his lifetime.
First page of music from the first edition of the score for the String Quartet in F Minor, Opus 95, dedicated to Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovetz (published by J. André, Offenbach sur le Main, 1835). Gift of the American Beethoven Society
In the early nineteenth century, publishers began issuing orchestral music and chamber music in score format with all instruments aligned on the page in a reduced size for study purposes. These scores were intended for an emerging audience of knowledgeable music lovers who could study the scores before performances and follow them during performances. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the French publisher Ignaz Pleyel was the first to produce scores in this format, offering four symphonies by Haydn. The first study scores of Beethoven’s works appeared in London in 1808-1809 when the firm of Ciancettini and Sperati printed a pirated edition of Beethoven’s first three symphonies in a reduced size. In Germany Johann André published the first eleven of Beethoven’s quartets individually as miniature scores between 1829-1835 and later sold them as a boxed set.
Title page of the first edition of the Grosse Fuge for string quartet, Opus 133, dedicated to Archduke Rudolph (published by M. Artaria, Vienna, 1827). Gift of Ira Brilliant, 1988
Beethoven originally wrote this stupendous fugue as the original finale for the String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, but replaced it with a new shorter and simpler finale six months after the first performance on March 21, 1826, by the Schuppanzigh Quartet. Shortly after that concert, a reviewer for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung described the fugue as “incomprehensible” and a “confusion of babel.” Musicians and musicologists still debate which of the two finales should be played in modern performances to best represent the composer’s intentions.
Archduke Johann Joseph Rainer Rudolph (1788-1831) was the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II and Beethoven’s most important patron. From 1808 until 1823, Beethoven dedicated several works to him, including the Grosse Fuge, Opus 133. The Archduke, Beethoven’s only long-term composition student, was an accomplished composer and fortepianist himself. One of Beethoven’s greatest works, the Missa solemnis, Opus 123, was intended to be performed at the installation of the archduke on March 9, 1820, but it was not completed until 1823.