BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, May 17, 1823

Some last minute things need to be taken care of before Beethoven heads to the country later today. First of all is paying a call on Attorney Johann Baptist Bach at his office. Bach asks jokingly, “Will our Master compose diligently?” He knows the whole world would be overjoyed with a new opera from Beethoven. Bach believes Schindler is a good person, but is always chattering. He is becoming more of a man with each year.

Publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner has gone to the Leipzig Fair, but should be back soon. When he returns, Bach will arrange things with him. Bach suggests that if the Missa Solemnis were to be performed even once, it would do wonders for the sales of his subscriptions.

Later in the morning, Schindler and Nephew Karl come by Beethoven’s apartment. Schindler asks whether Beethoven would allow him to come visit in Hetzendorf on Monday, May 19th, which is a holiday, Pentecost Monday. Beethoven has no objections to that. Karl says that Johann reminds him that if the movers do everything completely, he should tip them something afterwards.

Beethoven then writes out some instructions for the movers. “The trunk cannot be brought into the parquet-floored rooms; it must remain below.” He then suddenly realizes that he has gained weight over the winter, and the measurements that the tailor has for him are too small for his summer trousers. He really should go with the servant and have fresh measurements taken.

Beethoven writes a reminder to have his mail forwarded. Ludwig and Karl then make a list of things that they will need for the move. Among them:

A hall tree
Blotting sand
Seal and toothpick box
Soap in a large box
Stocking ribbons (green)

Karl reminds his uncle to give Schindler the keys to the violin cases. It has been arranged that Schindler will stay in Beethoven’s apartment at least a portion of the summer, to handle mail as it comes in.

Baron Prónay, the landlord, stops by Beethoven’s apartment as he’s trying to get ready to leave, chattering about his uncle, Joseph Podmanitzky. In his last hours, he spoke of operas and little Franz Liszt. Prónay and Beethoven have several common friends, including Franz von Brunsvik, whom Beethoven knew from his early days in Bonn; he had also managed the Municipal Theater in Pest. His wife Sidonie is also talented on the piano. Another common friend, von Zmeskall, is now in very frail condition.

Prónay has heard about the Diabelli Variations, “as inspired as they are difficult.” [Beethoven would later present Prónay with a published copy.] Prónay suggests that Beethoven should reserve himself a country place of his own, and write a grand oratorio inspired by the beauty of wide-open Nature.

Beethoven confirms that he is well satisfied with how his former student Carl Czerny is progressing as a composer. His friend Iganz Schuppanzigh, who has greatly helped to popularize Beethoven’s quartets, will be leaving Vienna soon, Prónay has heard. The Baron takes his leave, as Johann and Karl attempt to get Ludwig on the road. But first they must dash to the tailor, to get the correct measurements for the new trousers.

The movers arrive, and Karl is not impressed with their lack of efficiency. They make 10 trips when they could make only one. He thinks that their apartment is rather more pleasant than the Baron’s own place. They also need some onions, and where are the toothpicks?

Schindler returns. He has spoken to Diabelli, who believes that the Archduke would prefer an engraved score of the Variations, rather than a copyist’s score. Since Diabelli already believes that the Mass is his, there is no need to fear he will back out.

In March, Domenico Artaria had convinced Beethoven to sign a petition regarding copyright related to the arrangement of musical pieces. A new decree basically adopts that petition, and prohibits the arrangement of foreign musical pieces as to which a composer or publisher can be identified, a step toward proper copyright. Schindler believes he is misusing that petition, and is trying to prevent anyone (such as Czerny) from writing variations on themes from an opera that Artaria has published, unless Artaria gets to publish the variations as well.

Schindler observes that Hetzendorf is close enough to the City that housekeeper Barbara Holzmann can run a courier there every day, if need be. [Indeed, Schindler and Karl will walk there from Vienna on Monday.]

Schindler has developed a fondness for Baron Prónay, who makes such pretty and obeisant compliments. He lives for botany and literature. His house and garden cost him a hundred thousand gulden, not counting the greenhouse, and it comes with many fields and meadows. He himself plays piano. Prónay’s lands in Hungary are sufficient to allow him to follow his inclinations. He corresponds with the Emperor, who also visits him annually and inspects his gardens, as do the princesses.

An exasperated Johann has had enough and tries to hurry Ludwig along, saying he will immediately get his carriage. Schindler is not finished, though, as he has some gossip about the poor return on Schuppanzigh’s last concert. The only reason he didn’t lose money was that the orchestra played for free; he only cleared about 70 florins.

The Beethoven brothers at last depart for Hetzendorf, leaving Schindler behind as he must play at a performance of Der Feuerberg, with its erupting Vesuvius machinery, this evening.

As they arrive at Hetzendorf, Johann declares the place, “A true Paradise!” There is meat available, and cream. Johann returns to Vienna in his carriage; before bed Ludwig totals a column of numbers: 450+450+225=1125.

Conversation Book 32, 16v-27v. 1

A 1909 photo of the apartment at Hetzendorferstraße 7 by August Stauda of the Prónay Beethovenhaus in Hetzendorf. CC BY_NC_ND 4.0, courtesy of the Wien Museum, Inv. Nr. 34099/1