BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, February 15, 1824

This very long day fills over a third of the good-sized Conversation Book 56.

After the rehearsal at the Theater in the Josephstadt, unpaid assistant Anton Schindler (who also served as the concertmaster of the orchestra there) reports on the status of the Consecration of the House Overture. “We struggled valiantly with the Overture yesterday but the trombones were not completely clean. [Schindler later inserted “(op.124)” here but the opus number had probably not been decided yet for the work.] Ludwig mentions that Karl was unimpressed by the military band members that were playing yesterday. Schindler clarifies that they were filling in; trombonists they had used in past performances played today. “This Overture is a monster of a work, and I yearn to hear it well played by a large orchestra someday. The effect would have to be extremely grand and splendid.” Beethoven appears to make a remark about having played it badly once already, and Schindler responds, “I would gladly be guilty of such a bad thing a second or third time.”

The locksmith arrives and is owed 1 florin and 30 kreutzers. He is quickly followed by some wood cutters who have delivered firewood and they go to work splitting it.

Ludwig, Karl and Schindler begin discussing wine. Schindler says you can get a good Thaler wine at the Zur goldinen Birne [The Golden Pear], but it’s too expensive at 2 florins. He thinks Brother Johann should share an Eimer of wine with Ludwig, since he has so much of it. [An Eimer is about 56 1/2 liters] Schindler mocks Johann for allowing his wine at home to be guzzled by the baker’s apprentices who open the barrels for him. [Johann’s brother-in-law was a baker who had an apartment near Johann.]

Beethoven does not want to take on the housekeeper from the Leopoldstadt. Schindler is surprised, since “This is one person who has some brains and really esteems you.” He adds she is delicate and fragile. [Which, considering the hard work Beethoven required of his housekeepers, was probably a strike against her.] She doesn’t care about having a beautiful room.

Changing the subject, Beethoven asks what the musical play was that Karl and Johann saw at the Josephstadt a few weeks ago. Karl says it was Aline, Queen of Golconda, with music by Wenzel Müller. [Karl and Johann had seen it there on January 24.] Schindler adds that Aline has some splendid scenery. The village of Nussdorf; Weilburg, the palace of Archduke Karl’s wife in Helena near Baden; another rocky region in Helena, and a lake harbor in the finale.

The woodcutters come up after they are finished splitting and stacking. The bill for the wood and that work comes to 6 florins.

Discussion turns to the ongoing drama over Joseph Weigl not getting the Kapellmeister position at St. Stephan’s. Weigl will not let go of it, and Emperor Franz cannot tell him to get over it. He is very disconcerted about having thought he had the position, and then losing it due to the Archbishop’s interference. As Caroline Unger told it to Schindler, Weigl boasted in front of her that the Emperor said that he would most certainly get the position. And now he is ashamed, since Gänsbacher received the appointment the very next day.

Unger was indisposed for a few days, Schindler says, or else she would certainly have visited Beethoven. He thinks she doesn’t take care of herself enough, especially in terms of food and drink. Henriette Sontag is more cautious. Schindler thinks of Unger as too much an unstable person; she gambles with her health and has already lost often. [Unger was still only 20 years old, and despite Schindler’s qualms would live to be 76.]

Schindler makes the comment “Alla breve is probably the best.” [It is unclear what he is referring to, though the Trio of the second movement of the Ninth Symphony shifts from triple time to cut time. At this point in the autograph score, Beethoven wrote at the bottom lightly in pencil “prestissimo,” which might indicate he was considering different options for the Trio. It is quite unlike Beethoven to ask for Schindler’s input on musical matters, but this does not appear to be a forged entry since it is surrounded by normal mundane ones.]

Either Beethoven has misplaced his libretto to Melusine, or Caroline Unger has not yet returned it. Schindler assures him that Grillparzer will probably have another copy. But if Beethoven can do without it, it probably doesn’t make any difference. Grillparzer has not yet given the libretto to the Censors, given his experience with Ottokar, which was forbidden. In any event, it would have to be resubmitted after it was set to music, so he isn’t going to force the matter. Grillparzer is going to try to get Ottokar published in Naples; they can get a response on that within two weeks, and by then the Censor in Vienna may have reconsidered. He doesn’t believe the Censor will strike one word in the end. [It takes much longer than Grillparzer anticipates, but he is eventually correct.]

