BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, January 22, 1824

Beethoven makes a shopping list this morning:

Wine spirits

Nephew Karl comes by Uncle Ludwig’s apartment after classes this afternoon. He bought some filled donuts, which were 4 kreutzers each. He reports the latest news on the Kapellmeister position. Despite what Schindler had reported yesterday, the Archbishop doesn’t want Joseph Weigl and so there is a struggle behind the scenes.

Uncle Ludwig asks whether his Septet op.20 was not to be performed. Karl tells him that it’s planned for one of the concerts of the Schuppanzigh Quartet; everyone has been demanding that work.

1815 oil portrait of Antonio Salieri, by Joseph Willibrord Mähler (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde)

Karl also reports Antonio Salieri’s post-suicide-attempt declarations that he poisoned Mozart.

The current housekeeper bought more fish from the fish-seller woman than was intended; she paid 1 florin 15 kreutzers for 2 1/2 pounds, instead of 45 kreutzers as budgeted.

Karl makes a joke about My Lord Schuppanzigh often liking to have his cross, playing on second violinist Karl Holz’s last name, which means “wood” in German. Schuppanzigh is apparently talking about going to Berlin, since Heinrich Bethmann, director of the Berlin Theater, has returned to Vienna. He went to see Dietrichsten of the Court theater, and he said no one had been chosen yet. When people ask him to conduct in concerts, Schuppanzigh typically says he doesn’t want to stand in anyone’s light, and instead sends them off to the Musikverein.

Karl saw author Johann Langer (1793-1858) today. He is living off his essays in various periodicals.

When Karl went to the bank this morning, he ran into Frau Kudlich, whose husband ran an educational institute that Karl attended about five years earlier.

Karl reports that violinist Anton Jeckel (c.1764-1834), who retired from the Kärntnertor Theater in 1822, is now engaged at the Hofkapelle.

Karl asks how things are going with the housekeeping. [Apparently not so well, because Karl will be checking the want ads later this afternoon for widows seeking housekeeper positions.]

Beethoven then flips to the back of the conversation book and jots down that he needs a pencil and he should cash in a bank share.

The maid says she has no money to go to the market because Ludwig failed to give her any petty cash. Ludwig asks where is the vegetable soup he asked for, and the maid says she didn’t make it because she didn’t understand what he said.

Likely at a coffee shop later with his uncle, Karl copies out an advertisement of an officer’s widow seeking employment as a housekeeper.

Conversation Book 54, 1v-4v, 44r.

Probably late this afternoon, or possibly tomorrow, unpaid assistant Anton Schindler stops by Beethoven’s apartment, bearing sincere thanks from an unidentified woman. [Schindler may well be returning Franz Grillparzer’s libretto for the opera Melusine, which alto Caroline Unger had borrowed from Beethoven, and then not returned when she said she would. This guess is supported by the ensuing discussion surrounding Unger’s role in that proposed opera, as well as of Grillparzer.] “It very much pleased her.”

Schindler [who appears to have looked back through Karl’s writing on the previous pages] notes that Jeckel, whom Karl mentioned is now engaged at the Hofkapelle, is poverty-stricken, with 6-8 young children. [Jeckel’s wife had died in February, 1823.]

Talk turns to Melusine. Beethoven suggests that Caroline Unger would be suitable for the role of Bertha in Melusine, although she may not consider it a significant part. Schindler agrees. The role is not insignificant, and even though she may take offense, it appears made for her, and she has plenty to do in the piece. Beethoven agrees, and thinks that the work as a whole is very well done. Schindler especially liked the third act, “because it is full of power and action.” But there are some issues with the language; there are a lot of hard-sounding words, and too many awkward elisions. While Beethoven agrees there are challenges, Schindler thinks that there are really problems inherent in the role of Troll, who leads the hero to three fairies that enchant him, since Troll is often both rude and crude.

With respect to the Kapellmeister position, Weigl did have it but the Archbishop intervened in favor of Gänsbacher; he had taught the Archbishop’s nieces and nephews. Beethoven asks who makes the decision, and Schindler says it’s really up to the administration to make the appointment.

Beethoven wishes Franz Grillparzer could get a suitable appointment. Schindler says he is much to be pitied; he wrote a new tragedy, König Ottokar, and submitted it to the Censor last fall. The other day, the Censor absolutely prohibited its performance on political grounds. “His Ottokar will not be performed because the Censor has treated it terribly. The stage directors wanted to perform it for their own benefit.” Apparently Grillparzer went to the Emperor to complain, and it remains to be seen what will happen. [Grillparzer’s entreaties are eventually successful; on June 5, 1824 the Censor relents and allows the tragedy to be published.]

Beethoven complains about the problematic heating stove in his apartment again. Schindler says to let it go; the cold weather will be ending soon anyhow.

Schindler asks whether Beethoven had been given a free ticket to the concert of pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner and the harpist François Dizi, since they have not given any others out. [Beethoven has not been visited by Kalkbrenner, so there was probably no occasion to do so.] Apparently Kalkbrenner is making a hasty departure and will be leaving next Tuesday, January 27. [The haste was necessary because Kalkbrenner had to cover some concert dates in Prague for Ignaz Moscheles, who had again fallen ill. However, Kalkbrenner did not depart Vienna until a few days later than Schindler indicates, on January 31, 1824.]

Schindler asks how Beethoven liked Aschenbrödl last night. [Beethoven’s response is not recorded, but he appears to make some derisive remarks about Josephstadt theater composer Gläser.] Schindler says that despite his conceit, Gläser “is a thousand times more manageable than Herr Dreschler, who is the most miserable conductor that I have ever seen.”

Ignaz von Seyfried, composer and Kapellmeister at the Theater an der Wien, has been sick all winter and has not been in the orchestra there for four months. Schindler believes his finances were poor before that, so he has nothing to fall back upon. Seyfried won’t write anything substantial for the theater, but might do some pieces for the church, since his sickly condition would motivate him. Beethoven asks how much Seyfried is paid for such church music, and Schindler tells him 50-60 florins each.

Looking back at Karl’s comments again, Schindler confirms, “It’s going very badly for Salieri again. He is completely deranged. He constantly fantasizes that he is to blame for Mozart’s death and that he supplied him with poison.” Beethoven cannot imagine such a thing of his old teacher Salieri, but Schindler says it is the truth, and Salieri wants to confess it as such. Beethoven suspects Salieri may never get out of the hospital. “Thus it is true again that everyone gets his reward,” remarks Schindler.

Conversation Book 4r-6r.