BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, June 16, 1822 (very approximately)

Since Rossini is now aware from running into brother Johann last week that Ludwig is frequently in the City on Sundays, we may presume that arrangements are made for Rossini to come visit, especially if Beethoven is aware that Rossini has funds in hand for him that would make it unnecessary to sell one of his precious bank shares.

The go-between and translator on this visit appears to be Anton Gräffer, a musician and writer as well as a salesman and appraiser for the Artaria firm. He had worked with Beethoven to develop the first comprehensive catalogue of the composer’s works, which was published by Artaria in 1819. He would later serve as the appraiser and auctioneer of Beethoven’s estate.

Gräffer left behind a set of handwritten memoirs set down in about 1850. This document is held by the Vienna Stadt- und Landesbibliothek, Handscriftensammlung, Ic 138.011, H.I.N. 129.388. Gräffer includes a brief reference to this visit:

“I took Maestro Rossini to see him when he lived on Kaiserstrasse. Although the public raised this Italian above all composers in the world, Beethoven embraced him again and heartily as a brother and praised his talents highly; artistic envy was alien to this noble man.” One can imagine that Beethoven was very happy indeed to see Rossini, if he was bearing with him a monetary gift.

Unlike the first visit by Rossini, which we were able to date within a day of March 28th, this one is not subject to very precise dating, though it obviously must come after the June 9th discussion between Johann and Rossini, and likely after the end of Conversation Book 17 on Thursday, June 13th. This Sunday is the next likely time for Beethoven to be in the City. The very latest possible date is July 22nd, when Rossini leaves Vienna. Although there is thus a range of a little over a month of possible dates, one would assume that Rossini would want to get the money to Beethoven as soon as possible, so this Sunday seems like a reasonable probability.

Schindler mentioned in Beethoven’s biography (3rd ed. at 179) that he “did not want to hear a syllable mentioned” about Rossini’s attempts to visit him. Considering Beethoven had frequently maligned Rossini amongst his circle, it would be highly embarrassing to have it known that Rossini appeared on his doorstep bearing a financial gift. This fact would no doubt explain Beethoven’s reticence about the entire sojourn of Rossini to Vienna. It may also explain why the Conversation Book for the second half of June, which would include this meeting, is among the missing.

Beethoven also has another encounter approximately today with Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, former editor of the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. You will recall that about June 1, Rochlitz had met Beethoven at Steiner’s music publishing business, but was unable to make himself understood. Rochlitz continues his anecdote, published in Sonneck, Beethoven: Impressions of his Contemporaries (Schirmer, 1926) at 123-127:

“Some two weeks later I was about to go to dinner when I met the young composer Franz Schubert, an enthusiastic admirer of Beethoven. The latter had spoken to Schubert concerning me. ‘If you wish to see him in a more natural and jovial mood,’ said Schubert, ‘then go and eat your dinner this very minute at the inn where he has just gone for the same purpose.’ He took me with him. Most of the places were taken. Beethoven sat among several acquaintances who were strangers to me. He really seemed to be in good spirits [possibly due to having received funds from Rossini earlier that day?] and acknowledged my greeting, but I purposely did not cross over to him. Yet I found a seat from which I could see him and, since he spoke loud enough, also could hear nearly all that he said. It could not actually be called a conversation, for he spoke in monologue, usually at some length, and more as though by hapchance and at random.”

“Those about him contributed little, merely laughing or nodding their approval. He philosophized, or one might even say politicized, after his own fashion. He spoke of England and the English, and of how both were associated in his thoughts with a splendor incomparable – which in part, sounded tolerably fantastic. Then he told all sorts of stories of the French, from the days of the second occupation of Vienna. For them he had no kind words. His remarks all were made with the greatest unconcern and without the least reserve, and whatever he said was spiced with highly original, naive judgments or humorous fancies. He impressed me as being a man with a rich, aggressive intellect, an unlimited, never resting imagination. I saw him as one who, had he been cast away on a dessert isle when no more than a growing, capable boy, would have taken all he had lived and learned, all that had stuck to him in the way of knowledge, and there have meditated and brooded over his material until his fragments had become a whole, his imaginings turned to convictions which he would have shouted out into the world in all security and confidence.”