After Schindler leaves, Beethoven makes a shopping list for tomorrow:

+Wax stick.
+Pen knife.
+Hat [presumably to replace the shabby one Schindler and Karl had made fun of on January 21, when they called Beethoven a “hat tyrant.”]

Karl thinks that there will be a decision from the Court Opera soon, and all of the conditions that Beethoven and Grillparzer have set out will be accepted. Then there will be a formal commission issued for the opera Melusine.

Karl notes Schindler often goes to Czerny’s weekly semiprivate salon recitals, which frequently feature Beethoven works. [From comments made tomorrow, Karl appears to have attended today’s recital by Czerny.]

A Bohemian woman comes to the door, probably asking about the housekeeper position. Karl thinks it doesn’t look good for comprehension and she is sent on her way.

Karl mentions someone at the rehearsal at the Josephstadt Theater yesterday said he was once a member of a society that called themselves the Ludlamites [after the play Ludlams Höhle by Oehlenschläger.] Moscheles was accepted as a member. They all get a name as a member; Moscheles was called Tasto der Kälberfuss. [The editors explain that Tasto comes from Tasten, or piano keys; Kälberfuss was because he loved to eat calves’ feet and ate them almost daily.] Ludwig thinks this odd, and asks what the purpose of this group would be. Karl says it was for the group to entertain themselves for a couple of hours after the Theater. [This reference will gain more significance later, when Joseph Carl Bernard will identify the Ludlamites as the group that initiated the Petition for Beethoven to premiere the Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony in Vienna, not elsewhere. Some known members of the Ludlamites, like Vincenz Hauschka, were signatories to the Petition, so Bernard’s observation may be correct. It seems hardly coincidental that this group would approach Karl at this moment; they may have been looking for information about his uncle to include in the Petition.]

The temporary domestic servant notes she has been here a week, and will be leaving in a week, but she also wants tomorrow off.

Beethoven continues his errand list:
Meissner Brothers. [meaning the Meisl Brothers wholesale/banking house, where Beethoven sometimes handled financial transactions]
+With the wine.
A machine that can be pushed to fit pianos. [This is probably a reminder to visit piano maker Matthäus Andreas Stein about the issue related to improving his ability to hear the instrument.]

Leonhard Mälzel visits Beethoven briefly, possibly with another unidentified visitor. Mälzel says he is going to Prague, and when he returns he will be building a mechanical trumpeter with 50 tones. [His brother Johann had invented the Panharmonikon, a gigantic mechanical orchestra, for which Beethoven wrote part of Wellington’s Victory, op.91]

The other visitor [whom editor Theodore Albrecht tentatively identifies as a son of Joseph Glöggl, a musician who had been active in Linz, but moved to Budapest in 1810 and died there in 1821; the visitor is a middle-aged professional shoemaker and an accomplished amateur string player, and Beethoven seems to know his family, and may possibly be related to him, since he refers to both Ludwig and Johann as “cousin”] says he has inquired about Beethoven a thousand times. Beethoven gives his usual excuse that his health is poor, but the visitors say he looks very well. “We play your quartets very diligently.” Beethoven is able to understand much of what he says when he speaks loudly, which pleases him. The visitor asks whether Brother Johann is still living in Linz. Johann Nepomuk Fuchs (1766-1839) is also a mutual acquaintance. He asks whether Beethoven might have some kind of music for his daughter, who is 13 and plays very well. “She sends you hand-kisses.” She can play quite a lot; she has already played some of Beethoven’s sets of variations, and takes lessons twice a week. He is staying until Thursday [February 19] so the music can be delivered to the porter. He asks Beethoven not to forget him. “My daughter’s soul depends upon your music, by the greatest man on earth.” He promises to write Beethoven occasionally, and also appears to promise to reimburse Beethoven for the costs of the copies of piano music.

Around 4 p.m., Johann arrives with his carriage to take Karl to the Schuppanzigh Quartet concert at 4:30. Johann says they need to talk with attorney Johann Baptist Bach before going to the magistrate; all of this has to be written up in advance. [It is unclear what Johann refers to, but it may relate to his efforts to catch his wife Therese in an infidelity and thus void their marriage contract.]

Johann mentions that Schindler told him at dinner that he knows of a fine municipal craftsman’s widow for Ludwig to serve as housekeeper. Johann thinks he should take her on, as she can wash and write very well. Schindler knows her and will attest to her loyalty, which is quite important. But Ludwig needs to decide soon, before she takes another job. Ludwig says he gets so many bad applicants. Johann tells him, yes, that’s because the good ones soon get a job and that’s to be expected with everyone.

