BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, July 14, 1820 (approximately)

Conversation Book 15, leaves 6v through 13v

Beethoven is in Vienna this morning. The trip to Vienna may have actually begun in the afternoon yesterday after reading the newspapers; there are no clear internal clues to be certain.

As usual, Beethoven meets Franz Oliva. Beethoven has received Schlesinger’s letter of July 4, and they discuss how to go about setting up the bill of exchange so Beethoven can get paid for the 25 Scottish songs, op.108. Unsurprisingly, none of the local merchants want to make advance payment to Beethoven on behalf of Schlesinger until payment is made by Schlesinger in Berlin. Receiving funds from Berlin will probably take about 20 days.

Beethoven also wants to make arrangements to collect the dividends on one of his bank shares, which will be due on Tuesday the 18th, but he has forgotten to bring it along with him. Oliva outlines a number of options, including the straightforward one of just bringing it next Tuesday or afterwards. Oliva reminds Beethoven that he should also receive the allowance for Karl at the end of the month. As usual, Beethoven is in a money panic and the incoming money is coming in far too slowly to suit him; Oliva has the unenviable task of calming down his friend.

The pair then visit a shoemaker’s shop and drop off a pair of shoes and two pairs of boots for refurbishing. These are probably the footwear that Beethoven had mentioned needed repair on June 15th, and it has taken a month for him to get around to delivering them.

Oliva departs, and Beethoven pays a call on his favorite copyist, Wenzel Schlemmer. Schlemmer lately has been busy working to put Archduke Rudolph’s music archive into order. Rudolph’s archivist, Joseph Baumeister, died in October 1819 after a long period of ill health. Beethoven wants a piece from the archive, but the conversation books do not indicate exactly what it was. Since Beethoven has been working on the long-overdue Missa Solemnis, this request may well be for part of a mass by Mozart or Haydn that Beethoven can use to see how they dealt with a particular problem. Beethoven is known to have analyzed the Kyrie from Mozart’s Requiem K.626 while working on the Gloria of his own mass earlier in 1820. Beethoven has had unfettered access to the Archduke’s music archive for over a decade at this point and also frequently deposited his own manuscripts there for safekeeping.

Beethoven tracks down Joseph Bernard, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, probably at lunch at Frau Baumgarten’s boarding house, although Oliva is not present (Bernard at one point asks where Oliva is). Bernard mocks Frau Peters’ promotion of her housekeeper, saying she acts as if she were a princess, creating protegés as soon as she can. He thinks Beethoven is paying too much money for a cook.

Bernard notes that Blöchlinger has asked that Frau Baumgarten not take her son out of his Institute on Sundays. Bernard nevertheless suggests he could bring Karl out to Mödling, possibly along with Baumgarten’s son, on one of his upcoming visits. Bernard thinks Mödling is too far away for Beethoven to live, at least on a permanent basis.

They also have an extended discussion about Count Ferdinand Troyer (1780-1851), an amateur clarinetist and chief steward to Archduke Rudolph. Troyer is administering a graduated income tax on behalf of the Archduke. Bernard makes some cryptic comments about karma: “The gods avenge themselves. They all deserved it…” though it is not clear who they are, or what they did to deserve whatever happened to them. We do not, however, get Bernard’s recommendations for a portable writing desk.

[Beethoven may visit nephew Karl at Blöchlinger’s Institute as planned, but there is no sign of it in the conversation book. Beethoven probably does not see Blöchlinger, who usually writes at length when he speaks with Beethoven.]

Beethoven meets Oliva at a wine house in the evening. Oliva expresses his disdain for Bernard, and his “selective intelligence.” Oliva comments, “Brilliant, he is not.” They also discuss Troyer, whom Oliva describes as vain and pitiable. [Looking ahead, in 1824, Troyer will commission Franz Schubert to write a companion piece to Beethoven’s Septet, op.20, which will turn out to be the famous Octet in F, D.803, so he is notable for us despite Oliva’s contempt. Troyer will himself play clarinet in the premiere of the Octet in his own townhouse.]

Oliva promises to send three bottles of wine to Beethoven to be delivered on Monday. Oliva bids him good night, and Beethoven spends the night in the City.

As Beethoven drifts off to sleep, let’s fast forward to 1824 and enjoy the Schubert Octet, courtesy of Ferdinand Troyer, performed by Janine Jansen and Friends: