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Music & Letters, Vol. 93 No. 3, The Author (2012). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1093/ml/gcs042, available online at

Advance Access published on 3 August 2012



AS A MARK OF RESPECT following the death of Elector Maximilian Friedrich on 15 April

1784, an order was issued that the Bonn stage should be closed. Maximilian Franz,
the new incumbent, was the youngest brother of Joseph II and well known as a keen
music lover, but it soon became clear that he faced serious financial problems, and he
decided that maintaining a full-scale programme of opera and theatre would be too ex-
pensive. Accordingly, he decreed that the theatrical troupe should disband, offering
each performer a sum equivalent to four weeks wages in recompense.1 During the six
years leading up to the closure, the company had been under the management of
Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Gromann, the well-known theatre director.2 Realizing
that his prospects in Bonn were now rather uncertain, he decided not to wait for the
Elector to make up his mind but to move on. He reconstituted his company in
Aachen and for the next few years travelled widely in the Rhinelands and beyond,
giving winter programmes in Mainz and Frankfurt and a summer season in
Pyrmont.3 Meanwhile, his former director of music, Christian Gottlob Neefe, chose to
remain in Bonn, where he was to achieve lasting fame as a mentor of the young Beet-
hoven. As things turned out, the stage was to remain shut for much longer than
anticipated, a period of nearly five years, the closure marking a distinctive epoch in
the citys musical history. By the late 1780s, a new wave of Viennese opera buffa was
sweeping across Europe, but because the Elector repeatedly postponed the reopening,
the latest works by Mart|n y Soler, Salieri, and Mozart remained unheard. This had
consequences on a wider political level, as Maximilian Franz was unable to stage the
series of festive works commissioned by Joseph II for the imperial dynastic marriage
celebrations of his niece and nephew in 1787 and 1788: Larbore di Diana, Don Giovanni,
and Axur. Only on 3 January 1789 did the Bonn National Theatre finally reopen, to

*Queens University, Belfast. Email: My grateful thanks are due to Johannes Schweitzer
and Matthias Pernerstorfer for assistance in deciphering Neefes calligraphy and for creative suggestions as to his
sometimes elusive meaning.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 202: Nach dem Ableben des hochstseeligen Kurfursten Maximilian Friedrich
wurde wegen der Hof- und Landestrauer das Hoftheater geschlossen, und die Hofschauspielergesellschaft mit einem
vierwochentlichen Gehalt entlassen.
On the history of the Bonn theatre during Gromanns tenure, see Doris Maurer, Arnold E. Maurer, and
Reinhard Nezel, Dokumente zur Bonner Theatergeschichte 1778^1784 (Bonn, 1994). Gromann in fact left Bonn on 2 Aug.
1783, leaving his wife Karoline to take charge of the company, while he developed his other theatrical interests. She
fell seriously ill during this period, and contemporary theatrical correspondence is full of references to her declining
health. Her brief spell as manager was noted in the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 192: Sie fuhrte die Direktion
des Bonner Theaters, als ihr Mann seine zweyte Gesellschaft nach Maynz und Frankfurt zog.
Theater-Kalender, 209: Gromann, Direkteur derselben, fuhrte solche nach Aachen, wo er selbige bis auf einige
Mitglieder entlie, weil mit dem jetzregierenden Herrn kein neuer Kontrakt zu Stande kam.


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the relief of the entire musical community. The present article focuses on Neefes role in
Bonn during the years when the stage was shut, using as its primary source of
evidence his correspondence with Gromann, who retained an obvious interest in
what was going on, no doubt with a view to keeping open the possibility of a return.
During his period in charge of the Bonn theatre between 1778 and 1784, Gromann
had provided entertainments across the whole range of German-language genres,
including tragedy and comedy, original Singspiele, translations of opera comique, and ar-
rangements of opere buffe with spoken dialogue replacing the Italian recitatives. A
diverse company on this model was far from easy to run. A comparable and
well-documented organization, the Electoral troupe in Dresden under the management
of Pasquale Bondini, faced typical problems: the difficulty in maintaining a balance
between theatrical and operatic genres; and the potential underuse of highly paid star
actors and singers. Pragmatic solutions, encouraging performers to be flexible, tended
to provoke negative critical appraisals of singers deficient in acting skills who had to
resort to stereotypical gestures, and actors unable to cope with the more florid aspects
of Italian vocal style. Even with a significant subvention from the court that sponsored
them, it was usually necessary for such companies to travel. Bondinis annual cycle of
visits included Leipzig and Prague, while Gromann presented short seasons through-
out the Rhinelands.4 As Neefe discovered, the musical director of a troupe engaging
in such a variety of genres was kept very busy making arrangements.5
With the closure of the local stage, Maximilian Franz effectively abandoned for the
time being the idea of supporting a large resident company expert in a range of
genres. Instead he took the pragmatic decision to permit a short season each Carnival
to be provided by a visiting troupe. But the idea of re-establishing a permanent
company had not gone away and the much hoped-for restitution of the National
Theatre was discussed with ever increasing frequency. In May 1787, Christoph Brandt,
an established member of the Bonn Hofkapelle, attempted a new theatrical initiative,
apparently in the hope that the Elector could be persuaded to reopen the stage for the
winter season 1787^8. This venture failed almost immediately, but reports of its demise
have some significance for Beethoven scholarship in two respects: (i) a brief account
of its only successful operatic performance, a public rehearsal of Monsignys Le Deserteur
(Der Deserteur), gives us a rare glimpse of Beethovens father, Johann, late in his career
as a singer; and (ii) the failed initiative may have been a factor in the timing of the de-
parture from Vienna of two young Bonn musicians, Beethoven and Magdalena
Willmann, who were both subsequently recruited for the new company in 1789.
Some details of the short seasons staged during Bonns operatic interregnum can be
found in published theatrical and musical almanacs, but in many ways the most
eloquent witness to these years was the man most directly affected by the closure:
Christian Gottlob Neefe himself. He had gone from being the musical director of a dis-
tinguished troupe to a mere Hoforganist with greatly reduced commitments and
prestige.6 The ensuing period was a lean one for him personally, as he faced the task
of constructing a financially secure existence. His letters during these years provide

Ian Woodfield, Performing Operas for Mozart: Singers, Impresarios and Troupes (Cambridge, 2012).
His letters contain a great deal of valuable information on his role as an editor for the publisher Simrock,
illustrating in particular the manner in which popular Viennese opere buffe were incorporated into the Singspiel trad-
ition. This topic merits a much more extended discussion than is possible here.
Hoforganist Neefe was how he signed himself when he advertised for a snuff box he had lost. Gnadigst
privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 10 Oct. 1786, p. 171. The digital archives of this newspaper may be viewed at


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vivid insights not only into his personal circumstances but also into contemporary
operatic culture. In effect, his future as a musician of status in Bonn was linked to the
fate of the stage, and so it is hardly surprising that he should have chronicled its ap-
proaching restoration with such excitement. The main recipient of his letters was
Gromann, but with one exception only Neefes side of the correspondence has
survived. The picture is rounded out, however, by a small number of highly informative
letters from Nikolaus Simrock, horn player in the Bonn orchestra and a music retailer.
A full list of this correspondence, including quite a few letters from the late 1770s
when Neefe and Groman first became acquainted, is given in Table 1.
The primary study of Neefes life and works, one which made substantive use of his
letters, is Irmgard Leuxs monograph of 1925.7 She included a numerical summary
giving the annual totals of letters and from this it is evident that the correspondence
survived the Second World War unscathed. By far the largest part is now in the
Sammlung Kestner in the Leipzig Universtatsbibliothek.8 A few stray letters eventually
found their way to the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, and one is also to be found in the
Bonn Stadtarchiv.9 Leuxs study is cited frequently in the Beethoven literature, but the
significance of her main source has somehow remained below the horizon. In any
event, she did not transcribe the full correspondence, leaving many riches to be un-
covered at a later date. In the same year, Ludwig Schiedermair edited several
complete letters in his study of the young Beethoven, notably one containing a direct
reference to the composer.10 Neither Leux nor Schiedermair appears to have been
aware of the Simrock letters. More recently, the theatre historian Michael Ruppel has
made extensive use of the resources of the Sammlung Kestner in his exhaustive study
of Gromann, which pays due attention to the operas of Mozart and Mart|n y Soler
and Neefes comments on them.11 But as a source for the study of the closure of the
Bonn theatre and its implications for Beethoven scholarship, the Neefe and Simrock
correspondence remains significantly underused.
The decision taken by Maximilian Franz to close the Bonn stage came as a bitter
blow to the entire musical community, all the more galling because the new Elector
was widely seen as a cultured and musical man. A credible if perhaps slightly idealized
picture of his personal engagement with opera was published in the Theater-Kalender
for 1791, in which he was praised as a connoisseur, able to judge plays and actors,
musical compositions, and practical musicians with real insight.12 Once the cares
of state business were over, his practice was to amuse himself singing arias to the
accompaniment of a string quartet, distributing additional vocal parts among those

Irmgard Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748^1798) (Leipzig, 1925).
Leipzig, Universitatsbibliothek, Sondersammlungen, Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283; the letter from Gromann
to Neefe is in Sammlung Kestner, I C III 118. Simrocks letters are in Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385.
Bonn, Stadtarchiv, SN19, Nr. 540, dated 11 Feb. 1779. This rather short missive was terminated when Neefe
admitted that he had wined and dined so well that he was unable to continue writing it.
Ludwig Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven (Leipzig, 1925).
Michael Ruppel, Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Gromann 1743^1796: Eine Epoche deutscher Theater- und Kulturgeschichte
(Hanover, 2010). An annotated summary list of Gromanns complete correspondence is given on pp. 614^23.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1791, 510: Der Kurfurst ist nicht blos ein Freund der Buhne und der Tonkunst, wie die
Meisten Seines Gleichen; sondern er verdient unter den Kennern Seinen Platz. Er wei Stucke, Schauspieler,
musikalische Compositionen und praktische Tonkunstler mit Einsicht und Geschmack zu beurtheilen. Leux, Chris-
tian Gottlob Neefe, 94 argues that Neefe himself sent in the reports from Bonn. On 5 Sept. 1779, he wrote to
Gromann: Reichard schrieb an mich um Beytrage, hab ihm Berichtigungen und Zusatze zu den musical. Artikeln
gesandt. On 1 Apr. 1791, he drew Gromanns attention to Bonns entry for 1791. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 96:
Unser Theater finden Sie im Theater-Kalender. Ich habe Ihnen also weiter hier nichts zu sagen.


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TABLE 1. The Neefe^Simrock^Gromann Correspondence 1778^1794

Writer / recipient Date Sigluma Call number

Neefe to Gromann 17 Nov. 1778 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283

Neefe to Gromann 26 Nov. 1778 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 22 Dec. 1778 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 11 Feb. 1779 D:BNsa SN19, Nr.540.
Neefe to Gromann 25 Jan. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 7 Feb. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 8 Feb. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 10 Apr. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 1 May 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 11 July 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 5 Sept. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 16 Sept. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann n.d. Oct. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 21 Nov. 1779 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann n.d. Jan. 1780 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 9 Feb. 1784 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 23 July 1784b D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 7 Jan. 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 19 Jan. 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 5 Feb. 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 5 June 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Simrock to Gromann 6 June 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 30 Aug. 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Simrock to Gromann 26 Nov. 1785 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 30 Nov. 1785b D:BNba BH 196
Neefe to Gromann 3 Jan. 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 1 Feb. 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 12 Apr. 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 26 May 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 11 June 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 27 Aug. 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 23 Oct. 1786 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 11 Mar. 1787 D:BNba BH 197
Simrock to Gromann 14 May 1787 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 13 July 1787 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 20 Oct. 1787 D:BNba HCB Br 342
Neefe to Gromann 13 Nov. 1787 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 18 Dec. 1787 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Gromann to Neefe 31 Dec. 1787 D:LEu Kestner I C III 118
Simrock to Gromann 21 Nov. 1788 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 21 Dec. [1788] D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 7 June 1789 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Simrock to Gromann 29 June 1790 D:BNba BH 221
Neefe to Gromann 13 Sept. 1790 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Simrock to Gromann 25 Oct. 1790 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 26 Feb. 1791c Gromann (1791)
Neefe to Gromann 1 Apr. 1791 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283


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TABLE 1. Continued
Writer / recipient Date Sigluma Call number

Neefe to Gromann 23 May 1791 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283

