Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Almost a Fantasy

by Luciano Mangiafico
& Jeff Matthews

"That's right, it's me. Ludwig van Beethoven, quite modestly one of the greatest musicians ever. Who are the three B's in music? Right! I'm one of them.  At your service! Also quite modestly, this statue is pretty damned good! Jerace has me up here in the courtyard of the music conservatory in Naples. That's Francesco Jerace, the sculptor. He's not from here. From Calabria, way down south, but he has a lot of stuff all over Italy. They call him the Neapolitan Rodin. Down here they call Rodin the French Jerace. Big deal --The Thinker. How pompous! Know what The Thinker is thinking? 'I wonder where I left my clothes.' (Hah! If I could move, I'd slap my thigh!) He nailed me though. The pouting charm of boyish sullenness, brooding, yes--yet magical. Just right. Grouchy? Look, I was never Mr. Bonhomie, anyway. ok? I was going deaf, for crying out loud! Jerace understood. He had a few screws loose, and they locked him up. He was different. He was a genius, and that's tough. He put me up here in 1895 but first took me on tour. The loved me in Venice, Paris, and Vienna. Everyone loved me. They settled on Naples. I was restored and cleaned once, quite recently, in 2019 (took them long enough!) and everyone who sees it here is impressed. A few gripes. 'Gee, he isn't Neapolitan  Not even Italian'. No, I'm not. I'm not Lithuanian, either. Or Japanese. I'm Beethoven. Isn't music universal? So am I."

"I wasn't in Naples when I was a kid. Not like Mozart. His old man spoiled that kid rotten. Wolfie Wunderkind got what Wolfie Wunderkind wanted. Yes, I know — all those countless symphonies and concertos. Listen, you only need a few. Just a few, but make them explode on people. Knock the breath out of them. Yes, I know he had a tough life and I'm sorry. He deserved a lot better than that. He's not the only one.
I was a better pianist. Of course, I was better than anyone. We used to have those chop-sessions all the time — me against all-comers. I never lost. Not once."


             images:  film poster, right - Immortal Beloved (Unsterbliche Geliebte). 1994. Written & directed by                 Bernard Rose. Features Gary Oldman as Beethoven and Valeria Golino as Giulietta.
             below left: Beethoven, age 33, painted by Christian Horneman                       
below right: a miniature painting found in Beethoven's effects. Artist unknown.
                        The subject is plausibly Giulietta Guicciardi. That is not certain.
                         Ludwig liked the ladies.

"But I did have a connection with Naples. Namely, Giulietta Guicciardi. Sweet 16 and lovely. One of my piano students. I fell in love so hard I actually stopped practicing in the evenings. That's what love does to you. I know, I was 30. What's 14 lousy years? I would live to be 100 and she'd be 86. We would grow old together. I even proposed to her. Her father put a stop to our future together very fast, the unromantic old... you want a grouch? Try him! Well, I wanted to tell you about my statue and I wound up mentioning one of my great regrets. I didn't get the girl. I composed music for her, though. You know the "Moonlight Sonata", right? Listen... right can hear it ... there are 156 kids in the world practicing that ...ah, kid, c'mon! F-sharp, F-sharp... and 4 concert recitals going on. That was for her. What? Was she my "immortal beloved"?  Aren't you the nosy one! I wrote a lot of letters, pal. What, are you going through my mail? That's a felony. What don't you mind your own business? The other great regret, of course, was I couldn't hear people play my music. In my head? It's not the same thing. Nevertheless, I did all right. You can ask around."

(Take it away, Luciano):
Alexander Thayer writes in his Life of Beethoven that the musician was a man “...without rank, fortune or permanent engagement; a man, too, of character and temperament so peculiar, and afflicted with the incipient stages of an infirmity which, if not arrested and cured, must deprive him of all hope of obtaining any high and remunerative official appointment and at length compel him to abandon his career as a great pianoforte virtuoso.”

