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Beethoven's writing: question Options
musicafficionado
Posted: Tuesday, July 07, 2015 11:20:58 PM
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In a letter to his publisher, Tobias Haslinger, Beethoven wrote:

"...erregte den gedanken an die Heilgen Bücher kein Wunder, wenn mir nun auch der Name Tobias einfiel, u. wie natürlich mußte mir also auch unser Tobiasser'l und das pertobiassen dabei in den Sinn kommen..."

For the full letter, see: http://beethoven.ru/node/909

I have seen the above phrase translated as:

"...aroused in me thoughts of the Holy Books and small wonder that the man Tobias now occurred to me, and how natural that our little Tobias and the pertobiassen should come to mind..."


Can anyone tell me the correct translation would be of that sentence, especially the part containing "unser Tobiasser'l und das pertobiassen"?

It seems to me that "pertobiassen" is referring to some plural form of Tobias such as Tobias' family.
Is that accurate? And would a correct translation look something like:

"...aroused in me thoughts of the Holy Books and small wonder that the man Tobias now occurred to me, and how natural that our little Tobias and family should come to mind..."

Thanks in advance for your help!
IMcRout
Posted: Wednesday, July 08, 2015 3:25:44 AM

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Hello musicafficionado, and welcome to the forums.


Let's keep in mind that in 1821 people spoke and wrote somewhat differently than today. Thus, a more modern translation might begin like this:

"... made me think of the Holy Books; small wonder that the name 'Tobias' came up as well ..".
I would not change the ending of the translation you have read. T's family does not come up.

The whole episode is described in a rather jocular, punning way.
The suffix '-erl', as in 'unser Tobiasserl', was - and still is in some regions - a very common diminutive - like Nannerl for Marie-Anna, Mozart's elder sister - serving as an endearment and showing intimacy.

I would understand the word 'pertobiassen' as a self-created verb (which becomes a noun by putting the definite article 'das' before it), meaning "to turn or process the name 'Tobias' into music".

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
musicafficionado
Posted: Wednesday, July 08, 2015 11:46:31 PM
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Thanks for the warm welcome IMcRout, and special thanks for the thoughtful, intelligent reply.

Yes, I imagine people spoke and wrote differently in 1821. Perhaps that is part of why I am still not sure about the word "pertobiassen".
Does "per" ever get added as a prefix to other words? This might help clarify what he meant.

I sort of understand what you wrote that the word was created by Beethoven, but my confusion is why would he refer to "our little Tobias" (using a friendly diminutive) and then right away refer to Tobias again in the same sentence with "and" between the two? That is why I thought it might refer to someone else such as his family or something like that. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that it might mean something more like, "how natural that my dear Toby and his music passion should come to mind..."?

I guess I am trying to find a way to translate the "pertobiassen" part as accurately as possible into English, yet still translate it.
IMcRout
Posted: Thursday, July 09, 2015 8:39:06 AM

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Hi, I think the prefix 'per-' is used here in its Latin meaning (also found in the English language) of --> through, thoroughly, utterly, very: pervert; pervade; perfect.

You can find this prefix in some older, rather obsolete German verbs like 'perturbieren' for 'stören' or 'persuadieren' for 'überreden', which were probably very much in use at Beethoven's time.
Verbs like 'permutieren' or 'pervertieren' are still in use.
The more common prefix for this in modern German is 'ver-'.

I would 'translate' the non-existent verb 'pertobiassen' into English as 'pertobyate' - non-existent as well, but close in spirit.

As to 'Tobias', 'unser Tobiasserl' and 'pertobiassen' in one sentence:

Don't forget what kind of letter this is. Beethoven is telling a kind of tall story in which he explains how his composition about his friend Tobias came about.
He mentions his chain of associations when daydreaming during his journey:

On his imaginary trip he finally gets to Jerusalem, the Holy City; this makes him think of the Holy Books, the bible; this in turn makes him think of the biblical Book of Tobias (now called Book of Tobit); the biblical Tobias of course makes him associate his very own and dear friend Tobias ('unser Tobiasserl') and small wonder that this makes our famous composer think up a piece of music in which he can 'pertobyate' that very friend, i.e. he can make use of that name for a short song: "O Tobias, O Tobias, dominus Haslinger."

The rest of the letter is amusing as well. Take for example his comparison to Menelaos and Perseus - not very fitting, indeed; or his pun on 'Verleger', 'Verlegenheit' and 'verlegen' - editor, edit, mislay, shy, embarrassment.

I feel Beethoven might have had a glass of wine too many and his descriptions should not be taken too seriously.





I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
Audiendus
Posted: Saturday, August 01, 2015 7:31:27 AM
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IMcRout wrote:
On his imaginary trip he finally gets to Jerusalem, the Holy City; this makes him think of the Holy Books, the bible; this in turn makes him think of the biblical Book of Tobias (now called Book of Tobit); the biblical Tobias of course makes him associate his very own and dear friend Tobias ('unser Tobiasserl') and small wonder that this makes our famous composer think up a piece of music in which he can 'pertobyate' that very friend, i.e. he can make use of that name for a short song: "O Tobias, O Tobias, dominus Haslinger."

Could we say:

"how natural that our dear Tobias, and associations of him, should come to mind"?
musicafficionado
Posted: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 12:21:24 AM
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I am not sure Audiendus, that is why I am asking what that term Pertobiassen means. Perhaps IMcRout or others can respond.
IMcRout
Posted: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 2:59:55 AM

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As I tried to explain above "das pertobiassen" is a (Beethoven-created) verbal noun, meaning roughly 'to use the name Tobias in / for a composition'.

As this is mentioned at the end of a string of associations, rather unlikely ones, I might add, the 'pertobiassen' or 'pertobyating' - my humble attempt at translating the action into English - is of course part of these associations. The whole piece, however, only consists of the words "O Tobias, O Tobias, dominus Haslinger." ('O Tobias, O Tobias, Mr. Haslinger') and I cannot for the life of me detect any connections to relatives or further associations. Think

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
Anthony7877
Posted: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 1:47:42 PM

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Boo hoo!
Audiendus
Posted: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 8:20:56 PM
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IMcRout wrote:
As I tried to explain above "das pertobiassen" is a (Beethoven-created) verbal noun, meaning roughly 'to use the name Tobias in / for a composition'.

Thanks. Sorry I missed this.
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