Neefe to Gromann 16 July 1791b D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 8 Nov. 1791 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 18 Jan. 1792 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 22 Feb. 1793 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 13 Mar. 1793 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Neefe to Gromann 15 Mar. 1793b D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
Simrock to Gromann 9 Apr. 1793 D:LEu Kestner I C II 385
Neefe to Gromann 3 Nov. 1793 D:LEu Kestner I C II 283
D:BNba Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Beethoven-Archiv; D:BNsa Bonn, Stadtarchiv; D:LEu Leipzig,
These letters were included in the exhibition: Christian Gottlob Neefe: Ein Sachsischer Komponist wird Beet-
hovens Lehrer (Chemnitz, 1997), 149^50.
Lessings Denkmal (1791), ii. 200. See Gustav Gromann, Lessings Denkmal, ed. Axel Fischer (Hildesheim,

accompanists who were able to sing.13 This was no substitute for a full programme of
public opera, however, and in 1784 in the wake of the closure Neefe had good reason
to be worried about his future, as did all the musicians in the Electors service. Three
reports on their status and performing ability had been drawn up, the third of which
would have made for very uncomfortable reading for some of its subjects. The first
document contained a simple list of names, the second detailed descriptions and esti-
mates of capability, but the third recommended dismissals and salary reductions.14 In
this uneasy climate, potentially innocent meetings between the authorities and individ-
ual musicians were starting to cause real anxiety. Neefe heard that the singer
Veronika Bekenkam had spent an hour with the Elector and wondered what evil
seeds she had scattered during the meeting. Christoph Brandt was similarly concerned
that she might have slandered him to Count Salm und Reifferscheid, the official with
direct responsibility for the musical establishment.15 Neefe was of the opinion that
those who had entered the Electors service through the back door were awaiting the
outcome of the review with particular nervousness.16 However, in the document con-
taining recommendations, he was himself the victim of a particularly harsh evaluation:
Christian Neffe [sic], the organist, in my humble opinion might well be dismissed,
inasmuch as he is not particularly well versed on the organ, moreover is a foreigner,

Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1791, 510: Er besitzt selbst einen ansehnlichen Vorrath (den er immer noch vermehrt)
der neuesten und besten Opernpartituren, die er sehr fertig liest und womit er sich zuweilen Nachmittags nach
besorgten Regierungsgeschaften im Kabinet amusirt. Die Arien singt er dann selbst; das Klavier, ein Violoncell,
zwei Violinen und eine Viola begleiten ihm. Mehrstimmige Gesange vertheilt er unter die Accompagnateurs, die
singen konnen. Neefe reports playing two Italian operas to the Elector. Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 3 Jan.
1786, Neefe to Gromann: Contadina in Spirito und il Ricco dun giorno kenn ich nur der Musik nach. Im
Sommer hab ich sie einmal beim Kurfurst im Kabinet gespielt. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 92.
Thayers Life of Beethoven, ed. Elliot Forbes (Princeton, 1967), i. 78.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 23 July 1784, Neefe to Gromann: Diesen Augenblick hor ich, da Madam
Bekenkamm [sic] ehegestern beim Kurfurst eine ganze Stunde gewesen sei. Er soll sie haben rufen laen. Wer wei,
was sie da wieder fur bosen Samen ausgestreut hat? Brand[t] sagt, da sie auch ihn beim Graf Salm verlaumdet
habe. Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 148.
Ibid. : Viele aber sind noch in banger Erwartung, besonders die, welche ehedessen durch die Hinterthur
eingegangen sind.


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having no Meritten whatever and of the Calvinist religion.17 To make matters worse, a
cheaper replacement was on hand: If Neffe were to be dismissed another organist
would have to be appointed, who, if he were to be used only in the chapel, could be
had for 150 florins; the same [Beethoven] is small, young, and a son of one of the
court musici, and in case of need has filled the place for nearly a year very well.18 A
temporary but doubtless unwelcome resolution of Neefes situation was announced on
27 June 1784, when his salary was cut from 400 to 200 florins, with Beethoven as his as-
sistant being awarded 150 florins, an arrangement that must have left teacher and
pupil in a distinctly awkward situation. That he felt this reduction in status very
keenly is evident from his letter to Gromann of 23 July 1784, in which he reported
that he was being urged by influential friends to be patient while the Elector sorted
out the crisis.19 He had decided to remain but had been obliged to become a school-
master again, returning to the point where his career had begun twenty years
earlier.20 In a pointed reference to his new status, Neefe actually signed his letter of 19
January 1785 Schulmeister, observing that he was giving six hours of tuition daily,
with no escape in sight.21 He accompanied this with an interesting remark about his
pupil: Beethoven is most pleased of all, and yet I very much doubt that he will now
derive solid benefit from it. This typically allusive comment, the only time in his
extant private letters that Neefe mentioned Beethoven, appears in the immediate
context of his lesson-giving burden, yet it is also possible to interpret the comment as
a more general reference to the young mans newly formalized (and paid) position as
assistant organista rare positive outcome of the general review.22 Especially towards
the end of his letters, Neefe had the habit of switching abruptly between topics with
no obvious connecting thread. If that was the case here, then his doubts as to whether
Beethoven would benefit from his new appointment could equally refer to the closure
of the Bonn stage and the greatly reduced level of opportunity for an apprentice
keyboard player that this position would now afford. On his own behalf, Neefe was
well aware that he had detractors but hoped that the truth would eventually emerge.
Matters came to a head when on 4 February he submitted to Count Salm his
Abschied promemoria, which was to be passed to the Elector the following morning

Ibid. 57: Christoph Neffe der Organist; meines ohnzielsezlichen Dafurhaltens konnte dieser wohl abgedanckt
werden, weilen nicht besonders auf der Orgel versiret, ist ubrigens ein frembder, von gar keinen meritten und
Calvinischer Religion.
Ibid. 166: Wan Neffe abgedanket wurde, muste ein anderer Organist angenommen werden, welcher, wan nur in
der Kappelle gebraucht werden solte, fur 150. florin zu bekommen ware, es ist selbiger [Beethoven] klein, jung, und
ein Sohn eines Hof musici, so in notigen fallen sehr oft und an iezo balt ein Jahr dieses sehr wohl versehen hat.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 23 July 1784, Neefe to Gromann: Meinen Abschied hab ich noch nicht
gefordert. Alle meine hiesige Gonner und Freunde, zum Theil Personen vom ersten Range, drangen und dringen
noch in mich, mich nicht damit zu ubereilen. Sie ermuntern mich zur Geduld, und suchen die Hofnung in mir zu
erwecken, da, wenn der Kurfurst nur erst das Ganze seines Hofs eingerichtet, und er eine genaue Ubersicht von
Einkunften und Ausgaben habe, sich dann mein Schicksal hier gewi auf eine bessere Seite wenden werde.
Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 146.
Ibid. : Um mir das Harren leidlich zu machen, bemuht man sich, mir Klavierinstrucktionen zu verschaffen.
Neefeder gluckliche Neefe!!! wird also in der Zeit des Harrens brav schulmeisteriren und dahin in seinem 36sten.
Jahre zuruckkehren mussen, womit er in seinem 16hnten. seine musikalische Laufbahn begann.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 19 Jan. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Ich gebe taglich 6 Stunden Unterricht,
u. verwickele mich immer mehr u. mehr in Lectionen, daher kein Mensch ein Abgehen ahndet. Schiedermair, Der
junge Beethoven, 148.
Ibid. : Betthoven wird sich am meisten freuen, und doch zweifle ich sehr, da er jetzt reellen Nutzen davon
ziehen wird. Tilman Skowronek, Beethoven the Pianist (Cambridge, 2010), 41^2, discusses this remark, concluding that
it is unlikely that Beethoven was happy because Neefe was forced to give private lessons against his will.


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for a final judgement.23 If this was a bluff, it worked: his full salary as Hoforganist was
restored by decree on 8 February 1785.24
In the supplement to Neefes autobiography published in 1799, his widow recalled
that the closure of the theatre had cost him 1,000 gulden a year in reduced salary.25
She nevertheless painted an idyllic picture of these years when in his free hours her
husband tended a small garden he had purchased outside the Kollner Tor.26 His neat
and industrious horticulture drew favourable comment, and she could still recall
vividly the sweet taste of the home-grown vegetables and the first fruits of the little
trees he had planted.27 Neefe himself feared that he was turning into a bad correspond-
ent for Gromann, as he was frittering away his spare time in the garden, once all his
necessary tasks had been completed.28 In these reduced circumstances, it perhaps
occurred to him that his decision to remain in Bonn in 1779 had not worked out well.
At this critical juncture in his career, he had been offered the chance by Bondini to
join the prestigious Electoral troupe in Dresden as music director.29 His first instinct
had been to return to the Saxon lands of his birth, but he later came to admit that the
magical beauty of the Rhine area had provided some compensation, while for a
lifelong hypochondriac the proximity of water was always an advantage. Nonetheless,
he was well aware of the need to economize by reducing his outgoings and by living
more simply.30 He was not by nature an extravagant man, confiding to Gromann
that he would be content if he could increase his income to double the 400 florins he
was now earning as Hoforganist.31
With the prospect of an early reopening of the National Theatre receding, Neefe had
to make good his financial shortfall by developing a wide range of professional
activities, something musicians through the ages have had to do when faced with the
loss of an established position. He had always been an indefatigable writer, but his
productivity during 1784 and 1785 increased markedly; no fewer than thirteen articles
appeared under his name in a series started in April 1784 by the Order of Illuminati,
of which he was a member.32 He was an assiduous courtier of Maximilian Franz, and
the uncertain future facing musicians in Bonn suggested that now was the time for
some serious flattery. Accordingly, in a commentary on Avison, unsigned but very
likely his work, the Elector is credited with being a profound connoisseur. Neefe

Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 5 Feb. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Gestern abend erhielt ich Ihren Brief,
und heut morgen um 9 Uhr hab ich mein Abschieds promemoria an den Graf v. Salm gegeben, der es morgen dem
Kurf. uberreichen und mir am Montag Resolution mitteilen will. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 90.
Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 166.
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 1 (1799), 360: denn wir verloren zugleich jahrlich 1000 Gulden von unserm Gehalt,
weil das Theater, welches er auf Seine eigenen Kosten unterhalten hatte, aufhorte.
Ibid. : Zu seinem Vergnugen kaufte er sich einen kleinen Garten vor dem Thore worinne er die wenigen
Stunden welche ihm zu seiner Erholung ubrig bleiben, zutrachte.
Ibid. : Wie suss schmeckten die Selbstgezogenen Gemuse und die Ersten Fruchte der Selbstgepflantzten
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 30 Aug. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Ich bin uberhaupt ein fauler
Korrespondent worden, indem ich jezt, wie Vater Adam, mein Gemuse selbst baue, in einem Garten, den ich mir
vor dem Kollner Thor gekauft, u. der mir nach meinen gewohnlichen Berufsgeschaften, fast alle Zeit wegnimmt.
Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 91.
Woodfield, Performing Operas for Mozart, 12.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Ich lebe freilich hier zufrieden. Aber
ich mu meine bedurfnisse sehr einschranken, auerst sparsam leben, wenn ich ohne Schulden durchkommen will.
Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 91.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 31 Jan. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Hatt ich nur zu meinen 400 fl. noch
einmal 400 fl., so konnte ich hier ganz zufrieden und glucklich leben. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 91.
Maynard Solomon, Beethoven, rev. edn. (New York, 1998), 50. It was a short-lived venture, as the Order dissolved
itself in 1785.


