BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, October 21, 1822 (or Monday, October 28?)

Beethoven heads back to Vienna from Baden bei Wien, where he takes an apartment at Oberepfarrgasse 60, owned by Johann Ehlers. This house was near Johann’s house at Kothgasse No. 61, which was owned by Johann’s brother-in-law, master baker Leopold Obermayer.

As discussed in the entry for October 11, Beethoven may have returned today, October 21, or October 28, depending on how you read his landlord’s rent book for the Magdalenenhof where he had been staying. Having since the October 11th update found a photograph of the rent book, we conclude that it seems more natural to read the 27 florin charge, which is found in a column all by itself, as the total fee and not an addition to the Darangabe deposit. The “Finis” which Frimmel includes, is down in the corner of the page, and not next to the 27 and seems to my eye more like an acknowledgment that the balance has been paid. A copy of the rent book page is attached so you can judge for yourselves. The entry for Beethoven is at the bottom of the page.

Page from Grundgeyer Rent Book. Beethoven’s entry is last on the page. From Sieghard Brandenburg, ed. Beethovens Briefe vol. 4 p.546.

Whichever is the correct date, Beethoven expert Theodore Albrecht theorizes that it was on the trip back to Vienna from this last stay in Baden for the year when the trunk containing nearly all of his conversation books for the last two years fell off the coach and was lost. In a letter of July 12, 1823, Beethoven will mention that “an unfortunate accident robbed me of a considerable portion of my papers.” Brandenburg Letter 1698; Anderson Letter 1207. The November 15, 1823 issue of the Vienna Allgemeine Theater-Zeitung 17, No. 137, at page 548 includes a single page profile of Beethoven with the following remark that seems relevant to this incident: “It was very painful for him that in the past year, while migrating from the country to the city – perhaps through negligence or perhaps through treachery of the officer in charge of his effects, which had often occurred before with his works of art being stolen – all of his correspondence was lost.” That would explain why all these conversation books from before 1823 are today missing, except for 18 of them, most of which were concerned with Karl’s guardianship or negotiations with publishers and were apparently stored separately.

Albrecht suggests that Anton Schindler does not deserve the reputation he has for having destroyed over a hundred of those missing books, considering in light of this loss of correspondence that it is more likely Thayer misunderstood Schindler when he said there were many more than a hundred (viel über hundert) books as being four hundred (vier hundert) books.

Yet the fact that the conversation books for September and October 1822 – precisely the period when Beethoven likely first made Schindler’s acquaintance in connection with the premiere of The Consecration of the House at the Josephstadt Theatre, since Schindler was the concertmaster there – are missing may still be due to Schindler’s malfeasance. These books would obviously be wildly inconsistent with the added entries he was inserting into the other conversation books, and would make it clear he was not in fact intimate with Beethoven many years earlier, as he claimed. Schindler would have had a powerful incentive to destroy those books, if they were not lost in the missing trunk.

One would certainly expect the conversation book that included today’s date to have been on Beethoven’s person during the journey, not stuck in a trunk. Yet the next surviving conversation book dates from about October 31, some time later than this ill-fated trip. Given Schindler’s willingness to play fast and loose with vital historical documents it does not take much imagination to envision him consigning these several damning volumes to the flames.

If Beethoven does not depart until the 28th, then he takes the baths, continues to recover his health, and works on the Ninth Symphony during this time, but writes no significant letters that would indicate his location.

If Beethoven does depart Baden today, then there is the mystery of why Beethoven still seems to be just moving into his new quarters on October 31. Our guess of the most likely explanation would be that either he had not secured an apartment yet, or was not able to move in the new apartment until that date, and had to stay in his rented room that he used for visits to the City from the country (or possibly an inn) in the interim.