It was Mozart's reputation as composer that first brought Beethoven to Vienna in order to study with him. The lessons never took place because immediately upon his arrival, Beethoven was recalled to Bonn after the death of his mother. The funerals of these two great composers, only thirty six years apart, couldn't have been more markedly contrasted. Mozart had no mourners, probably no music and an unmarked communal grave. Enormous numbers of the great and good attended Beethoven's funeral and reports of the event widely circulated throughout Europe and America in newspapers and other publications.
Beethoven died on 26 March 1827. Anselm Hüttenbrenner's account of the moment of death is melodramatic:
There came a flash of lightning accompanied by a violent clap of thunder, which garishly illuminated the death-chamber. (Snow lay before Beethoven's dwelling.) After this unexpected phenomenon of nature, which startled me greatly, Beethoven opened his eyes, lifted his right hand and looked up for several seconds with his fist clenched and a very serious, threatening expression as if he wanted to say: "Inimical powers, I defy you! Away with you! God is with me!" It also seemed as if, like a brave commander, he wished to call out to his wavering troops: "Courage, soldiers! Forward! Trust in me! Victory is assured." When he let the raised hand sink to the bed his eyes closed half-way.
The funeral was arranged for the afternoon of 29th March. Shortly after wards Beethoven's publisher, Tobias Haslinger, wrote a preface to an arrangement of Beethoven's Equale that he entitled Trauer-Gesang bey Beethoven's Leichenbegängnisse in Wien den 29 März 1827. Although the author of this account fails to give his name, it is reasonably safe to assume that it was written by Haslinger himself:
A vast crowd collected before and inside the residence of the deceased - outside the Schotten Gate, in the Glacis, in the Schwarzspanierhaus - both spectators as well as mourners, the latter in complete mourning-garb, clothed in black, gloves too, and fluttering crepe on the left sleeve. At three o'clock, the corpse, which eight opera singers from the Royal and Imperial Court Opera Theatre had volunteered to carry on their shoulders, Messrs Eichbeyger, Schuster, Cramolini, Ad. Miiller, Hofmann, Rupprecht, Borschitzky, and Ant. Wranitzky (orchestra member), was put to lie in state in the courtyard. A half-hour later the high clergy for the solemn escort appeared; following the prayers spoken over the mortal remains, the aforesaid singers intoned an earnest, solemn chorale by B. A. Weber, whereupon the whole procession, in the order given below, started to move:
I. The cross-bearer,
II. Four trombonists, Messrs Böck (brothers), Weidi, and Tuschky,
III. The choirmaster, Mr. Assmayer, under whose direction
IV. A choir of singers, made up of Messrs Tietze, Schnitzer, Gross, Sykora, Frühwald, Geissler, Rathmeyer, Kokrement, Fuchs, Nejebse, Ziegler, Perschl, Leidl, Weinkopf, Pfeiffer, and Seipelt, performed the Miserere in alternation with the trombone quartet. This ambulant orchestra was followed by
V. The high clergy
VI. The sumptuously adorned coffin flanked by Messrs Kapellmeisters Eybier, Hummel, Seyfried, and Kreutzer on the right: Weigl, Gyrowetz, Gänsbacher, and Würfel on the left, who held the white ribbons that hung down from the richly embroidered pall
VII. In rows on either sides, from the front of the procession to the coffin, were the torchbearers, thirty-six in number, made up of friends of the arts, poets, authors, composers, actors, and musicians, among them Messrs Anschiitz, Bernard, Jos. Böhm, Castelli, Carl Czerny, Sigr. David, Grillparzer, Conr. Graf, GriAhbaum, Haslinger, Hildebrand, Holz, Katter, Krall, Sigr. Lablanche, Baron Lannoy, Linke, Mayseder, Mr. Meric, Merk, Mechetti, Meier, Sigr. Paccini, Piringer, Radicchi, Raimund, Riotte, Schoberlechner, Schubert, Schickh, Schmidl, Streicher, Schuppanzigh, Steiner, Weidmann, Wolfmayer, and many others, all in mourning-dress with white roses and lily bouquets fastened on the sleeve with crepe, and with burning wax torches. In addition, one caught sight in the procession (which moved at an extremely slow pace because of the undulating throng) of many esteemed dignitaries: Messrs Privy Councillors von Musel and Breuning (the latter being the deceased's childhood friend and executor); Beethoven's brother; the pupils of the Conservatory; the students of the thoroughbass teacher at St. Anna's, Mr. Kapellmeister Drechsler, etc., etc., all of them deeply mourning a loss shared by anybody receptive to the almighty power of the musical art. Having arrived at the church, the aforementioned sixteen singers began, during the consecration, to sing the Libera me Domine de morte Aeterna by Mr Kapellmeister von Seyfried, originally intended for use in performances of the Mozart Requiem, and composed for four voices with organ accompaniment (score and parts published by Tob. Haslinger), but here, as demanded by the occasion, simply rewritten as a vocal chorale for four mens' voices 'a cappella'.
