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   Chapter 5 THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CREATION.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 21398

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


A brilliant festival was to take place to-night in the large aula of the Vienna University. All the composers, musicians, dilettanti, and amateurs of Vienna, had joyously consented to participate in it. The most distinguished names of the aristocracy and the artistic circles of Vienna were at the head of the committee of arrangements. Among those names were those of the Princes Lichnowsky and Lichtenstein, the Countesses Kaunitz and Spielmann, of Beethoven and Salieri, Kreutzer and Clementi, and finally, those of the poets Collin and Carpani.

Every one wished to participate in this festival, which was to render homage to the veteran German composer, the great Joseph Haydn, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth performance of the maestro's great work, "The Creation." Ten years had elapsed since the first performance of "The Creation" at Vienna, and already the sublime composition had made the tour of Europe, and had been performed amid the most enthusiastic applause in London and Paris, in Amsterdam and St. Petersburg, in Berlin, and all the large and small cities of Germany. Everywhere it had excited transports of admiration; everywhere delighted audiences had greeted with rapturous enthusiasm this beautiful music, so full of holy ardor and childlike piety, this great work of the German composer, Joseph Haydn.

To-day the twenty-fifth performance of "The Creation" was to take place at Vienna, and Joseph Haydn himself was to be present at the concert. The committee of arrangements had invited him, and he had accepted the invitation. Although his seventy-seven years were resting heavily on his head, and had paralyzed his strength, be could not withstand the honorable request of his friends and admirers, and he had replied with a touching smile to the committee of arrangements, whose delegates had conveyed the invitation to him "I shall come to take leave of the world with my 'Creation,' and bid a last farewell to my dear Viennese. YOU will often yet sing my 'Creation,' but I shall hear it for the last time!"

"For the last time!" These were the words which had thrilled all the friends and admirers of the maestro, and filled them with the ardent desire to greet him once more, and render him homage for the last time. For all felt and knew that Haydn had spoken the truth, and that his end was drawing near. All, therefore, longed to take part in this last triumph of the composer of "The Creation," whom death had already touched with its inexorable finger.

Hence, there was a perfect jam in front of the university building; the equipages of the high nobility formed two immense lines down the long street; like a black, surging stream, rising from moment to moment, the part of the audience arriving on foot moved along the houses and between the double line of carriages toward the entrance of the building. Thousands had vainly applied for admission at the ticket-office; there was room only for fifteen hundred persons in the aula and the adjoining rooms, and perhaps as many thousands had come to hear the concert. As they could not be admitted into the hall, they remained in the street in front of the building; as they could not hear Haydn's music, they wished at least to see his face and cheer him on his arrival at the door.

But there was a surging crowd also in the festively-decorated university hall. All had come in their holiday attire, and joy and profound emotion beamed from all faces. Friends shook hands and greeted each other with radiant eyes; and even those who did not know each other exchanged kindly greetings and pleasant smiles on seating themselves side by side, and looked at each other as though they were friends and acquaintances, and not entire strangers.

For all felt the great importance of this hour; all felt themselves Germans, owing to the homage which they were to render to the German maestro and to German music; and all knew that this festival would be looked upon beyond the Rhine as a hostile demonstration of the Germans against French pride and arrogance. They wished to show to France that, although Germany was dismembered, the heart of the Germans throbbed for Germany and German art, and that they did not feel at all alarmed at the grandiloquent threats of the Emperor of the French, but yielded with undisturbed equanimity to the enjoyment of German art. While the threatening words of the Emperor Napoleon were resounding, like ringing war-fanfares, from Paris, the Viennese desired to respond to him by the beautiful notes of sublime music; and, regardless of the growls of the lion beyond the Rhine, they wished to delight in the soul-stirring harmonies of "The Creation."

All preparations were now completed. The hall was all ablaze with the wax-lights which were beaming down from those gigantic lustres, and whose rays were reflected in the large mirrors covering the walls. The imperial box was splendidly festooned with rare flowers, and decorated with carpets and gilt candelabra, whose enormous wax- lights filled the interior of the spacious box with broad daylight.

Opposite the imperial box, on the other side of the hall, rose the large tribune destined for an orchestra of eighty performers and a choir of one hundred singers. All the latter, too, were in joyous spirits; all were animated to-day, not by the envy and jealousy so often to be found among artistes, but by the one great desire to contribute their share to the homage to be rendered to German art. They did not wish to-day to exhibit themselves and their artistic skill, but desired only to render homage to the music of the great maestro, and to German art.

