BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, May 27, 1822 (approximately)

It has been a seeming eternity since we last had a conversation book to offer more detailed accounts of Beethoven’s doings on a daily basis (actually around 20 months). But at last, we have a surviving conversation book, number 17, which begins about today and runs for approximately two and a half weeks. As we have noted previously, the box containing those missing books appears to have fallen off a cart as the composer returned to Vienna from Baden at the end of October, 1822.

Front cover of the rebound Conversation Book 17, SPK L. v. Beethoven 51,17.

Today is Pentecost Monday, or Whit Monday, and a holiday. Thus nephew Karl would be available to meet for lunch with uncle Ludwig. He notes that French violinist Alexandre Boucher has created a sensation in Vienna. You may recall that on April 29th Boucher had visited Beethoven, who wrote out for his guest the short duet for violins, WoO 34. Karl suggests that Ludwig should similarly travel and make himself more widely known. Karl, conscious of his uncle’s poverty, asks how much the spinach costs, perhaps testing whether it is all right for him to order it.

Later this afternoon, brother Johann and his wife Therese meet Ludwig at his City apartment. Johann questions the frugality of paying for this room while he’s already moved to Döbling. Better that Ludwig should just give up the apartment and come stay at Johann’s estate, Wasserhof, at Gneixendorf, just northeast of Krems. Beethoven surely would have objected that he could not be so far away from Vienna; Gneixendorf is around 80 km northwest of the City.

Johann suggests they go somewhere to have coffee. Over coffee, Therese says that she will speak with publisher S.A. Steiner about sponsoring a performance of the Missa Solemnis, and also Domenico Artaria, if that is all right with Beethoven. He appears to dismiss the idea (being well aware, even if she is not, that the work is not yet ready). She somewhat snippily responds that then he will just have to wait for some music lover to take the opportunity.

Johann mentions that they enjoyed themselves yesterday in the Brühl (probably the Brühl near Mödling, south of Vienna). Johann chides Ludwig that he did not eat lunch with them today; they waited for him until two o’clock. Apparently suggesting they breakfast together, Johann notes that they make coffee very strong in the mornings, with 120 beans. [Ludwig liked his coffee strong, and he counted out 60 beans for his own coffee, so Johann’s caffeine intake was high as well. But Johann doesn’t seem to understand that Ludwig’s well-established schedule means that the morning is entirely devoted to work, and he doesn’t have time for socializing until the afternoon.]

Ludwig, always looking for funds, raises the subject of holding an Akademie benefit concert to raise money. Johann thinks it is a good idea, but to make it a significant draw he really would need to have a new symphony. This astute remark may be the first germ of the composition of the Ninth.

Finally, Johann remarks on the unusually warm weather, and that Ludwig needs to keep from overheating. This hot spell will last a while, since Therese will comment upon it again several days later.

Conversation Book 17, 1r-2r. Attached is the front cover of the rebound Conversation Book, SPK L. v. Beethoven 51,17.