BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, October 31, 1822

Nephew Karl observes that if he were a composer, he “would far prefer to write operas.” Uncle Ludwig makes a disparaging remark about German opera libretti [probably in the vein of the remarks he made to Julius Benedict that only French and Italian libretti are worthwhile.] Karl agrees; he thought of that when he heard Weber’s Euryanthe would have a serious subject, and it doesn’t measure up to his Der Freischütz. But Weber holds himself strictly to his own principles, as he had said when he visited them in Baden in October. However, the music is outstanding.

“But I almost believe that beautiful music must have more effect upon totally unmusical people than upon the connoisseur who only looks for Art.” Karl then quotes a proverb from Schiller’s Tonkunst, “The fine arts breathe life; I ask for spirit from the poet, but only Polyhymnia expresses the soul.” Karl comments that an opera like Fidelio has a theme that cannot compare to the “devilish tale” of Der Freischütz. The theater is not meant to touch a person fleetingly, but to form and awaken noble sentiments, and for that the subject must at least appear to be true. Karl continues that he doesn’t know much Italian opera, other than Rossini. He considers it like refined cooking that gratifies but does one harm.

For dinner, the cook boils the carp they bought yesterday.

[It appears they goes out for a walk, stopping at a butcher shop where they price beef and tripe, and Karl discusses those whom he met.] Karl complains that Professor Anton Joseph Stein (1759-1844), who taught Latin and Greek at the University of Vienna, was terribly pedantic. He promotes the idea of using modern Greek pronunciation, and requires “this horribly hard-sounding pronunciation from all of his pupils.” He demands the translations of Greek classics using his own vocabulary, and it is impossible. [Stein lived only a few houses south of Beethoven’s apartment, so they may have run into him. They also seem to have met Count Moritz Lichnowsky.] Lichnowsky “railed terribly against Weber’s opera and only wishes that you would go with him in the parterre near the orchestra in order to observe the nonsense by means of the music itself.” Uncle Ludwig asks what the problem is with the music, and the response is,”Full of terrible dissonance.” [Lichnowsky will come to visit Beethoven tomorrow, and will express similar opinions then.]

In the margins, Karl makes a little joke, saying copyist Matthias Wunderl is a “little miracle” since his name is Wunderl. His uncle loved this kind of wordplay, and no doubt appreciated it.

Conversation Book 44, 6v-9v.

In the second lunchtime concert of the Schuppanzigh Quartet in the present series, the program includes a Quartet in D minor by Anglo-French composer George Onslow (1784-1853). That is followed by Mozart’s Quartet in C major, and Beethoven’s Quartet #5 in A major, op.18/5. Lichnowsky is in attendance at the concert.

The Sauer & Leidesdorf music shop advertises in today’s Wiener Zeitung at 1019 the fifth piano concerto of Beethoven’s former pupil Ferdinand Ries, his op.120, either in its original form or arranged for piano solo. They also offer the fourth concerto, op.115 and promise that the full collection of Ries’ works is available at their shop as a whole or individually.