BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, December 7, 1823

In the morning, Beethoven writes an obsequious letter to Archduke Rudolph in Olmütz, asking for Ignaz Schuppanzigh to be given a position at the Court theater. He begins by apologizing for not having written; he writes often in his head but never gets around to putting it on to paper. Beethoven also gives some suggestions for the Archduke’s composition: the best thing is to first draw out the figured bass by good composers into four voices. Then turn it into a four-part vocal work, or a string quartet. The piano will do, but it doesn’t give the same kind of rising and falling effect that one would get from a voice or a stringed instrument. He should practice doing this until Beethoven can give him a lesson in person.

Beethoven asks the Archduke to please write to Count Moritz Dietrichstein, to secure the position for Schuppanzigh that had been vacated upon the death of Zeno Franz Menzel (d. November 19, 1823). “I know that I won’t be denied this request for a deserving artist.” Beethoven says his health is finally better; he had to stay in Baden until October 13th, then he moved here into a new apartment, which took up a lot of his time, and given his eagerness to use his healthy status for activity, his correspondence fell behind. “But I know Your Imperial Highness would never doubt my warmest zeal.”

Brandenburg Letter 1756, Albrecht 339. The original was in an Austrian private collection when Brandenburg’s edition of the letters was published. Beethoven erroneously dated the letter November 7, 1823, but Menzel was not dead yet then, and it must be meant as December 7. This dating is also consistent with the discussions with Schuppanzigh in the last days, and with Count Moritz Lichnowsky this afternoon.

Perhaps on the way to Count Moritz Lichnowsky’s for dinner, Ludwig and Nephew Karl pay a call on Josepha Schlemmer. She is still trying to fulfill the contract with her late husband for copying of the subscription copies of the Missa Solemnis, but the going is slow. “The last man” [presumably the newest one hired] copies the fastest, but he would have to copy here since he cannot be trusted. She cannot vouch for him. One can absolutely not trust him, and she has to cut the beginning and end of every piece to stop him from selling them under the table. She will send the copyists to Beethoven tomorrow afternoon. She would like a sample for him to copy. Beethoven gives the widow 5 florins, for which she thanks him. The boy will be going to the orphanage.

This ends Conversation Book 47. The discussions pick up immediately in Conversation Book 48 with Ludwig, Karl and Brother Johann at Count Lichnowsky’s. The Count has come from the public banquet and concert at Court for the Festival of the Golden Fleece. [According to editor Ted Albrecht, The Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece had been established in 1430 to defend Christianity and combat Islam. The order often commissioned musical works for their annual gatherings. The Festival of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, where new members were invested, was on the first Sunday after St. Andreas’s Day, which in 1823 was December 7th.]

Karl makes reference to the joke Schuppanzigh told on November 25th, that Weber wrote under his portrait, “As God wills,” and Beethoven writes as he wills. Karl’s version of the punchline is Rossini does “as the Viennese will.” Johann makes ready to leave, but Countess Lichnowsky [who is also friends with Johann’s wife Therese] insists that they stay. “Your brother may not lead you away.” Johann wants to go out for a drive but says he will come back for them. But the coachman is gone so he may have to drive himself.

Beethoven must be in a good mood, because he extemporizes at Lichnowsky’s piano for quite a while today, a gift that he no longer gave out very freely.

Beethoven tells Lichnowsky about the letter he has written to the Archduke in Olmütz. But the Count believes Rudolph is already in Vienna. [Since the Archduke was a Knight of the Golden Fleece himself, he likely was present for the ceremonies this morning, though Lichnowsky seems not to have seen him personally.]

Karl makes an apparent joke which translates to “a woman teacher hears nothing,” on a female music teacher’s name, Hörni, that is similar to the German word for hear. She plays works by Beethoven. Ludwig is asked to suggest a good piano teacher for Lichnowsky’s daughter, Josepha Maria (b.1814) Karl things Czerny would be good, though it is unclear whether he means composer and Beethoven’s former student Carl Czerny or the unrelated Joseph Czerny, who was also a successful piano teacher and had given Karl lessons.

Johann returns, but he will have his evening meal with them, since he has something to do afterwards. After dinner, Beethoven and Karl are dropped off back in the Landstrasse. They go to a restaurant, where fresh Erlauer wine has arrived. [Erlauer is a red Hungarian wine.] Karl there talks about how Johann has been enlightened by recent events. He hadn’t really gotten to know Therese until his illness, “and now he treats her very patriarchally.” If he buys something good, she doesn’t get any of it; instead he eats it with them, like the oysters yesterday. “They eat their plain meals at home. He, then, is out of the house all day, and comes back merely to eat and sleep.” Ludwig thinks this is well justified. Karl adds, “It particularly pleases him that she is now old, and no cock will crow after her anymore, and she must remain inactive.” While he regrets his marriage contract, there is nothing to be done about it.

Ludwig asks Karl what he thinks of Count Lichnowsky. Karl is unimpressed: “A big braggart.” He has begun an epic poem about the retreat of Napoleon from Russia. “At every opportunity he parades what he knows; and one can already gather from it that there is not very much to him, because a truly learned man certainly does not do that.”

Back at the apartment, Karl complains that none of the prospective housekeepers remaining appeared for their interviews, which he sees as proof that they all gossip amongst themselves.

Karl observes that if Uncle Ludwig were to improvise at his Akademie concert the way he did today, it would be a splendid success. [Beethoven does not perform at the Akademie concert, probably out of concern that his hearing would case significant problems.] Karl thinks that this talent shows far more than being a good piano player. He looks forward to hearing Ignaz Moscheles improvise, though he suspects that Moscheles’ “improvisations” are in fact all prepared well ahead of time, at least in the main characteristics.

Conversation Book 48, 14-4v.

Johann Hindle, contrabassist and member of the Theater an der Wien, gives a concert today at noon. The concert begins with a performance of the ever-popular Andante from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in A major. Vienna Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr.102 (December 20, 1823) at 814; the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr. 3 (January 15, 1824) at 40-41 noted that although his instrument is not really suitable at all for solo playing, Hindle had shown such skill that he reaped resounding applause. However, the critic in the Wiener Zeitschrift of December 16, 1823 at p.1239 was less than complimentary about the performance of the Beethoven excerpt in this concert. “This piece is deservedly popular, and rightly so, but on this occasion there was so little of his genius on display that accordingly we cannot refrain from criticizing the low level of effort put in by the orchestra that was involved.”