BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, June 16, 1823

Ludwig and Karl take the carriage from Hetzendorf to Vienna early enough for Karl to take his examination. Ludwig attends the Mass but loses his pocket watch while he is there.

Waiting for Karl, Ludwig visits with conductor Ferdinand von Piringer. He has just come from a rehearsal with Schuppanzigh and his quartet. They played Beethoven’s C-major quartet [op.59/3]. On Thursday midday, they must play a quartet concert instead of eating. [This will be the second concert in the series, the first having been last Thursday, June 12.] The other members of the quartet are second violinist Karl Holz [who will later become another unpaid assistant of Beethoven] and violist Franz Weiss. [Piringer does not mention cellist Joseph Linke, who Beethoven knows well and probably assumed did not need identification.] Piringer asks about Beethoven’s plans for the Akademie concert and Beethoven brushes that off since the Ninth Symphony is nowhere near finished.

Beethoven next talks to Franz Christian Kirchhoffer (1785-1842), a cashier and bookkeeper who also served as a go-between for financial matters with Ferdinand Ries in London. He lets Beethoven know that his bank shares are currently selling at 922 gulden C.M., with a dividend of 28 florins every six months. [Beethoven may be considering buying more shares since his finances seem to be improving slightly.] The values fluctuate and could go up to 1,000 or 1,200. Kirchhoffer calls Beethoven a “citizen without uniform,” and laments that the Emperor did not want intellectuals but only citizens loyal to the state.

Karl meets up with Uncle Ludwig, complaining that sometimes he doesn’t get his laundry back for 3 or 4 weeks, so he has to alternate his current outfit with his everyday vest “which of course is dirty because I have already worn it for 3 weeks.” But he himself is clean at least. This has been a bad summer.

They talk a bit about French. Karl insists again that it works best if letters to be in French (such as Ludwig’s planned letter to the Philharmonic Society in St. Petersburg) be dictated in German.

The pair stop at the tailor shop. He can make trousers of dark striped cloth, to go with a half-length coat of gray cashmere. The charge for that would be 32 florins. Ludwig says that the coat must be somewhat longer than a cannoneer’s jacket. They will be back in the City on a Sunday since Beethoven needs to find an apartment for the fall.

They also buy a thermometer to take back to Hetzendorf. Ludwig makes a note to have the housekeeper take a fiacre into the city from Gumpfendorf or Meidling rather than Hetzendorf; the cost will be less. He also writes a reminder to go to the Lithographic Institute and to buy wild ducks and venison.

Conversation Book 34, 8r-12r.

In today’s Wiener Zeitung at 554, Cappi und Diabelli announces the newly-published and in-stock 33 Variations on a Waltz for the Pianoforte, composed by L. van Beethoven, op.120. The price is a fairly steep 5 florins 30 kr. W.W. Diabelli’s text is worth quoting at length, as the publishers clearly recognized they had something very special here:

“We offer to the world here no variations of the ordinary kind, but a great and important masterpiece, worthy of being ranked among the imperishable creations of the old classics, and as only Beethoven, the greatest living representative of true art, could alone deliver.”

“The most original forms and thoughts, the boldest thoughts and harmonies are exhausted here. All effects of the pianoforte based on solid playing are utilized, and this work is made even more interesting by the fact that it was produced on a theme that no one else would have even considered capable of producing such things. In this our High Master stands alone amongst his contemporaries.”

“The magnificent Fugues Nos. 24 and 32 will delight every friend and connoisseur of the serious style; just as the numbers 6, 16, 17, 23, etc. will surprise in their brilliance as played, and in general all the changes through the novelty of the ideas, care of the elaboration and beauty of the most artistic renderings give this work a place next to Seb. Bach’s well-known masterpieces of a similar kind.”

“We are proud of having provided the basis for this composition, and we have also endeavored to combine elegance with the greatest correctness in terms of style.”

It is worth noting that contrary to the popular belief that Johann Sebastian Bach’s works were largely forgotten before Mendelssohn sparked a revival of interest in the composer in 1829, Bach’s works are here described as “well-known” and considered an obvious touchstone for excellence in artistry. According to a later discussion in the Conversation Books, Beethoven’s former pupil Carl Czerny wrote the text for this advertisement.

The work is dedicated to Antonie Brentano, considered by some to be one of the prime candidates for Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved.

However, the first printing had a number of serious errors that Beethoven was angry to find despite his proofreading, and he insisted that Diabelli issue a second, corrected, printing before the month was out.

In 1824, Diabelli will reissue these variations as the first volume of a set, with the second volume comprised of 50 more variations on Diabelli’s little waltz, by notables such as Liszt, Czerny and Schubert, as well as others now forgotten.

The Diabelli Variations are here performed by Mitsuko Uchida: