BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, April 17, 1823

Beethoven continues to suffer from diarrhea, which is unsurprising considering he may have been absent-mindedly eating spoiled meat. He also has a head cold. He visits his doctor, Carl von Smetana (1773-1827) about the complaint. Smetana asks him if he drinks beer. When Beethoven says he does, the doctor warns him not to until the diarrhea is gone.

For his cold, Dr. Smetana suggests he take nothing but barley water for the next few days. The diarrhea will calm down if he avoids fatty and heavy foods for a few days. Wine may be had at meals, but diluted. When Beethoven complains about having a lot of mucous, Smetana says everyone in Vienna complains of that; it doesn’t mean anything. Washing daily with distilled water will make it completely disappear. Beethoven makes an appointment for a followup visit on Monday the 21st.

Sketch for tympani part, Ninth Symphony 1st movement, Conversation Book 29, 9v (Berlin Staatsbibliothek)

Stopping somewhere afterwards, Beethoven jots down on leaf 7r an idea for the timpani part [denoted both as “tympan” and “pauken in d a”] for the first movement of the Ninth Symphony. A copy of this leaf is reproduced here, courtesy of the Berlin Staatsbibliothek.

Beethoven continues on to the offices of the Wiener Zeitschrift in the Dorotheergasse, visiting editor Johann Schickh. He suggests Beethoven might enjoy a Magic Lantern show, with panoramic views, at the Müller Building, a museum near the Danube Canal. The show’s promoter promised views of Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Breslau, Heidelberg, Dresden, St. Petersburg, and the seraglio in Constantinople.

Leaving Schickh, Beethoven makes a memorandum to himself to ask the housekeeper at the coffee house whether she is paid quarterly or semiannually. He also makes a reminder to send a note to the coffee brewer, and to buy black neckerchiefs for Karl and himself, as well as two bedsteads. Reading the Intelligenzblatt newspaper, he is interested in a transparent astronomical lampshade, which could allow one to become familiar with the constellations and planets, in an effect something like a private planetarium. His shopping list includes tooth powder for Karl, and wine from Cyprus.

Conversation Book 29, 6r-8v, 20r.

There is once again a gap in the conversation books of about two days. This may mean a short book is completely missing, or Beethoven simply may have been busy and not gone out or had visitors on those two days. The conversation books resume on April 20.