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paints a glowing picture of music in the Residenz, pointing to a growing refinement of
taste.33 He also had commercial interests, acting as an agent on commission for
keyboard instruments made by Friederici from Gera.34 But above all else he was
determined to maintain an active engagement with the stage, however distant the pro-
spects for a restitution of his official position. For the next few years, his interest
would find expression in arranging and translating operas, and in offering advice to
his one-time theatre director.35
The initial pattern of Neefes correspondence with Gromann in 1785 suggests that
he had agreed to collaborate with Simrock in an advisory partnership. On two occa-
sions, the two men wrote separately to their former theatre director within the space
of a few days and on the same topics. Neefe usually adopted a reflective stance,
offering perceptive comments on stage works. Simrocks interests, on the other hand,
were rather more practical: as a commercial retailer, his goal was to continue to sell
scores to a good customer. An unexpected opportunity to do so arose on 16 April
1785 when Gromann lost all his musical scores in a disastrous fire in Frankfurt.36
Neefe agreed to arrange for a copy of his own opera Adelheit von Veltheim to be made
by Simrocks copyist. He was unwilling to let the original out of his hands as it was
the only correct score of what he regarded as his showpiece, but the copyist would
work at maximum speed.37 The very next day, Simrock wrote directly, quoting a
price of 10 groschen for each of the (67) Bogen that the full score would require.38
Whether he categorized an opera for sale as gro or sehr gro appears to have been
less an aesthetic judgement than a commercial calculation based on the total number
of these copying units.39 Later that year, the two men again wrote on parallel
subjects. On 26 November, Simrock told Gromann that the score of the Paris version

Beitrage zur Ausbreitung nutzlicher Kenntnisse, 20 (Aug. 1784), 161: Sich der Hang zur Musik in der Residenz unseres
erhabenen Kurfursten Maximilian Franz, der selbst ein tiefer Kenner und folglich auch ein Beforderer dieser
herrlichen Kunst ist, immer mehr und mehr ausbreitet, der Geschmack sich taglich mehr verfeinert. The digital
archives of this periodical may be viewed at: 5
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt (6 May 1788), 73^4: Es sind bei mir zwei Klavierinstrumente in
langlichtem Viereck von dem beruhmten Friederici dem jungern aus Gera angekommen, namlich 1) ein
Hammerklavier oder Fortepiano mit 12 Veranderungen und vortreflicher Mechanick, auch von schonen starken
Ton, und 2) ein gutes Klavichord. Beide hab ich in Kommission zu verkaufen. Auch nehm ich Bestellungen von
Klavierinstrumenten anderer anerkannten Meister an. Pfuscher konnen mich mit ihren Briefen und Anmaungen
ungehudelt lassen. Bonn, den 6. May 1788. Hoforganist Neefe.
Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Sie sehen hieraus, da ich mich noch
immer gerne mit dem Theater obgleich entfernt, beschaftige und ununterbrochen auf dieser Art beschaftigen werde.
Goethes mother, Frau Rath, gave a vivid account of Gromanns robust response to his personal lossthe
theatre itself survivedin a letter dated 16 May 1785. Die Briefe der Frau Rath Goethe, ed. Albert Kosler (Leipzig,
1904), i. 144.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 5 June 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Meine Partitur kann ich nicht aus den
Handen geben, da es das einzige korrekte Exemplar ist, was existiert, u. wenn dieses verloren ging, so war der
Verlust fur mich zu gro. Auch ist diese Musik immer noch mein Paradepferd, dass ich vorreite, wenn ein Fremder
oder sonst jemand sich von mir etwas vorreiten lassen will. Da Sie aber doch Adelheit auffuhren sollen, da Sie doch
eine Partitur haben mussen, so hab ich sie Ihnen durch Hrn Simrocks Notenschreiber in geschwindester
Geschwindigkeit kopieren lassen, von dem Sie auch die Rechnung erhalten werden. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 74.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 6 June 1785, Simrock to Gromann: im ganzen 67 bogen a' 10 Gr. der
bogen. Dexter Edge, Mozarts Viennese Copyists (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 2001), 119^34,
discusses the meaning of the somewhat flexible term Bogen, concluding that in a Viennese context it often signified
a single bifolium (four sides).
Simrock described Dittersdorf s Die Liebe im Narrenhause as sehr gross. He rounded down the charge for the
whole score, which comprised 154 Realbogen, to 25 reichsthaler. At 10 groschen per Bogen, the full cost would have
been 25 thaler, 40 groschen. Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 21 Nov. 1788, Simrock to Gromann. Simrock was
probably right to keep a close eye on his costs. In his letter to Neefe of 31 Dec. 1787, Gromann wrote in connection
with Le nozze di Figaro and Larbore di Diana of having established a cheaper conduit (einen wolfeilern Kanal) with
Prague than with Simrock. Sammlung Kestner, I C III 118: Hanover, 21 Dec. 1787, Gromann to Neefe.


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of Paisiellos Il duello (entitled Il duello comico) would soon be ready.40 Also available
shortly would be a new opera by Gretry prepared by Neefe, although it was not yet
possible to price it.41 A few days later, Neefe, taking a typically evaluative stance, prof-
fered his opinion that Der Duell Comique was quite entertaining with its beautiful
music by Paisiello. He was still more enthusiastic about Gretrys Nicolette et Aucassin,
which would please the public because of its action and its visual feast.42 In a postscript
to his letter, doubtless with Gromanns fire losses still in mind, Simrock offered two
more works: Paisiellos La contadina in spirito and Salieris Il ricco dun giorno. He estimated
the Paisiello opera to be by no means as large as Il barbiere di Siviglia, citing the
opinion of Neefe that it was not at all bad.43 On this occasion Neefe was more
critical. Although each came with the name of a famous composer at its head, he
found nothing out of the ordinary in the music, and with a few exceptions regarded it
as monotonous run-of-the-mill Italian work.44
Neefe continued to offer his views on works that Simrock had on sale. On 1 February
1786, he sent an interesting report on Haydns Lisola disabitata. He pointed out some
features of obvious interest to a German theatre director, such as the fact that the
opera has only six arias and a quartet, the remainder consisting of nothing but
accompanied recitative. He noted the lack of stage action (evidently an important con-
sideration for him) and wondered whether Haydns name would be sufficient to com-
pensate for the lack thereof.45 There was a further gentle reminder that the latest
Italian operas were available from Simrock.46
While no doubt very receptive to informed views about opera scores, what
Gromann most wanted to hear about was news of the Bonn stage. Neefe thus kept
his former colleague well informed about the reception accorded to the visiting
troupes. The first to be invited was the Bohmische Gesellschaft, a well-respected

Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 26 Nov. 1785, Simrock to Gromann: Der Duel Comique ist kurzlich fertig
Ibid. : H. Neefe hat schon wieder eine neue Oper von Gretry in Arbeit Aucassin und Nicolette, oder Alte Sitte,
gute Sitte in drey Aufzugen, welche auch nachstens fertig werden wird. Der Preis aber kann noch nicht bestimmt
Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Das Duell Comique ist drollicht genug
u. hat schone Musick von Paisiello. Ich habe noch eine neue brillante Oper von Gretry: Nicolette et Aucassin in drei
Acten ubersezt, die dem Publikum gefallen wird, da viel Handlung u. Augenweide darinn ist.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 26 Nov. 1785, Simrock to Gromann: P. S. Zwey Italienische Oper habe
ich erhalten, nemlich La Condatine [sic] in Spirito von Paesiello und Il Rico dun Giorno von Salieri beyde sind
gut, besonders aber ist La Condatine in Spirito nach Neefens Urtheil gar nicht ubel . . . die erstere ist nicht gar so
gro als der Barbier von Sevillien.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 3 Jan. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Sie tragen zwar die Namen beruhmter
Kompositoren an der Stirne; dennoch find ich nicht viel auerordentliches darinnen. In der 1.sten, glaub ich, war
ein Terzett und die sogennante Scene schon; ubrigens italienischer monotonischer Schlendrian. Die Handlung
davon kenne ich gar nicht. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 92.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 1 Feb. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Auch hat er eine Oper von Haiden: Isola
disabitata von Metastasio. Es sind ohngefahr nur 6. Arien, u. ein herrliches Quartett mit 5. obligaten Instrumenten
darinnen. Das Ubrige ist lauter obligates Recitativ. Viel Handlung ist nicht darinnen; vielleicht ersetzte der Name
Haiden den Mangel derselben. Neefes interest in Lisola possibly stemmed from a performance in Vienna on 19 Mar.
1785 given by the Bonn musician [ Johann] Ignaz Willmann. Dorothea Link, The National Court Theatre in Mozarts
Vienna: Sources and Documents 1783^1792 (Oxford, 1998), 102.
An extended study of Simrocks publishing practices during the 1780s and his role in promoting Singspiel versions
of Italian opere buffe would be of great interest. It is evident that he sold manuscript copies of full scores of operas,
but it is also quite likely that he did the same, for a while at least, with keyboard arrangements, postponing the risk
of a printed version until the market for one had become clear. The timing of Neefes work on any given arrangement
for Simrock does not therefore necessarily reflect the date of the published version. On the concept of the published
manuscript, see Stanley Boorman, Identifying and Studying Published Manuscripts, Fontes Artis Musicae, 58 (2011),


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company that performed in Dusseldorf and Cologne in the winter and Aachen in the
summer.47 The list of pieces in its repertory between Michaelmas 1783 and Michaelmas
1785 is impressive. It included well-established French works, opere serie by Gluck and
Salieri, and a wide range of opere buffe by Sarti and Paisiello, but it is not known
which of these works were performed during the short Bonn season in 1785.48 Neefe
later had to reassure Gromann that reports of the demise of the Bohmische Gesell-
schaftthe party had apparently been sunk by an ice-flow in the Rhinewere not
true. Thanks be to Apollo, protector of the Muses, the entire company was unharmed.49
In the autumn of 1785, Bonn was rife with gossip about plans for the 1786 season.
Writing to Gromann on 30 November 1785, Neefe let slip a remarkable piece of
news that was perhaps just wishful thinking: Of German theatre we have as yet no
hope. It is said that the Elector may have engaged an Italian Singspiel [troupe] at
Vienna for us.50 Maximilian Franz had embarked upon a journey to Vienna on 28
September, where he was met by his brother Joseph II, who rode out to greet him at
St. Polten in Lower Austria.51 The Elector remained in Vienna for most of the month
of October and took his chance to see some opera. The cheer that greeted his appear-
ance in the National Theatre was reported with pride in the Bonn press.52 Where this
gossip about the possible recruitment of a Viennese troupe originated is unclear. It
seems highly unlikely that Maximilian Franz could seriously have expected his
brother to agree to release his hand-picked Italian singers for a short season in Bonn,
even though Vienna would not have been entirely bereft of theatrical music, as
Joseph II had just ordered the re-formation of his German Singspiel troupe.53

Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 202: Fur nachsten Karnival ist nachher die Bohmische Gesellschaft
angenommen worden. The locations of the companys seasons are reported in the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1786,
161. They are confirmed the following year in the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1787, 181.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1786, 164: Singspiele: Nebst denen alten bekannten Franzosischen: Zemire Azor.
Sylvain. Lucile. Der Prachtige. Der Hausfreund etc etc. Folgende Opern Serien: Gunther von Schwarzenburg, von
Holzbauer. Alceste, Orpheo und Euridice, von Gluck. Armida, von Salieri. Aus dem Italianischen Ubersetzte:
Unter 2 Streitenden freut sich der dritte. Das Incognito, von Sarti. Das Madchen, von Freskati. Die 2 Grafinnen, die
Philosophen, der Barbier von Sevilien, Konig Theodor in Venedig, von Paisiello. Der Kaminfeger. Unschuld und
Liebe, die Messe zu Venedig, von Salieri etc etc.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 1 Feb. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: An der Geschichte von dem Untergange
der bohmischen Gesellschaft in den Rheineisschollen ist nichts vor allem wahr. Dank sei Apollo dem beschutzer der
Musen! Noch lebt u.webt die ganze Truppe unversehrt.
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Zum deutschen Schauspiel haben wir
noch keine Hofnung. Man sagt: der Kurf. habe ein italianisches Singspiel zu Wien, fur uns engagirt.
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 4 Oct. 1785, p. 154: Am 28ten Se. Kurfurst. Durchlaucht mit einem
nicht zahlreichen Gefolge auf Wien abgereist. Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 18 Oct. 1785, p. 167: Am
5. October sind Se. Kurfurstl. Durchl. zu Koln, unser allgemein verehrter und geliebter Landesvater, zu Wien um
die Mittagszeit glucklich angekommen. Se. Majestat der Kaiser reisten Ihrem Koniglichen Bruder bis St. Polten
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 25 Oct. 1785, p. 171: Als Se. Kurfurstl. Durchlaucht zu Koln, unser
gnadigster Herr, zu Wien im Nationaltheater erschien, wurde er mit lauten Jubel bewillkommt. This occasion was
probably the premiere of Salieris La grotta di Trofonio, the performance of which coincided with the name-day of Max-
imilian Franz on 12 Oct. Michael Kelly, Reminiscences (London, 1826 ), i. 231, recalled that the Elector had been
present along with the Duke of York at the premiere of Storaces Gli sposi malcontenti on 1 June 1785: His Royal
Highnesss first visit to the theatre attracted a crowded and brilliant assemblage. The Emperor, accompanied by his
brother Maximilian, the Archbishop of Cologne, was present. A new opera, composed by Stephen Storace, was
produced on the occasion. It is possible that, writing many years after the events he described, Kelly muddled his
dates and conflated different performances. Shortly before this passage, he had stated that the Duke of York was in
Vienna in 1784. The Electors visit, on the other hand, could have been to the premiere of Salieris work on 12 Oct.
1785. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the first performance of La grotta di Trofonio had been planned for
earlier in the summer, but had been postponed owing to the indisposition of Nancy Storace.
Link, The National Court Theatre in Mozarts Vienna, 2 and 70.


