BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, August 19, 1820

Conversation Book 15, leaves 64v through 73v

More house hunting is on the agenda today. Beethoven makes another list of possibilities, pointedly omitting the one in the Landstrasse area on the Ungargasse that was visited last night. He also makes a note to pick up some half wax candles before meeting up with Oliva. The recently-fired housekeeper came to Oliva to vindicate herself. After listening to “all sorts of gossip until finally it was too much for me,” Oliva says he told her that you would have endured her poor cooking, but “only her insolence made it intolerable to retain her.”

Oliva notes that Schlesinger is paying the bill of exchange in Berlin, so Beethoven should have the money for the 25 Scottish songs before long. They discuss Beethoven’s next trip to Vienna, and Oliva suggests that Friday the 25th would be better than Saturday the 26th. By then Oliva will inquire at Herz’s bank, where he had worked in 1819, as to whether the funds have been received from Schlesinger. Because it is due within the week, Schlesinger must have already paid it.

Oliva writes “Manfred,” possibly as a suggestion to use Byron’s dramatic poem as a theme for the opera commissioned by the British.

Oliva has work to do, and must wait at his office for someone. But he can meet up with Beethoven between 12:30 and 1:30, after he is done at the Stock Exchange. Beethoven is concerned about whether everything was properly arranged regarding the letter to Peters last night. Oliva insists he paid for everything; he gave the letter to the porter because the waiter was asleep. But Oliva promises to check on the status if he is out in that area.

After visiting some of the apartments, Beethoven meets up with Oliva at 12:30 p.m. to run more errands and view apartments. Oliva will be busy again from 1:30 to 4 p.m. At that time, he will meet Beethoven at his apartment. He also needs to write his employer Biedermann, who is back in Baden.

Countess Anna Marie Erdödy (1779-1837)

While Beethoven is at a coffeehouse reading the newspapers in between looking at more apartments, he runs into Joseph Linke (1783-1837), principal cellist at the Theater an der Wien. [Beethoven had written the opus 102 cello sonatas for him, and had described Linke as “very fond of gossiping.” (Anderson 634). Linke is close to Countess Marie Erdödy and her family, and he provides an extensive and shocking update.] “For some time, curious things have been happening.” [That’s an understatement; a great deal has happened in the three weeks since the Countess returned to Vienna on July 30.]

[Back in 1816, the Countess’ 14-year-old son August (“Gusti”) had died under mysterious circumstances. He died at the feet of his sister Mimi, complaining of a pain in his head. Beethoven wrote her a moving letter of condolence at that time (Anderson 634). Beethoven and the Countess had been very close since the troublesome year of 1802, and Beethoven often called her his “father confessor” since he felt he could unburden himself to her and she would keep his confidences. Erdödy also helped get the imperial nobility to set up Beethoven’s pension. Writer Gail Altman and others have put her forward as a candidate for the Immortal Beloved.]

Gusti’s tutor, Joseph Xaver Brauchle (1783-1838) is now being accused of having mistreated Gusti and beaten him to death in 1816. Brauchle was detained by the police, and the chief steward and housekeepers have been under repeated questioning. Erdödy’s daughter, Countess Mimi (born 1799), attempted suicide and has been sent to a convent, the Institute for English Women in St. Pölten 25 miles west of Vienna. [According to the police records, there were already charges in April against the Countess and Brauchle for mistreatment of Mimi. Some have suggested that Mimi overdosed on opium (to which her mother was addicted) after Brauchle made advances on her.] Although Brauchle is free now, he is under constant police surveillance.

Marie Erdödy is looking for a new apartment herself, in the Landstrasse. [She separated from her husband back in 1805, and he is living with his family in Hungary.] The police are writing to Hungary, and members of the Count’s family, [particularly Marie’s sister-in-law,] are only too happy to fuel rumors of abuse, neglect and murder in the Countess’ household.

[This news about one of his dearest friends had to be very upsetting to Beethoven. A few years ago, he had written, “I press your dear children to my heart in thought…” (Anderson 552). Brauchle and Linke are forever associated by the canon “Brauchle, Linke,” WoO 167, written by Beethoven about 1815 in their honor, performed here by Accentus:]

Continuing to live up to Beethoven’s characterization of him as “very fond of gossiping,” Linke also provides an update on their mutual friend, violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Beethoven has regularly made fun of his girth, and Linke says he is now much fatter than he was; he “plays cards the whole day, but not the violin.” He lives in Russia and has a one-year contract; otherwise he could get the concertmaster position at the Kärtnertor Theater, which was vacated by the death of Anton Wranitzky on August 6.

Beethoven meets Oliva at his apartment in the Haarmarkt about 4 p.m. He suggests they go to the Black Camel. Oliva ran into one of Beethoven’s doctors, and passes along the advice that Beethoven should take the entire bath treatment in Mödling every third day to get the best effect.

At the Schwarze Kameel in the evening, Oliva says he checked at Herz’s on the payment from Schlesinger, and the bankers confirm the money will be available at 11 a.m. on Friday the 25th. Beethoven must appear in person to collect the funds, so he should meet Oliva by 10:30 at the latest on that day. He also reminds Beethoven to bring along the letter from Schlesinger, which is necessary.

Beethoven has acquired another housekeeper, who goes to get her baggage. Oliva notes that Beethoven always has to tolerate something with maids. The main thing is that they be loyal, unlike the one who was gossiping about him. Beethoven, no doubt in a foul mood over the news about Countess Erdödy, makes an insinuation about Oliva. Oliva responds he has given no cause for his loyalty to be questioned; there is a reason that Beethoven has confidence in him.

Oliva grouses a bit about Joseph Bernard, whom he dislikes. Bernard suggested running Schlesinger’s bill of exchange through Baumann, but that was problematic; on the other hand it was very easy at Herz’s. Bernard “does not deal with me the way he should.” Oliva notes that having Peters as co-guardian for Karl is good, as it calms down the situation and makes things more evenhanded.

Oliva again has to defend himself, “I have never been angry with you. — Many a thing, however, was hurtful to me, because I did not deserve it.” But he closes by thanking Beethoven, since it’s always clear where Oliva stands with him.

Beethoven returns to Mödling with the new housekeeper, having failed in his quest to find a suitable apartment for the fall, and time is growing short.

That closes out conversation book 15. The next entry, found in conversation book 16, does not occur until Friday, August 25, when Beethoven returns to Vienna to collect Schlesinger’s funds and continue his apartment hunting, so there will be no Beethoven Bicentennial Minutes for a few days.