And now the hour was at hand when the concert was to commence. The audience had taken their seats, the orchestra ceased tuning their instruments, the singers were in readiness, and the committee of arrangements had gone down to the street-door to await Haydn's arrival.

The door of the imperial box opened at this moment, and the emperor and empress entered, followed by the archdukes and their suites. To- day for the first time the audience took no notice of these august persons; they did not rise to greet the imperial couple and the archdukes. No one had perceived their arrival, for all eyes were steadfastly fixed on the large folding-doors by which Joseph Haydn was to enter the hall.

He had been expected already for some time, and the audience began to whisper anxiously: "Will he, perhaps, not come, after all? Will his physician not permit him to go to the concert because the excitement might be injurious to him?"

But all at once the silence was broken by a noise in the street, which sounded like the roar of the stormy ocean; it rent the air, and caused the windows of the hall to rattle. And the audience was joyfully moved; all faces became radiant, all turned their eyes toward the door.

Now this door opened, and a beautiful though strange group appeared in it. In its midst, on the shoulders of eight strong young men, arose an easy chair, festooned with flowers, and in this chair sat the small, bent form of an old man. His face was pale and wan, and in his forehead the seventy-seven years of his life had drawn deep furrows; but from his large blue eyes beamed the eternal fire of youth, and there was something childlike and touching in the smile of his mouth. On the right side of his easy-chair was seen the imposing form of a gentleman, plainly dressed, but with a head full of majestic dignity, his face gloomy and wild, his high forehead, surrounded by dense dishevelled hair, his eyes now gleaming with sombre fires, now glancing mildly and amiably. It was Louis von Beethoven, whom Haydn liked to call his pupil, and whose fame had at that time already penetrated far beyond the frontiers of Austria. On the left side of the easy-chair was seen the fine, expressive face of Salieri, who liked to call himself Gluck's pupil; and side by side with these two walked Kreutzer and Clementi, and the other members of the committee of arrangements.

Thundering cheers greeted their appearance; the whole audience rose; even the Empress Ludovica started up from her gilded chair and bowed smilingly; and the Archduke John advanced close to the railing of the box to greet again and again with pleasant nods of his head and waves of his hand Joseph Haydn, thus borne along above the heads of the audience. But the Emperor Francis, who was standing by the side of his consort, looked with a somewhat sneering expression on the crowd below, and, turning to the empress, he said: "Perhaps my dear Viennese may consider Haydn on his easy-chair yonder their emperor, and I myself may abdicate and go home. They did not even look at us to-night, and are raising such a fuss now as though God Almighty had entered the ball!"

In effect, the exultation of the audience increased at every step which the procession advanced, and endless cheers accompanied the composer to the seat which had been prepared for him on an estrade in front of the orchestra.

Here two beautiful ladies of high rank came to meet him, and presented to him, on cushions of gold-embroidered velvet, poems written by Collin and Carpani and printed on silken ribbons. At the same time many hundred copies of these poems flittered through the hall, and all shouted joyously, "Long live Joseph Haydn, the German maestro!" And the orchestra played a ringing flourish, and the cheers of the audience rent the air again and again.

Joseph Haydn, quite overcome, his eyes filled with tears, leaned his head against the back of his chair. A mortal pallor overspread his cheeks, and his hands trembled as though he had the fever.

"Maestro, dear, dear maestro!" said the Princess Esterhazy, bending over him tenderly, "are you unwell? You tremble, and are so pale! Are you unwell?"

"Oh, no, no," said Haydn, with a gentle smile, "my soul is in ecstasies at this hour, which is a precious reward for a long life of arduous toils. My soul is in ecstasies, but it lives in such a weak and wretched shell; and because the soul is all ablaze with the fires of rapturous delight, the whole warmth has entered it, and the poor mortal shell is cold and trembling."

The Princess Esterhazy took impetuously from her shoulders the costly Turkish shawl in which her form was enveloped; she spread it out before Haydn and wrapped it carefully round his feet. Her example was followed immediately by the Princesses Lichtenstein and Kinsky, and the Countesses Kaunitz and Spielmann. They doffed their beautiful ermine furs and their Turkish and Persian shawls, and wrapped them around the old composer, and transformed them into cushions which they plac

ed under his head and his arms, and blankets with which they covered him. [Footnote: See "Zeitgenossen," third series, vol. vi., p. 32]

Haydn allowed them smilingly to do so, and thanked, with glances of joyful emotion, the beautiful ladies who manifested so much tender solicitude for him.

