BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, September 9, 1820

Conversation Book 16, leaves 59r through 69v

Beethoven goes to Vienna. Possibly he gives the Archduke a composition lesson in the early morning. Beethoven’s first stop noted in the conversation book is with copyist Wenzel Schlemmer. Beethoven would like the autograph of the Credo of the Missa Solemnis copied onto 20-staff paper, so he has a neat working copy that can be fleshed out further. Beethoven had followed the same process with the Kyrie of the Mass. Schlemmer has time to copy now, so he takes on the task. Schlemmer also mentions that there was a concert yesterday at the Archduke’s court, featuring a sonata with clarinet by Rossini. [Beethoven thought Rossini’s music rather empty-headed and did not care for it, but at the same time envied his popularity and wealth.]

After departing Schlemmer’s, Beethoven meets Franz Oliva at his apartment in the Haarmarkt (in the same building as his office) at about 1 p.m. Oliva promises to speak to attorney Bach on Monday for Beethoven and take care of everything. [This is may be for another attempt at getting a restraining order against Johanna to keep her away from Karl.] There is further discussion about when the bank shares will be claimed; that has to be done by November 18th in order to receive the dividends on January 3 or 4. Oliva will be gone in October but back by the end of the month, and then in December he will need to go to Russia to work for some time. He still has about two hours of work to do today. [Beethoven will need to find someone else willing to act as his unpaid assistant during this absence and for the three months Oliva is scheduled to be in Russia.]

The lyrics to the 25 Scottish Songs, op.108, are still not quite entirely entered on the printer’s copy, but Oliva promises to send them by Monday the 11th or Tuesday the 12th at the latest.

Oliva inquires about the Broadwood piano, but unfortunately we do not get Beethoven’s response as to what he thought of Stein’s device to help him hear it.

Oliva says he will go get Karl at 6:00 p.m.; then, after retrieving Beethoven’s things from Oliva’s apartment, they will meet at the Black Camel (Schwarze Kameel). But Karl may not be able to stay long. Die Schwarze Kameel, established 1618, is still in business in Vienna today. [photo]

They then go shopping, and Beethoven needs some spoons. Oliva tells him that copper spoons are unhealthy. It is a good time to buy venison, which we have already seen Beethoven is very fond of. The hunts are going on now; next week there will also be pheasant in the shops. Oliva departs to have his lunch at the Baumgarten boarding house, promising to meet Beethoven at Doll’s bookshop at 4:30. If he sees Bernard at lunch, he will have him meet the group at the Kameel at 7.

Beethoven runs his errands, buys some bed linens for Karl, and presumably looks at some more apartments. At Doll’s, Oliva says he needs to run to the bank. He says he will come to Mödling on Sunday the 17th and bring Beethoven some coins. Beethoven can leave the shopping for Karl at Oliva’s apartment, and they will pick it up on the way to meeting Beethoven at the Kameel.

At 7 p.m., Oliva shows up at the Kameel alone. Blöchlinger did not believe Beethoven would come, so Karl had already been sent to the theater instead. Oliva does have Karl’s linens with him. Karl would like to come out to Mödling tomorrow with his teacher, Joseph Köferle. But when Oliva inquires about a carriage for tomorrow, they are all full. So plans are changed for Karl and Köferle to come on Monday the 11th instead. Oliva says he will send the Scottish Songs along with Karl then. [So they must be very nearly finished.] Oliva pays for both for Beethoven’s carriage back to Mödling and the postal coach for Karl, and gives Beethoven his change.

Wiener Zeitschrift editor Joseph Bernard joins the pair. He also agrees that Blöchlinger did not believe Beethoven would come; the thought at the school seems to have been this was some kind of ruse by Karl to slip away and visit his mother. Karl’s co-guardian, Karl Peters, has moved on from Italy to Geneva on his tour as tutor for the young Prince Lobkowitz, which has been going on since March, 1820. Bernard suggestively jokes that Frau Peters would just as well have married him as her husband.

Oliva adds up the expenses at the Kameel and departs, leaving Bernard and Beethoven alone. Bernard returns to the topic of Lord Byron as a possible source for the British opera. “He is like one who has a bad conscience — dark, wild and gruesome — but filled with spirit and imagination. He is the favorite author in England.”

Queen Caroline of England, 1820 portrait

As a newspaper editor, Bernard is full of gossip, and he shares it at length. They discuss Queen Caroline of England, daughter of the Duke of Braunschweig. She had married her cousin, George, the Prince Regent in 1795, against her will, Bernard says, but lived separately from him since 1796. When George became king in January 1820, she returned to England to make her claim as Queen, and George IV brought a lawsuit against her. Bernard says that George’s mistresses have been conspiring to separate him from her forever.

Austria is obligated to contribute troops to put down the revolutionary uprisings in Italy, and the Emperor is “very annoyed,” saying “I have been given false reports again: it will cost me half of the army and we shall not accomplish a thing.”

As suggested by Oliva’s comment earlier that he would bring Beethoven some coins, there is currently a coin shortage in Vienna: “I have already seen fist-fighting in the taverns over half a Kreuzer. The proprietors do not want to give change back.” There is also significant unrest: “At the butchers’ stalls on September 1, one man said openly and loudly: ‘The emperor is a scoundrel; he has now deceived us for the third time.’ Not a single person said anything against it.”

Ferdinand Troyer is proceeding with the graduated income tax, and Bernard concedes he is very much making it his business to be fair, while also currying favor with the government.

Oil painting on canvas, Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, KG (1774 – 1850) by Sir William Beechey RA. A half-length portrait of the seventh son of George III, wearing a dark blue coat with the Garter Star. Courtesy National Trust

The Duke of Cambridge [Prince Adolph Fredrick of England, 1774-1850, the youngest adult son of the late King George III, who also later served as viceroy of Hanover on behalf of his elder brothers, George IV and William IV] arrived in Vienna on August 30 and remains there. The Duke’s horse and carriage are standing in the market. Bernard tells Beethoven (more or less) how to pronounce Cambridge: “Cämbridzsch.”

The discussion returns to Byron: “The Turkish tales of Lord Byron are really Turkish.” Bernard repeats his thought that “The Corsair” by Byron would be very suitable for adaptation to opera.

Bernard excuses himself for a few minutes as he has to go into the City. [The chronology becomes unclear here. It’s possible that Beethoven waits until Bernard returns, and then they are met by Karl and Köferle after the theater. Alternatively, since this has already been a long day, Beethoven may just go back to his rented room at this point for the night, and then Bernard meets the trio for lunch on Sunday afternoon. Since Köferle and Karl should still be under the impression that Beethoven would not be meeting them this evening, I consider the latter possibility as more likely and will report that conversation tomorrow.]