BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, November 30, 1823

Beethoven makes a note to buy macaroni. [One of his favorite dishes was macaroni and cheese; Schindler comments in his biography that “It had to be particularly bad for him not to like it.” Although Schindler is frequently unreliable, he has no apparent motive for lying about this claim, so we accept it as reasonably probable.]

A woman named Nannette Bauer comes to the apartment to interview about being the new housekeeper. She had ten years experience working as a cook for a Hungarian nobleman, until he died. Beethoven asks how old he was when he died [perhaps suspicious], and she says he was 81. She lives with her married sister in the Josephstadt. Nephew Karl asks how she learned about the position. She has a network of friends who look for work for each other. He jokes that it’s very like trying to get a position as a government official. But Karl and Ludwig agree that they should not be too hasty in making a decision, and will definitely want to get a sample of her cooking since that’s the only way to make sure her claims are honorable.

Karl calculates her annual salary at 18 florins per month at 216 florins, plus an additional florin per month for laundry, and around 44 florins per year for bread money, for a grand total of 272 florins, 48 kreuzers per year. She can’t start immediately, which Uncle Ludwig doesn’t like, but Karl reminds him that she wasn’t the one who sent housekeeper Marie Pamer packing with no notice. She offers to make her cooking sample next Wednesday [December 3] but she would even accept a four-week trial, and after that they can keep her, or send her on her way. They tell her they will be in touch.

Karl says there will be an investigation tomorrow about the fracas in the philosophy department, and the Vice-Director means to identify the perpetrators and expel them. He will also be investigating the rampant theft of overcoats, hats and books. Although there are guards, no one pays any attention to them. Karl thinks it will not be long before they are caught.

The conversation turns back to Nannette Bauer. Karl refers to her as “the heiress from Pressburg.” He is curious about how she will prepare for the sample cooking.

Karl is reading Gottfried Bürger’s translation of The Iliad. [Bürger’s poetry was also the basis for Beethoven’s songs Seufzer eine Ungeliebten and Gegenliebe, WoO 118, in 1794-95.] Bürger translates Greek titles such as “Godly Achilles” as “highly-noble-born” and so forth. Karl thinks “‘the Power of Hercules’ would be very poorly reproduced with our words, ‘His Majesty, Hercules.'”

Karl misses the Optical Armchair Journeys and would like to go back again. They are showing new representations of various regions and cities. [These theatre-in-the-round displays of pleasant excursions through panoramas were run by Josef Lixa and Anton Wild, two painters from Prague.]

Karl tries the cooking sample of another one of the housekeeper candidates, and says, “It burns like fire in my mouth.” The doctor still needs to be paid for the house call to examine the maid. He thinks she should pay the doctor herself, but Uncle Ludwig says no, they should take care of it for her. Karl says he’ll take the money tomorrow then, if that’s what his uncle wants.

Mid-afternoon, Brother Johann, who is just recently arrived back in Vienna, stops by Beethoven’s new apartment to invite Ludwig for a little drive. He has his coach, and makes the point that he is alone. [Ludwig hates Johann’s wife Therese.] Ludwig nevertheless declines. Johann, like everyone, asks how the new opera is going. He will be going to see Euryanthe by Weber tonight, and offers for Ludwig to come along, but that offer is declined as well. [Since November 14, the opera had been performed only with very large cuts. The performance Johann means to attend will be followed by just two more, which will spell the end of the proposed festival of German opera.] Ludwig complains of not feeling well since he’s been back in the city, and Johann agrees that the country is the best medicine. Johann understands that Weber has borrowed bits from Fidelio in both Euryanthe and Der Freischütz. [Editor Ted Albrecht notes that Euryanthe also imitates passages of Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives, op.85.] Johann calls this “permitted theft.”

Johann goes on his way, and Karl returns to his boarding house at the university shortly thereafter.

Conversation Book 47, 8r-12v.

Beethoven has Karl write an undated note to Anton Schindler, possibly today, asking him to come to his apartment tomorrow early, or around noon. Beethoven says he talked to Duport, who said he had written a letter but no letter has yet been received. No decision has been made yet about the concertmaster position, Beethoven appears to indicate obliquely: “He still awaits the main jump, which will extend over the proscenium from low C-sharp to high F.”

Brandenburg Letter 1764, Anderson Letter 1280. The original is in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut. 36,29).