BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, August 28, 1820

Conversation Book 16, leaves 27v through 36v

In the morning, Beethoven abruptly departs Oliva’s apartment in Vienna without him and without eating breakfast. Instead he goes to a coffee house and reads last Saturday’s (the 26th) Conversationsblatt while he eats. He makes note of a new inflatable swimming belt life preserver that straps around one’s hips. Instrument maker Anton Schulz (1771-after 1830) announces he is making flutes that extend their range to F-sharp and F.

Oliva catches up with Beethoven to look at more apartments, starting at Biberbastei 1255 (renumbered as 1180 in 1821). The apartments are only available furnished. The large apartment costs 1400 florins, while the small one with two rooms costs 700. Oliva feels these rooms are too expensive. They move on to another building, and Oliva supposes that Beethoven must have written the address down wrong; this place is supposed to be torn down and rebuilt, and everyone in it is moving out.

Müller House, 19th century water color by F. Sager

They go to the Magistrat’s office to find out what the situation is regarding this house, and there Oliva gets confirmation that this is the correct number, which is the Müller House, a long building running parallel to the Danube that editor Ted Albrecht describes as “essentially where the Schwedenplatz subway station stands today.” [The building had been named after its then-owner, Joseph Müller, who was actually Count Joseph Deym (1750-1804). Deym had fled Vienna after a duel, temporarily losing his patent of nobility, and returned under an assumed name. He kept an art gallery full of statuary in the building, including copies of the famous Laocöon Group and Aphrodite of Knidos.]

Josephine (Brunsvik) Deym, pencil drawing, before 1804

[“Müller” was married to Josephine Brunsvik (1779-1821). Beethoven had been ardently in love with the widowed Countess Josephine Deym over a decade ago, but she rejected him since she feared losing custody of her children if she married a commoner. She has also been put forward as a possibility for the Immortal Beloved, since elsewhere Beethoven referred to her as his “only beloved” and Josephine’s diaries cease abruptly a month before the Immortal Beloved letters are written. The Müller House survived in the family’s hands and was not actually demolished until 1889. Nevertheless, multiple government officials insist today that the Müller House is being torn down now.]

Beethoven and Oliva inspect several more apartments. One of them, in the Klepperstall, owned by Baron Philipp von Wetzlar, seems interesting, and Beethoven asks the building superintendent to hold it for him two days. The superintendent agrees to do so.

In the late morning, they run into pianist and composer Johann Horzalka (1798-1860), who pays his respects. [Horzalka may also visit Beethoven in Mödling later this month, but the colorful anecdote of that visit, with Beethoven found howling the Credo after firing all his servants, is relayed by the always unreliable Anton Schindler. Horzalka himself later denied knowing anything about the story.]

They stop by the offices of the Wiener Zeitschrift a little after noon. Beethoven is dissatisfied with Oliva’s speed in copying the English texts for the 25 Scottish Songs, op.108. Schickh’s copyist doesn’t understand English, but he is very precise, and Schickh says he could certainly do the job. [No doubt wounded by observing this exchange, Oliva will finish the job (unpaid) himself, obviating the need for Schickh’s copyist to get involved.]

Oliva excuses himself to go to lunch and thence to the Stock Exchange. He gives Beethoven his apartment key in case he needs to rest, and tells him he will pick up Beethoven at 2 p.m.

While Oliva has his midday meal, Beethoven goes to Blöchlinger’s Institute to visit nephew Karl. Beethoven gives Karl a copy of Homer, but Karl says he already has it. It seems to be a short visit because that’s the total of their exchange, at least in the conversation book. They may go somewhere private where Karl can speak loudly.

After his conversation with Karl, Beethoven probably visits the nearby apartment at 8 Kaiserstrasse (now 57 Josephstädterstrasse) today, and seemingly rejects it as a suitable possibility.

Beethoven meets up with Oliva at around 2 p.m. Since Beethoven does not have the key for his own apartment, the landlady says he needs to come back very early; it seems she does not stay up late. Beethoven must look pretty raggedy, for Oliva suggests that he get a shave. They consider where to meet for dinner; Beethoven recommends the Schwarze Kameel (Black Camel) but Oliva does not like the wine there. [He doesn’t drink wine often in any event.] But Beethoven is firm and they agree to meet at the Black Camel at 8.

Zum schwarze Kameel today

After Beethoven runs some more errands, gets his shave, and makes a list of questions to ask potential landlords, he joins Oliva at the Kameel at the appointed time. They discuss the issues with publisher Nikolaus Simrock’s seeming failure to understand the exchange rates. Oliva says it would be best to write him tomorrow to make it clear what Beethoven would want as the equivalent of the 100 louis d’or price for the Missa Solemnis.

Oliva, obviously still annoyed about Beethoven’s impatience over the English texts for the Scottish Songs and his soliciting Schickh for his clerk to help, has had enough of the complaints about the speed of his work, which Beethoven has renewed over dinner. “No one will get the Lieder done for you as quickly as I will; you will certainly have them this week. There is certainly a great deal of effort with them, but you will certainly have them, because I myself see how necessary it is.” He also suggests they write Schlesinger about the delays and use Beethoven’s illness as a reason why he does not have the engraver’s scores yet.

The apartment hunting and Beethoven’s indecision about them are coming to a head; Oliva suggests that the Landstrasse would be the best location; the prices are reasonable for the things important to Beethoven. The smaller one in the Wetzlar house is the one Oliva likes best; the other option is the larger one in the Ungargasse. The other options are inferior and “stifling.” He doubts that they will find anything better than what they have seen, especially since the standard rental date of Michaelmas (September 29) is fast approaching. Nonetheless, Beethoven, probably continuing to be unwell, is unable to make any decision.

Since it no longer early and his landlady is now asleep, presumably the keyless Beethoven returns to Oliva’s apartment for the night once again.