In November 1803, Giulietta Guicciardi married Count Wenzel Robert Gallenberg (1783-1839)
(image, right), a well-to- do composer and musician, who did not really have to rely on his music to make a living. Sometime in 1805 the couple left Vienna to move to Naples, one of the major centers of European music. In Vienna Gallenberg had studied music with Joseph Haydn and Johann Albrechtsberger, who had also been Beethoven’s teacher. On May 15, 1806, Gallenberg conducted a concert of his own music during the festivities for the assumption of the throne of Naples by Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. Gallenberg’s music was well received, and he became director of military music. A little later, in October 1806, he then became conductor of the San Carlo Opera House.

Gallenberg got along with rulers and power brokers; even after Joseph Bonaparte left Naples for Spain and was replaced by his brother-in law, Joachim Murat, now installed as king of Naples. Gallenberg kept moving up in the musical bureaucracy. In 1809 he was composer and director of ballet music at San Carlo, and in 1811 worked on establishing a ballet school in Naples. Then in 1814, he became director of theaters for the whole city and stayed on even after Murat was executed and Ferdinand I, the Bourbon king, retook the throne in 1815. They were violent times.

The Gallenberg couple had only one child, Marie Julia, born in Naples in 1808. There are some questions on whether Gallenberg was indeed her father. Austrian-born English baroness Pia Chelwood in 2019 claimed to descend from Giulia Guicciardi, and she stated that Joseph Gallenberg was impotent and that Giulia took lovers in Naples. One of these was Friedrich Albretch von Schulenburg (1772-1853), then a German diplomat in Naples. Giulia gave birth to several children with him. Giulietta Guicciardi must also have been well-connected at court since in October 1814, while the Congress of Vienna was meeting (to discuss restoring the "crowned heads of Europe" after Napoleon), she was in the city as an informal emissary for King Murat and his wife Carolina Bonaparte, who wanted to ensure that they did not lose the throne in the power reshuffle. There is no evidence that during her stay she saw Beethoven privately.

In 1816, Gallenberg had a dispute with the Superintended of Theaters about the latter's authority as director. Although he kept his titles and salary, Gallenberg lost the dispute. However, since he was in the good graces of Domenico Barbaia, the impresario who ran the important theaters in the city, Gallenberg was soon theater composer. Gallenberg and his wife went back to Vienna from 1819 to 1823. In 1821 the Royal Imperial Opera in Vienna made him associate director.

Sometime in 1822, there may have been direct contact between Beethoven and the Gallenbergs. According to Beethoven’s published Conversation Notebook 22, which the deaf composer used to communicate, on February 4, 1823 he had a conversation with his secretary and early biographer, Anton Schindler (1795-1864) about Gallenberg and his wife, with Beethoven saying, referring to Count Gallenberg:
“I was his invisible benefactor, through someone else.”
Referring to Giulia he added:
“She loved me more than she ever loved her husband. He, however, was more her lover than I was, but through her, I learned of his misfortune, and I found a wealthy man, who gave me the sum of 500 florins to help him. He was always my enemy, and this was precisely the reason I did everything as well as I possibly could for him.”

On his return to Naples in 1823, Gallenberg resumed his position as ballet composer for the opera house. In 1829-30 he was back in Vienna, this time as impresario of the Kärntnertortheater and, for various reasons, was not successful. He then went back to Naples and in 1838 was appointed Director of Music for the Royal theaters, a post he held briefly until his death the following year. In his time, Gallenberg knew such composers as Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Johann Mayr, Louis Sphor, and others. He was prolific and wrote nearly one hundred works for ballet performed for thirty years all over Europe. He wrote piano sonatas, transcribed and adapted the music of others. He aimed at melodic lightness and was extremely popular. His light touch and the sheer quantity of his output earned him the mocking nickname of the “great international industrialist of ballet”. His popularity did not last long after he died, and like many others, he was forgotten.

                                                                                                       image, above: Beethoven's funeral procession in 1827: watercolour by F. X. Stoeber

Beethoven? He knew his place in history. When he died, 100,000 people showed up to pay their respects. They knew who Ludwig van Beethoven was, still is and always will be. They knew, indeed.

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