BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, February 22, 1823

Beethoven finishes using the desk sketchbook Artaria 201 at about this time. The last work in this sketchbook includes ideas for all four movements of the Ninth Symphony, op.125, and Variations 10 and 32 for the Diabelli Variations, op.120. He will then start working in the Engelmann Desk Sketchbook (today held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, Mh 60) for the next month to six weeks. This sketchbook includes the last sketches for the Diabelli Variations (primarily devoted to the last two variations), and work on the first movement of the Ninth Symphony.

Engelmann is a homemade sketchbook that was stitched together with needle and thread by Beethoven from loose sheets of greenish music paper, with 16 staves to the page. When it was in use, it was probably bound together with desk sketchbook Landsberg 8/1, which follows immediately afterwards, since some of the clusters of stitchholes made by Beethoven match up. Only 19 leaves remain in Englemann currently; at least five leaves have been removed from the book. Three of these leaves have been identified, based on matching the stubs remaining in the book.

Music publisher Domenico Artaria bought the Engelmann sketchbook from the auction of Beethoven’s estate. On May 19, 1835, his son August Artaria (1807-1893) gave it away as a gift to two distinguished visitors, the celebrated Belgian violinist Alexandre Artôt (1815-1845) and composer/pianist Edmond L’Huillier (1803-1890). This occasion may be when Engelmann became separated from Landsberg 8/1. One leaf, now in the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, was cut out by a subsequent owner before he sold the book. That same subsequent owner, Baron de Trémont (1779-1852), who acquired the sketchbook from Artôt, also gave the book its present gold and leather binding. But some of the leaves missing from Engelmann appear to have been removed before Artaria ever acquired the book, and possibly were given as gifts to visitors by Beethoven himself.

The Engelmann Sketchbook, in its rebinding by Trémont, can be seen here:

Moritz Lichnowsky visits Beethoven today and asks about progress on the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven responds that it will include a chorus. [We thus know that at least vague plans for the finale have taken shape by now. Beethoven’s statement is consistent with the work done to date by Beethoven in Artaria 201.] Beethoven admits that if there is to be an Akademie benefit concert this spring, the Symphony will not be ready yet by then. Lichnowsky suggests that it may need to be premiered at another such concert in the future.

Schindler comes by Beethoven’s apartment later. Beethoven wants some phosphorus, which was considered good for bones and teeth, much like calcium is today. Schindler says that the charge for mailing the letters to Peters the other day was 28 kr., so he still has 32 kr. left over, which he will use to buy Beethoven the phosphorus. The next mail coach to Leipzig is on Friday, February 28th, and the three missing Marches can be sent to Peters then.

Schindler asks what Beethoven thought of the libretto for Alfred the Great by Marianne Neumann von Meissenthal. Beethoven is not interested. The discussion turns to politics. The newspapers report that the United States and England are on the verge of war once again, which has increased the price of coffee and sugar overnight. Despite the situation in Spain, Schindler expects Austria to remain at peace for the foreseeable future. In a seditious comment, Schindler says that it’s a good thing that Emperor Franz has no plans, but only reacts to what happens by chance. Rumors of the country’s bankruptcy have actually promoted its credit; Schindler believes that Baron Salomon Rothschild (1774-1855) has made several millions by instigating these rumors and then lending back to the state with interest.

Schindler has more juicy gossip from the theater. In Berlin, Count Gebhard Bernard Blücher, nephew of the great general of Waterloo [actually his grandson] stabbed the husband of actress Auguste Stich. Blücher had been having an affair with Frau Stich, and the husband, actor Wilhelm Stich, came home from a performance and discovered them. Blücher put his overcoat on his head to avoid being recognized, and Stich tried to pull it off. Blücher then stabbed Stich with a stiletto he had hidden in his cane. Frau Stich has as a result been banned from performing onstage in Berlin. Beethoven doesn’t believe this story, but Schindler insists it is true. [According to later newspaper reports, Schindler has all of the essentials of the story correct, although Wilhelm Stich’s injuries were not life-threatening. Auguste Stich returned to the stage in May of 1823.]

Karl Friedrich Zelter, director of the Berlin Singakademie, today responds to Beethoven’s letter of February 8 soliciting a subscription for the Missa Solemnis. He indicates that the society remembers well Beethoven’s visit some 25 years ago. Many of the members, however, are wives and children exempt from dues, and raising 50 ducats would be difficult. However, Zelter is interested in buying a copy personally, provided that Beethoven would adapt the work for the use of the society, arranging it so that it could be performed a cappella, without instruments. Other similar institutions would be interested as well, if Beethoven would make such a change. There are numerous such societies throughout Prussia that do not have access to an orchestra. But he can raise a chorus of 160, with up to eight good soloists. If Beethoven consents to making the small changes (since he had indicated in his letter it could almost be performed without instruments,) Zelter will send the funds. Brandenburg Letter 1577, Albrecht Letter 309. The original is lost today, but the text was transcribed by Ludwig Nohl.