Music in wartime

I went to a Celtic Connections thing on the last weekend which sounded more exciting than it actually turned out to be – reviving Beethoven arrangements of various Scottish and Gaelic songs that he’d worked on. It was clever enough, but in the end I agreed with the judgement of audiences at the time who found all quite unsatisfying – neither really Scottish nor really Beethoven.

But we did get a couple of glimpses into effects of the war which I hadn’t realised came into this story – Beethoven started off working in Bonn for the Elector of Cologne, and went to Vienna with his help, intending to return, but while he was gone the French came in and took over the city and the electorate.

And while the work on the songs was going on, Austria was formally allied with France for a time and always more or less surrounded by its territories, leading to difficulties in communication – letters between Vienna and the publishers in Edinburgh would go sometimes via Stockholm and sometimes via Malta, and sometimes go missing entirely.

I’m not sure now whether there really wasn’t much of a concept of life in wartime, unless you were unlucky enough to have fighting on your doorstep, or if it’s just that I don’t know much about it.

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