"Why can I not die now?" he said to himself in a low voice. "Why does not Death kiss my lips at this glorious hour of my triumph? Oh, come, Death! waft me blissfully into the other world, for in this world I am useless henceforth; my strength is gone, and my head has no more ideas. I live only in and on the past!"

"And yet you live for all time to come," said the Princess Esterhazy; enthusiastically, "and while German art and German music are loved and honored, Joseph Haydn will never die and never be forgotten."

Hushed now was every sound. Salieri had taken his seat as conductor of the concert, and signed now to the orchestra.

The audience listened in breathless silence to the tumultuous notes depicting in so masterly a manner the struggle of light and darkness, the chaos of the elements. The struggle of the elements becomes more and more furious, and the music depicts it in sombre, violent notes, when suddenly the horizon brightens, the clouds are rent, the dissonant sounds pass into a sublime harmony, and in glorious notes of the most blissful exultation resound through the struggling universe the grand, redeeming words, "Let there be light!" And all join in the rapturous chorus, and repeat in blissful concord, "Let there be light!"

The audience, carried away by the grandeur and irresistible power of these notes, burst into long-continued applause.

Haydn took no notice of it; he heard only his music; his soul was entirely absorbed in it, and lifting both his arms to heaven, he said devoutly and humbly, "It comes from above!" [Footnote: "Zeitgenossen," ibid.]

The audience had heard these loud and enthusiastic words; it applauded no longer, but looked in reverent silence toward the aged composer, who, in the midst of his most glorious triumph, rendered honor to God alone, and bowed piously and modestly to the work of his own genius.

The performance proceeded. But Joseph Haydn hardly heard much of the music. His head leaned against the back of the chair; his face, lit up by a blissful smile, was deathly pale; his eyes cast fervent glances of gratitude toward heaven, and seemed, in their ecstatic gaze, to see the whole heavens opened.

"Maestro," said the Princess Esterhazy, when the first part of the performance was ended, "you must no longer remain here, but return to your quiet home."

"Yes, I shall return to the quiet home which awaits us all," said Haydn, mildly, "and I feel sensibly that I shall remain no longer among men. A sweet dream seems to steal over me. Let the performers commence the second part, and my soul will be wafted to heaven on the wings of my music."

But the Princess Esterhazy beckoned to his friends. "Take him away," she said, "the excitement will kill him, if he stays any longer."

They approached his chair and begged permission to escort him home. Haydn nodded his assent silently and smilingly, and his eyes glanced dreamily round the hall.

Suddenly he gave a start as if in great terror, and rose so impetuously that the furs and Turkish shawls, which had been wrapped round him, fell to the floor. His face crimsoned as if in the light of the setting sun; his eyes looked up with a radiant expression to the box yonder-to his emperor, whom he had loved so long and ardently, for whom he had wept in the days of adversity, for whom he had prayed and sung at all times. Now he saw him who, in his eyes, represented fatherland, home, and human justice; he felt that it was the last time his eyes would behold him, and he wished to bid farewell at this hour to the world, his fatherland, and his emperor.

With a vigorous hand he pushed back the friends who would have held him and replaced him in his chair. Now he was no longer a weak and decrepit old man; he felt strong and active, and he hastened forward with a rapid step through the orchestra toward the conductor's seat and the piano in front of it. He laid his hands, which trembled no longer, on the keys, and struck a full concord. He turned his face toward the imperial box; his eyes beamed with love and exultation, and he began to play his favorite hymn with impressive enthusiasm- the hymn which he had composed ten years ago in the days of Austria's adversity, and which he had sung every day since then,- the hymn, "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, unsern guten Kaiser Franz!" And the audience rose and gazed with profound emotion upon Joseph Haydn's gleaming face, and then up to the emperor, who was standing smilingly in his box, and the empress, from whose eyes two large tears rolled down her pale cheeks; and with one accord the vast crowd commenced singing:

"Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,

Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!

Lange lebe Franz der Kaiser

In des Glueckes hellem Kranz!

Ihm erbluehen Lorbeerreiser,

Wo er geht, zum Ehrenkranz.

Gott erhalte-"

[Footnote:

"God preserve the emperor

Francis, our good emperor!

Long live Francis, brightest gem

In fair Fortune's diadem

O'er him see the laurel wave,

Honoring the true, the brave!

God preserve-"]

Haydn's hands dropped exhausted from the keys; his form rocked to and fro, and, half fainting, he sank back into the arms of Salieri and Kreutzer.

