BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, December 28, 1823

Piano maker Joseph Ries, younger brother of Beethoven’s former pupil Ferdinand Ries, comes to Beethoven’s apartment this morning. He writes, “Done in vain,” which suggests that the quick repair that he made to the Erard piano’s soundboard last month did not help. Karl takes over writing for the semiliterate repairman. He doesn’t want any payment [presumably because the repair failed.] Karl notes down Ries’s address. He offers to return on New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t work for Beethoven, who has other plans. Ries then offers to come back a week from today, Sunday, January 4, 1824.

Because the piano-making business is so competitive and difficult, Ries has largely been devoting himself to giving music lessons. His technique has deteriorated because of all the hard work he does; he can no longer play at speed. But he would like to play for Uncle Ludwig someday, if he has time. Uncle Ludwig asks what kind of piano he considers the best, and Ries responds that he favors the Pleyel.

After Joseph Ries departs, Karl continues his discussion from yesterday about the problems facing Karl Hensler, the manager at the Theater in the Josephstadt. He certainly does what he can to satisfy the public, and there are plenty of works with magnificence and extravagance, far more than the other theaters. But because of popular demand, he can’t often present dramas. The play Karl saw, Arsena the Man-Hater (libretto by Carl Meisl with music by Franz Gläser) was given some 20 times, one after another, to ever-increasing applause. Uncle Ludwig observes that Gläser must have something going for him with such popularity. Karl acknowledges that while Gläser is competent enough, especially in comic pieces, “it’s just that he doesn’t do much that’s original. Weber and Rossini are his inspirations.” Gläser at least works diligently and Hensler is lucky to have him.

But the factions who support the Theater an der Wien and the Theater in the Leopoldstadt are in the crowd hissing, in order to alienate the audience and cause trouble for Hensler. Louis Duport, manager of the Kärntnertor Theater, gives out a lot of free tickets, so he can get plenty of applause.

Karl notes that the dumplings are too floury and were boiled too soft. Brother Johann joins them shortly after dinner. He asks whether or not Ignaz Schuppanzigh has sent tickets for the 4:30 performance of his quartet, in the first concert of the third subscription series. Ludwig’s Quintet in E-flat, op.4 is on today’s program. [The quintet is preceded in the concert by Haydn’s Quartet in G minor, the “Rider” Quartet op.74/3, Hob. III/74, and a Grand Quartet by Mozart in D major, probably either Quartet #20 K.499, or Quartet #21 K.575. Wiener Zeitschrift Nr.15, February 3, 1824 at 12.]

Johann thinks it would be a good idea to write to the Musikverein and send the Missa Solemnis; they can have it copied and ready to perform at an Akademie within two months, since Lent will occupy most of March. They would cover all the costs, so long as they got something from Ludwig. “The whole city is already talking about the new opera [the projected Melusine]. Duport has already said that he doesn’t know why Beethoven hasn’t replied to him.” He has spoken to Schindler about it. “He doesn’t know why you are not answering, since they await it so ardently.” Johann will come back tomorrow at 5 p.m. and help compose letters to Duport and the the Musikverein. Johann suggests that an aria from Melusine should be performed at the Akademie. [That would be quite a trick, since nothing has been written on this opera.]

Karl has heard a rumor that the Italian Opera will not take place next year. [This information was incorrect, and the Spring, 1824 season was performed as expected. However, in 1825 Barbaja’s lease expired and the Kärntnertor Theater was unused until the spring of 1826, so Karl was a year early in his prediction.]

Ludwig would like to visit Stephan von Breuning and his family for New Year’s Day, but it’s an hour walk in the cold. Johann volunteers to drive with him to see Breuning.

Johann observes a new coffee house has been established in the Josephstadt across from the theater. It’s very beautiful and long. [Joseph Bäcker’s coffee house had opened on December 24.] It was quite full. The restaurant Zum goldenen Strauss nearby is losing quite a lot of business as a result.

After Johann leaves, Ludwig and Karl get into a bit of an argument about the food for supper. Karl says he said he was satisfied with soup, beef and potatoes, so he doesn’t deserve a reprimand.

Conversation Book 51, 2r-5r.