BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, July 27, 1823

Unpaid assistant Schindler and Beethoven have 2 p.m. dinner with Nephew Karl in Beethoven’s Vienna apartment today. The topic of the letter of recommendation Beethoven wrote for Joseph Drechsler a few days ago comes up. Schindler says that Drechsler had wanted to ask Beethoven for a recommendation to be the court organist. Despite the scolding he received over talking to Schoberlechner about such letters of recommendation, Schindler suggested that Drechsler would risk nothing in asking for one. Drechsler, as professor of organ playing is certainly the best qualified in all of Vienna, in his opinion.

Attorney Johann Baptist Bach will be going to Baden on August 1, should Beethoven want to talk to him. [Bach appears to be in negotiations for Beethoven about selling one of his bank shares or getting a loan against it. He had made an arrangement and then backed out of it.]

Schindler notes the postal coach goes to Dresden on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; deliveries from Dresden come the day before.

Beethoven apparently suggests contacting the police director in Krems, where Johann’s estate in Gneixendorf is located. Schindler says that there is no police director in Krems. Instead police matters are handled by the Magistrate.

Beethoven’s eyes continue to bother him. Schindler suggests talking to Dr. Friedrich Jäger, a member of the Faculty of Medicine in Vienna, whom Beethoven had mentioned before. Karl chimes in that it doesn’t have to be Jäger, he is the foremost eye doctor in Vienna; he has his own clinic and is eye doctor to the Court.

Dinner today is rice soup, but without veal since the housekeeper didn’t get any; green beans with ham; shoulder roast; pastry and lettuce salad. Schindler isn’t keen on the salad.

Karl reports that Johann’s wife Therese keeps the key to the money box. If he goes on a walk, she gives him a 20-kreuzer silver coin, and “she keeps him under her thumb.” Karl is resigned that Johann will live and die with Therese and her daughter; everything they have tried to do or suggest is in vain.

Beethoven is considering alternative copyists. [Wenzel Schlemmer may be getting too ill to continue at the copying pace that Beethoven requires; he is suffering from an infection in these pre-antibiotic days.] Schindler points out that the theater copyists will be no help; they are used to doing slipshod work, and they get well paid for it. Wenzel Rampl wouldn’t be a help since he also gets paid better.

The discussions turn to Joseph Carl Bernard. Schindler suggests that he would be better served writing in a more contemporary style. Instead of talking about daily events, he writes expansive abstract essays that no one understands. Since he is now paid by the administration, he praises everything they do and no longer reviews the public concerts or theater performances.

Karl explains to Uncle Ludwig that to be proper one should always address an emperor as Sie, not Ihr. Thus, not Eure Majestät, but rather Ihre Majestät.

Schindler says that he walked to Alexander Obreskov, the business representative at the Russian Embassy, and he says the package with the Missa Solemnis score can be delivered to their office.

The landlord in Vienna, Franz Schilde, said yesterday that Beethoven should leave the room open tomorrow because the hole leading to the well needs to be opened up in the second room. Something about the pole leading to the well needs repair. Schindler thought this was a pretext at first, but it turns out that the well doesn’t give any water. The landlord can listen to reason which it pleases him.

Talk turns to inexpensive restaurants. Schindler tries never to drink more than 40 kreuzers’ worth of wine. Many restaurants have very large and good portions for only 18 kreuzers, including pastries and beef loin or cutlet. Karl says the emperor drinks nothing but water from Schönnbrun, which is the purest of water. He observes that the housekeeper Barbara Holzmann must have lost her sense of taste, because she sampled the butter when she was shopping and thought it was good [implying that it was rancid.]

Moritz Lichnowsky now has the cook that Beethoven’s brother Johann had a while back. [Johann said she was unhappy because although she was very good, she was used to cooking for much larger households, and often claimed to be sick.] Schindler say he had tried to get her a position with financial advisor Stockhammer. He thinks that if she ever gets healthy, she would be perfect for Beethoven, since she would also be an adequate housekeeper. He thinks she is between 36 and 40 years old. He doubts she will remain at Lichnowsky’s long.

