Fan S. Noli “Beethoven and French revolution” Beethoven Grand Mogul

According to the legend, the hero is a «chevalier sans peur ni reproche.» If the facts contradict that article of the hero -worshipers’ Credo so much the worse for the facts. Guided by this pious principle, Schindler maintained that harmful facts about Beethoven should be ruthlessly suppressed[1]. From his own point of view, he was perfectly right: For instance,  certain ugly facts concerning Beethoven’s behavior with his servants, his friends and his publishers had to be suppressed because they could not be soft-pedaled or explained away. Unfortunately, they survived Schindler’s suppression and they all speak against Beethoven. The master behaved like a very big rascal or, as he himself put It, like a «tantus quan tus lumpus.»

No time should be wasted by any kindhearted musicologist to justify his behavior. It cannot be done. He was brutal with his servants and the waiters. He hurled invectives, eggs, dishes books and chairs at their heads. He maltreated, slandered, and vilified his most devoted friends, Lobkowitz, Lichnowski, the Elder Breuning, Ries, Mälzel, Holz and the pious Schindler himself. He cheated scandalously the Philharmonic Society of London by selling them three old overtures as if they were new.[2] He promised his Missa Solemnis to five different publishers at the same time and gave it to none.[3] He received the money in advance or that same Missa from Simrock and gave it to Schott.[4] He blackmailed his benefactors. For instance, he threatened to expose those who had guaranteed him an annuity as a voluntary gift for Life.[5] He himself was conscious of his own unfairness in this case because he describes himself as a «plaintiff against his benefactors.[6] The result of this behavior was that Beethoven estranged every friend with whom he came in touch, Sometimes he simple kicked out like dogs those who tried to serve him in spite of everything.

Yet there are four persons whom Beethoven never succeeded in estranging. He was as rough with them as with his worst enemies but they endured his profanities and brutalities, with an angelic resignation and a dog-like affection. First in this list comes Nanette Streicher (1769-1833), e heroic pianist, who undertook to put order in Beethoven’s housekeeping, a really Herculean task[7] when the master decided to take his nephew into his home. Second comes Baron Zmeskall (1759-1833), the patient volunteer  who cut the quills with which the master wrote his masterpieces. To him Beethoven wrote more letters than to anyone else, always asking him for service. Third comes :the Cardinal Archduke Rudolf (1788-1831), one of the two pupils Beethoven ever had, and his lifelong protector and Maecenas, He was always ready to help the master out of his endless difficulties. Fourth comes the younger Breuning (1813-1892) who had the courage to accompany the master in the streets, something nobody else could do more than once, because Beethoven looked such a fool and the street urchins poked fun at him and called after him.[8] The Brenning lad did not mind. He was here to help the aging master in his last years, saw him spit into the mirror instead of out of the window, watched him flirt with his mother, attended him at his deathbed, and was nearly crushed by the crowd at his funeral. The master gave him the highest title of affection he could bestow on his most intimate friend: “Hosenknopf”.  Sometimes he called him  “Ariel”. On Zmeskall, Beeth ven bestowed the title of «plenipotentiarius Regni Beethoveniensis” very probably because he was the most humble of all servants. Haydn was right in calling Beethoven the “Grand Mogul”[9] Like Wagner, Beethoven could tolerate around him only obedient subject, whom he treated live an oriental despot. The pious Schindler: fell into disgrace and was ignominiously dismissed because he had once commited the mortal sin of using his own judgement instead of following blindly the instructions of the Grand Mogul.[10]


[1] «Ries Iegte narnlich Wert auf Dinge, die teils interesseIos, teils verletzender Art waren, darum keiriesfalls vor das offentliche Forum gehörten.» -Schindler, 1827, Vorwort, p. X .

[2] Thayer, English Edition, II, pp, 333-4.

[3] Thayer, English Edition III, pp. 51-2.

[4] Thayer, English Edition, III, pp. 39 and 177.

[5] . «Fallt diese Geschichte durch das Verhalten der Kinskyschen Familie schlecht aus, so lasse ich diese Geschichte. in allen Zeitungen bekannt machen, wie sie ist -zur schande der FamiIie.” -Letter to Kanka, Aug. 22, 1814, Kastner’-Kapp, p. 282.

[6] Petition to Landrecht of Prag, 1814, Kastrier-Kapp,

  1. 290


[7] Letter to Nanette Streicher, 1818, Kastner-Kapp, p. 474.


[8] Schirmer, p . 200.

[9] Thayer, English Edition, 1, p.248

[10] Leter to Schindler, 1824m Kastner-Kapp. p. 711,


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