BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, December 25, 1823

Anton Schindler joins Beethoven and Nephew Karl for Christmas dinner, but he’s late because his watch is running poorly. He visited Count Ferdinand Stockhammer, as he indicated he would do at dinner yesterday. “the whole family sends you their sincerest regards, with the assurance that they will help you with everything in the matter of the sister-in-law in order to demonstrate their respect for you.” [Ludwig appears to have asked Schindler to see whether they could see to it that Karl’s mother Johanna is taken care of.]

Schindler has a very nice Christmas gift for Beethoven. At church this morning, Schindler met with Court Councillor Kiesewetter and Dr. Sonnleither [both also closely involved with the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde] and they greatly support the idea of the Akademie benefit concert. “However you want the whole thing organized, they will arrange it with the participation of the Verein and all of its performing artists.” Kiesewetter, who is now director, asks that Beethoven send them a letter of his intentions. “Herewith I fulfill this pleasant charge.”

Schindler mocks Friedrich August Kanne, editor of the Vienna Allgemeine musikaliche Zeitung and writer for the Allgemeine Theater-Zeitung. In his review in the Theater-Zeitung of Moscheles’s concert on November 22, Kanne wrote that the concert opened with a Symphony in C by Beethoven, while there was no Beethoven symphony on the program. “I presume that he didn’t know what he was writing and that he wasn’t even in the hall.” But someone must have noticed, because the next issue corrected the error. “Kanne laments about the poor success of his magazine, but that’s no wonder, since he produces essays full of untruths, when there really are so many facts to the contrary. He writes without having heard things for himself.” [Editor Theodore Albrecht comes to Kanne’s defense, noting that Kanne might have been using “Symphonie” in the 18th-century sense of meaning an overture, because his commentary would be more appropriate to the Name Day Overture in C major, op.115, which did in fact open the concert, than Beethoven’s first symphony in C.]

Today a Mass by Georg Joseph Vogler (1749-1814) was performed at the Augustinerkirche, “miserably badly.” Schindler laments the death of Franz Xaver Gebauer, who had been kapellmeister and choral director there. “One really misses Gebauer in church music.”

Schindler remembers that Kiesewetter had thoughts about which artists should be included in the premiere of the Missa Solemnis. Joseph Weigl as conductor and Ignaz Schuppanzigh as concertmaster should be at the head. The Musik-Verein does not have suitable soloists, so he suggests Henriette Sontag or Caroline Unger be used, together with the best soloists from the Court Opera. [Both Sontag and Unger will in fact take part in the concert.] They only have Vincenz Hauschka as a conductor at the Musik-Verein, but Schindler thinks it best if Beethoven conducts it himself. “Who then, can, if not you?” Kiesewetter personally would like Weigl. That may be his honest opinion, adds Schindler, but not everyone agrees. However, he conducted the Christmas benefit concert today splendidly, and also organized it.

Karl observes that the cook left out the butter in their dinner, being frugal and wishing to avoid cooking with fat.

Schindler says Fidelio is to be performed again, with Sontag in the title role. Beethoven observes that he very much liked Wilhelmina Schröder in the part, when the opera was revived last year. Schindler says she is envious of Sontag’s fame. Sontag would have visited Beethoven long ago, but doesn’t want to do it alone, and is afraid to come off as second-best in the company of others.

Schindler jokes that someone unidentified [possibly Count Moritz Lichnowsky] may evaporate from the planning of the Akademie before it happens, but he will doubtless come for the free concert ticket.

After dinner, Beethoven adds several columns of numbers, getting the math correct.

Conversation Book 50, 15v-20v. This concludes Conversation Book 50. If there is no missing book between 50 and 51, then Beethoven has no visitors tomorrow, December 26. Book 51 picks up on December 27, 1823.

In Prague, the Christmas Concert of the Society of Music Arts ends with a bang, as they conclude with Beethoven’s ever-popular Battle of Vittoria [Wellington’s Victory, op.91.] Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung February 12, 1824 (Nr. 8) at 126-127.

Wellington’s Victory op.91 is here performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and assorted cannon, conducted by Herbert von Karajan:

If that doesn’t make your Christmas merry, nothing will.