“When he had finished his meal he rose and came over to me. ‘And is all well with you in this old Vienna of ours?’ he asked amiably. I answered in the affirmative by signs, drank to his health and asked him to pledge me. He accepted, but beckoned me to a little side-room. This suited me to a T. I took the bottle and followed him. Here we were by ourselves, save for an occasional peeper who soon made himself scarce. He offered me a little tablet upon which I was to write down whatever my signs did not make clear. He began by praising Leipzig and its music; that is to say the music chosen for performance in the churches, at concerts, and in the theatre. Otherwise he knew nothing of Leipzig and had only passed through the city when a youth on his way to Vienna. ‘And even though nothing is printed about the performances but the dry records, still I read them with pleasure,’ he said. ‘One cannot help but notice that they are intelligent and well inclined toward all. Here, on the contrary…’ Then he started in, rudely enough, nor would he let himself be stopped. He came to speak of himself: ‘You will hear nothing of me here.’ ‘It is summer now,’ I wrote. ‘No, nor in winter either!’ he cried. ‘What should you hear? ‘Fidelio?’ They cannot give it, nor do they want to listen to it. The symphonies? They have no time for them. My concertos? Everyone grinds out only the stuff he himself has made. The solo pieces? They went out of fashion here long ago, and here fashion is everything. At the most, Schuppanzigh occasionally digs up a quartet, etc.’ And despite all the exaggeration in what he said, a modicum of reason and truth remains. At last he had relieved himself and harked back to Leipzig. ‘But,’ said he, ‘you really live in Weimar, do you not?’ He probably thought so because of my address. I shook my head. “Then it is not likely that you know the great Goethe?’ I nodded my head vigorously. ‘I know him, too,’ said Beethoven, throwing out his chest, while an expression of the most radiant pleasure overspread his face.

“‘It was in Karlsbad that I made his acquaintance [actually, it was in Teplitz, near Karlsbad] – God only knows how long ago! At that time I was not yet altogether deaf, as I now am, though I heard with great difficulty. And what patience the great man had with me! What did he not do for me! He told numerous little anecdotes and gave the most enjoyable details. ‘How happy it all made me at the time! I would have died for him ten times over. Then, while I still was head over heels in trouble, I thought out my music for his ‘Egmont’; and I did make a success of it, did I not?’ [The music for Egmont was actually written two years earlier, in 1810.] I was prodigal of each and every movement which might indicate acquiescence and pleasure. Then I set down that we gave this music, not only whenever ‘Egmont’ was performed, but almost every year at least once in concert, with a kind of explanation, mainly made up of a summarization of those scenes of the drama with which the music is most intimately concerned. ‘I know! I know! he cried. ‘Since that Karlsbad summer I read Goethe every day – that is, when I read at all. He killed Klopstock for me. You are surprised? Now you are laughing? Aha, it is because I used to read Klopstock! For years I put up with him, when I took my walks and elsewhere. Well, then, it is true that I did not always know at what he was driving. He hops about so from pillar to post; and he always begins altogether too much from top to bottom. Always maestoso and in D-flat major! Is it not so? Yet he is lofty and he uplifts the soul. When I did not understand him, then I made my guess and comprehended more or less. If only he did not want to die all the time! Death comes soon enough to all of us. Well, at any rate, what he writes always sounds well. But Goethe – he is alive, and he wants us all to live with him. That is why he can be set to music. There is no one who lends himself to musical setting as well as he. I do not like to write songs…”

Rochlitz then writes in the conversation book that Gottfried Christoph Härtel of Breitkopf & Härtel has asked him to suggest to Beethoven setting Goethe’s Faust. “He read it. ‘Ha!’ he cried and flung up his hand. ‘That would be a man-sized job! That might yield something!’ He went on in this fashion for a time, picturing the thought to himself in a manner anything but inept, while, with his head thrown back, he stared at the ceiling. ‘But,’ he next began, ‘for some time past I have been carrying about with me the idea of three other great works. Already I have hatched out much in connection with them, that is to say, in my head. These I must first get rid of: two great symphonies (the Ninth and the Tenth, which last never came to be performed) each different from the other, and each also different from all my other ones, and an oratorio. And that will be a long-winded affair; for you see, for some time past I find I no longer settle down to write so easily. I sit and think and think and what I have to say is all there, but it will not get down to paper. I dread beginning works of such magnitude. Once I have begun, then, all goes well…’ And in this strain he continued for a long time.” Rochlitz told Härtel that he had his doubts about the success of this idea. “Yet let us live in hopes, since the suggestion has caught his fancy, and he assured me again and again that he would not forget it.”

Rochlitz will meet Beethoven a third time, in Baden bei Wien. Beethoven had considered Faust as a subject back in 1808, but this proposal was probably made independent of knowledge of those facts. In any event, Beethoven did nothing with it.

On this same day, Archduke Rudolph, wending his way back to Vienna from Olmütz, at 7 AM consecrates the “magnificently built and handsomely endowed parish church,” in Tobitschau (today Tovačov, a town of about 2500 people in the Czech Republic), in the Olmütz district. The ceremony takes six full hours to complete. The church, St. Wenceslas, is seen in the attached photo. After the High Mass, the Cardinal led a festive procession and gave the crowd of thousands the papal blessing. The city then established a foundation endowment to maintain the church. Brünner Zeitung of June 27, 1822.

Church of St. Wenceslaus in Tobitschau (Tovačov, Czech Republic). Photo by Lehotsky, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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