BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, January 26, 1823

Today’s conversation book entries go back and forth between two books (Nos. 19 and 20) that were both used extensively on this very busy and very long day; the order given here is thus somewhat conjectural, but what is assembled here seems to make the most sense chronologically for the day’s activities.

Schindler picks up Karl from Blöchlinger’s in a carriage and drops him off at Beethoven’s apartment. Schindler reminds Beethoven that he needs to give attorney Johann Baptist Bach full details about the debt owed to publisher Sigmund A. Steiner; Schindler has already given him some of the information. He also reminds Beethoven that from his experience working in Bach’s law office for years, Bach drinks only white wine. Schindler picks up Bach and drops him at Beethoven’s apartment and then heads to visit soprano Caroline Unger to present Beethoven’s gift of wine to her.

Beethoven gets dressed in a new suit to meet with attorney Bach, who visits for midday dinner. Bach says he is happy he got married because now he has absolutely nothing to worry about. “To be married is the greatest good fortune if one has found a good [wife], but Hell with the Devil in it, if he has chosen poorly.”

Bach is very supportive of Beethoven’s plans for the subscriptions of the Missa Solemnis. “The Mass is already one of your greater works, and every Court will be happy to own it; therefore this path is very good. It is a work for Eternity. By its very nature, a Mass is already made to last, so to speak, and your true admirers take for granted that it will also be a masterpiece.” He notes that the Mozart Requiem and oratorios of Handel are regularly heard in the concert halls, so there is no reason why the Missa Solemnis should not be as well. He would love to have another opera from Beethoven as Fidelio is one of his favorites. “I am no enemy of Rossini, but, after so much tootling, when a person hears something powerful again, it becomes a refreshing moment on a day with hot and sultry air.” Bernard can contact the Lithographic Institute for Beethoven about publication of the Mass, since he has a close relationship with the current owner, who is also one of Bach’s clients.

They then get to business and discuss the inheritance laws and Beethoven’s plans. [Attorney Bach no doubt writes his notes about Beethoven’s estate planning desires in a separate document, which he keeps. No such details appear in the conversation books.] Beethoven inquires about whether Johann could disinherit his wife Therese, whom Ludwig dislikes intensely. Bach says that if there is an inheritance agreement, then no, but otherwise Johann can do as he likes in a will.

They also discuss the situation with the debt owed to Steiner. Bach feels that there is a strong case for insisting that Steiner publish the songs that he has had in hand for over seven years, and that value be applied against the debt, given the circumstances that Beethoven relates. He also suggests Beethoven work on getting Tobias Haslinger, a partner in Steiner’s shop and longtime friend of Beethoven, to intervene.

After Bach departs, Schindler returns, and reports on his visit with Unger. The weather is horrible; it has been snowing all day. Schindler says that although Beethoven gives her too much wine, “she offers you a thousand thanks, and will soon come to thank you personally.” Unger says she is always at home, and complains that she didn’t get any visit from Beethoven. Schindler admires Beethoven’s suit, finding the color very modern, and the trousers well made.

Conversation Book 19, f.34v, courtesy Berlin Staatsbibliothek.

Karl notes that Schindler believes that there is no afterlife; “everything already comes to an end with this life.” Schindler agrees; nothing happens to a bad person after death. He is fatalistic about the fate of mankind; “All the centuries have proven this.” [Either Schindler or Karl draws three flowers below this comment. See attached page from Conversation Book 19.

Schindler asks for the remaining letters to the ambassadors, so they can be delivered. Beethoven suggests Johann go along, but Schindler says he doesn’t want to come. Schindler goes back out into the snow to make his deliveries.

Beethoven has asked Karl to find a particular unidentified book, but Karl has had no luck finding it. “It is very difficult to get, because the edition is very good, and for just this reason is very rare. I’ll get a report tomorrow.” Karl has a poetic essay he is working on, but after his examination is over, it should be finished right way. Professor Stein has said he wants to see some Latin work of Karl’s, and that way he can judge whether he is appropriate to study philosophy. Karl also relates the sad story of someone who sold his lottery ticket before the drawing, and it was a winner.

Karl notes that the housekeeper, Barbara Holzmann, would have gotten rid of the maid a long time ago if it were up to her. The maid has not yet left, however, and asks permission to wash her linens there before she goes. The maid [probably Anna Zimenska, b. 1800 in Vienna] also asks for a letter of recommendation, and Beethoven gives her one, but he changed household help so frequently that he has to ask Karl what her name is.

Editor Joseph Carl Bernard drops by Beethoven’s apartment, per Beethoven’s invitation a few days ago. They talk about the difficulties of coming up with suitable opera libretti. Georg von Hoffman (1771-1845) did an adaptation of Fiesco, but it was not good and was discarded. The Court opera has also designated a libretto by Johann Wilhelm Lember (1780-1838) for Beethoven. He suggests this might be the one that Johann has now? [Beethoven has obviously already violated his promise of secrecy to Schindler about this libretto.] Bernard scoffs at Johann’s anxiety, as if Beethoven’s works could ever be neglected. He would, however, like to economize. Bernard has invited Baron Joseph von Zedlitz (1790-1862) to write a libretto for Beethoven.

