Ludwig van Beethoven is unquestionably one of the greatest and most influential of all composers, and it was natural that visitors wanted to know whose music he admired most. Towards the end of a tragic life afflicted by deafness, loneliness and financial worries, one composer’s music brought him more solace than any other.
A QUESTION many people asked Beethoven was ‘Who is your favourite composer?’
Englishman Edward Schulz recalled hearing Beethoven say over dinner, ‘Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived’, and Johann Stumpff, a London-based instrument-maker who visited Beethoven in 1824, received the same reply. ‘To him I bow the knee,’ Beethoven added, and promptly did.
Stumpff was shocked to find Beethoven could not afford copies of Handel’s works, and silently resolved there and then to send him a complete set, if such a thing existed. It did, all forty volumes of it. Two years later it arrived from London.
‘He was more delighted with this present’ wrote Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler ‘than if he had received the Order of the Garter’.* Beethoven was by now in great pain from dropsy, but throughout his last days he lay on his bed rapturously turning the pages, all grief forgotten. ‘Handel is the greatest, the ablest composer that ever lived’ he exclaimed.
‘I can still learn from him.’
* See Order of the Garter: Royal Family Website. Beethoven repeatedly made arrangements to visit England, but ill health or lack of funds always conspired against him. One of his lasting regrets, however, was that his symphony celebrating Wellington’s Victory at Vitoria in 1813 was never acknowledged by the English court — some kind of royal award would evidently have rather pleased him.
Overture ‘The Consecration of the House’ (Op. 124)
For the opening of the Josefstadt Theatre in Vienna on October 3rd, 1824, Beethoven wrote an Overture in what his friend and secretary Anton Schindler called the strict, expressly Handelian style.