BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, July 24, 1823

Count Moritz Lichnowsky pays a visit to Beethoven in Hetzendorf today or possibly yesterday. He is living in Hietzing, not far away. [around 3 km, perhaps a half hour’s walk or only a few minutes by carriage.] As usual, Lichnowsky is full of gossip. Amongst the most important points is the news that Brother Johann felt sufficiently well to leave Vienna [presumably for his estate in Gneixendorf.] “But he is to be pitied that he has to live with such a monster. You will see he will no longer recover from this illness. It is sad: The police can never be very effective as long as he won’t provide evidence of it. You must not abandon him now; maybe she herself will leave him…In spite of all his errors, he is still a thousand times better than she is.”

Lichnowsky feels he is getting the benefit of the baths and drinking the mineral spring water. He thinks the baths in Meidling are comparable to those in Baden [it is unclear whether he means Baden bei Wien, or Baden-Baden.] He suggests that they meet and go to the baths in Meidling together. The doctors in Vienna are very much in favor of the baths and there are often 100 people there.

Lichnowsky proudly notes that his nine-year-old daughter is studying the five booklets comprising Beethoven’s 10 Variations on Folk Songs for piano and flute or violin, op.107. Archduke Rudolph also sends his greeting “à la francaise.”

Lichnowsky starts asking questions about the Ninth, including one about what genre it is, and Beethoven quickly changes the subject to the Missa Solemnis and describes his subscription plan. Lichnowsky likes the idea of selling Mass to a publisher after a year. He notes that by then Beethoven’s enemies will have spread vicious gossip that the work is still not finished. Beethoven is still angry about the refusal of Prince Esterházy last month to subscribe, claiming that he already is “well supplied” with Masses. Lichnowsky commiserates, saying “any such gentleman would be ashamed [to respond in such a manner.]”

Lichnowsky takes his leave, mentioning that on his way home he passes through the zoo on the west side of Schönbrunn Palace, and promises to come to visit Beethoven again in a few days.

Conversation Book 36, 1r-4r.

Beethoven writes Archduke Rudolph a humorous letter of introduction for Kapellmeister Drechscler of the Josephstadt Theater saying, “While taking a little walk I stammered out a canon “Grossen Dank” [Great Thanks], and coming home I wanted to write it down for Your Imperial Highness, when I find this supplicant who has the delusion that he would be better served by having a letter from me. What can you do? Good deeds cannot be practiced enough, and one must nurture this delusion from time to time.” Beethoven identifies Drechsler as a good practitioner of basso continuo and good organist, as well as a composer. [Note Beethoven slyly does not say he is a good composer, in contrast to his other qualities.]

Beethoven says he will deliver the canon tomorrow to the Archduke, and confess his sins known and unknown and ask for absolution. [The Archduke was also a Cardinal and Archbishop of Ölmutz.] Unfortunately his eyes do not allow him to write more. A postscript adds that Herr Drechsler was also a professor of thoroughbass at the St. Anna Normal School for ten years.

Brandenburg Letter 1713, Anderson Letter 1214. The original letter is held by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (A 84/132) The canon, “Grossen Dank für solche Gnade,” Hess 303, WoO 225, is written out in Beethoven’s Landsberg 8 Sketchbook at p.100. The canon is performed here, courtesy of our good friends at the Centro Richerche Musicali (

Beethoven also writes today (or possibly the evening before) to unpaid assistant Anton Schindler about the letter to the King of Saxony. The envelope for the King’s letter should be addressed to “His Royal Majesty of Saxony.” “If you hear anything about apartments, maybe I will see you one of these days.”

Brandenburg Letter 1712, Anderson Letter 1274. The original is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut.36,51). This letter almost certainly comes after Schindler’s visit to Hetzendorf on the 23rd, where and when the letter to King Friedrich August I is written, and July 25, when the cover letter forwarding the King’s letter is sent off to Dresden.

Beethoven also makes a to-do list today (possibly begun the day before) for his planned visit to Vienna on Friday, July 25. The list of errands has a number of them crossed off, presumably as he accomplished them. The list includes:

Write to Louis Spohr in Kassel to try to get the Elector there to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis. [Done on July 27.]
Give notice to the landlord of the apartment in Windmühle that he will not be renewing the lease when it expires on St. Michael’s Day, September 29th.
Talk to Schindler.
Visit the shoemaker [probably about overshoes for Karl.]
Pick up the testimonials from the Archduke to have certified copies made for distribution.
Write to Prince Anton of Saxony, noting that there are three additional pieces that could be added to the Missa Solemnis [the Graduale, Offertorio and Te Deum that Beethoven has been thinking about composing. This very short draft is catalogued as Brandenburg Letter 1714; the final letter is written July 25th]
Show the Archduke’s testimonial to Georg August Greisinger, the legation councillor for the Saxon embassy, again with an eye to getting the King of Saxony to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis.]
Visit Gregor von Kudriaffsky, the court councillor for the Russian embassy [perhaps to give a receipt for the payment for the Czar’s copy of the Missa Solemnis.]
Visit Attorney Johann Baptist Bach.
Frankfurt Cäcilia-Verein. [The latter two entries again relate to subscriptions to the Mass.]

Beethoven then asks himself, “How many subscribers are there?”
King of France.
[King of] Prussia.
Czar of Russia.
Frankfurt [Cäcilia-]Verein.
To Odelga [Tuscany.]

[So seven in all so far, but Beethoven still has hopes of getting to his desired number of ten subscribers, and is not without prospects for that. Seven subscriptions equals 350 ducats, or 1,575 florins C.M. Less 420 florins for copying costs, and the promised 50 for Schindler, and an amount for postage or couriers, that still left Beethoven with more than his desired 1,000 florins profit, before he sold it to a publisher.]

He then notes that everyone is entitled to demand something new [perhaps in recognition of the months since some of these parties had subscribed] and at that point all can be distributed. So Beethoven may be toying with the idea of not sending out the subscription copies until he has had a chance to add the Gradule, Offertorio and Te Deum and can include them along with the Missa Solemnis, or perhaps make them part of the whole.

Conversation Book 36 4r-7r.