Bernard notes that Zacharias Werner, the charismatic priest who made a series of highly popular political sermons in Vienna, died recently of ulcerated lungs. However, Count Rudolph von Wrbna, the Privy Councillor and Lord High Chamberlain, who is suffering from pericardial edema, is doing better.

Bernard is surprised to learn Beethoven is unaware that his sister-in-law Johanna, Karl’s mother, is sick and doing very poorly. [Later, Karl relates that Bernard said that he advised Ludwig about this three weeks ago.] Ludwig apparently suggests he might go to visit her, but Bernard cautions that he probably should inquire beforehand about whether she is having visitors. Beethoven apparently becomes annoyed at Bernard’s gossip and sends him away, as Bernard breaks off mid-word and departs.

Schindler returns in the late afternoon from making his deliveries to the various ambassadors of the latest round of subscription solicitations. Schindler also reports that he has found someone who will give Beethoven a loan against his bank share, but first he needs to collect some money. The funds should be available tomorrow or Tuesday. He is not a moneylender by trade, but rather a man who has some money and is glad to help Beethoven out.

There is some discussion between Beethoven, Schindler and Karl about Karl’s mother, Johanna. Johann Caspar Hofbauer (1771-1839), a prosperous bell founder, is the father of her illegitimate daughter Ludovika Johanna (born June 12, 1820). Hofbauer has been asked to contribute further to Johanna’s upkeep while she is ill, and he complains that so far she and the child have already cost him 30,000 florins [probably a vast exaggeration] and that he still gives her 40 florins per month. While she blames the water for her illness, Karl notes that it’s the same water that Ludwig drinks.

The Rossini wars in pre-copyright Vienna continue. Schindler relates that Artaria recently announced that he is the sole owner of Rossini’s opera Maometto II [so noted in the January 24 Wiener Zeitung advertisement of the piano score.] Two days later, Pietro Mechetti did the same thing, and says he is the only rightful owner. They are both now coming into legal conflict with Rossini, who may have sold it to them both. “The public is laughing at it.”

Brother Johann now joins the group. He has heard Conradin Kreutzer has developed an obsession with the idea of writing an opera in four weeks. Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) is suggested as a source for a libretto [it is unclear Johann whether means for that to be set by Kreutzer or by Ludwig.] Schindler and Johann suggest that negotiations can be had with the Court Opera about a possible opera. Even if the current theater administrator should die, his replacement would certainly accept any contract with Beethoven with joy. One could certainly arrange the fee beforehand, and Bach would be a great help in writing such a contract. That way Beethoven could be on even and secure footing. There is no composer but he who could singlehandedly save a theater from going under; they know that and will agree to every condition that he wishes to put. If he likes, Friedrich Kind (1768-1843), [the librettist for Weber’s Der Freischütz] would write the text.

Johann continues the gossip about Johanna, and says that little Ludovika’s real father is actually a Hungarian medical student named Raicz, who was a “gentleman lodger” at their house, even while Caspar Carl was still alive. Hofbauer doesn’t know this, and thinks that the child is his. Karl says even though she is his mother, Ludwig should ask for accurate information about her circumstances. If she is subsidized, it would be easy for her to continue her bad lifestyle. If anything, it would better support her passions than good behavior. [Karl is either trying to score points with Uncle Ludwig, or has come over to Uncle’s opinions about his mother.] Johann believes that Bernard is also gossiping with her about Ludwig’s affairs.

This comment apparently sets Ludwig off in a fury, and he sends the housekeeper to fetch Bernard back. However, on her return she reports that Bernard is not home yet, and will not be until at least 8 o’clock. In the meanwhile, Beethoven fills numerous pages of the conversation books computing Johanna’s likely expenses and her income from her pension and the monies received from Hofbauer. Johann notes that these payments don’t come to anything approaching 10,000 florins per year as Hofbauer claimed. Karl writes, “Your brother says that earlier, Mother was always to be seen on all the public squares in the company of well-known whores.” [A rather cruel thing for Johann to make young Karl write.]

Bernard finally shows up, most likely after 9 PM since he was at a ball. He says that the doctor treating Johanna is Dr. Ignaz Kleiner [a member of the faculty of the University of Vienna], who also treated Duke Albrecht of Sachsen-Teschen. “He is an excellent man.” Bernard agrees that the theaters will pay well and gladly for an opera. He dismisses the idea of translating a libretto [perhaps one by Calderón, as discussed above]; it would take him just as much work as writing one from scratch, and he would only get 100 florins for it.[Beethoven has apparently calmed down in the intervening hours; there is no indication from what Bernard writes here that he has received any serious dressing-down by Beethoven for his chatter with Johanna.]

It’s quite late for Beethoven, and he turns in for the night after the guests leave. Since Karl has classes tomorrow, most likely Johann drives him back to Blöchlinger’s.

Conversation Book 19 f. 32r-35v; Conversation Book 20 f. 6v-25v.