Beethoven: Impressions by His Contemporaries compiles remembrances of the great composer by his friends, teachers and fellow artists. The collection, now in public domain, presents “a remarkably full and convincing picture of Beethoven and his time.” In honor of the worldwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, here’s a sample of the volume’s many vignettes:
When “the youthful genius” was at last, in the springtime of 1787, enabled to travel, he naturally betook himself to Mozart in Vienna, but the news of his mother’s serious illness compelled him to return to Bonn after a few lessons with the master. “My journey cost me a great deal,” Beethoven wrote to a friend in September 1787, “and I have not the smallest hope of earning anything here. Fate is not propitious to me in Bonn.”
Beethoven’s introduction to Mozart is chronicled by Mozart’s biographer Otto Jahn as follows:
Beethoven, who as a youth of great promise came to Vienna in 1786 [really in 1787], but was obliged to return to Bonn after a brief sojourn, was taken to Mozart, and at that musician’s request, played something for him, which he, taking it for granted that it was a showpiece prepared for the occasion, praised in a rather cool manner.
Beethoven observing this, begged Mozart to give him a theme for improvisation. He always played admirably when excited, and now he was inspired, too, by the presence of the master whom he reverenced greatly; he played in such a style that Mozart, whose attention and interest grew more and more, finally went [over] to some friends who were sitting in an adjoining room, and said vivaciously, “Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world something to talk about.”