Beethoven :"This is a beautiful piano! I got it as a gift from London. Look at the name!" He pointed with his finger to the strip of wood above the keyboard."It is a wonderful present, "said Beethoven looking at me " and it has a beautiful tone," he continued turning towards the piano without taking his eyes off me. He struck a chord softly. Never will another chord pierce me to the quick with such sadness and heartbreak. He has played C major in the right hand and B natural in the bass; he looked at me steadily and repeated the false chord several times to let the mild tone of the instrument sound, and the greatest musician on earth could not hear the dissonance!

Ferdinand Ries on Beethoven's irritability :

One day we were dining at the Swan; the waiter brought him the wrong dish. Beethoven had scarecly said a few choice words about it, which the waiter had answered perhaps not quite so politely as he should, when Beethoven laid hold of the dish (it was so-called "Lugenbratel" {a type of Roast beef} with lots of sauce) and flung it at the waiter's head. The poor fellow still had on his arms a large number of plates containing various dishes (a dexterity which Viennese waiters possess to a high degree) and could do nothing to help himself; the sauce ran down his face. He and Beethoven shouted and cursed at each other, while all the other guests laughed out loud. Finally Beethoven began laughing at the sight of the waiter, who lapped up with his tongue the sauce that was running down his face, tried to go on hurling insults, but had to go on lapping instead, pulling the most ludicrous faces the while, a picture worthy of Hogarth.

Letter about Beethoven from Goethe to his wife, 19July 1812 :

I have never before seen a more comprehensive, energetic or intense artist. I understand very well how strange he must appear to the outside world.


Louis Spohr describes Beethoven conducting 

Beethoven was playing a new piano concerto of his, but already at the first tutti, forgetting that he was soloist, he jumped up and began to conduct in his own peculiar fashion. At the first Sforzando he threw out his arms so wide that he knocked over both the lamps from the music stand of the piano. The audience laughed and Beethoven was so beside himself over this disturbance that he stopped the orchestra and made them start again. Seyfried, worried for fear that this would happen again, took the precaution of ordering two choirboys to stand next to Beethoven and hold the lamps. One of them innocently stepped closer and followed the music from the piano part. But when the fatal Sforzando burst forth, the poor boy received from Beethoven's right hand such a slap in the face that he dropped the lamp to the floor. The other, more wary boy, who had been anxiously following Beethoven's movements, succeeded in avoiding the blow by ducking in time. If the audience had laughed the first time, they now indulged in a truly bacchanalian riot. Beethoven broke out in such a fury that when he struck the first chord of the solo, he broke six strings. Every effort of the true music-lovers to restore calm and attention remained unavailing for some time; thus the first Allegro of the Concerto was completely lost to the audience.

Ferdinand Ries describes the concert of 22Dec 1808 

Beethoven gave a large concert in the Theater an der Wien at which were performed for the first time the 5th and 6th Symphonies as well as his Fantasia for Piano/orchestra and chorus. In this last work, at the place where the last theme already appears in a varied form, the clarinet player made, by mistake, a repeat of 8 bars. Since only a few instruments were playing, this error was all the more evident to the ear. Beethoven leapt up in a fury, turned round and abused the orchestra players in the coarsest terms and so loudly that he could be heard throughout the auditorium. Finally he shouted "From the beginning!". The concert was a great success, but afterwards the artists remembering only too well the honourable title which Beethoven had bestowed on them in public swore never to play for Beethoven again - this went on until Beethoven composed something new and their curiosity got the better of them.


Ferdinand Ries recalls the piano contest with Stiebelt 

Stiebelt again played a quintet with much success and in addition (and this was quite evident) had prepared a brilliant improvisation, choosing as the theme the subject of the variations of Beethoven's trio (Op.11). This outraged not only Beethoven's supporters but also the composer himself. He now had to seat himself at the piano in order to improvise. He went in his usual, I must say ungracious, manner to the instrument as if half lunging towards it, grabbing as he passed, the 'cello part of Stiebelt's quintet, placed it (intentionally?) upside down on the music stand and from the opening notes drummed out a theme with one finger. Offended and stimulated at the same time, he improvised in such a manner that Stiebelt left the room before Beethoven had finished. He refused ever to meet him again; in fact he made it a condition that Beethoven should not be invited anywhere where his company was requested.


There are two stories relating to the origins of the phrase 'Muss es sein? Es muss sein!' ('Must it be? It must be!')

The first, told to us by Schindler, relates to Beethoven's housekeeper's constant requests for money. This was not an easy task for her as Beethoven was always busy and constantly needed reminding. When Beethoven noticed her ('Frau Schnapps' as he called her) standing by him waiting for the housekeeping money, he would say, or even sing: 'Must it be?'. The old woman would nod and reply 'It must be!' Schindler said that this joke was repeated almost every Saturday (payday) and was a source of great amusement for Beethoven. Evidence of this exists in the conversation book of 1823, where a person identified by Schindler as the housekeeper, puts the same request in writing.