Johann was at the Theater in the Josephstadt earlier today [probably at the rehearsal], and the Consecration of the House Overture went very well. “It will certainly please a great deal in your Akademie.” [So Ludwig has already decided that this Overture will be part of the program.] Ludwig needs to get the two movements of the Missa Solemnis that are to be performed copied now. [Three movements will actually be performed at the Akademie.]

Johann also spoke to violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh today. He did not get the position at the Court Theater. They don’t want to engage him until December. Ludwig thinks he should still take it. Johann explains it appears he doesn’t want to do that; he cannot live that long without a steady income.

Johann and Karl go to the concert, the second concert of the fourth subscription series. The program consists of the Haydn Erdödy Quartet Nr.2 in D minor [the “Donkey” or “Fifth” Quartet, op.76/2, Hoboken No.III/76]; Beethoven’s String Quartet Nr.2 in G Major [op.18/2]; and the Mozart Clarinet Quintet [in A, K.581], with Herr. Fridlowsky sitting in on the clarinet, who played “with particular tenderness.” Vienna Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr.12, March 27, 1824 at 45.

Beethoven’s String Quartet Nr.2 op.18/2 is here performed by the Attacca Quartet, live on November 18, 2012:

When they return from the concert, probably a bit before 7, Johann reports that one of the attendees was a guitar virtuoso from Paris who is said to be the greatest [probably Carl von Gärtner, who was in Vienna at this time.] “He has regards to bring you from Paris; Lichnowsky will introduce him to you.”

Johann also asks whether Grillparzer has sent a poem to be used at the Akademie. He thinks that the libretto for Melusine should be sent to Duport, partly so he can look through it, partly so he can give it to the censor. Ludwig appears to agree (apparently having forgotten Karl reported to him two days ago that Duport had it and was having it translated into French.) Johann asks that it be given to him, and he’ll provide it to Duport tomorrow. They have to see first whether the censor will pass it, and decisions can be made at the theater only if the libretto gets to the theater administration quickly.

Talk turns back to the housekeeper candidate that Schindler had suggested. Johann offers to look Schindler up and tell him he should bring her. “He says that she is very fine and can cook well – you can’t wish for more.”

Johann also asks if Ludwig has given any further thought to Prince Galitzin. Ludwig likely tells him, as he told Schuppanzigh, that he is working on a Quartet in A minor for Galitzin [which will become op.132.] Ludwig makes a comment about possibly doing a tour. Johann insists that Ludwig could not undertake a tour without having at least two new works. One concert in Vienna alone would make at least 3,000 florins, net. He believes music publisher M.J. Leidesdorf would guarantee that.

Karl’s future comes up. [Last July, Karl had said he wanted to become a language teacher specializing in French.] Johann thinks that if Ludwig had followed his advice, Karl would be a fine apothecary now, and soon be a professor of Chemistry. [Karl’s wishes do not appear to enter into Johann’s thinking.]

Johann nearly froze his feet on his last trip to his estate in Gneixendorf, and he says he is suffering greatly now. [This remark in hindsight seems ominous, since Ludwig’s eventual final illness will be triggered by a similar cold carriage ride back to Vienna from Gneixendorf.]

Johann agrees, “You must buy yourself a hat right away, tomorrow; people are talking about the fact that you have such a bad hat.” Good ones can be had for 12 or 13 florins. [That must have really been a very shabby hat to excite so much discussion.]

Johann offers his dietary advice: “One should figure half a pound of meat for every adult, otherwise a soup is never good.” He almost never eats anything in the evening because he doesn’t eat his midday meal until 3 o’clock. He thinks this is the first unadulterated wine that he has had at Ludwig’s. He promises to send some of his mountain wine, which is healthier than any other.

Karl chimes in about the Schuppanzigh Quartet concert, noting they did a clarinet quintet, but Karl didn’t know the name of the clarinetist. [Joseph Friedlowsky (1777-1859), who Uncle Ludwig would have remembered fondly, sat in on the Mozart clarinet quintet.]

Johann acknowledges that Franz Gläser rehearsed the Consecration of the House overture well. Johann says he will meet Ludwig on the Stephansplatz at the coffee house tomorrow, precisely at 11 o’clock, and then heads home.

Conversation Book 56, 6v-19r.