BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, July 31, 1823

Beethoven and Schindler go to visit poet Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872) at 6 a.m., since Grillparzer has to report for duty as a servant at 7 a.m. Grillparzer discusses his theories of poetry. There is great demand for characterization. He disapproves of reading material aloud without taking the mood into consideration. To read something aloud or act it out, it has to be completely satisfactory. But that almost never happens, and there is too much emphasis on applause.

Grillparzer thinks on the whole that north Germans do not understand music. They do not bring anything forth more elevated than Der Freischütz [which Grillparzer did not like, preferring Italian opera.] He is also angry at the church because they have arranged for him to lose his pension that he was receiving from the theater.

1826 Chalk on paper portrait of Franz Grillparzer by Johann Josef Schmeller (1796-1841), courtesy Goethe-Nationalmuseum.

Discussion turns to the plans for an opera. “Are you still of the opinion that, in our opera, something else should be substituted instead of the opening chorus?” Grillparzer thinks perhaps a few notes of the hunters’ chorus, continued by an invisible chorus of nymphs would work. He like the idea of whenever Melusine, the title character appears, she would be designated by a repeated, easily comprehended melody. [Grillparzer here anticipates Wagner’s use of the leitmotif, which would also be featured in Weber’s upcoming opera Euryanthe.] Perhaps the Overture could being with this, and after an Allegro, the introduction could also use this same melody. Grillparzer also has thoughts about the melody for Melusine’s first aria. [Beethoven’s ideas for the opera as discussed with Grillparzer appear to be more advanced than what appears in his sketchbooks, so he may not have been committing them all to writing.]

Grillparzer is also working on another libretto, Drahomira. Beethoven is interested, and Grillparzer says he will send him the written plan. Grillparzer then makes the mistake of commenting that Beethoven’s music “remains quite incomprehensible to us.”

There is some discussion about baritone Johann Michael Vogl (1768-1840). He claims to have studied Gluck’s Iphigenia for two years and knows more about it than Gluck does. Grillparzer did not approve of Vogl’s performance as Pizarro in the revised Fidelio in 1814. [For that matter, neither did Beethoven, who much preferred bass Anton Forti, who replaced Vogl after a month in the role due to Vogl’s illness.]

When Beethoven apparently says that he dislikes Italian opera, Grillparzer then makes more comments that must have grated on Beethoven: “In my opinion, there are 2 types of opera: in one it emanates from the text; in the second, it emanates from the music. The latter is Italian opera.” Luigi Lablache (1794-1858) and Josephine Fodor (1789-1870), specialists in Italian opera are better actors than German opera ever had. He suggests that some of Mozart’s development may have come from writing Italian operas.

Beethoven and Schindler leave almost immediately thereafter. Later that afternoon, Beethoven at his apartment in the City makes another to-do list. These include visiting copyist Wenzel Schlemmer and telling him that 3 copies of the Mass need to be completely finished. Beethoven needs to write to Radziwill concerning the money. Hessen-Darmstadt also should be written to tell them that the score will be coming soon. He should talk to Karl about the servant at Blöchlinger’s. Karl should have the fiacre be reserved for Sunday. Johann needs to be contacted about the manuscript for The Ruins of Athens, op.113, which he still had. The shopping list includes coffee and soap. Beethoven also works on his budget, figuring out the total dividends on his bank shares. Unable to do multiplication despite Karl’s best efforts, he adds up a column of 56 florins eight times. He also makes a note to have the lock at Schindler’s place secured.

Music publisher Johann Cappi offers a number of Beethoven works in today’s Wiener Zeitung at 711. Among these are the last three sonatas, op.109-111, as well as second printings of the arrangements of the Coriolan and Egmont Overtures for piano (not arranged by Beethoven or with his approval).

At 712 of the Wiener Zeitung, the Lithographic Institute announces that it is taking subscriptions for the collected musical works of W.A. Mozart, with the first volume expected in the fall of 1823. Ignaz von Seyfried is projected as one of the editors. However, the first complete edition of Mozart’s music did not actually appear until 1877-1883, when the Alte Mozart Ausgabe was published by Breitkopf & Härtel.

Conversation Book 37, 1r-12. Schindler adds some fraudulent entries on the last page about the cello sonatas op.102, in particular the Fugato in op.102/2. The next genuine entries appear to date from Sunday, August 3.

Archduke Rudolph responds to Beethoven’s letter from Beethoven of a day or two ago. The Archduke says that he will be in Vienna on Tuesday, August 5, and will remain there a few days. He is usually at home between 4 and 7 in the afternoon. [Broad hints that he would like more multi-hour composition lessons.] His brother-in-law Prince Anton has written saying the King of Saxony is already looking forward to receiving Beethoven’s beautiful Mass.

With regard to Drechsler and the court organist appointment, Rudolph spoke to his father the Emperor, and he is not sure whether the recommendation from Beethoven will be of any use. There is to be a competition for the position, and the most skillful will get it. He heard Drechsler play last Sunday and was impressed, but of course Beethoven would not recommend anyone who was unworthy.

The Archduke hopes that Beethoven has written down the canon, and that his health continues to improve. If it would be too much exertion to come to the City to visit him, then Beethoven should not do so.

Albrecht Letter 332. The original is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut. 35,3.)

At about this time, roughly judging from Beethoven’s usage of Desk Sketchbook Landsberg 8/2 (always a dangerous proposition), the book is about 1/4 full, which indicates that the first and second movements of the Ninth Symphony may be essentially finished, and work has begun on the third movement. This projection of progress on the symphony is supported by the fact that the canon “Grossen Dank,” mentioned in the very recent letter to the Archduke, appears amongst the sketch work for the third movement.