The audience paused; all forgot the imperial hymn, and looked only at the venerable old maestro, whom Salieri and Kreutzer lowered now softly into the easy-chair, which had been brought to them.

"Take me home, dear ones," he said, faintly, "sing on, my 'Creation'; my soul will remain with you, but my body can no longer stay. Old age has broken its strength. Farewell, farewell, all of you! My soul will always be among you when you sing my music; my body will go, but the soul will remain. Farewell!"

And the votaries of art who had conveyed him to the hall now placed the maestro's chair again on their shoulders, and carried it slowly through the hall toward the entrance.

The audience stood in silent reverence and looked up to Haydn's passing form, and durst not break this profound stillness by uttering a sound. They bade farewell to the universally beloved and revered maestro only by bowing their heads to him and shedding tears of emotion-farewell for evermore!

The solemn procession had now arrived at the door. Joseph Haydn lifted his weary head once more; his spirit gleamed once more in his eyes; an expression of unutterable love beamed from his mild face; he stretched out his arms toward the orchestra as if to bless it, and greeted it with his smile, with the nodding of his head, and the tears which filled his eyes. [Footnote: "Zeitgenossen," third series, vol iv., p. 33]

A low rustling and sobbing passed through the hall; no one was courageous enough to clap his hands; all hearts were profoundly moved, all eyes filled with tears.

But now he disappeared, and the door closed behind Joseph Haydn. The German maestro had to-day celebrated his apotheosis amidst the enthusiastic people of Vienna. Life had dedicated to him the laurel- wreath which usually only death grants to poets and artists.

The Audience was still silent, when all at once a powerful voice exclaimed: "Let us sing the second verse of Haydn's favorite hymn- the second verse of 'Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser!'"

"Yes, yes," shouted all, enthusiastically, "the second verse! the second verse!"

And hundreds of voices shouted to the orchestra beseechingly, imperiously, thunderingly, that it should play the accompaniment; and the musicians complied with this tumultuous request.

The audience expressed their gratitude by an outburst of applause, and sang thereupon the second verse:

"Lass von seiner Fahne Spitzen

Strahlen Sieg and Furchtbarkeit

Lass in seinem Rathe sitzen

Weisheit, Klugheit, Redlichkeit,

Und mit seiner Hoheit Blitzen

Schalten our Gerechtigkeit.

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,

Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!"

[Footnote:

"Before his banner floating high

Let victory shout and foemen fly!

In his connsels let preside

Wisdom, prudence, noble pride!

Homely justice delling find!

God preserve the emperor,

Francis, our good emperor!"]

The emperor bowed his thanks to the audience, the orchestra commenced again playing the air, and the audience sang anew:

"Lass von seiner Fahne Spitzen

Strahlen Sieg und Furchtbarkeit!"

And arms and hands were lifted here and there beseechingly toward the emperor; in vain the orchestra tried to play on; the audience, with rare unanimity, as if seized with one sentiment and one wish, sang again and again:

"Lass von seiner Fahne Spitzen

Strahlen Sieg und Furchtbarkeit!"

And then all shouted loudly, beseechingly, and withal angrily and courageously,

"War! war! Lass von seiner Fahne

Spitzen strahlen Sieg and Furchtbarkeit!"

The excitement of the audience grew constantly bolder and more impetuous. The men left their seats and crowded around the imperial bog, repeating again and again the words

"Lass von seiner Fahne Spitzen

Strahlen Sieg and Furchtbarkeit!"

The emperor withdrew in confusion into the background of his box, and whispered quickly a few words to the Archduke John. The archduke advanced to the railing of the box, and commanded silence by waving his hand to the audience.

The singers paused immediately, and amidst the breathless silence which ensued, the Archduke John shouted in a loud and powerful voice: "The emperor announces to his dear Viennese that he is determined to submit no longer to the arrogance of France, and that war is irrevocably resolved on."

A cry of rapture burst from all lips; all shouted exultingly, "War! war! We shall at length bid defiance to the arrogance of the French emperor! We shall have war with France; we shall avenge the wrongs which we have suffered so long, and set bounds to the encroachments of France!"

And friends and acquaintances greeted each other with radiant eyes and glowing cheeks; neighbors, entirely unknown to each other, shook hands and said, smilingly: "Now at length we shall have war! At length we shall remove from our German honor the stains with which France has sullied it. At length we shall have war, and God will grant us-"

The ringing notes of the orchestra interrupted the animated conversation of the excited audience. Salieri had taken his seat again, he raised his baton, and the second part of "The Creation" commenced.

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