BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, February 23, 1823

Nephew Karl visits Beethoven today, as he usually does on Sundays. Schindler picked him up in a carriage after having attended a concert that included Beethoven’s oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, op.85. The concert began at 12:30 p.m. Karl’s frostbitten feet still do not permit him to walk more than a few blocks, and he certainly could not have made the half hour walk to Beethoven’s apartment. Karl had to leave in a rush and had to deal with his French teacher, Peter Joseph Pleugmackers, so he probably arrives about 3:30. Pleugmackers has translated the Missa Solemnis letter to King George III into French for them.

Copyist Wenzel Rampl comes by briefly with questions about the Missa Solemnis.

Karl is surprised to see that Uncle Ludwig has again hired a new maid. Schindler thought that the oratorio was performed very well and the audience liked it. “There are really some extremely heavenly things in it.” The soprano, Joesphine Fröhlich (1803-1878) sang the soprano part, and even though it is very high, she had no problem with it. Ludwig Titze (1798-1850) sang the role of Christ with a beautiful voice. The Peter (Johann Carl Schoberlechner) however “appeared to have lost his courage. The choruses were large and excellent.” There was also a symphony in D by Jan Hugo Vorisek, but Schindler dismisses it and “the whole thing rested on the Beethovenian pedestal.”

Later that afternoon, tenor Wilhelm Ehlers visits Beethoven. He and Schindler make fun of a glowing anonymous discussion of Conradin Kreutzer’s opera Libussa, with a libretto written by Beethoven’s friend Joseph Bernard. They recognize from the style of the review that Bernard has written it himself, praising the inspiration of the poet. “If you read it, it is so completely in his style.” Ehlers is later going to Rossini’s La donna del Lago, which is being given tonight at the Kärntnertor Theater.

Sketch Biamonti 770, “Alle Lande loben ihren Gott” from Conversation Book 25, 10r

On leaf 10r of this Conversation Book (attached), Beethoven sets the words “Alle lande loben ihren Gott,” [“All lands praise their God”] apparently for solo voice. A later notation by Schindler states that Beethoven is here satirizing the old Imperial composers in their stereotypical manner. [This little musical phrase is now catalogued as Biamonti 770.]

Beethoven jokingly points out that Schindler has repeatedly failed to get him a new sugar box; Schindler, embarrassed, says he will get it right away. He did get the phosphorus that Beethoven asked for, and he settles up the amount left over after that purchase. The snow outside is quite high, but it is sunny and will melt quickly. Ehlers apparently leaves at this point.

Discussion turns to the Missa Solemnis and the solicitations. Schindler points out that if Beethoven doesn’t want to wait for the responses for the subscriptions, he can still sell it to Peters for 1000 florins on the spot; he would happily pay that, as would Simrock and Artaria and others. But Beethoven cannot reasonably expect to have heard a response yet from the courts other than Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden just yet. And once the Mass is performed, it should create a general sensation throughout all of Europe. If Beethoven feels obligated to offer it to Simrock [who had already thought he had purchased it], it would be best to attach a firm deadline for response for the higher price of 1000 florins. In any event, the letter to England should go out since there is no expense to that beyond a sheet of paper. Beethoven asks again who did the translation of the letter into French, and Karl repeats that it was Professor Pleugmackers.

At about 7 p.m., Beethoven takes a carriage to drive Karl back to Blöchlinger’s Institute. Schindler questions the expense. They drop Schindler off at his apartment and then continue on to Blöchlinger’s. Once Karl goes in, Beethoven pays for the carriage and walks back to his apartment in the snow.

Conversation Book 25, 6r-13r.

Count Moritz von Dietrichstein today writes to Moritz Lichnowsky, confirming his worst fears. Although Dietrichstein waited until it was absolutely certain, the Court Composer position that Beethoven applied for after the death of its previous occupant, Anton Teyber, has been eliminated entirely and will not be filled. Dietrichstein regrets this bad news, and asks Lichnowsky to break it to Beethoven; Dietrichstein cannot bring himself to inform Beethoven, a man he so greatly admires. Dietrichstein sends along from the Court music archives a copy of a Mass by Georg Reutter (1708-1772), which Beethoven had asked to see.

Brandenburg Letter 1578, Albrecht Letter 311. The original is held in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, aut. 35,45a.