Two women were specifically honoured at the landmark Music for Galway three day Beethoven concert, Genius, Passion and the Irish Connection held during the last weekend of January. One may well have been a spy.
The multi dimensional concert, which included music, singing, and dramatic readings, was organised by Dr Jane O’Leary - one of these generous and gifted people who have contributed to the heart and soul of Galway life. She washed up on our shore in 1972, a brilliant music graduate from Princeton University. She is primarily a music composer, whose music - packed tight with colour, imagination and movement - has been played at numerous international festivals and venues in America, France and London; included in the RTE National Symphony Orchestra repertoire during its national tours; and recorded on CDs by such prestigious performers as the RTE Vanbrugh, Amstel, ConTempo and Concorde quartets, the latter which she founded. She is still its artistic director and pianist three decades later.
With Erica Casey, Claire Cuddy and others Jane founded Music for Galway which has ensured that our city is included in all international tours of all the major classical performers. And many of its own invention. On Sunday evening Jane announced that she was retiring as director in order to concentrate on composition. She was presented with a John Behan sculpture in gratitude for her work for Galway.
The Beethoven concert included his rarely performed Irish Songs (1809 - 1820 ) which he skilfully arranged for violin, cello, piano and voices. It was a happy reminder to Jane who played and sang these songs at her Highfield home when she came to Galway first. Included in those memorable musical evenings were Angela O’Keeffe, cello, Fr Colin Garvey and Sheila Flynn violin, Peggy Rasche on flute, Pauline McLoughlin, soprano, Llinos Johnson, alto, Pat O’Sullivan, tenor, with Jane on the piano.
The spy could have been Emily Anderson, a brilliant student of German, whose translations of the Beethoven letters were used to such good effect during the concert.
I touched briefly on Ms Anderson last week. Since then several people have given me more information. She was born in Galway on St Patrick’s Day 1891, the daughter of the president of the university Alexander Anderson. She lived in the president’s rooms in the ancient quad of the university. As a young woman she and her mother were very interested in the growing suffragette movement, and organised several public meetings in the town. German, however, was her passion. She continued her studies in Berlin and Marburg, where she began her research into the letters of Mozart and his family, and later those of Beethoven. After some years teaching, firstly at Queen’s College, Barbados, and then, in 1917, as professor of German at Galway, she moved to London and immediately joined the Foreign Office. Between 1940 and 1943 she was seconded to the War Office, spending some time in Egypt translating German military messages. Her obituary in The London Times (October 1962 ) says that ‘ Languages, however, were her pleasure as well as her profession, and together with music and travel lay behind the patient achievements of scholarship which brought her a celebrity in the world of music which she managed entirely to disregard. Her first publication in 1923 was a translation of Benedetto Croce’s study of Goethe; followed in 1938 by the three volumes of The Letters of Mozart and His Family.’ She later published the Letters of Beethoven the year before she died in Hampstead, London.
As I have said her work was highly acclaimed, and remains unrivalled today. The German government awarded her its Order of Merit first class for her translations; and the British government awarded her an OBE for her secret work during the war.
‘Is not our love truly founded in heaven...’
Some readers liked Beethoven’s passionate love letter to his girl friend of brief duration Antonie Brentano. Some requested more, which I will give in a moment.
Some said that I was too hard on him with the quotes that I used. Yes, despite his miseries, Beethoven often laughed, sometimes joked, was kind - for instance to the child Franz Liszt, though as a rule he hated infant prodigies - and was always impressive composing. His intensive work was accompanied by excessive washing. Gerhard von Breuning, the young son of Beethoven’s life-long friend Stehan, was a frequent visitor. He loved Beethoven. He ran messages for him when he was ill. Beethoven called him Hosenknoph, ‘trouser button’. Gerhard later wrote that after Beethoven had worked for a long time, he would suddenly rise up and ‘hurry to the washbasin, and pour jugs of cold water over his heated head’. Vast quantities of water, however, would spill on to the floor, down through the boards onto the neighbours below, causing an uproar.
His love letters, translated by Emily Anderson, are magnificent. And with St Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the standards have been set pretty high for Galway men. Best get our pencils sharpened...
July 6th, in the morning
My angel, my all, my very self. - Only a few words today, and, what is more, written in pencil (and with your pencil ) I shan't be certain of my rooms here until tomorrow; what an unnecessary waste of time is all this--Why this profound sorrow, when necessity speaks--can our love endure without sacrifices, without our demanding everything from one another, can you alter the fact that you are not wholly mine, that I am not wholly yours?--Dear God, look at Nature in all her beauty and set your heart at rest about what must be--Love demands all, and rightly so, and thus it is for me with you, for you with me-- but you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were completely united, you would feel this painful necessity just as little as I do--
My journey was dreadful and I did not arrive here until yesterday at four o'clock in the morning. As there were few horses the mail coach chose another route, but what a dreadful road it was; at the last stage but one I was warned not to travel by night; attempts were made to frighten me about a forest, but all this only spurred me on to proceed--and it was wrong of me to do so.. The coach broke down, of course, owing to the dreadful road which had not been made up and was nothing but a country track. If we hadn't had those two postillions I should have been left stranded on the way--On the other ordinary road Esterhazy with eight horses met with the same fate as I did with four--Yet I felt to a certain extent that pleasure I always feel when I have overcome some difficulty successfully--Well, let me turn quickly from outer to inner experiences. No doubt we shall meet soon; and today also time fails me to tell you of the thoughts which during these last few days I have been revolving about my life--If our hearts were always closely united, I would certainly entertain no such thoughts. My heart overflows with a longing to tell you so many things--Oh--there are moments when I find that speech is quite inadequate--Be cheerful-- and be for ever my faithful, my only sweetheart, my all, as I am yours. The gods must send us everything else, whatever must and shall be our fate--
Your faithful Ludwig
Monday evening, July 6th
You are suffering, you, my most precious one--I have noticed the very moment that letters have to be handed in very early, on Monday--or on Thursday--the only days when the mail coach goes from here to Karlsbad.--You are suffering--Oh, where I am, you are with me--I will see to it that you and I, that I can live with you. What a life!!!! as it is now!!!! without you--pursued by the kindness of people here and there, a kindness that I think-that I wish to deserve just as little as I deserve it--man's homage to man--that pains me--and when I consider myself in the setting of the universe, what I am and what is the man--whom one calls the greatest of me--and yet--on the other hand therein lies the divine element in man. I weep when I think that probably you will not receive the first news of me until Saturday--However much you love me--good night--Since I am taking the baths I must get off to sleep--Dear God--so near! so far! Is not our love truly founded in heaven--and, what is more, as strongly cemented as the firmament of Heaven?--