As much as we revere the historical personalities for their contributions to our present world, we always forget how the patriarchy was unkind to its women creators. A recent report sheds light on how the iconic musician Beethoven’s friend was pretty much never mentioned for her immense contribution to his success.
Ludwig Van Beethoven, who mesmerized his audience with his melodious symphonies by playing the piano, would not have reached that fame had it not been for Nannette Streicher. A New York Times report mentions how a little attention to the footnotes of Beethoven’s original sketch of “Hammerklavier” Piano Sonata revealed the crucial role of Strieker in his career. The original sketch was found in the city’s Morgan Library and Museum, where the British publisher Vincent Novello wrote in the margins that the document was given to him by “Mrs. Streiker” who happened to be one of Beethoven’s oldest and most sincere friends.
On further research, it was found that Streicher was one of the finest piano builders in Europe and she owned her own company employing her husband, Andreas Streicher, a pianist and teacher, to handle sales and other work.
For many of the scholars, the fact that a woman could run a business that too in the 18th century seemed like a far-fetched imagination. So, in order to stick to the stereotype and the patriarchal ideology, the scholars turned Andreas into the manufacturer and Streicher into his helpmate.
Lady Streicher was born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1769 as the sixth child of Johann Andreas Stein, a renowned manufacturer who developed an innovative piano action, known as the “Viennese action.”
The NYT report further says that Streicher herself was a piano player and played in front of Mozart at the age of eight. By the time she was ten, she had mastered the piano building techniques learnt from her father, becoming something of a genius child.
At 23, Streicher had married and transported the pianos by raft and set up the business in Vienna. After her father’s death, she partnered with her 16-year-old brother, Matthäus and renamed the company from J.A. Stein to Geschwister (siblings) Stein. The siblings turned business rivals years later and her brother declared himself the ‘rightful heir’.
By 1809, Streicher reworked her father’s design, turning out some of the largest, loudest and sturdiest pianos in Vienna. This proved helpful for Beethoven who was losing his hearing ability. Streicher’s company manufactured 50 to 65 grand pianos a year and was considered by many to be the finest in the city.
In 1817, she struck a deal with Beethoven and became his household manager. She was there for him in one of his worst phases of life. As Beethoven dealt with paranoia, insecurity, and his hearing loss, Streicher supported him.