Composers Anecdotes
Beethoven’s Lairs
“Alstergasse 45”

Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s first task after he had arrived in Vienna was to establish himself as a pianist and composer. And we know that this is something he achieved both rapidly and with remarkable success. For one, Beethoven had strong contacts to aristocratic circles, and they delighted in welcoming him to their town palaces and country estates. Many kept private orchestras or even opera companies, and they employed wind bands or a quartet of string players. Baron van Swieten, who had made it his mission to introduce the music of Bach and Handel to Viennese audiences organized a substantial number of private concerts, and it is through him that we learn one of the first living quarters of Beethoven. He writes in 1793, “To Herr Beethoven in Alstergasse, No. 45, with the Prince Lichnowsky: If there is nothing to hinder next Wednesday I should be glad to see you at my home at half past 8 with your nightcap in your bag. Give me an immediate answer. Swieten.”

Prince Lichnowsky

Prince Lichnowsky owned a substantial number of real estate in Vienna, and he seems to have allowed Beethoven to use, free of charge, a flat on the ground floor at his property at the Alstergasse 45 between 1792 and 1793. By 1794, Beethoven had moved into a 1st floor flat at the same address. In return, Beethoven composed his three Trios, subsequently published as Op. 1, and brought them for a premiere performance to Lichnowsky’s house. Joseph Haydn was in the audience, and according to an eyewitness “Haydn said many pretty things about them, but advised Beethoven not to publish the third, in C minor. This astonished Beethoven, inasmuch as he considered the third the best of the Trios, as it is still the one, which gives the greatest pleasure and makes the greatest effect. Consequently, Haydn’s remark left a bad impression on Beethoven and led him to think that Haydn was envious, jealous and ill disposed toward him. I confess that when Beethoven told me of this I gave it little credence. I therefore took occasion to ask Haydn himself about it. His answer, however, confirmed Beethoven’s statement; he said he had not believed that this Trio would so quickly and easily be understood and so favorably received by the public.”

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