BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, December 23, 1820 (approximately)

Although the bank share has been redeemed thanks to the timely loan from Artaria, Beethoven’s money problems continue to cascade.

As a favor to Beethoven, in 1815 publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner had loaned 1500 florins when the composer’s brother Caspar Carl was ill, for support of the family. Beethoven had guaranteed this debt. Caspar Carl died of tuberculosis not long after, and his widow Johanna refused to pay the money back (most likely she was unable to do so). Brother Ludwig was therefore responsible for the debt. Beethoven has also borrowed further sums from Steiner over the intervening time, and has thus far apparently paid back nothing over the last five years.

Steiner at roughly this time forces the issue and sends Beethoven a bill for the amount due, with 6% interest added on.

Beethoven, in a rage of fury and shame, scribbles insults on the bill and sends it back to Steiner, complaining bitterly about the interest rate in particular. Both the bill and Beethoven’s response are now lost, but they are known from Steiner’s followup letter to Beethoven, dated December 29.

The intemperate response, and the failure to understand interest, suggests that this exchange probably takes place after Franz Oliva’s departure. Or perhaps their relationship remained unmended after the incident with Beethoven’s default on the bank share loan. Having worked with bankers for many years, Oliva might have been able to explain interest to Beethoven, or at least convinced him not to commence hostilities with a creditor who has been exceedingly patient with Beethoven’s habit of extended nonpayment.

On another topic, according to the Troppau Zeitung newspaper of December 25, Archduke Rudolph departed the city of Troppau on this date, December 23. The newspaper does not state his destination, but it is most likely either Vienna or Olmütz, where he was archbishop. The Vienna newspapers do not pass on this information, so if Rudolph returned to Vienna, Beethoven may have been surprised.