After this the four-in-hand ceremonial hearse drove off to the Währing Cemetery. Many equipages followed it out across the custom-line. Before the cemetery, Royal and Imperial Court Actor Mr Anschütz recited a text written by Grillparzer in memory of the deceased. Mr Haslinger handed three laurel wreaths to Mr Hummel, Court Kapellmeister of the Grand-Duchy of Weimar, who lowered them on to the coffin. The grieving friends of the departed remained until the earth was levelled off. Both of the aforementioned musical works, Miserere and Libera, were given in the Augustinian Court Parish Church on the occasion of the office for the dead held for L. van Beethoven, on 3rd April (Mozart's Requiem), organised by the association of local music dealers, and on 26th of the same month (Cherubini's Requiem) by the Society of the Friends of Music, where it was repeated by popular request during the functions of the high clergy at the catafalque, at the end of the requiem.
The interesting, generally known story of the creation of the cited Miserere is as follows. In the autumn of the year 1812, as L. van Beethoven was visiting his brother (then residing as a simple apothecary in Linz), he was asked by the local Cathedral Kapellmeister, Mr Glöggl, to compose for him so-called Equale for four trombones for All Souls' Day (November 2nd), which he would then have his musicians play, as was usual, on this feast. Beethoven declared himself willing; he actually wrote three movements for this purpose, which are indeed short, but which, through the excellence of their design, attest to the master's hand; and the current publisher of these same [works] was later so fortunate to be able to enrich his collection, which through the many autographs of this great composer had acquired such estimable worth, with this original manuscript. By the morning of 26 March 1827, not a doubt remained that the impending loss was all too near. Mr Haslinger went to Mr Kapellmeister von Seyfried to discuss the possibility of forming a choral anthem out of these Equale to the words of the Miserere, and thus to escort the mortal remains of our prince of composers to eternal peace to the mournful sounds of his own creations. Mr von Seyfried agreed to this idea and immediately set to work, which, since at six o'clock nature had already reclaimed its property, was finished that same night. This composition was employed in double fashion: first, the original melody (transposed a tone lower to make it easier for the vocalists) played by the four trombonists, then the chorale, set to the words of the penitential psalm Miserere mei Deus, intoned by the sixteen singers, and continued thus in alternation by stanza until arrival at the church.
I am grateful to Howard Weiner for translating Haslinger's account into English.
In addition to being transposed down a tone, the trombone version of the Haslinger publication includes only two of the three Equale, the Andante (Miserere) and the Poco Sostenuto (Amplius). The distribution and tessitura of the parts remain, in true Equale tradition, within the compass of an equal voice - faithful to the composer. The dynamic and articulation markings are in some places at variance with some modern editions.
Von Seyfried's choral version has many changes from the original, necessary to accommodate the text and range of the male voices. There is also a piano accompaniment, presumably only for use at rehearsals for further performances or with a poor choir unable to maintain pitch when singing 'a cappella'. It is quite extraordinary that the text of the Miserere and the Arnplius should so easily adapt to ceremonial instrumental music already in existence and begs the question: was the structural form of the Equale based on these two funeral liturgical texts in the first place?
It is clear that Haslinger was crucial in the choice of music and the choice of arrangment of the Equale at Beethoven's funeral. Apart from Haslinger the most important individuals connected with the Equale are von Seyfried, Glbggl and of course, Beethoven himself. These people have something else in common: they were all at one time students of Albrechtsberger.
Albrechtsberger was a composer steeped in a much older tradition of Austrian music, a tradition that has as its backdrop royal, aristocratic and ecclesiastical patronage synonymous with the Habsburg empire. These musical traditions led composers like Albrechtsberger and his contemporaries, Eybler, Haydn, Mozart and Wagenseil to write in a prominent fashion for the trombone. Evidence of Albrechtsberger's regard for the trombone as a solo instrument can be detected in both his Concerto for Alto Trombone (1769) and his Alma Redemptoris Mater (1761), which has solo passages for both alto and tenor trombone. These were both written during the composer's years as organist at the Abbey at Melk. The concerto, which was probably written for the Melk Abbey trombonist Roman Komer, is the most important example of a concerto for the trombone before the 19th century.