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Having failed (if indeed he ever tried) to reach agreement on a Vienna solution to
his problem, Maximilian Franz was presented with an unexpected opportunity during
his return journey. A French troupe had become available in Cassel, following the
death on 31 October 1785 of Friederich II, Elector of Hesse. His successor, Wilhelm
IX, had no interest in maintaining these players, who were therefore available at
short notice.54 It was a popular solution, as French opera had long been admired in
Bonn. In his letter of 30 November 1785, Neefe mentioned gossip that this troupe
might be engaged.55 The Franzosischen Hoftheater duly travelled to Bonn for the
new season, which began in January and lasted for two months, and during which
twenty-four performances were given.56 The programme featured a wide range of
operas comiques sung in the original French, including no fewer than eight works by
Gretry and several each by Deze'de, Philidor, and Monsigny. Italian opera could not
be ignored completely, and was represented in the opening and closing works of the
The French troupe from Cassel made a significant impression on Bonns musical life,
and the day after their first performance, Neefe sent a brief account to Gromann.
The theatre had been full because it was a free performance.58 Neefe was not unduly
impressed, except perhaps with their salaries. Writing again halfway through their
visit on 1 February 1786, he noted that reactions had been mixed: sometimes the
troupe pleased, at other times not; some praised their efforts, others censured them.
Their singing in general was not good for much. Marie Rousselois, the highest-paid
member of the company, had a good theatre voice, but Neefe was of the opinion that
she did not know how to use or moderate it. Her singing was as uncultivated as her ap-
pearance and she had no technique at all.59 The leading comic Sercourt also won
praise.60 It was important for a visiting theatrical troupe to establish a good relation-
ship with the cappella, since local musicians would almost certainly be required to
provide an orchestra. Neefe noted that the theatre company was on friendly terms
with the resident musicians. It had been agreed that members of each group could
attend the others performances without charge. Rousselois had already been invited
to sing in a concert, as well as one other whose name Neefe did not know. Maximilian

Jean-Jacques Olivier, Les Come diens franc ais dans les cours dAllemagne au XVIIIe Sie' cle, Series 4 : La Cour du Landgrave
Fre de ric II de Hesse-Cassel (Paris, 1905) gives a full list of their repertory for the seasons 1783 to 1785 and brief
biographies of the singers.
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Wiederum sagt man: die Casselischen
Franzosen fiengen mit dem neuen Jahre hier an zu spielen. A few days earlier, Simrock had also surmised that the
Cassler franzosische Schauspieler were to be engaged for January, but in the very next sentence, vividly
demonstrating the existence of rumour and counter-rumour, he contradicts this by saying that he had been told that
this was a lie. Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 26 Nov. 1785, Simrock to Gromann: aber heute habe ich ganz
gewi gehort, da es eine Luge seyn soll.
The advertisements in the Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 3 and 10 Jan. 1786, pp. 2 and 7, listed
only the titles of the works to be given, not their composers.
La Colonie (2 Jan. 1786 ) was a parody of Sacchinis Lisola damore, which incorporated arias from various of his
operas. LInfante de Zamore (27 Feb. 1786 ) was a parody of Paisiellos La frascatana.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 3 Jan. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Gestern haben die franzosen hier ihre
Vorstellungen angefangen mit On fait ce quon peutund La Colonie. Es war gratis, weil der Herzog v. Sachsen
Teschen mit seiner Gemalinn hier war, die Heut abgerisset sind. Ich habe gestern nichts von den franzosen gesehen,
weil ich es zu voll im Theater vermuthete. Die Herren lassen sich beer bezalen, als wir blode Teutsche.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn,1 Feb. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Unsern franzosischen Schauspielern gehts
wie aller andern, bald gefallen sie, bald nicht; diese loben, jene tadeln sie. Ihr Gesang taugt wenig. Rousselois hat
eine gute Theaterstimme, wei sie aber nicht zu gebrauchen, nicht zu maigen; sie singt so wild, als sie aussieht, u.
Methode hat sie gar nicht. In the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 262, Rousselois was reported to perform alle erste
Rollen in der Oper und Operette auch einige Liebhaberinnen im Schauspiel.
Ibid. 262: H. Sercourt, erste Bediente und andre komische Rollen.


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Franz, he reported, never attended the theatre company but nearly always came to the
concerts.61 Neefe himself had attended only two performances, and it is clear from this
that he had not been hired as the Cassel ensembles musical director or its keyboard
The season staged by the French troupe significantly invigorated Bonns already
well-entrenched taste for opera comique. In due course, members of the public were
invited to subscribe to a new series featuring a selection of keyboard arrangements of
the newest Parisian works. For lovers of Deze'de, Gretry, Philidor, Dalayrac, Gluck,
Piccinni, and other great composers, it would make an agreeable purchase.62 Maximil-
ian Franz himself was an avid collector of scores and indeed reports of his public
persona as a man of the arts usually stressed this aspect of his musical interest. He
was widely known to possess an extensive collection of the newest and best operas, the
manuscripts of which he read fluently and to which he repeatedly added.63 His private
collection certainly reflected Bonns taste for French opera. A catalogue in the
Biblioteca Estense in Modena, apparently in use in 1787 and 1788, has two added
sheets with references to Bonn musicians such as Lucchesi, Ries, and Beethoven.64
It is not altogether clear what this impressive listing represents. The new Elector
may well have brought some scores with him when he came to Bonn in 1784, and
he purchased a large collection from the bankrupt Klos Company in 1788.
Whatever the origins of this catalogue, opera buffa is by no means the dominant theatri-
cal genre in it. The list includes forty-four Italian operas, twenty-eight French operas,
and thirty works with German text (including arrangements of opere buffe and operas
After the French troupe had left Bonn, Neefes thoughts began to turn to the future.
He had always been a strong supporter of Gromann and now began to wonder
whether he might be able to lobby for the return of his ex-colleague. It is a pity that
Gromanns letters to him from around this time have not survived, but on 26 May

Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 1 Feb. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Die Kapelle lebt mit dem Schauspielern
auf einen galanten Fu. Sie haben freien Eintritt in unser Konzert, u. wir in ihre Komodien. Rousselois hat schon in
unserm Konzert gesungen; Heute singt einer dessen Namen ich nicht wei. Der Kurfurst kommt nie in das
Schauspiel, wohl aber jedesmal ins Konzert.
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt (30 Jan. 1787),19: Nachricht an die Liebhaber der Musik . . . hat sich
auf unser Ansuchen entschlossen, das Publicum mit den neuesten, in Paris aufgefuhrten Singspielen bekannt zu
machen . . . den Freunden u. Verehren eines Dezede, Gretry, Philidor, Dalayrac, Gluck, Piccini, und andrer grossen
Tonkunstler hingegen wird es gewi ein sehr angenehmes Geschenke seyn.
Juliane Riepe, Eine neue Quelle zum Repertoire der Bonner Hofkapelle im spaten 18. Jahrhundert, Archiv fur
Musikwissenschaft, 60 (2003), 97^114, traces the history of Maximilian Franzs collection, part of which ended up in
the Biblioteca Estense.
Ibid. 103. The single reference to Beethoven does not specify a first name: Quintetti di Giordani und Preludien
von Schmugel hat H. Bethoven die ubrigen Sachen H. Lucesi.
Ibid. 112. The catalogue (Sig. Cat. 53. I-II) lists around 3,400 volumes. Neefe evidently shared Bonns predilection
for ope ra comique, even though one of his own works had suffered because of the vogue for Gretry. His Zemire und Azor
had been performed in Leipzig in 1776 but had then been quickly discarded, owing, it was assumed, to the phenom-
enal success of Gretrys opera of the same name. As a gesture to his former colleague, Gromann offered to put
together a new Singspiel to make use of his friends forgotten music. The work was entitled Was vermag ein Madchen
nicht, and its preface alludes to the reason for the neglect of the original work: the French pursuit of fashion
(Modesucht) and German indifference (Kaltsinn) which had conspired to keep Neefes Zemire below Gretrys in
public favour. Ruppel, Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Gromann, 372; Thomas Bauman, North German Opera in the Age of Goethe
(Cambridge, 1985), 357. In the next few years, Neefe asked Gromann several times about the progress of his
Madchen. Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 23 Oct. 1786, 13 July 1787, 13 Nov. 1787, 7 June 1789, and 13 Sept.
1790. Of the thirteen operatic arrangements he made during his career eight were of French works by Philidor,
Gretry, Deze'de, Dalayrac, and Champein. For a full list, see Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 116.


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1786 Neefe mulled over the possibilities. He told Gromann that all was not yet lost,
since the Elector was unlikely to get involved in theatrical matters before the winter.
In the meantime, he might consider returning to Cologne, Dusseldorf, or Aachen,
where Neefe would be pleased to see him, hoping that he would enjoy more success
than previouslya rather telling observation.66 But there was a problem. Neefe
confided that the Elector still appeared to regard the theatre as a matter of peripheral
concern, busying himself with affairs of state.67 This was hardly encouraging news for
Gromann, but it was very much in line with Neefes earlier observation that Maximil-
ian Franz had failed to patronize the French troupe. For all his love of music, the
Elector had yet to be convinced of the need for a National Theatre.
Gromann was undeterred by these inauspicious omens and decided to relocate from
Frankfurt back to the Rhine area, where he was rewarded with the contract for the
next Carnival season in Bonn, announced on 22 August.68 In making this move, he
reconstituted his troupe, joining forces with Christian Wilhelm Klos. The new
ensemble opened on 5 October 1786, and the Theater-Kalender for 1787 announced that
it had played in Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Bonn.69 Almost immediately, however, a
bitter quarrel erupted between the two managers, which soon led to legal action.
Nothing is known of the repertory which Gromanns section of the fractured
company performed during his Bonn season other than the work advertised on a
single poster, which survived because it was cited as evidence in the Klos^Gromann
suit. It is headed: Mit Gnadigster Erlaubnis / Sr. Kurfurstlichen Durchlaucht / wird
heute Samstag den 27ten Janner 1787/ auf dem hiesigen Hoftheater zu Bonn / Von der
Gromannischen Schauspieler Gesellschaft / Vorgestellet werden: / Die Schule der
Eifersucht [La scuola degelosi].70 This work and Salieris La fiera di Venezia, which may
not have been performed, had been the subject of an exchange of letters between
Gromann and Neefe in the spring of 1786.71 The season ended on 20 February,
Shrove Tuesday, after which Gromann travelled to Aachen.72
Shortly after Gromanns company left Bonn, Neefes standing with Maximilian
Franz improved when he was appointed as the Electors instructor in musical
harmony.73 One good turn deserves another, and the award of this honour prompted

Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 26 May 1786, Neefe to Gromann: In Ansehung Bonns ist noch nichts
versaumt denn vor dem Winter wird der Kurf sich, schwerlich, oder gar nicht mit einem Schauspiel einlassen.
Einstweilen konnen Sie sich ja den Weg nach Kolln, Dusseldorf, Aachen, oder wie Ihr Plan ist, bahnen. Es wird
mich freuen, wenn ich Sie wieder in den hiesigen Gegenden, aber mit mehreren Gluck sehe als ehemals.
Ibid. : Unser Kurf: sieht das Schauspiel als eine entbehrliche Nebensache an; Er ist ganz an seine Regierungs-
geschafte attachirt u. besucht selbst das Schauspiel nicht.
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt (22 Aug. 1786 ), 144: Der beruhmte Schauspieldirector, Herr
Gromann, befindet sich gegenwartig zu Koln; und seine Gesellschaft wird, wie wir vernehmen, den Herbst zu
Koln, und kunftigen Winter abwechselnd zu Bonn und zu Koln spielen.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1787, 186: Anmerkung. Herr Gromann hat sich von der Theaterunternehmung zu
Maynz und Frankfurt getrennt, und setzt vereinigt mit den zu Hamburg gewesenen Schauspieldirektor Klos, seine
Gesellschaft fort, welche jetzt abwechselnd zu Coln, Dusseldorf und Bonn ihre Vorstellungen giebt. Direktor: Herr
Gromann, Herr Klos.
Gromann argued his case in An da Gerechtigkeitsliebende Publikum von G. F. W. Gromann, Ephemeriden der
Litteratur und des Theaters (1787), 193^200.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 12 Apr. 1786, Neefe to Gromann.
Friderike Unzelmann in Mainz addressed letters to Gromann in Bonn (15 Feb.) and Aachen (20 Mar.).
Sammlung Kestner, I C III 663.
Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, BH 197: Bonn, 11 Mar. 1787, Neefe to Gromann: Kurzlich hat mir der Kurf. die Gnade
erzeigt, mich zu seinem Lehrmeister in der musical. Harmonie zu erwalen.


