BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, December 14, 1823

Brother Johann’s coachman picks up Nephew Karl at about noon to go to the 12:30 concert at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. While they are out, an applicant for the maid position comes to the apartment and is interviewed by Ludwig. Their conversation does not appear in the conversation books, however, so either they used random pieces of paper to communicate, or Beethoven was able to hear her well enough. There is other evidence that Beethoven’s hearing was not as bad as usual on this day.

According to the report of the concert in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung for January 15, 1824 (Nr.3) at 43, Beethoven’s Second Symphony opened the second of the Society’s concerts in the great Redoutensaal. The concert also included an aria by Rossini, a cello Cappriccio on Swedish Folksongs by Bernard Romberg, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and the chorus “Dir, Herr der Welten” by Mozart [from the cantata Dir, Seele des Weltalls, K.429.]

Johann and Karl return to Ludwig’s apartment after the concert, at about 2:30. Johann invites Ludwig to go to see Figaro at the Kärntnertor Theater tonight. It should be finished by 9 p.m., and then they can go to Zum grünen Fassel, a grocer with a wine table. [This invitation may be intended as a celebration of Beethoven’s upcoming birthday.] Ludwig agrees to go to the opera with his brother and nephew. Karl reports that during the concert today the horns played some wrong notes during the Rossini aria; the bass soloist Anton Forti shouted loudly at them, “Good job!”

Karl tells his uncle that Herr Louis Antoine Duport, manager of the Kärntnertor Theater, has sent a letter today and sticks it in his pocket. Johann mentions that Duport told him he was very satisfied with Schindler’s audition. Johann leaves, saying that he will plan to pick them up this evening between 6 and 6:30; if he isn’t there by then, he will meet them at the theater.

Karl and Uncle Ludwig head to a restaurant for mid-afternoon dinner, and apparently pass the Kärntnertor Theater on their way and look at the posters outside. The concert poster for Moscheles’s concert tomorrow only says that the piano is “by Broadwood,” and makes no mention of Beethoven. While Karl observes that everyone in Vienna knows that Beethoven has the only Broadwood piano in the City, he and his uncle are nevertheless annoyed that the poster makes no mention of the piano being his. Karl understands that Moscheles will be improvising on it, to direct their attention to the tone of the instrument. Johann had told Karl he understood Moscheles would be leaving Vienna in two weeks, though that doesn’t match what Moscheles himself told them; he said he would stay longer. [He in fact departed on January 2, 1824, not all that much more than two weeks from today.]

Waiting for dinner, Beethoven writes a shopping list of nails, drawing paper, pencils, and the bookbinder [possibly for more conversation books, which with Beethoven’s increasing deafness are being filled rapidly.] Karl mentions he saw Franz Kirchhoffer, Beethoven’s financial advisor and intermediary with Ferdinand Ries in London, at the concert earlier today. He reminded Karl about the debt. Karl prefers Forti [who will also be singing the title role of Figaro this evening] in comic roles like Rossini rather than in serious ones.

Dinner is boeuf a la mode and veal with wine. Beethoven notes he also needs a new inkwell. Karl takes out the letter from Duport and reads it. Duport says that Archduke Rudolph’s letter in support of Ignaz Schuppanzigh getting a position at the Kärntnertor Theater changed his mind right away. Duport asks what conditions Beethoven and Franz Grillparzer have for the new opera, Melusine, and when Beethoven will be finished with the music. Brandenburg Letter 1758. [The original letter is not known to survive; its contents and date are known only from these conversation book entries and Beethoven’s followup letter to Grillparzer.]

Karl asks how his uncle liked the maid who applied today. Karl agrees that the best restaurant meal is nothing compared to a well-cooked meal at home. Uncle Ludwig says he likes dining out; Karl responds that one doesn’t notice it on the first day, but one could not stand doing it every day for long.

Back at the apartment, Karl says he has to run an errand to see the Assistant in Philosophy, Friedrich Socher, who lives on the Freyung, about the philosophical booklets. Since that is near the Josephstadt, that will take him past Blöchlinger’s. Karl asks a favor of being able to get his poor friend Joseph Niemetz to bring along to the theater. The loge seats 6-8 people, so they would not be a bother to his Uncle. “I would like for him to come to the theater even once, because he very seldom has any recreation at Blöchlinger’s as he is too poor for his mother to be able to pay for it, and anyway is very busy. If you don’t like it, I won’t say anything more about it; meanwhile, I don’t believe that it could make any trouble for us; it naturally depends only upon you.” [Uncle Ludwig denied the proposal; there is no further mention of Niemetz but there is a reference tomorrow to a disagreement between him and Karl.]

Uncle Ludwig suggests that they take Johann’s carriage by the philosophy assistant’s apartment. Karl says no, you don’t know where he lives. Karl will meet them at the theater. “You and your brother go into the loge as soon as it is time, and I shall come afterwards or I’ll already be there.” He reminds his uncle that if Johann is not at the apartment by 6 or 6:30, he will meet them at the theater. But just as he does so, Johann arrives to pick them up. Karl runs off to get the booklets from the teaching assistant. He believes he will beat them to the theater, and will meet them at the entrance.

Johann and Ludwig drive to the Kärntnertor Theater together for the performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (in a performance translated into German) at 7 p.m. There are no conversation book entries related to the performance, which suggests that Beethoven’s hearing was good enough this evening to be able to hear Johann and Karl if they spoke loudly, and he therefore probably was also able to hear at least some of the opera. Henriette Sontag, who will sing the soprano part at the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, sings the role of Susanna in tonight’s performance. If Figaro did end by 9 p.m. as Johann suggested it would this morning, then it was subject to some major cuts. But he may simply have been mistaken as to the duration of the opera. They pick up some fatty food after the opera to take home, which suggests the latter may be the case. If it were late, the restaurants, including Zum grünen Fassel, would likely be closed.

Conversation Book 49, 3r-6r.