BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, September 4, 1820

Conversation Book 16, leaves 46r through 53r

Beethoven has his breakfast at a coffee house in Vienna, and reads the Beobachter newspaper of last Friday, September 1. He notes an article about the claimed discovery of the original of the Ossian poem in Ireland, and thinks it might make a subject for the British opera. [Ossian was the supposed author of a cycle of epic poems published in 1760 by poet James Macpherson. The poems were internationally popular but Macpherson is now generally believed to have written them himself. The loosely-connected stories of the poems are set in about the third century and tell of the author’s battles and loves, as well as those of his father King Fingal (Finn MacCool) and his dead son Oscar. Given Beethoven’s decade of work with Irish folk music, this could have been quite an interesting project, anticipating the nationalist music of the late 19th century. But it never advanced any further than this note.]

Beethoven also copies down the winning lottery numbers to check later; he forgot to bring his ticket along with him. He also makes a memorandum to visit Johann Wolfmayer (1768-1841), a cloth dealer and music lover, and Mathias Tuscher, a member of the board of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, who also had briefly served as Karl’s guardian in 1819. Beethoven wants to get their advice about buying a house. [If he does visit them on this trip, they did not use this conversation book.]

Beethoven also notes some apartments to visit, settles up his bill at the coffee house and heads to Oliva’s home. They talk about possibilities for apartments and the lottery. A poor bookbinder won the lottery to benefit the Theater. Oliva is mostly finished with entering the English words onto the printer’s copy of the 25 Scottish Folk Songs, op.108. He will have them done by the next time Beethoven comes to the City.

Oliva’s employer Biedermann is in town today, which hinders Oliva from helping Beethoven as much as he would like. Beethoven is nervous about the payment from Schlesinger for the 25 Scottish Songs, but Oliva reassures him everything is in order and everyone was satisfied. Beethoven is also concerned about when the bank share payments come next. Oliva tells him that they will mature on February 1.

[Today is nephew Karl’s fourteenth birthday.] Oliva suggests taking Karl out to Mödling, perhaps for a several days’ outing. Next Sunday Oliva and Bernard may come to visit Beethoven in Mödling.

Beethoven mentions the house with the vineyard that Speer has inherited, and tells Oliva he might be interested in buying it. Oliva notes that they can visit Attorney Bach and ask him about the house and inheritance matters.

Beethoven, recalling that the Archduke had invited himself to Mödling, suggests having the royal as a guest. Oliva disabuses him of this notion: the Archduke does not travel alone, so it would be quite expensive to host him, with very little benefit. “A visit to the country will count for nothing & it will certainly cost you 50 fl.”

Oliva reminds Beethoven that he will be going to the Leipzig Fair on business in the middle of September. [Either Oliva or Biedermann is mistaken about the dates; the Leipzig Fair in 1820 will not begin until early October.] He has some business to deal with now, and suggests Beethoven go to Blöchlinger’s to visit Karl. Afterwards they can meet at Doll’s bookshop about noon.

The former Blöchlinger Institute, now the Institute for Advanced Studies, 39 Josephstädterstrasse

At the boarding school, Beethoven meets with Blöchlinger, who says that Karl can be taken to Mödling on a visit, but the Baumgarten boy cannot go along. Perhaps Blöchlinger can bring both boys out himself later, but he has no time to do it now. Karl is very well behaved recently. “Everything is now forgotten.” Beethoven writes down, “We owe it [to him] to prevent all disturbances and other actions,” which seems to be a reminder to keep Karl’s mother away. Beethoven’s reference letter for teacher Joseph Köferle in July was successful; he is sure to get the position as apprentice in the Court Treasury that he sought. Beethoven apparently does not see Karl just now since time is short. Attached is a photo by Peter Gugerell of the building that housed the Blöchlinger Institute, now 39 Josephstädterstrasse, part of the former Strozzi Palace (since 2015 the home of the Institute for Advanced Studies).

Around noon, Beethoven meets up with Oliva at Doll’s (one of Beethoven’s favorite bookstores, mentioned repeatedly in the conversation books). Oliva notes Friday, September 8th is a holy day [Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, a national holiday, thus there likely were no post carriages], so Blöchlinger and Karl will probably come to visit on Saturday the 9th. Oliva will go tomorrow to check on the refurbished Broadwood piano from piano maker Stein and make sure it will be delivered on Thursday the 7th. Pressed by business today, Oliva is tied up again until about 5 p.m. On the way to meeting Beethoven, Oliva will pick up the candles and boot wax Beethoven needs. Beethoven will be occupied himself since he has to visit the Archduke, and will likely be there until after 6:30 p.m. Oliva says Beethoven’s fame flatters the Archduke, and Oliva concedes that the Archduke’s frugality is to his credit. While Beethoven grumbles about having such a demanding patron, Oliva reminds him that it would be difficult to find a better one.

Beethoven stops by Attorney Bach’s office to discuss the possible house purchase from Speer. Bach gives him a list of salient questions to ask Speer about the vineyard property. [This visit is a bit of surmise; there are no entries by Bach in the conversation books today. However, on his return to Mödling, Beethoven will write to Speer in the next couple days with a list of questions about the property that sound very much like they were drafted by an attorney–they certainly don’t sound like Beethoven. So it is a fairly safe assumption that this visit did occur, especially since Oliva expressly suggested such a call for this purpose in the morning.]

Beethoven then goes to the palace for the Archduke’s lesson. Afterwards, he meets with Oliva, probably at the Black Camel, where they sit outside. Oliva delivers the shopping and wonders why the Archduke didn’t mention anything about the Missa Solemnis. Surely, when it is delivered the Archduke will make Beethoven a suitable present. There are also political aspects to having Simrock publish the Mass in Bonn; Oliva is concerned that the Archduke will be unhappy to learn it is not being engraved in Vienna.

Zum schwarzen Kameel (Black Camel), outdoor seating

Beethoven is still complaining about Rudolph’s lesson and expresses a desire to refuse to continue. Oliva warns that if he must part with the Archduke, it should be on friendly terms. [As accommodating as Rudolph has been to Beethoven, he is still part of an enormously powerful family that could ruin Beethoven if the composer were to create a serious rupture with one of his usual fits of rage. Beethoven seems to forget that his pension, now principally paid by the Archduke, is his only consistent source of income.]

Oliva then tries another tack. Obliquely pointing out the advantages of being connected to the Archduke, Oliva suggests that since Köferle was able to get a court position through Beethoven’s influence, Karl could surely get a similar position easily. This seems to do the trick, and Beethoven calms down about the Archduke and his demands.

Oliva again reassures Beethoven that he will visit piano maker Stein tomorrow and make certain about the Broadwood so Beethoven has it Thursday. It seems Beethoven is quite anxious that it be there for the weekend in case Karl visits him.

Beethoven is considering some changes to the publication proposal with Simrock for the Missa Solemnis. Oliva stands ready to write as needed.

The bill for the wine comes and Beethoven is upset that the price is higher than expected (54 kr. instead of 48). Oliva explains that it’s a significantly larger bottle than usual. [Since Oliva seldom drinks wine, Beethoven has apparently downed the entire larger bottle himself.]

Beethoven stops again at Blöchlinger’s to visit Karl, perhaps to give him birthday wishes and gifts, including some clothing or books purchased in the afternoon. Their conversation is almost entirely verbal, since Karl writes only a single word (the last name of publisher Friedrich Wähner) on this occasion.

Beethoven then heads back to Mödling for the night.