Schindler has some gossip about Brother Johann and his wife Therese. According to the nurse, Therese’s lover spent three nights with her while she was in the house. Karl chimes in that Johann got hungry the day that he was able to leave the house with Schindler. He went to a small restaurant and ordered schnitzel and wine. When the bill came, he didn’t want to spend more than a 20-kreuzer coin. He had six of them, but he didn’t want to break one. So Schindler, who only had a roll, ended up paying several more 20-kreuzer pieces to cover the tab. The next Monday [probably July 21], Schindler went to Johann to see if he could borrow 4 twenties, which we would pay back on Wednesday, his payday. Johann refused, saying “I cannot give you anything, because my wife has all the money.” Schindler still has not been repaid for the dinner. “This was the saddest experience that I ever had in my life,” says Schindler. “Now I laugh about it, but at that moment I wouldn’t have given him so much as a drop of my blood.”

Schindler departs, leaving Karl with his uncle. Ludwig seems to be considering Johann Baptist Rupprecht (1776-1846) as an advisor for Karl, who thinks it would be best to visit with him before they go to Baden. That way he would know what curriculum he should be preparing. [Karl clearly would like to be a language teacher, and things would have gone very differently if his desires had been respected.] The examination to be a French teacher is quite easy, and he would hardly need any preparation. If he could get testimonials in Latin and Greek as well, he would be more marketable. His language teacher, Pleugmackers, thinks that would be the way to proceed. He thinks most language teachers don’t know a tenth of what Karl does. His monthly salary is 72 florins, but he has 40 florins per month in debt service so it is hard to live on the remaining 32 florins.

Karl notes that Johann tried to dissuade Ludwig from going to Baden.

There is some discussion of acoustics since there is a resonance where they are. The ancients had a theater that held 80,000 people and could hear everything; today not a tenth as many can hear in a modern theater. Karl inspects Ludwig’s library and finds it lacking; one volume is missing from Goethe, ruining the set. They could use more Schiller as well. He thinks it is better to give what money one has to a book dealer than spending it on fashion like his mother Johanna.

Barbara Holzmann is mad because she was turned into the kitchen maid and the other servant was made the housekeeper. Karl questions that decision, since the other servant is still a child.

Karl explains to Ludwig how the Gymnasium schools work. There are upper and lower classes. The lower have 4 grammatical classes; the upper has 2 humanities. When one has, like Karl, completed the humanities courses, you can take the teachers’ curriculum for the grammatical classes. Students who have finished the 4 grammatical classes must take philosophy, and then can take the humanities classes. One who can instruct humanities can also do so with grammatical students.

The servant at Blöchlinger’s is out of a job and is living there until he finds another place. If Uncle Ludwig wants him as a servant, he can come immediately. He asks for 20 florins, which is what he got at Blöchlinger’s. He has other income. He knows Ludwig and would like to wok for him. He is quite honest.

Karl doesn’t think much of Schindler. Even in his letters there are spelling errors. “It’s no use. He is not just satisfied with being uninstructed; he also does not want to accept any instruction.” In particular, Karl is annoyed at Schindler’s habit of spelling “Eure” as “Euere.”

When they go to Baden, Karl would like to visit Captain Franz Ludwig Carbon again.

Conversation Book 36, 7r-22r.

Beethoven writes to composer Louis Spohr in Kassel today. He opens by saying he was visited by a singer whose name he has forgotten, who was bearing a letter of recommendation from Spohr. So Beethoven thought he would take the opportunity to write about the Missa Solemnis. So far, only subscriptions have been received from the Russian Czar, the King of France and the King of Prussia and a few other royal heads. A subscription invitation was sent to the Elector of Hesse, but nothing has been heard. If Spohr would be so kind as to use his influence to get that subscription approved, Beethoven would be most grateful. There is little news from Hetzendorf, other than there are a lot of raisins (dried pressed grapes).

Brandenburg Letter 1716, Anderson Letter 1213. The original is held by the Frankfurt City and University Library. The letter bears an August 5 postmark, which might indicate the date of receipt, or Beethoven may have delayed in mailing it for some reason.