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Neefe to engage in some rather fulsome flattery in a communication he sent to the
Magazin der Musik dated 8 April, in which he warmly commended his patron (and
now pupil) for his gracious support for music in the city, singling out for special
mention (as usual) his large collection of beautiful scores.74 The new position, seem-
ingly an honorary one, would have given him increased access to the Elector and
doubtless the chance to offer his views on the restitution of the National Theatre.
It was at this juncture, with pressure evidently mounting on the Elector to agree to
something more than an annual Carnival season, that Christoph Brandt, a
long-standing member of the Bonn Hofkapelle, attempted a new theatrical initiative.
He staged two public rehearsals, apparently in a direct attempt to encourage Maximil-
ian Franz to give the go-ahead for the long-awaited reopening of the National
Theatre. Brandt could hardly have undertaken such a move without at least the tacit
approval of the Elector, who perhaps saw this as a way of testing the level of interest
without as yet having to make a financial commitment. From the point of view of
Brandt and his colleagues, this was their chance to remind Maximilian Franz that
local talent was still available. Whether Neefe had a role in the abortive venture is un-
certain. Friderike Unzelmann in Mainz, writing to Gromann on 16 June, associated
his name with it: It is said that Brandt and Neefe wanted to begin a [new] venture
for which they had engaged Wiedemann. I almost believe it, for this much is cer-
tain, that Wiedemann leaves.75 An actor named Wiedemann had made an excellent
impression in Bonn during the final days of Karoline Gromanns management.
She informed her husband on 18 November 1783 that the young man had greatly
pleased and would in a years time be one of our best actors.76 As a musician and a
member of the Bonn Hofkapelle, Brandt would not himself have acted as a theatrical
regisseur unaided, and this perhaps explains the recruitment (or attempted recruitment)
of an actor already well liked in the city. Although Unzlemann had evidently heard
gossip to the effect that Neefe was one of the two initiators of the new venture, he
himself appeared anxious to distance himself from what he depicted in his letter of 16
June as an unqualified failure. Characterizing the venture nevertheless as a National
Theatre, he observed that it had been virtually stillborn. His wife had had the
chance to appear in the two rehearsal performances, but he had held back himself,
even though there was good reason to take part, as he could forsee its early demise. It
seems very likely that he had been put on the spot. As Gromanns previous music
director, he wished neither to miss out on a trial that could lead to the full-scale re-
sumption of opera, nor to associate himself too closely with a failure. There had been
two performances: one of a German version of Monsignys Le Deserteur (Der Deserteur)
to a full house; the other (a double bill of comedy) to an empty one. Brandt had
begun the venture with courage, which he had now completely lost, and Neefe had to
report that his wife and children were intending to depart for the Frankfurt and
Mainz theatres.77 It was apparent that he had made the right call, but he was worried

Magazin der Musik (1787), 1385: Unsre Residenzstadt wird jetzt immer anziehender fur Musikliebhaber durch
den gnadigsten Vorschub unsers theuersten Churfurstens. Er hat eine groe Sammlung von den schonsten
Musikalien, und verwendet taglich noch viel auf Bemehrung derselben.
Sammlung Kestner, I C III 663: Mainz, 16 June 1787, Friderike Unzelmann to Gromann: Man sagt Brand[t]
und Neefe wollten einer Direktion angefangen wozu sie Wiedemann engashiert hattenich glaube es bald den so
viel ist gewi das der Wiedemann weg ge[h]te.
Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Ludwig van Beethovens Leben, trans. Hermann Dieters (Berlin, 1866^1908), 90 : Gieb
acht, in einem Jahr wird Widemann einer unserer besten Schauspieler.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 13 July 1787, Neefe to Gromann: Wir hatten vor einiger Zeit ein
Nationaltheater unter der Direktion des Herrn Brand[t]s hier. Das Kind war aber kaum gebohren, so starb es


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that Brandts short-lived initiative might actually have done some harm to the prospects
for a reopening of the National Theatre.
Simrocks account of the rehearsal of Der Deserteur came in his letter of 14 May
1787, evidently written very close in time to the event itself (see Pl. 1). It is addressed:
A Monsieur / Monsieur Grosman / directeur de la Comedie / A Hanover. He
confirms that the possibility of a resumption of opera was the main reason why these
pieces were being given in rehearsal.78 At the time of writing, however, no decision
had been taken, and it thus remained very uncertain whether the Elector would give
the go-ahead for a full-scale season during the coming winter.79 The singers involved
in this speculative venture were members of the original Gromann Company who
had remained in Bonn after 1784.80 After three seasons of opera provided by visiting
troupes, this was finally their chance to impress the Elector and in due course resurrect
their careers. The choice of Der Deserteur as a showcase for their talents is easy to under-
stand; it had long since become a popular favourite in Bonn. Unless Gromann had
included the work in Carnival 1787, its most recent performance (albeit in the original
French) would have been during the visit of the Cassel troupe on 23 January 1786.
Simrock briefly evaluated the performance of the cast members, diplomatically
omitting from his ranking Neefes wife, as she was a close friend of Gromann:
The Deserter has already been given here in the next National Theatre as a rehearsal with
much applause. Brandt as [the] Deserter played excellently. Madame Bekenkam as Louise
sang well; you know what is usually expected of her, but I must admit that she played better
than ever. Bithoven [sic] as Johann Ludwig rather good. Steinmuller as Bertram fair.
Hammels as Himmelsturm average. Bekenkam as the Jailer pretty good and Rmer the
[part of] Couchemin also rather good.

Schon ist hier Der Deserteur als Probe zum kunftigen National Theater mit vielen Beifal
gegeben worden. Brandt als Deserteur spielte vortreflich. Mde Bekenkam als Louise sang gut,
ubrigens wissen Sie was von Ihr zu erwarten ist, jedoch mu ich gestehen, da sie beer als
jemals gespielt hat. Bithoven als Johann Ludwig zimlich gut. Steinmuller als Bertram recht
gut. Hammels als Him[m]elsturm so so, Bekenkam den Kerkermeister zimlich und Rmer
den Couchemin auch zimlich.

The would-be impresario Brandt had enjoyed favourable reviews during the later
years of the Gromann troupes residency in Bonn. Neefe described him as a good

wieder. Meine Frau betrat zwar wieder das Theater in zwei Probevorstellungen, wobei es denn auch geblieben ist; ich
aber zog mich zuruck; soviel und so wichtige Veranlassungen ich auch hatte, beizutreten. Man konnte gar leicht
voraussehen, da das Ding, so wie es angefangen ward, von keiner Dauer sein konnte. Jetzt ist es sehr im Dunkeln,
ob und was fur ein Schauspiel wir kunftig hier bekommen werden. Die zwei Vorstellungen waren Der Deserteur,
Operette, wo das Haus voll, und Das zartliche Duell, ein gesudeltes [? gehudeltes] Lustspiel, nebst dem Walder, wo
das Haus leer war. Brand[t] selbst, der im Anfang viel Mut hatte, hat ihn nun ganz verloren, und seine Frau will
mit ihren Kindern zum Mainzer und Frankfurter Theater. Sie hat deswegen an Madam Unzelmann geschrieben.
Die Antwort ist mir unbekannt. Leux, Christian Gottlob Neefe, 93.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 14 May 1787, Simrock to Gromann: So viel ist gewi, das Sr Durchlaucht
es gerne sehen wurde, wenn etwas gutes zustandt kame auf kunftiger Winter, weswegen eigentlich diese beyde
[beyde crossed out and 3 added above] Stucke zum Probe gegeben werden. Simrocks uncertainty over the
number of performances was probably because of the double bill on the second night; there were two performances
but three pieces.
Ibid. : [Do]ch ist keine Directtion festgesezt, auch wird es in diesen Tagen erst entschieden werden, ob Sr
Durchl. mit den Proben zufrieden waren, und ob es in kunftigen Winter vorangehen soll.
The Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 210, included in its list of singers who left the company in 1784 (i.e. who
remained in Bonn) several of the performers reviewed by Simrock: Abgegangen . . . H. u. Mad. Brandt . . . H. u.
Mad. Neefe . . . H. u. Mad. Beckenkam.


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PL. 1. A letter from Nikolaus Simrock (Bonn) to Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Gromann
(Hanover) dated 14 May 1787. Leipzig Universitatsbibliothek, Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385

solo violinist and also first tenor in the current German opera [company].81 The report
prepared for the Elector in 1784 praised his violin playing as a soloist and noted that

Magazin der Musik (1783), 384: Herr Brandt: ein guter Sologeiger, auch erster Tenorist bey der hiesigen deutschen


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he had been given permission to travel.82 An anonymous critic noted: Herr Brandt
plays principal lovers in Singspiele and supporting roles in comedies . . . he has a
fairly good voice, and sings very well and pleasantly.83 He was also a popular figure
with the public.84 His wife, sister of the recently deceased Karoline Gromann, was
listed as a member of the troupe in 1784, but ill health was starting to limit what
she could do. On 30 November 1785, Neefe described her condition [dropsy] graphic-
ally, noting how concerned people were: She is swollen from head to toe.85 Fortunate-
ly, by the start of the New Year she had recovered.86
Brandt was partnered by Veronika Bekenkam playing Louise in a manner that
impressed Simrock. She had joined the Gromann troupe in 1782 and usually took
the roles of lovers in Singspiele.87 In his letter of 30 November 1785, Neefe wrote at
length (and rather obscurely) about the financial trouble she was in, which was appar-
ently related to false news about her circulated by a Jew. Neefe noted that her salary
had been a modest 200 florins and wondered how she could live on it let alone repay
her debt.88 He also forwarded her request for a score of the large aria from LAmant
jaloux (by Gretry), in return for a duet she had sent Gromann.89 Bekenkams
husband was similarly a member of the company, playing minor roles.90 One of
Gromanns correspondents, the actor Friedrich Wilhelm Dengel, described him as im-
pertinent and a blockhead after he turned down a role as a corporal, claiming he
could not play it.91 Of the remaining figures, Franz Steinmuller was born in Bonn and

Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 58: Christoph Brandt ist ein sehr guter Violonist, auch fur Solo, von guter
Auffuhrung, und geheirathet mit einer Comoediantinn. Von Sr. Kurfurst Gnad hatte er die Erlaubni auch die
Comoedien mitzuspielen, auch in dieser qualitat auer Land mit zu reyen.
Litteratur- und Theater-Zeitung, 6 (21 June 1783), 365: Hr. Brandt spielt erste Liebhaber im Singspiel, und
Nebenrollen im Lustspiel . . . Er hat eine recht artige Stimme, und singt sehr gut und angenehm.
Herr Brand[t], ein braver Sanger und Schauspieler, der auch in Bonn sehr beliebt und zu Hause war.
Lebenserinnerungen der Karoline Schulze-Kummerfeld, ed. Emil Beneze (Berlin, 1915), i. 127. Cited in Dokumente zur Bonner
Theatergeschichte, 223.
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Madam Brand[t] liegt sehr krank, an
dem Wasser [Wassersucht] . . . man furchtet fur sie . . . Sie war . . . Kopf bis zum Fu dick aufgeschwollen.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 3 Jan. 1786, Neefe to Gromann: Die Brand[t] ist wieder gesund auch
meine Frau.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1783, 257^60: Mad. Bekenkam, Liebhaberinnen im Singspiel. In the Theater-Kalender
auf das Jahr 1786, 135, her entry reads: Bekenkam Veronica, geb. zu Coblenz 1754. deb. 1782.
Bonn, Beethoven-Haus BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Die Nachricht von der Bekenkamischen
Schuld war judisch, ohne Grund, wovon Assessor Kum[m]er nichts wute . . . sie hat immer noch nicht mehr als
200 Fl. Gehalt, wovon ich nicht einsehe wie sie leben [kann crossed out] noch weniger wie sie schulden abtragen
kann. The assessor Kummer was a court official, the recipient of a note in 1784 about salaries, which was counter-
signed Jean van Beethoven. Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, NE 224: Bonn, 20 Jan. 1784, Neefe to Herr Assessor Kum[m]er.
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, BH 196: Bonn, 30 Nov. 1785, Neefe to Gromann: Das Duett fur Ihre Gattin mussen sie
schon durch Manzel erhalten haben. Ich bekams von Madame Bekenkam, welche sich dafur die grosse Arie aus
lamant jaloux in Partitur aufbittet. Gretrys LAmant jaloux was performed by the French company from Kassel a
little over a month later on 4 Jan. 1786. Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 3 Jan. 1786, p. 2.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1783, 258: H. Bekenkam: Nebenrollen. He was also a scene painter and advertised
his services as an artist. Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 23 Nov. 1786, p. 193. According to Gottfried
Fischer, Bekenkam made a small fortune as an art dealer, after he purchased an old and valuable painting in the
country and sold it on in Vienna. On the proceeds, the Bekenkam couple made enough to secure a lifelong independ-
ence. Des Bonner Backermeisters Gottfried Fischer Aufzeichnungen uber Beethovens Jugend, ed. Joseph Schmidt-Gorg
(Munich, 1971), 72. His work in Cologne as a scene painter was praised by connoisseurs. Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr
1787, 188.
Dokumente zur Bonner Theatergeschichte, 117. Sammlung Kestner, I C III A-D: Bonn, 6 Feb. 1784, Dengel to
Gromann: Hr Bekenkam fangt an impertinent zu werden; er hatte die Rolle des Korporals im Schlenzheim
[General Schlenzheim, by Christian Heinrich Spiess] bekommen, und gestern bringt er sie zuruck, und sagt; da er sie
nicht spielen konnte. Je nun, Schafskopf ist er genug, und Boeit ists auch.


