BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, January 30, 1824

Nephew Karl is at his uncle’s apartment, and reports that the locksmith is vexed about having to write out an invoice for the work done yesterday; he had expected to be paid then, but Karl had told him to have a bill sent for the work that was done, and he didn’t do that.

Around dinner time, 2 p.m., unpaid assistant Anton Schindler visits. Beethoven asks him for directions to an apartment building that he’s interested in at 825 Kumpfgasse, and Schindler complies. He also complains that the soup should have simmered longer.

Beethoven rubs his eyes, and Schindler scolds him not to do that, lest they get bad again. Schindler says that Friedrich Kalkbrenner is supposed to leave today. [He actually leaves tomorrow; as mentioned previously, Kalkbrenner’s departure seems to have been delayed several times.] The general opinion is that Kalkbrenner won out over Moscheles as a pianist. Moscheles is lying in bed in Prague, dangerously ill with “sand and stone” [probably kidney stones.]

Beethoven is grousing about the help again. Schindler says that he shouldn’t get annoyed. WHen the old lady [Barbara Holzmann] returns, she will be better in all respects. [She appears to have been rehired, at least on a temporary basis.] “I consider the old woman to be much better than the maid, who comes from the lowest dregs.” Beethoven asks what he means by that. “The most common.” Beethoven is reluctant to bring back Holzmann yet again, but Schindler points out that “The main point, though, is that you can entrust everything to her, even if the cooking is not always what you’d like.” Schindler also observes that Beethoven is paying nearly double what is paid elsewhere for servants. [Another indication of just how difficult it was for his staff.]

Hensler, the manager of the Theater in the Josephstadt where Schindler is concertmaster, inquired about Beethoven’s health and asked whether he might borrow the score of the Ruins of Athens, since he wants to use the overture soon. He will either come by Beethoven’s apartment, or seek him out at the coffee house later this afternoon. He came the other day, but was stymied because he had forgotten the apartment number.

Schindler reports Grillparzer is now quite healthy again. Schindler suggests that Beethoven have a copy made of Fidelio, since there are too few copies and it would be helpful to have a copy of his own at home.

After Schindler leaves, Beethoven makes a note of the book Carmina selecta, a collection of poems by Jacobus Balde (1604-1668), copied from a copy of the Intelligenzblatt from about two weeks ago.

Conversation Book 54, 23r-25r.

Regular readers of our column will be familiar with Professor Theodore Albrecht, whose ongoing series of the English language editions of the conversation books are the framework that this feature is built upon, with his kind permission and assistance. Prof. Albrecht has a new book on the premiere of the Ninth Symphony forthcoming on February 20, 2024 from Boydell & Brewer press.

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