BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, February 2, 1823 (Candlemas)

Beethoven makes a note to buy flannel. Later in the morning, friend and admirer Moritz Lichnowsky stops by to visit Beethoven. He is interested in Beethoven’s opinion of the libraetto to Sakuntala, written by Johann Philipp Neumann (1774-1849). He says Neumann’s day job is as a professor of Physics at the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna. Neumann will make any changes that Beethoven desires. But what Lichnowsky personally would like to see Beethoven set to music are dramas by Voltaire, such as Zaïre, Mérope, Joan of Arc, and Mahomet, or Racine’s Phèdre. He also asks how the Ninth Symphony is coming. The Akademie benefit concert would, he suggests, need to be given at the end of March or the beginning of April. [It would not occur for another year.]

Beethoven notes that invitations have been given to all of the ambassadors concerning subscriptions to the Missa Solemnis. His current plan is to have the subscription copies printed at the Lithographic Institute, rather than have copyists do them by hand. It will be a full score, rather than parts. Lichnowsky looks forward to when the work is beautifully engraved.

Beethoven expresses his lack of interest in Bernard’s oratorio, Der Sieg des Kreuzes. They agree it is a terrible decision to eliminate the Court composer position completely, rather than give it to Beethoven. Lichnowsky says he will go to see Dietrichstein personally about getting that post for Beethoven; he thinks it will certainly be his after composing a Mass for the Emperor. [Lichnowsky will continue to make inquiries about this position on Beethoven’s behalf, until he is finally and conclusively rebuffed on February 23.]

Lichnowsky suggests yet another possible libretto, Alfred the Great, by Marianne Neumann von Meissenthal (1768-1837). But what will certainly electrify the public is a new Symphony. The two sonatas published in Paris [op.110 and op.111] “are universally admired.” He asks to borrow copies and promises to return them tomorrow.

After Lichnowsky departs, Schindler arrives. He has been in contact with Caspar Bauer, the secretary of the Austrian Embassy in London, and Bauer says he will do what he can to promote Beethoven’s cause with the British Court. Bauer notes that Beethoven is extraordinarily well received in England.

They talk a bit about the upcoming performance of Fidelio in Dresden, to be conducted by Weber, which suggests that Beethoven has received Weber’s letter of January 28th. Schindler assures him that Weber will do his part to make sure the opera is a success, but wonders how Dresden did not have a performance of Fidelio before this. [They had, in 1814.] In any event, the publicity from this presentation in Dresden cannot help but promote the subscriptions for the Mass.

It seems likely Schindler has been visiting Bernard, because his is full of political gossip. The French waver between war and peace; the king opposes the war against Spain, and the ministers are for it. The English are becoming unhappy about Spanish privateers attacking British ships. Yesterday, a conspiracy theory circulated that the whole thing was a secret plan by Parliament to justify invading Spain.

The potential bankruptcy of Austria would hit the common people of Vienna terribly hard. Schindler writes, “They are much worse than a Hungarian or a Pole. The Hungarian is crude merely by nature, though docile; but the common Viennese is corrupt, without feeling for anything dictated by law and nature. I am speaking from experience, not hypothetically.” He regrets that Napoleon had not been able to finish the job and spread Revolution throughout Europe.

Schindler relates stories about two military men he knows, Colonel Ertmann, who has to have the Viennese citizens beaten to discipline them. Another lieutenant colonel says the same thing. They administer the beatings on Mondays, which they call “payday.” Schindler departs, and will see Bach about his plans for Beethoven’s bank shares.

Later that night, Beethoven makes notes to himself that the break point for lithography is 6 copies; at that number of subscriptions or fewer, it appears that it will be more cost-effective to have the Missa Solemnis copied by hand.