BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, February 1, 1824

In the afternoon, Nephew Karl observes the maid and housekeeper get into a brawl while his uncle is out. “When I came, they were screaming outside; I asked what was going on, and they said that you had been out there [probably in the kitchen] and had a terrible row. Without a doubt, the housekeeper alarmed the maid by her gossip. Now, what shall we do? Do you still want to retain her?” [Ludwig had in the last few days (see January 30 entry) asked to bring back the “old woman” (Barbara Holzmann), to start around February 3, and probably hired her back through Brother Johann.]

Ludwig thinks it probably is for the best. Karl grudgingly agrees. “Right at the beginning, I was also not for taking the old woman on again, because I remembered the kinds of tricks that she played, and that it was impossible to retain her if the conduct of the housekeeper who followed her leads us, to some extent, to miss the old woman. She would probably be better than the one we’ve had up till now, and if (having learned her lesson over several months that, presumably were not exactly pleasant) she perhaps ceased her grumbling, it would be best.”

Karl asks whether his uncle should take the old woman on as housekeeper. “It must probably be decided by Tuesday [February 3.]” Ludwig inquires as to what the staff was complaining about. Karl tells him that they didn’t complain to him; rather, they were quiet when he came. Karl doesn’t understand why when his uncle has trouble with the domestic servants that it’s somehow his fault.

Ludwig thinks maybe they should try another woman after all, perhaps the wife of a merchant. Karl is annoyed at his uncle’s indecision. “If you had been more accessible, everything would have been different long ago. If you place so much confidence in the merchant’s wife or whoever she is, why haven’t you taken her on long ago?”

Karl thinks there will still be problems with the old woman. The present housekeeper and maid don’t get along because the maid used to be a cook, and doesn’t want to be lorded over by another cook. She’s also young and untidy and doesn’t like the housekeeper to nag at her. It would be different if the old woman were to hire the maid, since things are better with new maids who want to succeed.

Ludwig makes another suggestion for a new maid, and Karl says he will learn everything tomorrow. Karl writes that they need 14 rolls [for two days, since tomorrow is Candlemas, a national holiday]: two for breakfast, three for mid-day dinner and two for the evening.

The maid tells Karl now that the housekeeper is gossiping with everyone in the building about what goes on there. “She let the building superintendent’s wife taste the venison that we gave away, and and asked her whether it wasn’t good enough for any lord’s table. The building superintendent who installed the stove was so sensible that he told her she should stop with her stupid gossip.” Ludwig asks who said this, and Karl repeats it was the maid.

Johann arrives at the apartment. He observes that the old woman looked very happy when she learned that she was to come back to service here. Ludwig says that she is to start Tuesday; Johann thinks it would have been better to come on Monday, but apparently she has to work that day. Karl notes that the old woman always complains, but the maid absolutely never gets along with the current housekeeper. “It seems curious to me that Schindler doesn’t want to write down what she said.” Ludwig asks why Schindler even brought it up then. Karl says “who knows?” But she shouldn’t be held accountable for what Schindler says.

At the theater, Schindler told Johann “There was heavy weather in the Landstrasse tonight,” then explained that Ludwig was very monosyllabic and vexed.

The housekeeper hasn’t made anything for today’s dinner; Ludwig didn’t order anything, so she assumed he was going to a restaurant.

Johann asks whether Ludwig believes in “sympathetic cures” [hypnosis, according to editor Theodore Albrecht]. There is a new book advertised in the Wiener Zeitung describing sympathetic cures for various illnesses, including deafness. It can’t hurt to attempt it, the advertisement states.

The housekeeper goes to prepare herring salad, but when she opens the cupboard to get the apples for the salad, the whole thing falls apart. Apparently Ludwig slammed it shut too hard and everything came loose.

Johann departs with Karl for the Schuppanzigh Quartet concert. [The third series of these concerts ended last Sunday, and the fourth series begins next Sunday, so this concert appears to have been added as a separate event, perhaps for the holiday weekend.] They return around 7 p.m. The third piece on the concert program was one of Ludwig’s last quartets [so either op.74 or op.95.] “It not only overwhelmed the first two, but rather the whole audience was just as delighted as with your Septet last Sunday. [January 25] I am not in a position to say which of the two aroused more enthusiasm.”

Ludwig asks whether Schuppanzigh has heard anything from Berlin about the payment for Consecration of the House. Johann says Schuppanzigh told him the money is secure. Johann will go either with Karl or alone, and he’ll pick up the funds from the Berlin theater director, Bethmann, in the next few days.

Karl lists some of the people he saw at the concert. Franz Kirchhoffer, Beethoven’s financial advisor was there, as what Johann Schickh, editor of the Wiener Zeitschrift. Pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner has left Vienna. Mathias Tuscher, one of the members of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, conductor Friedrich Piringer and many others Uncle Ludwig would know were there.

Karl asks what he should order at the restaurant for supper. He is sent to get three portions of veal, and is given 5 florins to cover the expense. While he is gone, Johann says that if Ludwig is in difficult financial straits, he can have half of the money from Berlin. But Ludwig should write to Schlesinger in Paris regarding publishing the Consecration of the House Overture, the bagatelles op.126 and the lieder. Johann has been unable to get an interest in publishing these works in Vienna. “There is absolutely nothing to be done with them here.”

Karl returns from the restaurant. With the 3 kreutzer tip for the waiter, the tab comes to 1 florin, 15 kr., making 3 fl. 45 kr. change from his 5 florins.

Johann notes that the Russian czar and his court are coming to Vienna at the beginning of Lent, and then heading to Italy at the beginning of March. The timing for that might be good for Ludwig’s Akademie. [Johann is being totally unrealistic about preparations for such a large-scale concert being made on such short notice.] Prince Galitzin, who has commissioned three string quartets from Ludwig, is supposed to be part of the company. [In fact, neither the Czar nor Galitzin came to Vienna in early 1824.]

Ludwig counts out the 60 coffee beans for his coffee; Johann says that he always does the same. Karl suggests sending the ham out tomorrow morning to be boiled, so they will have it back by mid-day.

Ludwig asks about Johann’s domestic help. Johann is unimpressed with his current housekeeper since she makes soup too much. His kitchen servants are however pretty stable and he never has to worry about them. But his kitchen budget is 200 florins every month, [which is several times as much as Ludwig’s.] Things are more expensive in Gneixendorf at his estate, since everything has to be brought from nearby Krems.

Johann asks whether Ludwig has the letter to Caroline Unger ready; if it is, he can take it along as he knows where she lives. Ludwig gives him the letter.

Karl says the maid is leaving, and wants her pay. She has been here 17 days, so she would get 4 florins 52 kreutzers, after subtraction of the Drangeld, or money paid on account. She is very quickly replaced, at least on a temporary basis, since there is reference to a maid tomorrow. It’s also possible she is persuaded to stay a few more days.

Conversation Book 54, 26r-32r.

Regular readers of our column will be familiar with Professor Theodore Albrecht, whose ongoing series of the English language editions of the conversation books are the framework that this feature is built upon, with his kind permission and assistance. Prof. Albrecht has a new book on the premiere of the Ninth Symphony forthcoming on February 20, 2024 from Boydell & Brewer press.

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