BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, January 29, 1824

Nephew Karl is at Uncle Ludwig’s apartment in the late morning, again discussing the possibility of having a new stove put in. The chimneysweep said that the stove Beethoven wants can probably be installed, but it would be too smoky. But if Beethoven insists, the building superintendent will install it himself.

Dinner today will be venison.

Uncle Ludwig makes up his shopping list in the late morning:

+Candles. [which he apparently did not buy, despite his notation two days ago that he needed them “today.”]
+Locksmith. [which was also on the Monday January 26 errand list.]
+Mälzel Metronome. [Beethoven still appears to contemplate providing the metronome markings to the Missa Solemnis for Galitzin.]
+Blotting sand.
+Apartment Weigl. [Weigl’s old apartment had been discussed with Schuppanzigh on Tuesday, January 27 as a possibility for Beethoven to live in since his current abode is so unsatisfactory.]

Apparently after Beethoven completes his errands for the day, including visiting the locksmith, unpaid assistant Anton Schindler shows up mid-afternoon. Seeing Joseph Weigl mentioned on the shopping list on the preceding page, Schindler says that problems are continuing to pile up for Weigl. The archbishop was not consulted about Weigl’s appointment as kapellmeister at St. Stephan’s, and complained about it to the Emperor. Weigl was summoned in to explain how he would be able to satisfy his duties to the church while also having duties at the theater. But the theater administration confirmed that he would be excused from the theater while he has duties at the church. So far as Schindler knows, though, Weigl still has the position.

Weigl’s old apartment is positioned well for Beethoven’s purposes, though. It has the sun in the morning and at mid-day, which Beethoven does not have in his current apartment, and is necessary since he does most of his work in the mornings. But Schindler points out that it’s on the 4th floor [5th floor American], and asks whether that isn’t too high for him? Beethoven says he has no problem with stairs. Schindler says “You sprint up stairs too much, and that might hurt you very much in the long run.”

Beethoven asks Schindler where Leonhard Mälzel, Johann Nepomuk Mälzel’s brother lives. Schindler said he lived at Jägerzeil No.17, but that is where Beethoven had gone to look for him and he was not there, so Mälzel must have moved out of there recently.

Nephew Karl returns to the apartment asking whether his uncle has been out to see the locksmith yet. He has, and the locksmith should be there shortly, and indeed, the locksmith arrives on cue and begins work.

Schindler mentions that in yesterday’s Österreichischer Beobachter, Kalkbrenner was named the foremost and greatest pianist, which is quite a distinction.

The cook intends to serve some ham, but Karl has questions about whether it is safe to eat raw. Schindler says it just needs to be boiled a bit. While the locksmith finishes up his work, Schindler is told by a servant that there is a girl outside.

Karl says that the locksmith has completed his work and is due 4 florins 45 kreutzers. [This may have been to install a lock on the door to Karl’s room, since he had complained about the maid entering his room and reading his books.]

The girl at the door turns out to be alto Caroline Unger, who has come in a coach owned by the Kärntnertor Theater. With her is Baroness Mathilde Lirveeld. [The last name is unclear. The German and English language editors were unable to identify her as a resident of Vienna, so she was likely a visitor from elsewhere.] Unger tells Beethoven that the baroness “fanatically admires you.” Once again, soprano Henriette Sontag “could not come on account of the poor weather, which, however, could not prevent me.” [Editor Theodore Albrecht notes that the weather this afternoon was a mix of rain and snow, so Sontag’s excuse was not a frivolous one.]

Unger is quite pleased at the sensation they made at the third performance of Der Taucher yesterday. [Brother Johann had gone to the second performance.]

Beethoven appears quite taken by Unger’s companion, and asks whether the baroness is single. Unger replies that “The Fräulein is unmarried.”

Unger says that theater director Louis Antoine Duport is satisfied with Beethoven’s conditions regarding the opera Melusine, but he would also like to know Grillparzer’s conditions, in order to unify them. She asks what answer she should give Duport. Beethoven likely tells her Duport should take it up with Grillparzer directly.

There is some discussion of the tattered bellrope Beethoven uses to summon his servants. Unger says, teasing, “My friend here and I will make you a bell-rope worthy of you.” Beethoven says he made it himself. “How can Beethoven have a bell-rope like that? If your hand didn’t make it holy, one would have to declare that it is like the rope of a hanged man.”

Turnabout being fair play, Unger asks whether Beethoven will get married. “An old bachelor is an idle citizen of the State. Dixi et salvavi animam meam.” [Speak and save my soul.]

Unger mentions that they have sung Beethoven’s Lied aus der Ferne, WoO 137. She asks when the Akademie concert is to be given. Beethoven tells her no date has been set as of yet. She thinks it would be best held on a high feast day during Lent, when there are few public concerts. Beethoven is worried about the turnout if he were to do that. “If you give the concert, I guarantee that it will be full.” Beethoven still has his doubts. “You have too little self-confidence; haven’t the ovations from the whole World made you just a little proud?” Beethoven has to admit that they have. “Who, then, speaks of objections?” Beethoven nevertheless has these fears. “Then you won’t come to believe that people are longing to worship you in new works again? O Obstinacy!”

Getting back to romance, Beethoven asks whether Unger has a beloved. She says she has none, and retorts, “How many Beloveds do you have?” Beethoven appears to mention Josephine Deym, later Baroness von Stackelberg, who died in 1821, since Unger begins to write “Frau v. S” when Schindler takes the book and immediately changes the subject. “She will get sick from the black coffee.” [Beethoven’s coffee was notoriously strong.]

Beethoven asks when the next performance of Der Taucher will be. Taking the hint, Unger says it is tomorrow, January 30. She teases, “[The coffee] is too good and makes young girls too hot. Also, the beautiful eyes of my neighbor here [the baroness] could become too dangerous to you.” Ludwig offers them something else to drink, but she tells him not to make any fuss.

Overall, she thinks Kreutzer is conducting the whole opera very well, and everyone is satisfied. “He is very skillful and treats the whole Company with the greatest respect and tact.”

As she is getting ready to leave, Unger asks, “Do you also love the French as I do?” She wishes Beethoven a hearty farewell and promises to come again soon. Schindler points out the theater coachman is anxious to return. Baroness Lirveeld writes, “I shall mark the day that good fortune brought me to make your acquaintance.”

After they leave, Schindler is unable to give Beethoven more details about exactly who his guest was. Neither of them can make out the name that Unger wrote when she introduced her friend. She is some kind of baroness, and is supposed to be a good singer. Beethoven appears to have liked her appearance very much and been smitten by her “beautiful eyes,” since he asks where she could be found, and Schindler lets him know where she is staying. [This interaction appears to be a passing fancy, since there is no mention of the baroness again.]

Afterwards, Beethoven retires to a coffee house to read the newspapers. He makes note of book dealers selling two books on playing the organ. He also writes yet another memorandum to buy candles, and matches, as well as blotting sand.

Conversation Book 54, 17v-23r.

Regular readers of our column will be familiar with Professor Theodore Albrecht, whose ongoing series of the English language editions of the conversation books are the framework that this feature is built upon, with his kind permission and assistance. Prof. Albrecht has a new book on the premiere of the Ninth Symphony forthcoming on February 20, 2024 from Boydell & Brewer press.

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