BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday April 21, 1823

Beethoven takes a long walk through Laimgrube, stopping at a coffee house and noting advertisements for apartments in various spa towns for the summer. He then goes to his appointment with Dr. Smetana, for followup about his complaints with diarrhea and a head cold last Thursday. While the diarrhea is better, he is still coughing. Smetana prescribes an herbal tea; one cup full should be drunk immediately upon awakening, and another just before going to sleep. Beethoven asks him for recommendations for places with baths, and Smetana suggests four possibilities, including Kalksburg, not far from Hetzendorf.

Later, Beethoven meets up with unpaid assistant Anton Schindler. He knows of Smetana as a house physician, but has never met him. Schindler does not think Kalksburg would be warmer than Baden, since it is entirely surrounded by hills. But Kalksburg is beautiful, with several beautiful valleys. Schindler also has good friends there, who might be able to find him a good place. It’s about a 45 minute walk from Hetzendorf. But there are not many nice apartments, so Beethoven would have to make do with a small country house. Going directly to Baden would be cheaper than moving twice, though.

Beethoven needs to decide about what he wants for chests for the journey. The carpenter is waiting, and he quoted a price of 100 florins.

Schindler asks Beethoven to be so kind as to explain what on earth he was talking about in his obscure letter [yesterday?] about the South and North Pole, and pancakes, because he is baffled. [Conversation Book Editor Ted Albrecht suggests that the North and South Pole may be references to Schindler being sent off on an errand yesterday with Attorney Bach, while the Beethoven family went off for a carriage ride. Sir William Edward Parry (1790-1855) was a well-known polar explorer, whose exploits were covered in the Wiener Zeitung, which Beethoven read religiously. They may have had potato pancakes for supper while in the Prater, while Schindler got nothing.]

Nothing has been heard by Prince Esterházy about Bauer’s doings in England, but something is expected any day now. Possibly Bauer and Ries are both waiting until they hear something definitive from King George IV about Beethoven’s request for recognition on the dedication of Wellington’s Victory, op.91, eight or nine years ago. Schindler picks up the herbal tea Dr. Smetana prescribed, which costs 4 kr.

There are reports from Paris that the Spanish Cortes is about to surrender. [This time, the rumor from Spain is correct; the Spanish surrendered to the French on April 7.]

Beethoven was expecting Franz Grillparzer to have visited him with his Melusine libretto by now. Schindler suggests that he might be sick, or he would already have come. He has had a throat ailment for some time and cannot stand the cold air. The poet says that if Beethoven does not want to set it to music, then he will turn it into a dramatic play, which was his original plan anyway. But he was very clear that he intended to deliver it to Beethoven in person. Grillparzer’s publisher wants 150 ducats for the work, and the directorship of the theater is balking at that price for a libretto alone. But Grillparzer leaves it to Beethoven’s judgment, and he can do with it as he pleases.

Similarly, both Beethoven and Schindler are surprised that Schuppanzigh, recently returned to Vienna, has not come to visit. Schindler would love to study under him, if he stays long enough. Since Schindler has an hour free, he will go to the publisher and see what the delay is with Grillparzer.

Beethoven returns home alone. Conversation Book 30, 19r-24v.

Today, Ludwig Schwebel, secretary for the French Embassy in Vienna, writes to Beethoven, including a copy of the letter of April 10th from Paris. The French King is interested in the Missa Solemnis and honored by the solicitation, but wishes to know the price. [As previously noted, it appears Schindler did not include the usual reference to 50 ducats in King Louis XVIII’s solicitation letter.] He asks that this information be provided promptly so a decision can be made.

Brandenburg Letter 1632, Albrecht Letter 317. The original is in the von Breunig family archives; the Bonn Beethovenhaus has a photo of the letter.

In the fifth concert of the London Philharmonic’s concert season, the first half was concluded by a performance of the Overture to Consecration of the House, op.124, by Beethoven. You will recall that Beethoven sold the Philharmonic Society the exclusive performance rights to this work for a period of 18 months. The correspondent for the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung describe the performance thusly:

“The conclusion of the first part was an unpublished, wonderful overture by Beethoven, which he is said to have set especially for this society. It begins with a celebratory march, Marche religieuse, full of sublime ideas and free from all strongly dissonant harmonies and bold transitions. A very elaborate fugue makes up the main content of the whole, and one might agree with the English critics when they say that Beethoven seems to want to show in the piece his knowledge of the learned and austerely styled works of Handel and Bach. In fact, this overture combines the style of the old and the new, and it will certainly always remain a beautiful monument to Beethoven’s spirit, for which it was immediately recognized.”

Leipzig AMZ of August 27, 1823 (Nr. 35) at 564.

The London Philharmonic here plays the Overture to Consecration of the House, under the baton of Eduard van Beinum: