BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, June 1, 1822

You will recall that Leipzig music critic Johann Friedrich Rochlitz had arrived in Vienna about a week ago and was eager to meet Beethoven. A mutual friend promised that when Beethoven was in town and with him, he would send a messenger for Rochlitz to come. Rochlitz continues his story, from O.G. Sonneck, Beethoven: Impressions of Contemporaries, New York: G. Schirmer, 1926, p. 121:

“The next Saturday morning [today, June 1] the messenger came to me. I went and found Beethoven conducting a lively conversation with N.N. [Tobias Haslinger, according to Thayer.] The latter is used to him and understands him fairly well, reading his words from the movements of his face and lips. Beethoven seemed to be pleased, yet he was disturbed. And had I not been prepared in advance, his appearance would have disturbed me as well. Not his neglected, almost uncivilized outward semblance, not the thick black hair which bristled about his head and the like, but his appearance as a whole. Picture to yourself a man of approximately fifty years of age, small rather than of medium size, but with a very powerful, stumpy figure, compact and with a notably strong bone structure, about like that of Fichte, but fleshier, and, especially, with a rounder, fuller face; a red, healthy complexion; restless, glowing and, when his gaze is fixed, even piercing eyes; not given to movement and when moving, moving hastily; with regard to his facial expression, especially that of the eyes, intelligent and full of life, offering a mingling or an occasional momentary alteration of the heartiest amiability and shyness; in his whole attitude that tension, that uneasy, worried striving to hear peculiar to the deaf who are keenly sensitive; now a merrily and freely spoken word; again, immediately after, a relapse into gloomy silence; and in addition, all that which the thinker and meditator himself contributes and which is continually sounding together with all the rest–such is the man who has given happiness to millions, a purely spiritual happiness.

“In broken sentences he made some friendly and amiable remarks to me. I raised my voice as much as I could, spoke slowly, with sharp accentuation, and thus out of the fullness of my heart conveyed to him my gratitude for his works and all they meant to me and would mean to me while life endured. I signaled out some of my favorites and dwelt upon them; told him how his symphonies were performed in model fashion in Leipzig, how all of them were played each recurring winter season, and of the loud delight with which the public received them. He stood close beside me, now gazing on my face with strained attention, now dropping his head. Then he would smile to himself, nod amiably on occasion, all without saying a word. Had he understood me? Had he failed to understand? At last I had to make an end, and he gave my hand a powerful grip and said curtly to N.N.: ‘I still have a few necessary errands to do.’ Then, as he left, he said: ‘Shall we not see each other again?’ N.N. now returned. ‘Did he understand what I said?’ I queried. I was deeply moved and affected. N.N. shrugged his shoulders. ‘Not a word!’ For a long time we were silent and I cannot say how affected I was. Finally I asked, ‘Why did you not at least repeat this or that to him, since he understands you fairly well?’ ‘I did not wish to interrupt you and, besides, he very easily gets sensitive. And I really hoped he would understand much of what you said, but the noise in the street, your speech, to which he is unaccustomed and, perhaps, his own eagerness to understand everything, since it was perfectly clear to him that you were telling him pleasant things….He was so unhappy.’ I cannot describe the sensations which filled me as I left. The man who solaced the whole world with the voice of his music, heard no other human voice, not even that of one who wished to thank him. Aye, it even became an instrument of torture for him. I had my mind made up not to see him again, and to send Mr. Härtel’s proposal to him in writing.” [Leipzig publisher Gottfried Christoph Härtel wanted Beethoven to set Goethe’s Faust to music.]

Rochlitz’s account will continue on June 15th.

We know also from later correspondence that Beethoven visits publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner about today to inquire about publisher C.F. Peters and his letter suggesting he would be interested in publishing some of Beethoven’s works. Tobias Haslinger, who worked for Steiner and was good friends with Beethoven, is according to Thayer Rochlitz’s friend “N.N.” Beethoven’s letter to Peters of June 5th, indicates that in this conversation Steiner urges that the composer give him an exclusive contract for his works, but Beethoven refuses.

Beethoven also talks to Steiner about the prospects of publishing Beethoven’s complete works, and Tobias Haslinger draws up a price list for the various categories of works, so Beethoven would know what to expect. This price list will come in useful in determining what to charge Peters for the rights to print Beethoven’s complete works.

Today’s Official Sheet at page 10 of the Wiener Zeitung contains a notice of the summons issued for Beethoven’s former sidekick and unpaid assistant, Franz Oliva. “Franz Oliva, former bookkeeper for the local wholesaler Joseph Biedermann, who in December 1820 received from the government a passport shared with the latter to Russia, and who did not return after the end of the period of the passport, is hereby definitely requested to return within a year and to justify his unauthorized absence to the relevant authority, as action must be taken against him according to section 27 of the provisions of the Patent of the year 1784.” So ordered as of May 8, 1822, by Anton Freyherr von Erben, Secretary of the Northern Austria government.

Beethoven, as noted a few days ago, probably already learned about the summons outstanding against Oliva from Wiener Zeitung editor Joseph Bernard, so it was nothing new to him today.