BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, August 5, 1820

Conversation Book 15, leaves 28r through 34r

While waiting in Mödling for his early coach to Vienna, Beethoven notes once again that the Wilde Ente [Wild Duck] says they have venison. He apparently had a taste for this game. He also copies an ad for “Authentic Tokay-Ausbruch” wine made “under the supervision of the Medical Faculty.” Finally, he notes a third floor (fourth floor American) apartment at the Schwarze Katze [Black Cat], and adds a reminder that he needs to buy blotting paper.

Beethoven makes arrangements with the carriage driver to be picked up at 9 PM to return to Mödling.

Presumably Beethoven first calls on Archduke Rudolph as he promised in his letter of August 3. It’s not entirely clear whether he actually sees the Archduke today, but either way it seems that he is told to return on the 8th.

Franz Oliva meets Beethoven in Vienna in the late morning, with the news that he has used the composer’s fame to get the payment of the dividends on his bank shares a little earlier; he should have the money by the 20th of the month at the latest. But the money from the pension from Lobkowitz is available now.

The search for a new housekeeper continues; Oliva suggests that there is a woman who worked for Countess Batthyani who may be suitable. After running some errands, Oliva goes to have his lunch. Beethoven makes a note to write to publisher Nikolaus Simrock today. He wonders whether Batthyani’s housekeeper can write, and whether she needs a bed and how much money she needs for a food allowance.

Beethoven runs into Joseph Bernard, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, briefly. The conversation is one of the shortest with Bernard in all the conversation books, suggesting Beethoven may have excused himself in haste.

Probably from his Vienna apartment, Beethoven writes the letter to Simrock in Bonn, affectionately addressing him as “My dear old dad!” Beethoven notes that he is just in from the country and replying to Simrock’s last letter. The Archduke is also in town so things are very hectic. He confirms that the ten folk song variations for flute or violin should get the opus number 107. The document regarding ownership will arrive in Frankfurt along with the score for the Missa Solemnis [which Beethoven will end up not sending to Simrock, so he may also not have received the ownership documents for the variations.] With regard to the publication of Beethoven’s collected works, he thinks it would be a good idea to add a new work to each type of composition: a new set of variations, a new sonata, etc. He thanks Simrock for the scores which he is loaning to Karl, presumably for his lessons with Joseph Czerny. Beethoven closes with a fond recollection of his native soil and the desire to visit his parent’s graves. [He will alas never return to Bonn.] “My wishes for all that is beautiful and good to your wife and your family.” Anderson letter 1028; Brandenburg 1403. The original letter is held at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, as part of the H.C. Bodmer collection Br 231. The letter can be seen here at the Beethovenhaus’ digital archives.

At around 4 p.m. Beethoven meets up with Oliva again. There was a computational error in the bank payments so the amount to be received is about 50 kr. less than expected. They then go to a office or apartment with pen and ink, probably the one that Beethoven had rented in Vienna for such purposes. Oliva says he will meet with the maid at the winehouse Zum Schwarzen Kameel (the Black Camel) this evening; she did not appear as expected earlier.

Oliva asks whether the Archduke (who had written 40 variations on a theme by Beethoven, WoO 200) is composing again and makes a little counterpoint joke: Every day, he must have 40 clerics at his table, all of them “canons.” Beethoven remarks that he had hoped to be appointed kapellmeister to the Archduke, but Oliva reminds him of the freedom he has in his current circumstances; life at court “would hold nothing for you.”

They discuss the outcome of the appeal and the good work that attorney Johann Baptist Bach had done. Bach told Oliva that he was so happy he very nearly came to Mödling personally to give Beethoven the news that they had finally prevailed. Oliva confirms that Beethoven intends to return to Vienna in a few days, on the 8th.

Beethoven shows Oliva his letter to Simrock and asks him to address it in his tidier bookkeeper handwriting. As he does so, Oliva notes that he will possibly have to go to Frankfurt for the Trade Fair there; he suggests he could pay a call on Simrock then. Oliva definitely has to go to the Leipzig Fair in September; if Simrock also attends that, Oliva might be able to meet with him. But a suspicious Oliva questions whether Beethoven will really complete the Missa as soon as he suggests in the letter.

Stein has finished modifying Beethoven’s Broadwood piano, because Oliva asks whether it should be delivered out to Mödling. Oliva also reminds Beethoven that he has promised the Sonata #30 op.109 to Schlesinger in Berlin. At least this composition is well under way, with the first two movements more or less complete in draft form by now.

The pair adjourn to the Black Camel for dinner and wine (water in Oliva’s case). Communications with the prospective housekeeper keep getting fouled up and now the soonest she can be interviewed is Tuesday, August 8th when Beethoven returns to Vienna. First the merchant, Kaufmann, who is her current employer forgot to send her, and now she is not at home. If Beethoven wants, though, Oliva can try to meet with her tomorrow and give her some earnest money. She also needs a bed. She did not expect a ration of coffee, but is happy to get it. Oliva thinks that she will be satisfactory; she is honorable and unassuming.

Next to them is a sketch artist who wants to draw Beethoven as they discuss the housekeeper situation. Beethoven apparently gives some kind of rude gesture or remark to the artist that conveys his message clearly.

Undeterred, a doctor from Poland named Stich also wants to pay his respects to Beethoven. Writing in the conversation book in Italian, he calls the composer “the Apollo of Music of our times,” and remarks on the tragedy of his deafness.

Shortly thereafter, Beethoven departs and catches the coach before 9 p.m. returning to Mödling around 10.