To arrive at the next ”political work”, requires a small bit of time travel. By 1796, Beethoven was living in Vienna, and between his irregular music lessons, had established himself as a sort of rising star in musical life. So too had the revolution in France established itself. The war against
France, with Austria under regressive Emperor Franz II, was not yielding the desired results for the Hapsburgs. As Revolutionary armies under then general Napoleon Bonaparte pushed through Italy, a general panic seems to have ensued. volunteer corps were called up to defend the homeland. Beethoven set a patriotic poem by Friedelburg “Songs to the Viennese Flag Volunteer Division” to music. What's to be made of this? Absolutely nothing. Regarded as an extreme
mediocrity, (eventually having one of its melodies turned into a drinking song) it is obscure to the point that the author was unable to locate either a recording or copy of the score. In comparison to his effort for Josef II, his attempts to rally a floundering Austria seem paltry, and simply a ploy to line his rainy day fund.
With this and the 'Leopold Cantata' in mind, Beethoven's opinion of the aristocracy: 'non-enlightened', should be rather clear. Here is a key point, Beethoven was known for being brash, rude and generally scornful to many nobles,(including patrons) while at the same time, having a
number of good relations among the aristocracy. So wasn't he then “selling out”, pandering to the man or otherwise flouting his rebellious face and then turning it around to kiss ass? Far from it in fact. What Beethoven was doing
was actually quite revolutionary for the time. Judging by merit, (although admittedly by his own definition of it.)
not class, not status. Beethoven's relations follow a similar dichotomy with non nobles, suggesting that across the board, Beethoven was forming his thoughts on people based on their qualities, rather than birth.
But once more we're left with the lack of direct support of revolutionary France, in this period. Goddamn evidence nonsense, Wikipedia is looking better and better.
So was I simply taking a leap of fancy when prattling off about Beethoven's grandiose ideals? Where's the proof? Forgive the straw man setup of the question and allow me to suggest that Beethoven may not only have been disgusted with the excesses of the revolution, but was also living under a police state then at war with France. The less than fawning attitude he displayed toward some aristocrats should be proof enough given the circumstances. The main point holds true; despite his silence, Beethoven was equally cantankerous to all of those he didn't approve of, regal or not.
An episode during the more open climate of Austria as a French puppet, demonstrates Beethoven's attitudes when under less palpable legal danger. In 1808, echoing Figaro, Beethoven wrote the following to a patron of his, Prince Lichnowski, following a joke he made about putting Beethoven under arrest for refusing to play:
"Prince, what you are you are by accident of birth; what I am I am through myself. There have been and
still will be thousands of princes; there is only one Beethoven.”
Enough musical and non musical evidence exists to support a theory that Beethoven agreed with French revolutionary ideas, but perhaps not their extreme practice. Given the situation in Austria during the early days of the revolution, Beethoven would have likely joined in on the open condemnation of the revolution, had he not shared similar values.
Beethoven's "Political" Works Part I: Early Stirrings
Beethoven's "Political" Works Part III: Napoleon the Hero.