BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, May 4, 1823

Beethoven sends a short note to unpaid assistant Anton Schindler very early this morning. Apparently Beethoven was looking back over yesterday’s conversation book entries, and asks why Müller is coming at 8 or 12 this morning. Why couldn’t everything just be concluded yesterday? Brandenburg Letter 1643, Anderson Letter 1173. The original is in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut. 36,65).

Nephew Karl comes to Beethoven’s apartment for his Sunday visit. Johann will be meeting them at a nearby café. Karl went to see Schiller’s drama Don Carlos yesterday at the Burgtheater. [The presentation was very heavily censored and shortened.] Yesterday Karl had his written examination. Next Thursday is a holiday, Ascension Day, but his next oral examination is on Friday, so he asks not to be visited so he can devote himself to his studies.

Karl asks whether Uncle Ludwig has made inquiries regarding the edition of Schiller that he wanted; his uncle hasn’t anything to report on that.

On his way home from the theater last night, Frau Blöchlinger had just come home from the Josephstadt theater. She had supper set for herself and her brother, a Cuirassier captain. She did not want Karl and his companion to eat with them, and instead had them set the table in a separate room. “In short, I was annoyed with this snub, all the more so because I always sat at the table with Blöchlinger and her upon similar occasions. So I told her that I wasn’t hungry; my fellow student did the same, and we went to sleep.”

Adopting one of Uncle Ludwig’s epithets for his aunt Therese, Karl calls her Fettlümmerl (Little Fat Lump). At her house someone [probably Schindler] he does not place his elbows on the table, but feels free to do it in Uncle Ludwig’s presence, and “is already too familiar.” Ludwig expresses his displeasure with how Johann is handling his affairs, but Karl asks how he has let Johann know that? In a letter in progress to Johann, Ludwig begins, “I am satisfied that you have had a look at your behavior.”

Karl asks whether Schindler was at Uncle Ludwig’s apartment last night. Karl saw him walking in this area about 6 pm. It looked like he was walking to Uncle Ludwig’s place. Karl returns to the changes made to Don Carlos. In particular, the father-confessor Domingo was turned into Don Antonio Perez, courtier, since no priests may be portrayed on stage under Metternich’s rules.

Ludwig and Karl adjourn to a coffee house, where they meet Johann. Karl asks whether Ludwig doesn’t want to take back his former housekeeper Maria Pamer as a kitchen maid. He is favorably impressed on the repairs done recently to the Broadwood piano: “I was astonished anew today at the tone of the piano, because it has been tuned.” Karl’s hat is over a year old, and he needs a new one.

Ludwig is agitated about gossip related to his taking the apartment in Hetzendorf, and the involvement of Countess Kemény [who is subleasing the apartment to Beethoven]. Johann tries to calm him down and suggests he ignore such prattle.

Karl makes a shopping list of things he needs, including a new hat, two black neckties, two summer pairs of pants, shirts and vests. Uncle Ludwig is talking too loudly, and Karl says he shouldn’t shout so; he could hurt his chest.

Lichnowsky has not done anything about the apartment in Hetzendorf, Karl writes (possibly for Uncle Johann). Baron Prónay, who owns the apartment, knows about Ludwig from his friend Nicholas Zmeskall. A former housekeeper who is now at the Puthon’s has been slandering Beethoven. Prónay is understandably concerned about his expensive floors being ruined. [It is unclear whether this concern is from the banging on the piano, or Beethoven’s reported habit of taking a shower by dumping water over himself, or both.]

Wenzel Schlemmer has the paper for five copies of the Missa Solemnis for the subscriptions. The rastration [writing on the staves] of all those pages took four days by itself. Schlemmer expects to have all five copies finished within three weeks. He can bring a large portion already this week for Ludwig’s review.

Baron Prónay has written Beethoven to tell him that if he wants he can move in this week, though Attorney Bach is still finalizing the paperwork. Everything will be arranged, so Karl and/or Johann cautions Ludwig to calm down. Karl offers to translate any letters into French that may be necessary; as usual, Karl prefers that Ludwig dictate in German, and he will write in French. Johann agrees that this is the best approach. He will pick up the finished letter tomorrow; it is already a week overdue. [Exactly what letter is meant here is uncertain. Beethoven is known to have written to Luigi Cherubini and Maurice Schlesinger in Paris over the coming days, or it might be a reference to a now-lost letter to one of the subscribing crowned heads.] Karl cannot bring it because tomorrow is a Monday and he will not be able to get away.

Conversation Book 31, 40v-45v.

Today in the Landständischen Saal, Beethoven’s friend Ignaz Schuppanzigh gives a concert. The program opens with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, op.62. Schuppanzigh is recently returned from many years abroad. The Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of July 2, 1823 (Nr. 27) had this to say at col. 432:

“Beethoven himself has composed a lot for him, and according to his own confessions, no one has penetrated deeper into his ideas than Schuppanzigh, then the director of the chamber orchestra of Prince Razoumovsky.” The reviewer was not, however, impressed by the performance of a new polonaise by Maurer, saying it lacked freshness and vivacity.

The Vienna AMZ of May 17, 1823 (Nr.40) at 319-320 printed a much more enthusiastic letter from a friend of the editor. To the reviewer’s astonishment, the auditorium was sparsely occupied. “My curiosity about Beethoven’s Overture to the Tragedy Coriolan in C Minor, which I haven’t heard in a long time, was satisfied in the highest degree. Majesty, grandeur and consistent originality are expressed in this masterpiece. The orchestra under the direction of Herrn Ferdinand Piringer performed it with particular enthusiasm and great accuracy. The cellos, played by Herren Linke, Pehaczek, Gross, Förster and Riegler, made a wonderful effect. Only an orchestra and conductor that have been inspired by the spirit of Beethoven’s works can render such a work so beautifully.”

“Hereupon, Herr Schuppanzigh stepped into the musical spotlight and played Maurer’s Fourth Violin Concerto in D minor with ease and dexterity. You may say whatever you like, what to me is always touching and enchanting in his exemplary performance is his glorious decrescendo. His playing has special highlights in the naive, which he always seizes upon.”

“The Imperial Court opera singer Dlle. Unger performed two arias by Rossini. You have yourself noted the many vocal advantages of this good singer, and after this performance I am completely like-minded. She sang extraordinarily well.” [Karoline Unger was a friend of Beethoven, and will sing the contralto part at the premiere of the Missa Solemnis in 1824.]

“Miss Rzehaczek, the niece of the concert giver, played the Swedish National Songs arranged for piano by Ries, and full justice must be done to her. Her unusual skill and ease, to which precision and correctness in performance are added, gives her an honorable place amongst our numerous virtuosos on the pianoforte.”

“The interesting concert ended with Maurer’s very tender and pleasing polonaise, never before heard here, which Herr Schuppanzigh presented to the greatest satisfaction of all listeners.”