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made his debut in 1778, while Rmer was listed as a souffleur, or prompter, in 1789.92
Hammels is unknown but was possibly related to Margarete Hammel, a young singer
in the Mainz Company who married the Dutch violinist Schick.93
The one member of the cast who does not otherwise appear in lists of opera per-
formers in the 1780s was Johann van Beethoven, of whom history has had little good
to say. His descent into alcoholism badly affected the teenage years of his famous son,
although it is no longer believed that he reduced his family to abject poverty through
his drinking.94 As a professional singer, he suffered the ignominy of having his vocal
equipment called into question in the well-known 1784 review of Bonn musicians in
which he was described as having a very stale voice, an anonymous condemnation
from which his reputation has never quite recovered.95 A credible picture of his person-
ality was bequeathed to posterity by the familys landlord Gottfried Fischer, but his in-
formation is largely restricted to their home life. Thus we learn that Johann recom-
mended a fresh raw egg or a couple of plums as good for the singing voice, but never
mentioned what he sang.96 Very little indeed is known about his career as an opera
singer, except that he is recorded in two works by Gretry: Silvain and LAmitie a'
lepreuve, in the latter singing Nelson, according to a libretto dated 1771.97 Whether he
was still taking the occasional role in the Electors opera during Gromanns tenure
between 1778 and 1784 is not clear, but he cannot have been a regular member, as he
was not listed among those who left the troupe (i.e. who remained in Bonn) in 1784.
On the other hand, there is an abundance of evidence that Johann was at home in
Bonns theatrical circles. According to Fischer, Gromann and his wife Karoline were
early and intimate friends.98 His list of frequent visitors to the Beethoven family
included members of the 1787 cast of Der Deserteur such as Brandt and the Bekenkam
couple.99 Johann van Beethovens presence on stage as late as May 1787 may be
somewhat unexpected, but he would have been within a very familiar circle of ac-
quaintances. Simrocks evaluation of his performance is fascinating. The qualification
zimlich written in the margin of the letter as an afterthought can have a negative con-
notation: only quite or rather good. Yet a more positive slant is also possible, as in
the English actually rather good or really rather good, hinting at a degree of

Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1786, 152: Franz Steinmuller, geb. zu Bonn 1761. deb. 1778. Theater-Kalender auf das
Jahr 1789, 120: Souffleur: Hr. Romer. It is not known whether the singer was related to the notary Johann
Steinmuller who attested Johann Beethovens extraordinary attempt at fraud in 1785. See Bonn, Beethoven-Haus,
BH 145: Johann van Beethoven. Eingabe an Kurfurst Maximilian Franz, Bonn, 1785.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1790, 93.
Maynard Solomon, Economic Circumstances of the Beethoven Household in Bonn, Journal of the American
Musicological Society, 50 (1997), 138^52.
Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 57: Johann Betthoven: hat eine ganz abstandige Stimm. It is worth noting,
however, that his fellow tenors fared little better: Ferdinand Heller . . . die Stimm sehr abnehmend; Christian
Delomber . . . eine schlechte Stimm.
Des Bonner Backermeisters, 37: Herr Johann v: Beethoven . . . wenn er auf den Hof Tucksaal sinngen mut, nahm
er Morgens ein frisch rohes Ey und schluckt es aus, oder zwey Flaumen, gab die zu Raht, das war gut zum
sinngen. For an evaluation of Fischer as a source, see Maynard Solomons review, Notes, ser. 2, 30 (1973), 269^72.
David Charlton, Gre try and the Growth of Ope ra-comique (Cambridge, 1986 ), 3 and 84. The French language libretto
is dated 1771 but gives no place of publication. The cast list implies a Bonn performance: Nelson: Mons. Jean van Beet-
hoven; Juliette: Mlle Anne Marie Ries; Corali: Anne Marie Salomon. The last-named sang in the Hofkapelle
until 1774. Des Bonner Backermeisters, 82.
Ibid. 75: Herr Deader Derektor Gustawe Friederig Wilhelm Grosmann, seine Frau Karolina Sophia Augusta
Grosmann, gebohrne Harrtmann, waren bey Johann v: Beethoven die erste und inntime Freunden.
Des Bonner Backermeisters, 75: Hier besagte Freunden, die ihre zeit bey Hr: Joh: v: Beethoven und sein Sohn
Lutwig v: Beethoven oft Besuch geschenk. Beethovens mother became godmother to the Bekenkams son Wilhelm
Ferdinand on 24 Oct. 1786. Ibid. 85.


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TABLE 2. The Bonn casting of Der Deserteur

Character Description Singer

Alexis, ein Soldat a soldier Christoph Brandt

Louise, Geliebte des Alexis his betrothed Veronika Bekenkam
Johann Ludwig, Vater der Louise her father Johann van Beethoven
Margareta, Muhme des Alexis his aunt Suzanne Neefe
Bertram, Vetter des Alexis his cousin Franz Steinmuller
Hannchen, ein junger Baurenmadgen a young peasant girl ?
Himmelsturm, ein Dragoner a dragoon Ham[m]els
Courchemin, Brigadier von der a brigadier Roemer
Der Kerkermeister jailer Bekenkam

surprise. If the implied thought really was that he sang better than might have been
expected, the reason is not hard to imagine.
Monsignys Le Deserteur, one of the great operatic hits of the last quarter of the eight-
eenth century, was very popular in Bonn. Famously, its overture was being sounded
on the mechanical clock in the tower of the Electoral palace as it came crashing down
in the fire of 1777. As an opera comique with spoken dialogue, Le Deserteur made the tran-
sition to the cultural world of the Singspiel with ease. At least three German translations
were produced. The character names recorded by Simrock suggest that the version
published by C. F. Schwan in Mannheim in 1770 was used in Bonn.100 These are
given in Table 2. Brandt and Bekenkam as the betrothed couple played to their
acknowledged strengths, while the spoken role of the jailer was doubtless well suited
to the latters husband. Beethoven was cast as the father of Louise, a character who
bore the familial names of his own clan, Johann and Ludwig. While the role is signifi-
cant in the dramait is the father who arranges the deceptionmusically it is not an
elaborate part, and the character has no solo aria. In view of his personal demons, the
possibility that Johann might have been considered for the role of the drunkard
Montauciel is an intriguing one. In Act II, the wine-loving dragoon sings in praise of
his preferred tipple, and a stage instruction in the Mannheim libretto (p. 65) indicates
that he should act in a slightly drunken manner: Himmelsturm [Montauciel] ist ein
wenig betrunken. He later participates in a very original duet, fashioned out of a pair
of preceding arias, again singing in praise of wine: Away with sorrow, for here is
wine! (Fort mit dem Gram, den hier ist Wein!) A man known to enjoy his drink
might play a stage drunkard to general amusement, but a serious alcoholic would be
no joke. In any event, as an older man, his natural casting was as the father. The fact
that Johann van Beethoven was able to appear onstage in a public rehearsal that had
quite a lot riding on it, and that he did so with some success, adds weight to the view
advocated by Schiedermair that the period of his serious decline dates from 1787, the
year of his wifes death.101

Der / Deserteur / eine Operette / in drey Aufzugen. / aus dem Franzosischen des Hrn. Sedaine. / Mannheim, /
bey C. F. Schwan, Churfurst. Hof- / buchhandler 1771.
Solomon, Economic Circumstances, 332.


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In choosing Monsignys celebrated opera for his abortive 1787 venture, Brandt was
counting on the works established popularity in Bonn. According to Wegeler, the Beet-
hoven family connection with the opera extended back as far as the grandfather who
received much praise for his performances in Gassmanns Lamore artigiano and
Monsignys Der Deserteur.102 The young Beethovens first encounter with the opera
probably came at the age of 9, during the months he received tuition from the singer
Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer. According to Fischer, Johann consulted Gromann about a
music teacher for his son, who recommended a compatriot.103 The lessons lasted for
several months and if the well-known story is to be believed, Beethoven sometimes
received his instruction late at night after Pfeiffer and his father had finished their
drinking.104 Pfeiffer was the first musician of real stature to teach the young boy, and
he was versatile, playing the piano, oboe, and harmonica equally well, while his
singing was described as masterly.105 His principal stage role during his time in Bonn
was as Alexis in Der Deserteur, in which he made his debut on 9 December 1779.106 It is
certainly possible that his friend Johann also took part, but whether Beethoven
actually heard his teacher or his father singing in this opera of course remains
unknown. In any event, Pfeiffer left quite soon thereafter for Dresden, making his
debut with Bondinis Electoral troupe on 27 April 1780.107
A question that at present cannot be answered is whether Beethoven witnessed his
father sing in Der Deserteur in May 1787. It would be helpful to be able to establish his
whereabouts in the weeks leading up to this public rehearsal with certainty, but the
evidence falls tantalizingly short of allowing a definitive conclusion, partly because
Simrocks letter of 14 May gives no date for the actual performance. The unknown
factor is when Beethoven arrived back in Bonn from his visit to Vienna. Recent
research by Dieter Haberl has completely overturned the long-accepted chronology of
this trip. Using a new source, the Regensburgisches Diarium, which records arrivals and

Franz Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries, Biographische Notizen uber Ludwig van Beethoven (Koblenz, 1838), 8: Der
Grovater soll vorzuglich in dem Singspiel: LAmore artigiano (die Liebe unter den Handwerkern [?]) und im
Deserteur von Monsigny den groten Beifall erhalten haben. This is assuming that Wegeler was not confusing the
grandfathers roles with Johann van Beethovens appearance in Der Deserteur. In respect of this point, some surprise
has been expressed at the age at which Beethovens grandfather would have made his debut in this opera. He was
already 57 in the year (1769) in which Le De serteur was composed.
Des Bonner Backermeisters, 43: Er verwanntete sich an hieigen Bonner Deater Derector Grosmannn, der aus
Sackxen war, mit der er intim gut befreud war, der die Musikussen und Commponisten kannte, der hat ihm ein
Commponist besorgt, ein Pretikante Sohn aus Sackxen, Namen Pfeifer. Pfeiffer is recorded as a member of the
Gromann troupe in Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1780, 233. That Neefe mentioned to Gromann Beethovens success
in gaining an appointmenta rare instance of his referring to an instrumental musician by nameis also indicative
of the theatre directors interest.
Skowroneck, Beethoven as Pianist, 23^53, provides the best available analysis of the stories and legends that grew
up around Beethovens earliest years.
Magazin der Sachsischen Geschichte, 7 (1790), 569: Der Mann ist auf alle Falle ein genie. Klavier, Hautbois,
Harmonika spielt er gleich gut und sein gesang ist meisterhaft.
Dokumente zur Bonner Theatergeschichte, 33: 9 December 1779: Hr. Pfeiffer debutirte als Alexis. The Theatralische
Neuigkeiten confirms he played this role. Ibid. 28: Hr. Pfeiffer als Deserteur, in der Operette dieses Namens. The
role of Alexis remained in his repertory. When he joined the Weimar company in 1787, he made his debut in Die
Entfuhrung on 15 Dec., and then five days later he appeared as Alexis, receiving applause. Annalen des Theaters, 2
(1788), 45: Den 20. der Deserteur, O[per]. In 3 A[kten]. Herr Pfeiffer als Alexis, Herr Rugglen als Himmelsturm,
verdienten vollkommen Beifall.
Theater-Journal fur Deutschland (1782), 12: Anmerkung: Hr. Pfeiffer gieng den 26sten [Februar] von der Gesell-
schaft ab, und reisete nach Dresden. Dokumente zur Bonner Theatergeschichte, 268: Pfeiffer debutirte am 27 April 1780
mit Arien bei Bondinis Gesellschaft. In the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1785, 211, Pfeiffer received the rare and
dubious distinction of having his turbulent and dissolute behaviour, the ostensible reason for his early departure,
made public across Europe: H. Pfeiffer, wurde unruhiger und liederlicher, Auffuhrung halber, auf der Stelle


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TABLE 3. Beethovens dates of arrival and departure during his Vienna journey in 1787, based
on the research of Dieter Haberl

