Naples:life,death &
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Almost a Fantasy

by Luciano Mangiafico

There is a large marble statue of Ludwig van Beethoven in the courtyard of the San Pietro a Maiella music conservatory in Naples. There is something surly, brooding, yet magical, about it. Just right for Beethoven. It was put up in 1895 by Calabrian sculptor, Francesco Jerace (1854–1937). He is often called the "Neapolitan Rodin." This sculpture is one of his lesser known works but is certainly one of the most photographed statues of Beethoven in the world. After it was finished, Jerace put it on tour to Venice, Paris, and Vienna — with even some talk of sending it to Brazil. Everyone liked it. They settled on Naples. It was restored and cleaned once, quite recently, in 2019, and everone who sees it here, too, seems to be impressed. Some might wonder why they didn't put up a Neapolitan or at least an Italian composer. I'm not sure, but they do say that music is universal.

Beethoven, unlike Mozart, never visited Naples, yet he has an indirect connection with the city through a women he loved. In
1801 he fell in love with one of his young piano students, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi (1784-1855), then 16 years old. The
Guicciardi family was from the Emilia-Romagna region, but had been in the service of the imperial Austrian government in
various places and Giulietta was born in Poland, where her father was assigned. In a November 1801 letter to his friend in Bonn,
Franz Wegeler, Beethoven told Wegeler he had met a girl “dear and charming... who loves me and whom I love.” It is likely that Beethoven proposed to Giulietta although their difference in social status was a barrier. It is also likely that she, with the consent of one of her parents, probably her mother, at least considered accepting. But then her father put a stop to that nonsense.

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.”

Instead, the thirty-year old Beethoven expressed his love through music and composed the Sonata per Piano No.14, known later as the "Moonlight Sonata", and dedicated it to Giulietta. He called the sonata Quasi una fantasia (almost a fantasy). He used a new format for the sonata, which traditionally had three movements: fast, slow, fast. Instead, Beethoven began the first movement with an adagio, a very slow movement perhaps uncertainty, even fear of Giulietta's reply to his declaration.The second movement is an allegretto, happy but not totally: Beethoven, although happy to have declared his love, is still not sure of himself, sure of his chances. The third and last movement, marked on the score as presto agitato is a very fast and powerful display of Beethoven’s emotion when he realized that his love was hopeless.

image right: a miniature painting found in Beethoven's effects. Artist; unknown.
 Subject: plausibly Giulietta Guicciardi. That is not certain. Ludwig liked the ladies.
Is she "my immortal beloved",  a letter he wrote to an unidentified woman?
image left: Beethoven, age 33,
painted by Christian Horneman

In November 1803, Giulietta Guicciardi married Count Wenzel Robert Gallenberg (1783-1839)
(image below,right), a well-to- do composer and musician, who did not really have to rely on his profession 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, Joaquim Murat, now 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 to establish a ballet school in Naples. Then in 1814, he became director of theaters for the whole city of Naples and stayed on in the position even after Murat was executed and Ferdinand I, the Bourbon king, retook the throne in 1815. These were violent times, as well.

The Gallenberg couple had only one child, Marie Julia, born in Naples in 1808. There are questions on whether Gallenberg was indeed her father.
In 2019 Austrian-born English baroness Pia Chelwood  (who claimed to descend from Giulia Guicciardi) stated that Joseph Gallenberg was impotent and that Giulia took on lovers while in Naples. One 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 restore the "crowned heads of Europe" after Napoleon, she was in the city as an informal emissary for King Joaquim 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 was involved in a dispute with the Superintended of Theaters, Giovanni Battista Carafa, Duke of Noja,
about his authority as director. Although he kept his titles and salary, Gallenberg lost the dispute. However, since he was in the
the good graces of Domenico Barbaria, the theater 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 he was made associate director
of the Royal Imperial Opera in Vienna.

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 trying his hand as impresario of the Kärntnertortheater, a task at which he, 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 before his death the following year. In his time, Gallenberg worked with and was a friend of such composers as Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Johann Mayr, Louis Sphor, and others.  He was very prolific and composed nearly one hundred works for ballet. They were performed for thirty years all over Europe.  He also composed piano sonatas, transcribed and adapted music of other composers and since he aimed at melodic lightness was extremely popular. His light touch and the very quantity of his output earned him the nickname of the “great international industrialist of ballet”. His popularity did not last long after he passed away, and like many others, he was forgotten.
                                                                                                            image, above: Beethoven's funeral procession in 1827: watercolour by F. X. Stoeber

Beethoven, on the other hand, 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.

1. Albrecht, Theodore, editor. Beethoven’s Conversation Books, Volume 3 (May 1822-May 1823). Martlesham, Suffolk, England: Boydell & Brewer, 2020;
2. Cafiero, Rosa. Il «grande industriale internazionale del balletto» a Napoli nell’età di Rossini: Wenzel Robert Gallenberg, in Di sì felice innesto;   Rossini, la danza, e il ballo teatrale in Italia, a cura di Paolo Fabbri. Pesaro: Fondazione Rossini Pesaro 1996;
3. Morrisroe, Patricia. The Woman at the Heart of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. The New York Times, May 27, 2020;
4. Sacco Antonio. In viaggio da Vienna a Napoli per dimenticare Beethoven.  "Corriere del Mezzogiorno", 10 Ottobre 2020;
5. Schindler, Anton. Life of Beethoven, edited by Ignaz Moscheles. London: Henry Coburn, 1841;
6. Thayer, Alexander Wheelock: Life of Beethoven, rev. and ed., Elliot Forbes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

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