BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, January 17, 1824

This afternoon is spent interviewing another housekeeper applicant, with the help of unpaid assistant Anton Schindler. The first writes in French saying she heard Monsieur is seeking a housekeeper. She understands enough German to explain herself and can keep the linens clean and sew, but she does not cook. She does not have a current position so would like to start in two or three days. Schindler says that she wants 25 florins in all [out of which the maid would be paid].

Nephew Karl comes by Beethoven’s apartment briefly. He notes Brother Johann now spends nothing on the wardrobe for his wife Therese; she has to make her own dresses.

Karl ran into the short woman who was once Beethoven’s housekeeper and later served a kitchen maid. She writes Beethoven frequently and can’t understand why she hasn’t been called back. All of the applicants seem to be living in the same temporary lodgings. The woman who was here today said she actually did have a position, but because there was a male cook, she didn’t want to go back there.

Earlier today, Schindler visited Anton Diabelli, who said that he had heard through Leopold Sonnleithner about the results from the Missa Solemnis subscriptions. Diabelli would therefore propose to have the Mass and the Ninth Symphony copied, to the extent necessary, and in return Diabelli would be permitted to do a piano reduction of the symphony made.

Schindler observes that Brother Johann has a very natural and benevolent woman servant who has been looking for a position since last March. He thinks right now Beethoven needs a capable woman who could bring order to the disorder with the linens, etc. Barbara Holzmann did a lot of harm in that respect. Schindler makes a rather tasteless joke, saying Requiescat [in pace, even though she is not deceased.] Ludwig wonders where his brother is. Schindler saw Johann driving with his horse and carriage in the Prater with his family, and says that if Ludwig saw them he would not ask again.

Beethoven makes a remark disparaging the King of Prussia. Schindler comes to the King’s defense, saying he loves and respects the artist, as does no other monarch.

Schindler observes that Frau Helmina von Chezy (1783-1856) has not been very successful with her dramatic products, and no one wants to understand them. [She had written the libretti for Weber’s disastrous Euryanthe, and the more successful drama Rosamunde to go with Schubert’s incidental music.]

Beethoven makes a shopping list:
+Shaving mug.
+Wash hand-towel and shaving rags.
+Writing pen.

He also makes a partially illegible note about either Lobkowitz, or possibly Likawetz, the author of one of Karl’s textbooks, Elementa philosophiae.

Schindler comments on the beautiful winter they are having. [Confirmed by the Wiener Zeitung reports of the weather, regularly above freezing with some sunny days.] Beethoven continues to have trouble with the stove, and it may not be worth the trouble or money to install a new one since they are so far into the winter. The housekeeper can do without it. The place for it is not suitable and it tends to fill the apartment with smoke. She makes some inexpensive Augsburger sausage for them in a different manner from the usual [which was roasted, then cut lengthwise.]

Schindler notes that a week from tomorrow [Sunday, January 25] pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner and French harpist François Dizi will be giving a concert in the small Redoutensaal. The Berliner Zeitung has declared Kalkbrenner to be “the greatest piano player under the sun.” The Theater-Zeitung reprinted the report in its January 15th issue. [The article described him as the “hero of all heroes on the pianoforte.”] Dizi is said to play the harp so beautifully it sounds like an Italian violin. He has created a mechanism he built himself that is remarkable. Beethoven is skeptical, but Schindler believes it. The praise seems pompous, but it comes from Berlin.

Vocalist Caroline Unger comes to visit Beethoven mid-afternoon. Henriette Sontag would have liked to come, but she has to sing the title role in Euryanthe this evening. “I could not resist my desire to see our dear great Master again.” When Beethoven says it is good to see her, she asks why he hasn’t come to visit them in so long. Beethoven complains of being busy and she chides him good-naturedly, “Laziness, nothing but laziness.”

Unger has the usual question, when will Beethoven give them a new opera? Next Saturday [January 24] she is singing the title role in Der Taucher [The Diver], an opera by Conradin Kreutzer. She asks whether Beethoven will be coming, and he indicates he might. She thinks it is composed in a way considerate of the singers, and has a pleasant story. She believes it will please Beethoven. She has 3 arias, 3 duets, 3 trios and 2 Finales to sing. Sontag plays the role of her beloved, the King’s daughter. Anton Forti plays the King and Unger plays the son of the King’s exiled brother.

She hopes that “if only the dear God would some time inspire you so graciously, so that you would soon write something for me, then I would spare no trouble, because it would surely be repaid. Beethoven appears to offer to have her sing the alto parts in the vaguely-planned Akademie for both the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. She promises that then she’ll come out every day. Schindler jokes that Unger cooks well, so he should engage her as a housekeeper.

Unger says that Beethoven must hurry with his Akademie, since she has to go to Germany in December. [As it happens, Unger did not leave Vienna until March of 1825, and then she went to Naples, not Germany.] She asks Beethoven to drive with her to the imperial Lusthaus in the Prater, and they can walk back. Beethoven starts to make excuses, and she demands, “Fulfill my request. The carriage awaits below.” Beethoven nevertheless declines. [A walk from the Lusthaus would have taken over an hour in near-freezing temperatures, so that may be the reason for his refusal, even though the day is clear.] “God very much blesses me with patience,” she answers.

Talk turns to Conradin Kreutzer’s opera Libussa, which had its libretto written by Joseph Carl Bernard. Beethoven appears to remark on that opera being part of why Bernard took over five years to write the oratorio libretto for him. Unger suggests that since Bernard was married a short time ago, now he will have more industry and passion. “You should also marry. Perhaps you would become more industrious.” Although this appears to be meant humorously, Beethoven is hurt. She apologizes for her remark.

She says she has been very happy to see Beethoven again. Beethoven appears to complain that he is forgotten. She responds, “How can anyone who knows your Fidelio and your Symphonies not acknowledge you! If only you know how often I sing your Lieder.” Beethoven asks which one she likes best [perhaps suspecting empty flattery, as editor Theodore Albrecht suggests], and she gives an evasive response saying she loves them all, making it difficult to decide.

Unger asks Beethoven whether he has heard Euryanthe by Weber. Beethoven says he has. Some of the things appeal to Unger, but not everything. “The poetry is atrocious.” She writes out the lyrics of the love duet from Act II as an example. “Take my own soul! Breathe my life’s breath! Let me become your very self, I am all yours! Sighs waft like flames; Blissful it is to beg for relief; Let me in joy and pain Die on your breast!” “How do you like these German verses?” she asks.

Beethoven mentions that he has Franz Grillparzer’s libretto to Melusina, which he is contemplating. She is excited by this prospect and asks whether there is a role in it for her. She would very much like to read the libretto, but doesn’t think Beethoven would let her do so. When Beethoven hands it to her to borrow, she swears on her honor she will bring it back with gratitude. Beethoven tells her he believes her, and she responds, “He who believes is blessed, says Jesus.” She is at Beethoven’s service in the afternoons. She must go now, and reminds Beethoven of his promise to come and visit her soon.

After she leaves, Schindler indicates, “She is a devil of a girl, full of passion and candor.” When Schindler departs, Beethoven, possibly at a coffee house, makes note of a book (probably for Karl), Sistem der Logik by Dr. Wilhelm Esser. He also adds up some columns of monetary numbers.

Conversation Book 53, 5r-14r.