Date Arrival/ Place Name provided Description


5 Jan. arrival Regensburg Hr. Bertenhoven Organist von Bonn

1 Apr. arrival Munich Herr Peethofen Musikus von Bonn bei Koln
24 Apr. departure Regensburg Hr. Bethhoffen
25 Apr. arrival Munich Herr Peethoven Kurkollnischer Kammervirtuos
von Bonn
26 Apr. arrival Augsburg Hr. von Beethoven Musikus von Wien

departures, Haberl was able to demonstrate that Beethoven left Bonn much earlier
than had hitherto been assumed and that he was resident in Vienna for over ten
weeks. The new chronology is shown in Table 3.108
The mistake in constructing the original timetable occurred because it was assumed
that the two references in the Munchener Zeitung related to his outward and return
journey. In fact on the way back Beethoven appears to have spent more than three
weeks in Bavaria. The direct route for the journey in the eighteenth century ran:
Vienna ^ Linz ^ Passau ^ Regensburg ^ Nuremberg ^ Wurzburg ^ Frankfurt ^ Bonn,
broadly following the Danube for the first third and the Rhine for the last third of
the route. Beethoven diverged from this itinerary, arriving at Munich on 1 April. At
some point he travelled to rejoin the main route at Regensburg, but he returned to
Munich and continued on the very next day to Augsburg, the hitherto leisurely pace
of his journey quickening noticeably. As Haberl points out, the Munich^Augsburg leg
of the journey cannot have taken place on a scheduled service.109 The length of time
that Beethoven spent in Bavaria does not support the traditional view that he heard
of his mothers serious condition in Vienna and immediately hastened back to Bonn.
There is, moreover, an alternative explanation for the fast pace of his travel between
24 and 26 April: that he was hurrying in order to attend or participate in a musical per-
formance in Augsburg. Although details of concerts around this time have yet to be
located, the presence of a significant number of musicians in the city points to some
kind of musical activity, and much later it was recollected that Beethoven gave an
organ recital there as well as performing on Stein pianos often.110 The date of his de-
parture from Augsburg has not been established, but the remaining part of the return
journey could not have taken fewer than five days. During this traumatic period, Beet-
hoven, on his own admission, was in receipt of regular reports from Johann about his
mothers deteriorating health. The existence of this chain of communication raises the
obvious possibility that Johann also kept his son informed of Brandts plans. For the

Dieter Haberl, Beethovens erste Reise, Neues musikwissenschaftliche Jahrbuch, 14 (2006 ), 215^55.
Ibid. 237.
Haberl lists some of the musicians in the city, using the evidence of two issues of the Augsburgisches Intelligenz-Blatt
(30 April and 7 May). Although her memory was inaccurate regarding Beethovens age, Nanette Streicher (24 June
1816 ) recollected that she had heard Beethoven in Ausgburg: Sie hat in Augsburg Beethoven zuerst kennen gelernt,
wie er als zwolf jahriges [recte sechzehnjahriges] Knabe ein Konzert auf der Orgel gegeben und ofters auf den
Instrumenten ihres Vaters [Stein] so herrlich phantasiert habe. Ibid. 237 and 254.


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moment, at least, a firm conclusion one way or the other is out of reach, but the possi-
bility that Beethoven arrived back in time to witness his father on stage or even to par-
ticipate in the performance of Der Deserteur himself cannot be ruled out.111
The public rehearsal of Der Deserteur may have been attended by a full house, but
hopes of a full restoration of the National Theatre again proved premature. At this
low point, Neefe wrote to Gromann with the news that his wife was again expecting
a child, remarking with a certain asperity that he was at least hoping for some recogni-
tion from the Elector for his services to population increase.112 For the fourth year in
succession, a visiting troupe was brought in, but this time for a longer season of three
months. Neefe informed Gromann that Klos, his erstwhile partner and now enemy,
had secured the contract, and that Maximilian Franz had settled on 1,500 florins for
twenty-four performances, twice a week.113
It is not known exactly when the Elector finally took the decision to reopen the Bonn
stage, but by the early months of 1788 planning was well under way. Taking advantage
of the fact that Klos had filed for bankruptcy, Maximilian Franz purchased his
wardrobe of costumes, theatrical library, and collection of musical scores for 1,300
gulden.114 According to Simrock, he settled 15,000 reichsthaler on the new theatre,
and he also paid for it to be rennovated.115 A brief notice in the Theater-Kalender for
1789 announced that the two managers were to be Josef Reicha and the actor Steiger,
who were contracted for a period of six years.116 Simrock reported that the focus
would be on opera. Although some comedies would be played, Steiger was intending
to appoint only actors with at least some singing ability.117 In a significant gesture to

In view of his fathers performance (and apparent success) in Der Deserteur, it is worth considering whether
Monsignys opera came to hold any personal significance for Beethoven as a musical work. Much has been made of
the composers identification with the unjustly imprisoned Florestan in Fidelio in the light of his own unmerited isola-
tion in an increasingly silent world. In Der Deserteur, a significant harbinger of early 19th-c. rescue operas, the cruel
deception of the young man is orchestrated by his future father-in-law, even if the nearly fatal consequences that
ensue are unintended. If Beethoven did ever rehearse the Act II trio with his father, the irony of the situation could
hardly have been lost on him: the distraught father takes full responsibility for the damage he has inflicted on his
daughter and her betrothed. In the Mannheim translation, he accepts that it is he alone who deserves to die: Nur
mir allein gehort der Tod. As Beethoven later pondered over the choice of a libretto for an opera, some subliminal
process of association may have come into play. Even if he had not arrived back in time to see the performance,
Monsignys opera was an indelible part of a traumatic period in his familys life: the months in the summer of 1787 en-
compassing his return from Vienna, Johanns last stage appearance and his mothers terminal illness. In Der Deserteur
all ends well, but for Beethoven, with the deaths of his mother and sister to contend with, there was no quick relief.
At least there was resolution of a kind, when in 1789 he petitioned successfully for a role-reversal, formally assuming
the duties of a father to his family.
Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, HCB Br 342: Bonn, 20 Oct. 1787, Neefe to Gromann: Meine Frau wird kunftigen
Monat wieder Mutterns. Ich hoffe, da der Kurfurst doch endlich einmal unsern Fleiss in Ansehung der Bevolkerung
belohnen werde.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn,13 Nov. 1787, Neefe to Gromann: Klos spielt wirklich schon und bekommt
vom Kurfust 1500 Flor: fur 24 Vorstellungen, wochentlich zwei.
Journal von und fur Deutschland (1788), 440: 2 Oct. 1788: Der Theaterdirektor Klos, welcher aus seinem Proce mit
Gromann bekannt ist, hat hier Bankerott gemacht. Seine ganze Garderobe, Theaterbibliothek und Musicalien sind
vor einigen Wochen um 1300 Gulden verkauft worden, und zwar hat solche der Kurfurst an sich gekauft, welcher in
Bonn ein Nationaltheater errichten will, wozu auch schon einige Mitglieder der Klosischen Gesellschaft engagirt
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 2 Nov. 1788, Simrock to Gromann: auch habe Sr Durchl. das Theater
verandern lassen, auf die Galerie der Noblesse noch einen Stock sezen [lassen crossed out], und beides in Logen
eintheilen lassen, jede zu 4 Personen.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1789, 220: Mit dem Anfange des Jahres 1789, nimmt hier eine National-Schaubuhne,
unter der Direction des Hr. Musikdirektors Reicha, und Hr. Schauspieler Steiger, ihren Anfang.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 2 Nov. 1788, Simrock to Gromann: jedoch werden auch einige Komodien
gespielt, auser Steiger, der 800 Fl. aus der Einnahme Jahrlich erhalt, wird kein Mitglied angenommen, das singt


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Bonn instrumentalists, the Elector agreed to increase the pay of the orchestra, rather
than simply add opera accompaniment to their existing roster of duties.118
The core of the new company was to be provided by members of the defunct Klos
troupe who had recently sung in Bonn during Carnival. The Elector ordered them to
relocate to Bonn, where they joined forces with the resident cohort, whose public re-
hearsals in May 1787 had not been in vain after all.119 In effect, Gromann, who was
now building his reputation in Hanover and Lubeck, had bequeathed to Bonn both
parts of its new troupe: the singers who left his company in 1784 and those who left fol-
lowing the schism with Klos in 1786. Full details of the troupe were eventually
reported in the Theater-Kalender for 1791, which distinguished ex-members of the Klos
troupe with an asterisk:
Schauspieler: Baltus, Bekenkam, Brand[t], Dardenne, Demmer*, Lux*, Fr. Muller*, Romer,
Joh. Spitzeter*, Steiger*, Joussy, Vohs*; Schauspielerinnen: Mad. Bekenkam, Mad. Brand[t],
Mlle Christine Keilholz*, Mlle Dorothea Keilholz*, Mad. Neefe, Mlle Topfer, Mlle Magda-
lena Willmann, Mad. Muller*, Mlle Willmann (senior); fur Kinderrollen: Max Brand[t],
Anton Brand[t], Karl Muller*, Karl Neefe, Fried. Steiger*, Therese Brand[t], Louise Neefe,
Felice Neefe. Die meisten von diesen sangen auch in der Oper, sogar bis zu dem kleines
Madchen Louise Neefe. Joseph Reicha war Direktor, Neefe Pianist und Buhnenedirektor fur
die Oper; Steiger dasselbe fur das gesprochene Drama; Johann Goldberg Chor und
Balletmeister; Romer Souffleur; Rousseau und Bekenkam Maler.120

The re-establishment of the National Theatre had a beneficial effect on the entire
Bonn musical community. Singers could now hope to gain experience on the stage
and develop their theatrical profile, while the orchestral musicians received higher
pay. Improved financial circumstances were often reflected in changes of address.
A few weeks after the opening night on 3 January, the new manager Josef Reicha
advertised two floors of a dwelling.121
According to Simrock, the top salaries in the new Bonn troupe were fixed at 1,000
florins per annum. The singers were to be tried out for a year, after which, provided
they were a success, a long-term engagement would be forthcoming.122 He reported
that the following women had been engaged: the Keilholz sisters, Willmann,
Bekenkam, Neefe, and Brandt. The men so far recruited included: Brand[t], Demmer,
Spitzeter, Muller, Steiger, and two others who were still awaited.123 Bonn had appar-
ently tried to secure the services of the leading bass singer Ludwig Fischer, but he was
unavailable for the coming season.124 Neefe was appointed as regisseur, taking on the
duties of stage direction for operas. Roemer would act as souffleur and in an emergency
help out on stage.125 A notable but unsurprising absentee was Johann van Beethoven.

Ibid: Orchestre wird vom Kurfursten zahlt, und deswegen bekommt die ganze Musique Zulage.
Annalen des Theaters (1788), ii. 123: Colln den 12 Marz 1788: Es heit, da die Klossche Gesellschaft Colln auf
immer verlassen, und der Kurfurst sie an sich nehmen und in Bonn behalten werde.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1791, 520.
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 19 Feb. 1789, p. 58: Zu vermiethen. Bonn . . . zwey Stockwerke, itzt
von Herrn Concertdirector Reicha bewohnt, zusammen oder einzeln, mit auch ohne Meubles, zu vermiethen, jedes
Stockwerck besteht in einem groen bemahlten Saal 2 tapezirten und noch einem kleinen Zimmer.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 385: Bonn, 2 Nov. 1788, Simrock to Gromann: Die erste Gagen sind auf 1000. Fl.
festgesezt, und sollen auf ein Jahr Probe wornach die Personen wenn sie gefallen fur bestandig engagirt.
Ibid. : Frauenzimmmer sind die beiden Demosel. KeilholzDemoisell Willman - /: wenn sich der Vater von
Berlin lomachen kann :/ Mde Bekenkam Mesds Neefe und Brand[t]. Acteurs: Brand[t], Demmer, Spitzeter,
Muller, Steiger und noch zwey andern die erwartet werden.
Ibid. : Fischer war hier. Er kann aber dieses Jahr nicht abkommen.
Ibid. : Neefe ist Regiseur und Roemer Souffleur und im Nothfall hillft er aus auf dem Theater.


