BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, December 1, 1823

In the morning, Beethoven makes a list, including visiting a dressmaker (probably for uniforms for the help), buying a broom and pencils, and going to a bookbinder. The latter may relate to either buying conversation books or having a new desk sketchbook made for purposes of starting serious work on the three string quartets for Prince Nikolai Galitzin.

Nephew Karl comes by after his classes to help with interviewing a new housekeeper. Marianne Neuwirth is an acquaintance who heard that Uncle Ludwig needed a woman. He tells her they need to set a time for a cooking sample. Karl can’t come on Wednesday, so the options are Thursday or Friday. Neuwirth has parents here. But Karl then says he will be eating in the City on Thursday but not on Wednesday, which contradicts what he just wrote.

In any event, none of the women should be hired without doing a cooking sample. Nannette Bauer (whom Karl here refers to as “the one with the Testament”) could do hers as early as Wednesday. Uncle Ludwig jokingly suggests that Karl has a romantic interest in one of the women, but he denies it. “She is already past her prime; otherwise also more ugly than pretty, so there is nothing to fear.”

Uncle Ludwig would like a trial period of four weeks for the housekeeper. Karl reminds him that Bauer refused to do that. Her sister gives music lessons. “We shall look as closely at the food dishes in the samples, as the critics do a new work.”

[Anton Schindler here on 14v enters phony conversations with Beethoven after the composer’s death, relating to the proper interpretation of the piano sonatas op.10. These were probably designed to use as evidence that his interpretation was composer-approved and promote the falsehood that he was a student of Beethoven. There then follow some genuine entries by Schindler on the next page, 15r. The difference between the two next to each other is quite stark, as he is businesslike in the genuine entries and fawning in the fake ones.]

Anton Schindler comes by while Karl is still in the apartment. There was a decision yesterday about the third chair in the orchestra at the Kärntnertor Theater that he was hoping to join. He should know something today or tomorrow.

Karl interrupts, saying a man is at the door for the poor. Uncle Ludwig asks who it is. Karl says it is the overseer of the poorhouse. [Whether anything was contributed is unclear.]

Schindler was surprised that Louis Duport, the manager of the Kärntnertor Theater said nothing about Beethoven’s proposal for an Akademie benefit concert. It really depends upon him, so Schindler suggests Beethoven should write to him about it.

Schindler asks Beethoven how he likes soprano Henriette Sontag. He thinks her singing is fine but she needs work on her acting.

Schindler says he ran into Brother Johann the day after his arrival back in the City; he said he wanted to come visit Ludwig (which he did yesterday afternoon). Johann has decided Ludwig should compose no more operas, “because the opera must lead to ruin.” [This comment is probably a reaction to the disaster that was Weber’s Euryanthe, which seems to have singlehandedly destroyed the market for German opera, at least in Vienna.]

Ludwig is annoyed that Duport doesn’t give him free tickets to the Kärntnertor Theater any more. Schindler explains that Duport says he is afraid to do so, “so as not to impose quite so many miserable works of the same sort upon you.” But he would consider it a great honor if Beethoven were to come, and to bring Karl. According to Moscheles, in London and Paris even the least important artists get free tickets to the Royal Theatre. Moscheles asked if he might come pay his respects, since he must return to London soon. [Pianist Ignaz Moscheles arrived in Vienna on October 19, 1823, then took sick for nearly a month. He left Vienna for Prague on January 2, 1824.] Moscheles regrets that he was unable to get access to the King to complain on Beethoven’s behalf about the failure to recognize the dedication of Wellington’s Victory, op.91, which has rankled Beethoven for a decade now. Prince Esterházy, the Austrian ambassador even tried through the King’s mistress, Lady Elizabeth Conyngham, “but he is said to be a shit-fellow” just like the nobility here.

Schindler passes on more gossip that there was a rumor in the London newspapers that Beethoven was on his way there, and had even arrived in Munich already. Captain Reigersfeld there had readied his house to receive Beethoven. Everyone there was talking about it.

Beethoven asks what the opinion is of Moscheles. Schindler thinks he “is an operator” but he has received quite considerable fees. He has tolerably good manners. He assured Schindler over and over how much that people in all of England adore Beethoven, and that he did not dare go back without being able to say he had visited Beethoven. Beethoven gives his grudging consent to a visit from Moscheles.

The current administration of the theater will retire at the end of November, 1824 [the Italian impresario Domenico Barbaja (1778-1841), who was a great promoter of Rossini and engineered his visit to Vienna in 1822, had a lease on the Kärntnertor Theater until then, so that appears to be what Schindler is referring to], and then most likely Moritz Dietrichstein will take over the administration. Barbaja appears to have horribly defrauded the court, and wants another 25,000 florins, which recently was changed to 40,000 fl. C.M. as the termination approaches. The emperor said no, and the answer remained no. But the ballet is “extraordinarily fine,” as good as in Paris, they say.

[Here a page appears to have been removed from the Conversation Book at some point; when the book resumes Schindler has departed, but Nephew Karl remains and is mid-conversation.]

Ludwig and his nephew discuss several housekeepers who were just here to apply for the open position, and that there was one who had no pension and another who had “just as little.” [They would be unsuitable, since the amounts paid by Beethoven for the help were plainly not enough to live on.]

Karl describes the election of the new head of the University. He found it boring and lacking in ceremony. Beethoven’s attorney, Johann Baptist Bach, was there, and talked to another lawyer through the proceeding, sitting in the front row reserved for professors. Some of the professors thus had to sit in the second row, which Karl thought very rude. Beethoven asked why Bach was there at all. Karl says because he belongs to the University as a Doctor Juris.

Karl tells a political story: Ignaz Castelli (1781-1862) wrote a poem about the common-man nature of Emperor Joseph II [(1741-1790), in commemoration of whose death Beethoven had written the cantata WoO 87). Two of the lines read:

My thoughts roam here, my thoughts roam there,
But no longer Kaiser Joseph anywhere.”

This of course had to be struck out immediately. Karl jokes that Emperor Joseph once told a woman who complained that the nobility needed to mingle with the common people and not just their equals, “If I wanted to associate only with my equals, then I would have to go to the catacomb of the Capuchins,” [the burial vault of the Imperial family.]

Conversation Book 47, 13r-22r.