A later story comes to us from Karl Holz and Schindler. In 1826, violinists Joseph Bohm and Joseph Mayseder wished to play Beethoven's latest quartet (op.130) at one of the quartet parties they held at the house of Ignaz Dembscher. However Beethoven would not provide Dembscher with the quartet manuscripts because Dembscher had not subscribed to an earlier performance of the piece by the Schuppanzigh Quartet. Distraught by this, Dembscher begged Holz to find some way to change Beethoven's mind. Holz suggested that Demscher send Schuppanzigh 50 florins, which was the subscription fee. To this suggestion Demscher laughingly asked 'Must it be?' When Holz told Beethoven of this Beethoven laughed as well and immediately wrote a canon (WoO196) on the following words: 'Es muss sein! Ja. Heraus mit dem beutel! (It must be! Yes. Out with the money!) Beethoven made the most of this joke for some time also, and it is mentioned in the conversation books.

The joke finally played its part in Beethoven's last quartet op135, in the final movement which he entitled 'Der schwer gefasste Entschluss' (roughly 'the hard won decision'). Here, on the dark Grave section Beethoven writes 'Muss es sein?', and on the following humorous Allegro he writes 'Es muss sein!'. Much has been made of what he meant by all this in its quartet context. It's an ironic joke that only Beethoven could make, and perhaps can be seen as a reflection of his general philosophy of life, summing up his struggles and his faith.


Beethoven Reference Site  © 2010

The Sonata (Op.7) was composed for her by Beethoven when she was still a girl. He had the whim - one of many - since he lived across from her, of coming to give her lessons clad in a dressing-gown, slippers and a peaked nightcap.



Antonie von Arneth speaks of Baroness von Ertmann 

After the funeral of her (Baroness Ertmann's) only child she could not find tears .......General Ertmann brought her to Beethoven. The master spoke no words but played for her until she began to sob, so her sorrow found an outlet and comfort.

Beethoven's opinion of Napoleon :

Even with that Bastard I made a mistake.

Max Ring speaks of his visit to Grätz castle :

The old castellan, was firmly convinced that Beethoven was not quite right in his mind; he would often run, bareheaded, without a hat, around in the great park of the castle hours on end, even if it were raining with lightning and thunder. On other occasions, he would sit for whole days shut up in his room without seeing anybody and not speaking a word. But the most insane behaviour occurred when the French occupied Grätz after the battle of Austerlitz (1806). The prince had aroused the hopes of the French general of meeting the celebrated composer and to hear him play on the piano-forte. To this end, a great musical soiree was arranged at the castle and the composer was to play his latest compositions. Beethoven, however, refused although the Prince repeatedly and earnestly requested him to do so. Nevertheless, the Prince sill hoped to persuade the obstinate musician, and invited the French general and other distinguished guests. On the appointed evening Beethoven was nowhere to be seen. Finally the news came that the artist had secretly left the castle and fled on foot to the town of Grätz in the cold winter night - only a letter to the Prince had been found in his room. In it he explained that he could not play to enemies of his country and added "Prince! what you are,you are by circumstance and by birth. What I am, I am through myself. Of Princes there have been and will be thousands. Of Beethovens there is only one.."

Ignaz Mosheles about Beethoven in 1814 :

I went early to see Beethoven. He was still in bed. On this day he was in an exceptionally good humour, jumped out of bed and, quite as he was, went and stood by the window, which overlooked the Schottenbastei. Quite naturally all the dear street urchins gathered under the window, until he exclaimed "those damned boys,what do they want?" I pointed smilingly at him. "Yes, yes, you are right" he said, and quickly put on a dressing gown.

Ludwig Rellstab on Beethoven's deafness :



Dr.Gerhard von Breuning describes Beethoven's appearence

Beethoven's outward appearance , due to his quite peculiar nonchalance in the matter of dress, had something uncommonly conspicuous about it in the street. Usually lost in thought and humming to himself, he often gesticulated with his arms when walking by himself. When in company,he would speak quite animatedly and loudly, and, since his companion then had to write his rejoinder in the conversation book, an adbrupt halt would have to be made; this was conspicuous in itself, and was still more so when the rejoinder was communicated in mime. And so it happened that most of the passers-by would turn around to stare at him; the street urchins also made their gibes and shouted after him.For that reason his nephew Carl refused to go out with him and once told him straight out that he was ashamed to accompany him in the street because of his "comical appearance" ; at this, so he told us,he was greatly insulted and hurt. For my part, I was proud to be able to show myself with a man of his importance.

Count Von Keglevics writes about his aunt, Princess Odescalchi