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Neefe himself confirmed that the two Keilholz sisters were provisionally engaged for
2,000 florins, and that Willmann was still awaited from Berlin.126
Much the most interesting recruitment was that of Magdalena Willmann, a member
neither of the Klos troupe nor of the Bonn contingent, but whose father had previ-
ously been resident in Bonn.127 In the early months of 1787, Ignaz Willmann was
living in Vienna with his three musical children. On 7 March, the family gave an acad-
emy at the Kartnertor-Theater, at which the elder sister performed a Mozart piano
concerto. Although there is no direct evidence, it is possible that she was a pupil
of the composer.128 It has long been thought likely that the Willmann family
was involved in some way in Beethovens Vienna visit.129 Thanks to Haberls research,
we now know that Beethoven was almost certainly accompanied by them when he left
Vienna, at least as far as Munich.130 Whether this arrangement ended there is not
known. It is certainly possible that Beethoven adapted his itinerary specifically in
order to travel in their company to Munich, even though Regensburg was his first des-
tination. The Willmanns were heading for the Mainz^Frankfurt region of Germany,
but it is highly likely that they would at some point have travelled back to Bonn.
Indeed, given the extraordinary measures later taken by Ignaz to ensure that his
daughter Magdalena was in a position to join the newly re-established National
Theatre in 1789, it is even possible that he was aware of Brandts new venture, and
that he timed his departure from Vienna in order to be available in Bonn, if not for
the May performances themselves then for the hoped-for restitution of the National
Theatre in the winter of 1787^8. (Simrock does not say who took the role of the young
peasant girl in Der Deserteur.) As things turned out, an immediate engagement in
Bonn for the promising young singer was not available. Evidence of the Willmann
familys whereabouts around this time is provided by a letter written by Ignaz from
Mainz dated 15 May 1787.131 By 1788, Magdalena had joined the Frankfurt Company,
which often performed in Mainz.132 According to Frau Rath, the young singer made a
good impression on the theatrical community, despite her personal view that the
father was an evil man.133 Her transfer to Berlin at the end of the year culminated in
a fiasco that was widely reported. A more prestigious debut than Lilla in Una cosa rara
would be hard to imagine, yet it resulted in a very public humiliation: her singing was
greeted with coughing, humming, and hissing, and matters would have been still
worse but for the performances royal imprimatur.134 Back in Frankfurt, Frau Rath,

Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 21 Dec. [1788], Neefe to Gromann: Die beiden Demois: Keilholzen sind
einstweilen auf ein Jahr mit 2000 Fl. engagirt. In wenig Tagen wird auch die Dem Willman[n] von Berlin, bei uns
The connection between the Willmann and Beethoven families was a close one. Beethovens grandfather acted as
godfather to [ Johann] Ignaz Willmanns son Maximilian.
Cliff Eisen, New Mozart Documents: A Supplement to O. E. Deutschs Documentary Biography (Stanford, Calif., 1991),
Their possible role was discussed by Karl Maria Pisarowitz, Die Willmanns: Der restituierte Roman einer
potenzierten Musikerfamilie, Mitteilungen der Internationalen Stiftung Mozarteum, 15 (1967), 7^12. I am grateful to Dr
Ulrich Leisinger for supplying me with a copy of this article.
Haberl, Beethovens erste Reise, 240^4.
Pisarowitz, Die Willmanns, 9. The original location of this document, however, is not identified.
Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1789, 161: Dem. Willmann, erste und zweyte Liebhaberinnen im Singspiel.
Die Briefe der Frau Rath Goethe, i. 190: Frankfurt,13 Nov. 1788, Frau Rath to Unzelmann: Die Willmans werden nun
bey Ihnen seyndas Madel ist gutdas gibt ihr das ganze Theater Zeugnu aber der Papa der Papa, das ist ein
sehr Boer Mann. In the Annalen des Theaters, 2 (1788), 59, Willmann received a good review of her performance as
Amor in Der Baum der Diana.
The Tagebuch des ko nigl. National-Theaters in Berlin (1789), 505, devoted some space to the story: Den 9ten
[Dec.]. Auf Allerhochsten Befehl Lilla. Mlle. Willmann trat zum erstenmahle als Lilla auf . . . das gute Madchen


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changing her tune somewhat, claimed not to have been surprised that Willmann had
lost out in Berlin.135 Such was the publicity surrounding this flop that the editor of the
Tagebuch felt obliged to provide an update in his next issue, explaining that an angry
Ignaz had insisted upon the abrogation of his daughters contract.136 A typical if trau-
matic eighteenth-century failure at the hands of a capricious parterre perhaps, and yet
a timely escape route for the family as well. The extraordinary thing is that five weeks
before this very public debacle, Simrock was already writing of Willmanns engage-
ment in Bonn, provided that Ignaz could secure her withdrawal from Berlin. Dark sus-
picions arise that he did little to prevent his daughters failure and possibly even
encouraged it, so that the family could return to their home town of Bonn in time for
the start of the first season of the reopened stage.
According to Neefe, the opening of the National Theatre was scheduled for 2
January, but it was put back a day and very nearly did not happen at all. A major
disaster was narrowly averted when an arsonist lit a fire in the theatre and cut several
of the pipes carrying water from the city. Fortunately, the blaze did not take hold, and
the water supply was quickly restored. It was surmised that the villain had chosen his
moment carefully, when the hanging lamps were in place and there were large
quantities of flammable materials lying around for the production of Mart|n y Solers
Der Baum der Diana [Larbore di Diana].137 In honour of the occasion, Neefe composed
an address, outlining something of the history of the art of German theatre.138
The reopening of the Bonn stage was widely reported.139 An independent traveller
rated the Keilholz sisters as the best actresses and [Magdalena] Willmann as a good
singer, but criticized the choice of works: too many mutilated operas, and too few
good German plays.140 A reviewer for the Annalen des Theaters on 3 March 1790
concurred that the strength of the new troupe lay in opera, in which the older

arntete statt Beifall Aushusten, Zischen und Gesumse . . . Sicherlich ware der Larm noch groer gewesen, wenn
nicht Se. Majestat das Schauspiel zu beehren die Gnade gehabt hatten.
Kosler, Die Briefe, 194: Frankfurt, 19 Dec. 1788, Frau Rath to Unzelmann: Da die Frau Gevatterin uber die
Willmann den Sieg davon getragen hat, das war mir nichts unerwartetes das glaubte hir des Publicum und die
Schauspieler obendrein.
Tagebuch des ko nigl. National-Theaters in Berlin (1789), 541, Dec. 1788: Die Leser werden sich aus dem 33sten Stucke
S.505 erinnern, da wir das Debut der Mlle. Willmann beruhrten und zugleich anzeigten, da ihr Gesang als Lilla
gar nicht gefiel. Dieses Betragen verdro ihren Vater sehr, ging darauf zu dem Professor Engel stellte die Sache vor,
und ungeachtet sie des Contractes wegen bleiben muten, so wurde der Contract wieder aufgehoben.
Gnadigst privilegirten Bo nnisches Intelligenz-Blatt, 8 Jan. 1789, p. 12: In der Nacht vom 2. auf den 3ten d. M. hat ein
Bosewicht in dem hiesigen Hof-Schauspielhause Feuer angelegt, und einige Rohren, welche Wasser nach der Stadt
fuhren, abgeschnitten. Jenes ist glucklicher Weise nicht zum Ausbruche gekommen, u. diese sind schleunig wieder
hergestellt worden. Da am andern Tage, den 3ten, die kurfurstl. Hof-Schauspieler die Buhne mit dem Singspiele:
Der Baum der Diana eroffnen solten, so ist zu vermuthen, da der Mordbrenner den Zeitpunkt, da die Ampeln
gefullt, und sonst viele brennbare Sachen im Hause vorhanden waren, mit Flei zur Ausfuhrung seines schandlichen
Vorhabens gewahlt hatte. Die Buhne wurde demungeachtet vor einigem zahlreichen Auditorium eroffnet.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 21 Dec. [1788,] Neefe to Gromann: Den 2 Januar eroffnen wir unsre
Buhne mit dem Baum der Diana. Ich habe eine Rede in Versen zur Erofnung gemacht, die eine kurze Geschichte
der vaterlandischen Schauspielkunst enthalt. Neefes address was published in the Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1791,
510, in its report on the opening of the Bonn National Theatre.
The first review appeared in the Gazette de Bonn (4 Jan. 1789), 12: Hier on a represente ici dans la Salle de
Comedie du Chateau, pour la premie're fois, depuis que linterieur en a ete entie'rement renouvelle & etabli sur un
plan plus commode & plus agreeable, une pie'ce intitulee: LARBORE DE DIANE, traduite de litalien en
allemand, musique du cele'bre Martin. Laffluence de spectateurs, & le coup doeil de la nouvelle disposition de la
Salle, ont rendu ce spectacle tre's brillant. The digital archives of this newspaper may be viewed at 5http://s2w.hbz-
Reise auf dem Rhein (1790), ii. 206: Die beiden Demoisellen Keilholz sind die besten Aktrizen, Willmann, eine gute
Sangerin . . . Noch ist man etwas eigensinnig in der Auswahl der guten Stukke, und verstummelte Operetten
verdrangen oft, die besten vaterlandischen Schauspiele.


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Keilholz and the younger Willmann were in competition. The former, however, was
said to be unintelligible in speech and song, while the latter was nothing special as an
actress.141 Neefe himself sent a positive assessment to Gromann, noting in particular
that the Bonn musical establishment had grown in size and improved in quality.142
The four years between 1785 and 1788 had been difficult ones for Neefe, but the re-
opening of the National Theatre on 3 January 1789 brought this fallow period to an
end. His professional life returned to the way it had been before the death of Maximil-
ian Friedrich in 1784.143 The sense of excitement in his letter to Gromann on
21 December as he prepared for the inaugural performance of the National Theatre is
palpable. He apologized for his failure to reply earlier, blaming the pressure of having
to complete a multiplicity of tasks, something he felt sure that the theatre director
would well understand from his own experience in setting up new ventures. It was as
though he had been awakened suddenly from an undeserved sleep.144 He could
now look forward to a more rounded musical life, and speaking on behalf of the
wider Bonn musical community, he wrote: We are all hoping for an excellent
Cappella, a well-filled opera, and an agreeable artistic life.145 He was pleased to hear
that Gromann was also content in Hanover, and he concluded by wishing him well
with the resounding: Perge, Fortuna, perge! (Go, Fortune, go!).146 In the secular
world of the 1780s, a court with serious pretensions to an artistic reputation could not
do without a theatre with the resources to tackle the new wave of Viennese opere buffe.
Joseph IIs youngest brother eventually conceded the point, and Bonn musicians
found their musical lives transformed.


When the Bonn stage was closed after the death of Elector Max Friedrich in 1784, the
director of its theatre company, Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Gromann, decided to
leave the city to further his career elsewhere in the Rhinelands. During the next few

Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, 66: Die hiesigen Komodien sind nicht mehr, was sie bei Gromann waren, der
bei uns noch immer in guten Andenken steht. Die Starke des hiesigen Theaters besteht in der Oper, worin die altere
Keilholz und die jungere Willmann wetteifern; allein die Keilholz gewohnt sich eine Unverstandlichkeit in Sprache
und Gesang an, und die Willmann ist keine Sonderliche Actrice.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283: Bonn, 7 June 1789, Neefe to Gromann: Unser Musickker hat sich sehr vermehrt
u. verbessert.
There is a striking correlation between this distinct phase in his career and the half-decade or so when Beet-
hovens productivity as a composer was extremely sparse. Maynard Solomon, Beethovens Productivity at Bonn,
Music & Letters, 52 (1972), 166: The virtually inescapable conclusion [is] that Beethoven essentially abandoned his
career as a composer during a span of some four or more years. Doubtless there were many factors at work, but the
enforced and radical change in the professional career of his mentor may have been one of them. Possibly six hours
of keyboard tuition a day was enough for Neefe; possibly his withdrawal from active involvement in opera reduced
his contact with the young Beethoven. We will probably never know.
Sammlung Kestner, I C II 283, Bonn, 21 [Dec.] 1788, Neefe to Gromann: Verzeihen Sie, da ich Ihren Brief
nicht eher beantwortete. Es war mir unmoglich wegen uberhaufter Geschafte, die mich jedoch noch die ganze
Winter Saison drangen werden. Unsers neues Nationaltheater weckt mich auf einmal aus meinem, zwar
unverschuldeten Schlummern zu neuer Thatigkeit. Und da man bei einer neuen Einrichtung alle Hande voll zu
thun hat, wissen sie ja sehr gut.
Ibid. : Wir haben alle Hofnung zu einer vortreflichen Kapelle, zu einer wohlbesezten Oper, u. zu einem
angenehmen Kunstlerleben.
Ibid. : Mit Vergnugen hor ich, da auch Sie in Ihrer gegenwartigen Lage zufrieden leben. Perge, Fortuna,
perge! Das wunsch ich Ihnen zum neuen Jahre.


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years, he was kept informed about developments in Bonn by two of his erstwhile col-
leagues, Christian Gottlob Neefe and Nikolaus Simrock, whose correspondence paints
a vivid picture of musical life in the city during the later 1780s. The new Elector, Max-
imilian Franz, permitted a visiting troupe to perform during Carnival each year, but
repeatedly delayed the decision to re-establish a resident troupe. In 1787 Christoph
Brandt, a singer in the Bonn Hofkapelle, attempted a home-grown initiative, perhaps
to test the market for a new permanent company. Although this failed almost immedi-
ately, a single, well-attended public rehearsal of Monsignys Le Deserteur was given, in
which Johann van Beethoven made what was probably his last stage appearance. In a
letter dated 14 May 1787, Simrock rated his performance zimlich gut. In the event, a
new Bonn troupe was not recruited until 1789, when it featured the young singer Mag-
dalena Willmann. Neefe and his musical colleagues were relieved finally to be able to
resume their theatrical careers.


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