BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, May 13, 1824

Beethoven starts his shopping list for the day:

  • Candles.
  • Afternoon: Market, buy another little barrel; also buy on behalf of the old woman [Barbara Holzmann], etc.
  • Or in the afternoon, first to the Spital and Erdbeergasse. [The Spital is probably the St. Marx home for the aged and poor where Barbara Holzmann has been living for the last few months. There was no Erdbeergasse (Strawberry Street) and this is likely Beethoven’s joke name for Erdberg Gasse, which sounds rather the same. That street was about two blocks south of St. Marx’s home.]
  • Jungfer v Czernin. [This may be reference to either Octavia or Maria von Cernin, daughers of the Imperial Treasurer Count Rudolph von Czernin, Imperial Treasurer and member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

Before Beethoven gets underway on his errands, Ferdinand Piringer arrives with his report. Arrangements have been made with the Theater-Zeitung, the Musik-Zeitung and Mode-Zeitung to publish a teaser report that a second Akademie may be coming.

Piringer asks what was paid today for the orchestra servant [orchestra manager Franz Ortner, who handled the staging and setting up for the concerts]. Piringer explains that only one gets 21 florins, and the other gets only 8 florins. Piringer suggests that if Beethoven needs someone to send it should be himself; this other one [Schindler? Böhm?] “knows nothing.”

Piringer asks whether Beethoven wants to go to see Duport on Saturday, May 15? The meeting is at 4 o’clock. Beethoven probably says no; in any event he does not attend the meeting.

The parts for the terzet, Tremate, empi, tremate are to be sent to the vocalists on Saturday evening. [At this point, the plan would be for the soloists in the rest of the concert, soprano Henriette Sontag, tenor Anton Haitzinger, and bass Joseph Seipelt, to perform the terzet with the orchestra. That plan will be subject to involuntary change later. Piringer, less experienced in dealing with the theater administration than Schindler, neglects to inform Duport of this change of plans.]

Piringer is concerned that they are rapidly losing their potential audience, which is going out to the country. The weather is too nice. He suggests that the second Akademie needs to be held Tuesday, May 18, or not at all. Duport himself is going to Baden today, and returning tomorrow evening. Piringer asks whether Beethoven will be coming to Tobias Haslinger’s music shop today, and yes, he intends to do so. Piringer asks where Karl is. He is at his classes, but should be here soon. Piringer has his marching orders. “The Generalissimus commands.”

Before he leaves, Piringer sets up a meeting at 4 o’clock tomorrow. Things are being arranged with the Police, but a final word cannot be given by Duport about other matters until Saturday. Piringer will see to that. In his contract, Duport can only give operas and ballets, so the special permissions are necessary. Even this afternoon, Piringer should know more.

Beethoven complains again about how expenses are eating into his profits. Piringer acknowledges that “unforeseen expenses always add up to a great deal. Copying, carriages, servants, instruments, etc.” Beethoven suggests that Anton Schindler could help in arranging things with Duport. Piringer tells him that Böhm can handle dealing with Duport; Schindler can be used for doing other things.

Nephew Karl arrives. Beethoven asks what is for mid-day dinner, and he replies “smoked meat.”

After dinner, Piringer and Beethoven go with Karl to the Steiner music shop where Tobias Haslinger is a partner. They need to get a definitive answer from Duport on Saturday, May 15th about the concert. But Duport might raise objections against it. Beethoven asks whether the Police will be a problem. Piringer notes that whether the Police will allow it is not the question. The first matter is getting the Theater, and then other matters will follow. Beethoven insists from prior experience that the Police need to approve first. Piringer dismisses that, saying the Police will have no objection. Beethoven asks the name of the Vienna Police Commissioner. Karl tells him it is Dominik Rother. Piringer asks when Beethoven will be in the City and where, so he can find him if he needs him.

Conversation Book 67, 18v-22r.

The Wiener Theater-Zietung for today (Nr. 58) at 230-31 includes a review of Beethoven’s Akademie concert of May 7.

“Ludwig van Beethoven.

“On May 7th in the Imperial Court Opera Theater a musical celebration was held: Beethoven gave a large musical Akademie and performed a grand overture of his own composition, three hymns (parts of his new Mass) and a grand new Symphony, with solo and choir voices appearing in the finale on Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

“The solo voices were performed by the Demoisellen Sontag and Unger, and by Herrn Haitzinger and Seipelt. Herr Schuppanzigh was in charge of directing the orchestra, Herr Kapellmeister Umlauf was in charge of the whole thing, while the Musikverein accepted the task of reinforcement of the choir and orchestra. The composer himself appeared active in the direction of the whole.

“The entry prices were the usual ones, and the house was very well filled. The audience welcomed the great Hero of Sound most honorably, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most rapt attention, and often broke out during the movements, but after each of them there was a loud chorus of cheering applause.

“After listening to such a feast of these tremendous compositions one can hardly say more than that one has heard them. It is impossible for one who has only attended the production once to render an illuminating exposition. With regard to the precise details, we must content ourselves with the promise that these pages will return to these works of art by Beethoven.

“Think of the highly adored composer, this musical Shakespeare, to whom all the means of his art are readily at his command at the slightest hint, as he devotedly glows with fervent faith in God’s holy work of redemption. If you sing of praise and hope for humanity, then perhaps you have a faint idea of the impact of this Kyrie, Credo and Agnus Dei!

“The opening overture alone was a real treat, though if you think back upon the hymns and the tremendous symphony, this masterpiece appears as something rather ordinary.

