BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, May 18, 1823

Beethoven is settling in to his summer apartment in Hetzendorf on this Pentecost Sunday. He makes a reminder note to himself to give copyist Wenzel Schlemmer some new trombone parts for the Missa Solemnis. Yes, even though the subscription copies are currently being made, he is still changing the Mass.

Baron Prónay, his landlord, stops by and shows Beethoven his famous greenhouse and garden. Beethoven also appears to be Prónay’s guest for dinner.

Later today, Nephew Karl comes to visit. Karl cautions Uncle Ludwig against saying anything against the government in the Baron’s presence; he is a chamberlain to the emperor and it could be dangerous. They then talk a bit about poetic scansion, possibly in connection with one of the libretti that Beethoven is considering, or Karl’s studies.

Beethoven has the first part of Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland’s Makrobiotik, oder die Kunst das menschliche Leben zu verlängern (Macrobiotics, or the Art of Prolonging Human Life); Karl laments that he’s missing the second part.

Karl copies a few sentences about “ear machines.” Different shapes will have different benefits. Karl also remarks on Ludwig’s friend Joseph Carl Bernard, saying he “really exceeds everything that I have ever even read about skinflints. Whoever worships money in this manner also seldom disdains a means to get it. He is also irreligious, or so I have noticed.”

Karl warns that Uncle Ludwig should not keep wine in the metal measuring cup for a long time; the result is often a deposit. The cup is tin or pewter [which would contain lead.]

Karl is eating well at Blöchlinger’s Institute; he eats more meat there. He usually has a croissant for breakfast, at 2 1/2 kr. He suggests trying the rolls at the Court baker’s; then Uncle could eat like the emperor. They’re very good, he thinks. While the country bread in Hetzendorf is good, the bread made by the bakers in the village is bad because they are cutting corners to make more money. He thinks that Johann’s recent wine was better than what’s available here also. He suggests it would be more economical to buy a keg.

Ludwig complains about his sister-in law Therese. Karl responds, “Be that as it may, your brother was still more fortunate [in marriage] than my father.” [Quite the insult against Karl’s own mother!] He quotes a German author who said that the Ancients were right when they portrayed both the Graces and the Furies as women.

Ludwig’s eye infection is still bothering him. Karl tells him not to keep washing his eyes; the incessant rubbing is inflaming them even more.

Karl slept late this morning; he is the only person left at Blöchlinger’s, the other students having gone home for the Pentecost holidays after the oral examinations on May 9. Karl notes that the little wooden tub is leaking.

Karl tells his uncle, “I must always laugh about your brother, if he says something about which I have reasons that someone can do it better another way; then he usually says: ‘My dear Karl, in their book of experience, most of the pages are still empty; mine, on the other hand, is already soon full.'” Johann always thinks he has all the answers, like a General Information Bureau.

Karl inquires about Uncle Ludwig’s plans for going to the baths. He suggests that it would be a good idea to plan ahead the night before, especially if he is planning to go at 6 or 6:30 AM. The plan is to go to Atzgersdorf tomorrow. Karl has arranged for a carriage ride, which gets them there in the morning, and then takes him back to the City for 3 florins. If Ludwig arranges the carriage in advance, he can take it any day other than Sunday.

Karl spends the night, planning to head to the baths early in the morning with his uncle.

On this date, contrabassist Anton Grams dies of a stroke at age 71. Beethoven had written the difficult bass passages in the Fifth Symphony especially for his renowned talents. He was a friend of Mozart and is believed to have played in the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. The full-page obituary of Anton Grams in the Vienna Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr. 62, August 2 at 495-496, goes into great detail about this beloved member of the orchestra of the Imperial Opera Theater. “His great skill in handling this instrument, which is so important in music, is all too well known, and all the singers whom he accompanied in concerts likewise pay tribute to his memory.”

Born in Markersdorf in German Bohemia on October 29, 1752, Grams left his father’s house at age fifteen and became a choir boy (descantist) in Bresslau, where he studied Latin and music. He then continued his studies in Prague, where he devoted himself to the double bass. In 1801, Prince Esterházy brought Grams to his orchestra in Eisenstadt, where he was given a lifelong contract, but the orchestra dissolved two and a half years later. He finally came from Eisenstadt to the Imperial National Theater, where he practiced his art until his death on May 18th, after 72 years of life, from “paralysis of the lungs.” On July 5, Mozart’s Requiem was performed in his honor. “Vienna will not see his replacement any time soon.”