BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, February 13, 1824

Beethoven begins using Conversation Book 56 today. This book is a fairly long one, comprised of 37 leaves, but appears to only cover about a week of time, through February 20.

In the late morning or early afternoon, Caroline Unger makes a short visit to Beethoven. She apologizes and asks him not to be angry for her disturbing him, “but I could no longer hold back my desire to see you and to ask whether you still remember me.” She thanks him for the letter that was delivered by Brother Johann to her father the other day. “I shall preserve this letter as a relic; it is only too bad that I don’t deserve the title.” [Beethoven apparently gave Unger a title or office, as he commonly did with friends.]

She tried to use her influence at the Kärntnertor Theater [presumably to get violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh the concertmaster position in the orchestra there] but theater manager Duport can do nothing because the second concertmaster, Johann Hildebrand, has first claim. Beethoven compares this to the kapellmeister position at St. Stephan’s, which was filled through intrigues. Unger agrees; Joseph Weigl, who was initially named, hoped in vain, and Gänsbacher won the position.

Unger asks whether Beethoven has anything ready yet for the proposed opera Melusine. Alas, he has nothing to offer her yet as he is trying to finish the symphony. Bass Anton Forti has read the libretto, and she says he is delighted with it and he would be the most suitable person to sing the role of the Knight.

She believes that the Court Opera will leave the Kärntnertor Theater and move to the Burgtheater, and the Kärntnertor will be rebuilt. Beethoven asks whether it will be built larger, and she understands it will be twice as large. A decision is to be made by the end of next month.

Unger asks why “your associate Herr Schindler” is absent today. [Unger may have been mildly concerned about the appearance of impropriety of visiting a man alone; it was probably for this reason that Schindler usually had been present for her visits.]

Unger would like to go on a tour of all of Germany. “Do you believe that I dare risk it?” Beethoven says she should, and that he would like to come with her. She answers, “If I were to go in such company, I would surely be received with open arms.”

Unger must depart, since she has “stolen the time in order to come and see you.” She promises to return soon “and bring the beautiful [Henriette] Sontag to see you.”

Nephew Karl arrives at Beethoven’s apartment early afternoon, before mid-day dinner. He ran into Schindler, who “sends his deepest respects.” Uncle Ludwig thinks they should have Brother Johann for dinner. Karl says Johann doesn’t want to come, fearing misconduct [by his unfaithful wife Therese] during his absence.

Ludwig mentions that Schuppanzigh did not get the position as a violinist in the Hofkapelle, losing to young Leopold Jansa. Karl says it is really too bad.

Johann mentioned to Karl that Duport is having Grillparzer’s libretto for Melusine translated into French, so he can study it thoroughly. Uncle Ludwig asks Karl to remind him who Duport’s superior, the operator of the Kärntnertor Theater is; Karl replies it is Domenico Barbaja. [The Italian impresario holds the theater lease until 1825.]

Karl mentions two piano makers, Joseph Franz Ries [brother of Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven’s former pupil] and Wilhelm Leschen. Karl says “He was surely skilled.” [Probably referring to Ries, who recently did repairs to Beethoven’s piano.]

Franz Christian Kirchhoffer stops by Beethoven’s apartment very briefly; he has his coachman wait for him. They discuss the proposed collected edition proposed to be published by Leidesdorf. Kirchhoffer says for his part, it ought not to come to a standstill; they can wait until they have 100 subscribers lined up, and then begin. If Beethoven would like, Kirchhoffer will provide a guarantee [Editor Ted Albrecht suggests this might be a guarantee that he will be one of the first 100 subscribers.]

Nephew Karl joins his uncle at a coffee house later that afternoon. They discuss a correspondent’s report, and Karl had read the same thing already on Saturday [February 7. Our friend Birthe Kibsgaard notes that in the February 7 Wiener Theaterzeitung, there was a “correspondent’s report” regarding rumors about the Königstädt theater in Berlin. This is the theater that Beethoven is allowing to use The Consecration of the House on an exclusive basis for its grand opening later this year. Ludwig and Karl may be worried that these rumors indicate that the theater might not open. Towards the end of the correspondent’s report, a long list of eminent composers was set forth (including Gluck, Mozart, Grétry, Rossini, Paisiello, Weber, Meyerbeer, and Cherubini, among others), but Beethoven was conspicuously omitted. If this is what Karl refers to, his uncle may have been offended.] Whatever it is that Ludwig thinks of this report, it struck Karl the same way.

The way they order the veal, Karl thinks it is both the best and least expensive.

Afterwards, they appear to meet with a tailor, probably back at Beethoven’s apartment. Unfortunately he does not have a tape measure with him. He can see Beethoven on Thursday, but Beethoven prevails on him to come back tomorrow.

Conversation Book 56, 1r-4r.

The Pietro Mechetti firm today advertises in the Wiener Zeitung at 156 two new pieces for pianoforte by Beethoven’s former pupil Carl Czerny. The first is a Caprice and Variations on the Popular Theme by Himmel, “An Alexis sond’ ich dich,” Czerny’s op.62. “It is with pleasure that I announce the appearance of this new work by Hrn. Carl Czerny, as it will certainly appeal to every piano player, both through the solid and attentive treatment of the delicate theme, and through the brilliant and yet not difficult effects (which even the most delicate hands can achieve) will be pleasant and can reliably provide lasting enjoyment for those looking for emotional expression, as well as ease of proper performing on the fortepiano.”

The second work is Czerny’s Toccatine brillante et facile, on the theme of the popular Tarantella from the ballet to La Fée et le Chevalier, op.63. [This magical ballet has played recently in Vienna under the German title Die Fee und der Ritter, which pilfered music by Rossini, Giovanni Pacini, Pietro Romani and Adalbert Gyrowetz.] “The popular motifs of this beautiful ballet, which now have given us many a happy evening, are treated here in such a way that not only accomplished artists, but also somewhat advanced students, will be able to play this brilliant little work with benefit and pleasure.”