The Lutheran symbolism of the importance of the trombone as a metaphor for death, resurrection and the voice of God in the Book of Revelations is fully discussed elsewhere. (See Bassano, P. (1994) A second miracle at Cana. Historic Brass Society Journal, Vol.6 pp.14-5.) In his book The Trombone: Its History and Music 1697-1811, David Guion has noted:
Nothing comparable in terms of trombone solos exists between Albrechtsberger's concerto, written in 1769, and Beethoven's symphonies, premiered 40 years later. Possibly a deterioration in the quality of Viennese trombonists occurred during that time, but surely not enough to account for the utter lack of rhythmic complexity in Beethoven's trombone parts. ... Three possible explanations remain. First, the style of trombone playing exemplified by Austrian religious music was, by Beethoven's time, very old-fashioned. The French style, for all of its shortcomings, represented the vanguard; Beethoven was hardly a conservative. ... Second, Beethoven sought performance opportunities for his works outside Vienna, but everywhere else in Europe expert trombonists were in short supply. ... Third, Beethoven seems not to have been much interested in the trombone. In his Drei Equali für vier Posaunen each movement is shorter, less carefully marked in terms of dynamics and articulation than the one before, almost as if Beethoven were in a hurry to finish a commission he did not much care about.
I'm not quite sure if trombonists faced with the Tuba Mirum from the Mozart Requiem (1791) would entirely agree with Guion's first comment, but generally speaking the trombone had largely gone out of fashion. The decision to both write the Equale and to have them performed at Beethoven's funeral was firmly based on centuries old German Catholic liturgical tradition, in which we have seen for the trombone at least, Albrechtsberger was a champion.
Albrechtsberger died in 1809 after a long and successful career. I don't know if Beethoven had met Glöggl before, or, if he had, whether they had met since Albrechtsberger's death three years earlier. Either way, apart from music in general their common ground was that they were both students of Albrechtsberger. Bearing in mind this association coupled with the timing of the commissioning and writing of the Equale relatively shortly after Albrechtsberger's death, I would tentatively like to suggest that Beethoven accepted Glöggl's invitation to write the Equale in memory of their late mutual teacher.
Haslinger offers no explanation of the fate of the missing third Equale at Beethoven's funeral. Was it performed? Did it also have words adapted to it? When the number three was of such significance in Christian mythology - the Trinity, the triple repetition of Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison in the Mass etc., plus all the Biblical symbolism associated with the trombone - how was it that Haslinger and von Seyfried could omit the third Equale? It was while I was contemplating this question that a letter arrived from Brian Priestman, conductor of the University of Kansas Symphony Orchestra, dated 28 March 1997, enclosing a photocopy of a printed arrangement of the missing Equale. This version is entitled 'Trauerklänge an Beethovens Grabe. Den 29 März 1828. Männerchor nach einer Choral-Melodie des Verewigten. Worte von Franz Grillparzer'.
It would appear not to be a Haslinger publication since the style of printing is totally different to the other two versions. It is more likely to have been printed by Beethoven's earlier publishers, Breitkopf & Härtel, but this time with the German words of Franz Grillparzer. In this version the key of D major remains, as in the Beethoven original, and apart from very minor changes, so do the note values and rests. Clearly Grillparzer wrote the words to fit the music. Both the title and the prose text would suggest that this third Equale was sung (whether with trombones or not is a matter of speculation) in the same manner as the other two, but this time at Beethoven's grave in the Währing Cemetery on the first anniversary of his funeral. Here, in conclusion is Grillparzer's text for the third Equale. It is in much the same vein as his funeral oration.
Du, dem nie im Leben Ruhstatt ward, und Herd und Haus
Ruhe nun in Tod aus, im stillen Grabe aus.
Und wenn Freundes Klage reicht über's Grab hinaus,
Horch eig'nen Sangs süssen Klang,
Halb erwacht im stillen, stillen Haus.
You, who in life never had a resting place, neither hearth nor house,
Rest now in death in your quiet grave.
And if when the sounds of your friends' mourning reaches beyond the grave
Then listen to the sweet sounds of your own song half awoken in the still, still house.
(Translated by Mathias Feile)