BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO: Thursday, February 20, 1823

According to the Wiener Zeitung of February 22, it snows all day today, with temperatures ranging between 27 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Anton Schindler has lunch with Beethoven around 1:30 PM today, as they are discussing food for dinner. The news from Spain is confused. The royalists are said to be increasing and approaching the capital; other reports say that the constitutionalists have captured a corps of 500 royalists. The general feeling seems to be turning against the Cortes, but the report the other day of royalists marching into Madrid is now acknowledged to have been a hoax.

The score of Fidelio for Weber’s performance in Dresden is still not being copied; Count Gallenberg is being difficult. Yesterday Schindler visited Gallenberg, who put Schindler off till tomorrow even to find out whether their copyists can make the score. They have a great deal to do for the theater presently, so Beethoven may have to wait. The copyists are busy with the upcoming Italian opera season. “I must tell you that you are dealing with disagreeable men.”

Schindler hits on an alternative plan: he will write to his good friend Catharina Sigl, who met Beethoven last fall and immediately became infatuated with him. A copy of the score to Fidelio had been sent to Munich, where she lives, for a performance there in July of 1821. They can have that score copied and sent to Weber in Dresden. Beethoven asks whether Sigl has sung the role of Fidelio, and Schindler says she has.

Schindler notes that today is the anniversary of Emperor Joseph’s death in 1790. [Beethoven had written a cantata, WoO 87, on the occasion.]

Schindler is confident that the Musik-Verein will cover the costs of copying for the Akademie, especially if Beethoven authorizes a second performance for their benefit. It does not hurt to ask.

With regard to the Missa Solemnis, Schindler suggests that it may be a good idea to write to Carl Friedrich Peters in Leipzig about the change of plans for the Mass, since he thinks he (like several other publishers) has a contract for purchasing the work. It would be a good idea to have attorney Bach involved as well to avoid legal problems. He suggests that Beethoven write out a draft of his thoughts, and Schindler will take it along when he visits Bach this afternoon. He can prepare something quickly, if he knows what Beethoven wants to say.

Conversation Book 24, 34v-38v.

Perhaps at Schindler’s prompting, Beethoven writes a long letter to publisher Carl Friedrich Peters in Leipzig. [Although Beethoven dates the letter March 20, it clearly is an error and should have been dated February 20, since Peters responds to it on March 4. Beethoven’s last letter from February 15th missed the mail coach that day, so he sends them both together.] He notes that he mailed the other three Marches to Peters about eight days ago. For the Grand March, [WoO 24] several wind players might be added to a normal size regimental band. Beethoven clarifies that of the three smaller marches [Beethoven refers to them variously as Turkish Music and Zapfenstreiche or tattoos], the one in F that he briefly quotes [WoO 18] is to be number 1, and that in C [WoO 20] is to be number 2. [Beethoven is not telling the truth about having already sent the three marches. They do not go out until the Leipzig mail coach of Friday, February 28th, and Peters receives them by March 4, 1823, when he writes back to Beethoven.]

Beethoven sent the Bundeslied on Goethe’s poem, but only with the first verse; he will send the later verses as well, which should be added under the voice part. He also specifies that the piano part for the Opferlied [op.121b] has the melody written in above, and the various words were omitted; when engraved they will need to be added in. These songs can be performed with either orchestral or piano accompaniment, but Beethoven suggests it would be better to publish the piano arrangement first. He asks that the numerous corrections be forgiven. “My old copyist [Wenzel Schlemmer] can’t see any more, and the younger one [either Rampl or more likely Gläser] has to be trained first. But at least it is all free of mistakes.” Beethoven asks that these works be published soon.

Beethoven can let Peters have more bagatelles of this nature, if he would like to continue the series. But it is impossible to send a string quartet and a piano quartet at this time. Nevertheless, he would like to eventually send some such works to Peters. The lowest fee he accepts for a string quartet is 50 ducats and 70 for a piano quartet. Beethoven suggests that he has been offered more for string quartets, but he wants to keep it at his usual price for Peters. “You know, as I wrote to you before, that the prices of quartets and sonatas are increasing to the highest degree, to the point one is ashamed of oneself over the asking price for a great work. But meanwhile my situation demands that every advantage must be taken, more or less. But it’s different with the work itself. Thank God, I never think about the financial advantage, I only think about what I write.”

As to the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven will be sending Peters a contract that he would like signed. Two other persons have come forward, all of whom would like a Mass, so he intends to compose three at least. The first is quite finished. [For once, this was true, although he would continue to make changes to the Missa Solemnis over the next few months.] The second is not yet finished, the third I have not yet begun. [While literally true, neither of the other two projected masses ever passed beyond a few random sketches, so Beethoven was being somewhat misleading here.] Peters can have the Mass for 1000 gulden, to be paid as soon as Beethoven notifies him that the score has been dispatched from Vienna. [Contrary to Schindler’s recommendation, however, Beethoven makes no mention of the new subscription scheme, or the representations to the nobility that the work has not been published.]

With regard to the publication of the collected works, he will have his attorney prepare a contract for that as well, but more about this another time. He would like to firm up the deal with Peters, though, if nothing else to stop Steiner from hounding him about it. In general, he asks that Peters not send the fee for works until he has been notified that the score is ready to send. [This restraint indicates Beethoven was aware that he would be tempted to draw on such moneys, and thus end up even deeper in debt.]

Finally, Beethoven closes with hopes that the grief for Peters’ family tragedy is now a little less intense. [Towards the end of 1822, Peters’ wife, young son, and mother-in-law all died in the space of ten days. Peters wrote to Sauer & Leidesdorf about this on January 15, 1823, and the gossip-loving musical world of Vienna was no doubt quick to share this information.] He signs it, “Your friend, Beethoven.”

Brandenburg Letter 1575, Anderson Letter 1158. The original is held in a private collection. The first two and last two pages were photographed; the middle two pages are from a collation of transcriptions made by Anderson and Kalischer. Schindler mails the letters for Beethoven, who gives him 60 kr. to cover the expense.

Later this afternoon, when Beethoven is having coffee and reading his newspapers at the coffeehouse Zur goldenen Birne [To the Golden Pear], he meets Moritz Lichnowsky. He does not write in this Conversation Book, but Beethoven writes out for him a humorous canon, “Bester Herr Graf, Sie sind ein Schaf!” [Best Mister Count, you are a fool!] WoO 183. According to Schindler this canon was improvised on the spot. Unlike most of Beethoven’s other gift canons, no sketches are known to exist for this canon, so Schindler may be correct on this point. The parts are notated in different clefs in the order in which they enter, in a single bar. The autograph is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Mus. ms. autogr. Beethoven 35/35.

Soloists of the Berlin Chamber Choir of the Berlin Singakademie, conducted by Dietrich Knothe, perform the canon here: