BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, May 15, 1823

Today is a rainy day in Vienna. Unpaid assistant Anton Schindler stops by after running errands for Beethoven. Prince Hatzfeld, the Prussian ambassador, was not at home, so instead he went to Court Counciller Wernhart, the secretary of the Prussian embassy in Vienna. The Kyrie for the King of Prussia’s copy of the Missa Solemnis is coming in 2-3 days, and the rest should follow quickly because the paper has already been prepared with staves.

The seamstress making the shirts for Ludwig and Nephew Karl will be delayed because of the upcoming Pentecost holidays on the 18th and 19th. But they will be ready next week. Johann would like to drive Karl and poet Franz Grillparzer out to Hetzendorf on Sunday, the 18th, to visit. He will bring a bottle of the excellent 1811 vintage of wine. He says there is a very good spa in Untermeidling, about a quarter hour from Hetzendorf.

That afternoon, Johann comes to visit. He raves about the Untermiedling spa, saying it is one of the most beautiful that exist. [The mineral spring had only been discovered in 1819, and a Greek temple was built over it.] Johann says he will take Ludwig to the Prater about 5 PM today, and then tomorrow will take him to the spa.

Schindler is working on a draft letter to Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy to convince him to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis. But he thinks the most recent draft overdoes the compliments. It doesn’t seem right, and such a work obviously would go to elevated personages and admirers. He is having trouble come up with a properly flattering verb to use.

Karl reports the amount he paid for the tobacco, 5 1/4 florins.

Beethoven, portrait by Ferdinand Waldmüller (1823). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Johann reports that the painter, Waldmüller, is urgently requesting that Ludwig sit for him one more time, even if it is just for half an hour. Then he will be finished, but otherwise it will cause him great harm because then he won’t be paid and this is how he makes his living. Ludwig is recalcitrant and refuses. Waldmüller finishes the portrait without the additional sitting. The lack of the second sitting may explain why the painting appears half-finished in spots.

Johann takes Ludwig and Karl to the Prater. They meet some people who want Beethoven to walk with them, but he begs off and Karl says he will stay with his uncle rather than go with them.

In a coffee shop later, Schindler reports that he got some information about Esterházy. His secretary, Wocher, will tell Schindler a day and hour when he can give the letter to the Prince personally, and he may give an immediate answer. Or they could wait until Prince Paul Esterházy returns from London in June, and then they can go as a group to see his highness about it. But Wocher feels confident that the Prince will take the Mass.

Schindler reports that a Joseph Böhm gave Diabelli a polonaise to engrave, and assured him that Beethoven had looked through it and said it was good. Diabelli asked Schindler to confirm that, since he does not particularly want to publish it. But if Beethoven thinks he should, then Diabelli will make it happen right away. He doesn’t, however, want to publish a piece dedicated to Beethoven if it is worthless.

Schindler offers to go to Hetzendorf with housekeeper Barbara Holzmann, if Beethoven wants. He would prefer that it be today, since he has rehearsals at the theater tomorrow for almost the entire day. Yesterday they rehearsed for 4 1/2 hours for Der Feuerberg.

Schindler shows Beethoven his multiplication of kreuzers [probably the cost of the new shirts], resulting in a figure in florins and kreuzers; apparently Beethoven does not trust his arithmetic, since Schindler then divides the number to demonstrate its accuracy. Ludwig is frustrated, but Nephew Karl tells him he will give him instructions in multiplication and division, and also fractions.

Karl also makes a remark that a woman “already showed signs of being impudent at our place; but I figured her out immediately.” The German editors believed that this was a reference to the Rovantini family, to whom the Beethovens were related by marriage.

Ludwig adds up a column of 8 45s, plus one item at 23. Karl shows him how to multiply 45 by 8, and then add 23 to that result. Schindler says that 45 florins is too expensive, and that 30 florins would suffice.

Discussion returns to whether Prince Esterházy will subscribe. Schindler complains that he can well afford it; he has paid for an entire regiment at his own expense, plus “His whore and his journeys cost him 4 million annually.” Ludwig wonders whether he should ask for the usual 50 ducats for the Mass, and Johann advises it would be best to leave it to the Prince’s discretion.

Copyist Wenzel Rampl apparently believes that one of the copies of the Diabelli Variations is for the Archduke; otherwise he would be charging 24 kr. per sheet. Johann can have another copy made from Rampl’s good copy by a less expensive copyist.

Since the time for Beethoven to depart for Hetzendorf is fast approaching, Schindler asks what he needs to prioritize his attentions upon. Johann advises that the rent for Ludwig’s current apartment needs to be paid promptly, since it is long overdue.

Conversation Book 32, 57r-65v, 1r-3r.