“Beethoven has long held such a high position among the creations of human art, through his varieties of symphonic composition, which are instructive yet available to everyone. It will be difficult for composers to access this helicon, but this latest symphony is certainly the greatest work of art that Beethoven has achieved will all his titanic power. Every part of it had the most decisive of effects, especially the Scherzo, and this would be reflected in the striking fantasy that introduces the final chorus. Though the participants have increased their efforts even more, it hardly would have been possible to give this part the fullness it requires.

“One can hardly say more about the orchestra than that it is incomprehensible how they were able to perform these extremely difficult compositions so perfectly with only three rehearsals. They really did excellently, and this orchestra consisted largely of amateurs; you can only find that in Vienna!

“The singers did what they could. Opera singers are used to acquiring their achievements in many rehearsals, and the style may be more foreign to them. Herr Seipelt most bravely held his own. Herr Haizinger had a difficult task, for this composition emphasizes intonation, is extremely difficult to sing, and the rhythm changes very often.

“The directors, Herr Schuppanzigh and Herr Umlauf have already been famous for a long time, but thanks to his performance today, Umlauf has made himself unforgettable to all Viennese music lovers.

“The most fervent wish of a large part of the audience is if possible to go once again soon to hear these works of art, which reveal the divine in human nature so wonderfully!”

“Th—k.”

Another review of the Akademie concert, by composer/conductor Ignaz von Seyfried, appears in Der Sammler today at 231-232; later Schindler will refer to the pair of Sammler reviews as the most perceptive.

“Beethoven’s Concert.”

“It was a celebratory evening for the many friends of the celebrated man. Long awaited, wished for, hoped for, this evening finally has come in a time of year when the nightingales arrive, the trees are changing their clothes, the whole of nature is rejoicing at reawakened life. But in vain did Hesperus, who had become cheerful after the rain, lure one out into the open air. There was a different nightingale that could only be heard in a closed room, and that was the most precious thing for anyone who had not closed the mind to the glory of the art of music.”

“It was a celebratory and at the same time saddening sight to see the venerable musical hero enter the gathering of artists presenting his masterpieces. Looking at his head, bleached before its time by the deep studies of the mysteries of art (Beethoven is only 52 years old [53, actually], when one then marveled at the abundance of the materials spread out before us, at the youthful power, at the eternal fire of his creations, the image of a volcano inevitably stood before the soul, the top of which was covered with snow, while inside appears the inexhaustible activity that gives birth anew. The statue of Theseus was also brought to mind. Just as he did with the Centaur, Beethoven was able to throw the hybrid form of the field of modern composition into the dust with the club of solidity. He contented himself with banishing the monster from his sight, and even if he sometimes stepped on its neck with a mighty foot, the worm still worshiped at his feet. Only when its conqueror one day returns to the dwellings of Olympus from which he originates, will it raise its head again. May this time still be far away! With Beethoven, who is not wrongly called the musical Shakespeare, not only the most eminent composer of our time, but the higher musical art itself will one day be buried.”

“A few words will suffice about the pleasures this evening offered. Only an impudent arrogance would ever want to count the stars in this musical sky after having listened to it once, and without having read the score. This writer, like all the other listeners, marveled at the wonderful structure of this world of sound; admired the abundance, the novelty, the wealth of ideas, the art inherent in all of Beethoven’s compositions, and was happy to allow the flight of imagination to sometimes lead him into incomprehensible regions. Original in everything he brings to light, we listened with lively interest to the Overture and the Three Hymns with solo and choral voices.”

“But Beethoven’s specific tournament place is the field of the symphony; here he finds no jouster his equal. He stands there alone, a giant amongst Pygmies. The first three parts of the great new symphony contain so many beauties of harmony and melody – yes, my disbelievers, also of melody – that the enthusiasm of those listening reached the highest level. Of these three movements, the second (Scherzo) was particularly distinguished. It will forever remain a model for this type of composition. Solo and choral voices appeared in the Finale. As pleasant as the effect was, one had to wish that Beethoven had not expressed this idea here; such a successful building should also have a keystone worthy of it.”

“The pieces performed were produced as well as possible. This conditional praise can be considered to be full, if one takes into account the limited time permitted for concert rehearsals. The direction of the orchestra was most important. Love for Art and the Master overcame difficulties that seemed invincible; the chorus also made an extraordinary effort. The Musik-Verein took over the reinforcement of these two branches, and thereby gained new recognition for art, as well as for our enjoyment.”

“There was a sense of shyness in the solo voices. The correct intonation was not at home everywhere. Artists who perform the greatest roles in our modern operas with ease saw with astonishment that there is something higher in art, a Gothic temple of the same, at the threshold of which they are still standing, while they have almost climbed to the upper level of their quickly conjured-up temples of gallantry.”

“Hr. Seipelt must here be mentioned with distinction. Everywhere he showed himself to be a solid singer with the correct intonation, and it was perhaps thanks only to his participation that there was no disturbance among his colleagues. [This is a reference to Seipelt stepping in at the last moment, which seems to have become common knowledge.] Hr. Capellmeister Umlauf conducted the whole thing, with the participation of Hrn. van Beethoven; Hr. Schuppanzigh the direction of the orchestra. Their names bear their praise.”

“The house was overfull. One could not hide the desire to hear this swan sing once more.”

The music publishers are happy to capitalize on the fame of Beethoven’s Akademie concert today. Sauer & Leidesdorf repeat their advertisement for Beethoven’s New Bagatelles op.112 [op.119] for pianoforte in today’s Wiener Zeitung (Nr.110 at 468.) Meanwhile, S.A. Steiner & Co. repeats its advertisement for the Kakadu Variations for piano trio, op.121a, on the same page.