BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, November 20, 1823

In the morning, Beethoven makes a shopping list for candles, razor, coffee cups and glasses.

Nephew Karl, having finished his classes for the day, comes to Uncle Ludwig’s apartment bringing along some copying work that he picked up from Wenzel Rampl’s wife. [Rampl was one of the numerous copyists working away on the subscription copies of the Missa Solemnis, which were long overdue. This presumably includes the fine copy of the Missa Solemnis for the King of Saxony.] Beethoven also writes a letter to Georg Anton von Griesinger at the Saxon embassy, advising that Nephew Karl will be delivering the King of Saxony’s score of the Missa Solemnis “today between 10 and 11 o’clock” and Karl addresses the letter. [Karl would have had to be quick to have attended his classes and picked up the score from the copyist in time to deliver it at the embassy before 11 a.m. today, and if so, this letter was probably carried by Karl along with the score. More likely the delivery actually happens tomorrow morning.]

Brandenburg Letter 1751, Anderson Letter 1243. The original is held at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, as NE 200, and can be seen here:

Karl notes that Court Chamber Singer Carl Friedrich Weinmüller (1764-1828) is making his farewell appearance tonight, closing out a career of 40 years. Uncle Ludwig asks what His final role will be. Karl answers that it is Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. [There is also an additional performance of the opera for the benefit of Weinmüller tomorrow, November 21.] Pianist Ignaz Moscheles will be giving a concert on Saturday evening, November 22. [That concert will include the first movement of Beethoven’s second symphony. Beethoven was friendly towards Moscheles, who would translate Schindler’s biography of Beethoven into English in 1840-41 and publish it in London under his own name. Schindler would understandably react badly to that plagiarism.] Karl observes that public curiosity about Moscheles will help generate a good income.

While the maid is cutting up the rabbit with the side-dishes for Uncle Ludwig’s dinner, Karl is just having an egg that he made for himself.

Later in the afternoon, they go out for coffee. Reading the newspapers, Uncle Ludwig notes that the widow of bookseller Johan Georg von Mösle is continuing his business, advertising her shop in today’s Intelligenzblatt Nr. 267 at p.1063. Karl notes that his uncle has paid only 1 florin and needs to cover the rest of the bill.

While there, Wilhelm Wildfeyer (b.1783), a tutor who was friendly with Beethoven at one time comes up to say hello. He had sprained his foot and was stuck at home for nine days. He asks what the name of the poet was for Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, op.98. Beethoven responds that it was Alois Jetteles (1794-1858). Wildfeyer recognizes the name, and says he was supposed to be the physician to Count Kolowrat [Wildfeyer’s current employer] but he was turned away when they found out he was a Jew.

The conversation turns to organist and composer Johann Tomaschek, who had visited Beethoven in 1814. Wildfeyer has heard him play, and thinks he is “a considerable theoretician.” Wildfeyer asks whether Beethoven has written anything for guitar. [The first version of An die Geliebte, WoO 140, was published in 1826 and billed as for piano or guitar, and is the only thing Beethoven wrote that appears to have been intended for guitar, at least as an option.]

Wildfeyer makes the odd comment that, “A French scholar said: The nobleman thinks finer because he eats a great number of partridges,” and then takes his leave. [Karl may here have referenced the partridges from the shopping trip yesterday.]

The conversation turns to Beethoven’s missing correspondence [and conversation books.] Karl thinks they are not lost at all: “These letters are just as little lost as I am. He has them, I’d swear to that.” [Editor Theodore Albrecht suggests that “He” is Johann, but it seems more likely that terminated unpaid assistant Anton Schindler is the referenced culprit. Schindler will be making a reappearance in these pages very shortly.]

Conversation Book 45, 8r-9v.

After they leave the coffeehouse, they pick up the November 15th Theater-Zeitung, which has the article about Beethoven [written by an uncredited Johann Sporschil.] Karl remarks that the Pythagoreans, famous for their odd eating habits, could not eat any beans, and in general few vegetables. Since it is beginning to rain, Karl urges them to make haste since they could easily be overtaken by a downpour. Uncle Ludwig first wants to know what the total bill at the coffeehouse was, and Karl replies it came to 3 florins, 36 kreuzers.

Karl says he asked who sent the new housekeeper who came out of nowhere last night. She didn’t want to say, but just said a woman friend had heard he needed someone, and that one had learned it in turn from someone else who had told her. So he has no clear answer.

They stop at a carpenter’s shop, and Karl thinks the chairs are pretty. But after they leave, Karl complains about the prices; one made of thin, breakable wood was 6 florins, without cushions. A better wood one was 7 florins. Uncle Ludwig thinks 5 florins is too expensive for a chair. Karl says it’s not. Uncle Ludwig suggests he can find plenty of chairs for less; Karl answers, “What do you want to bet?”

Back at the apartment, they read through the article. Karl observes that the author is very well informed but rather coy; he knew very well who was “commissioned with bringing in the effects,” a reference to Beethoven’s correspondence and conversation books being lost (or as suggested in the article, stolen).

Karl observes that his uncle didn’t shave himself very well today. [Uncle Ludwig does have a new razor on his shopping list but has not yet bought one.]

The servant who used to work for Countess Morzin is crying because she is afraid she will lose her job and won’t be able to go back to the Countess. She takes it personally that he wants to send her away so quickly. It is difficult to get work, Karl notes, and at the end of the year all of the servants are determined to take whatever pains are necessary to please their employers as they would certainly not get any work now. Former housekeeper Barbara Holzmann had provoked her at some point, Karl thinks out of envy.

Karl asks whether he should buy the book Psychologie by Joahnn Georg Feder (1740-1821), a text on human will and natural law. There is only one copy at the used book dealer’s and if he doesn’t buy it someone else surely will.

Beethoven does some computations regarding wine spirits. He was charged 1 florin 36 kreuzers for a full measure of wine. The price for a half measure is 48 kreuzers, so he adds 48 plus 48, which is 96 kreuzers, and it comes to the same price.

[At this point on 11v in conversation book 45, after Beethoven’s death, arch-scoundrel Anton Schindler attempted to fake Karl’s handwriting to inflate his own importance, saying “Schindler knows and can say more about that than I can.”]

Karl says the servant also ate the entire rabbit, since the housekeeper doesn’t eat rabbit, and now she wants 30 kreuzers more for her dinner.

Beethoven writes “By Shakespeare” though what he’s referring to is unclear. Karl points out that Shakespeare was translated into German by August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845); but he lives elsewhere. Friedrich Schlegel, who they believe wrote the article, lives in Vienna. [Beethoven was an avid reader of Shakespeare in German translation, as evidence by his attempts to write an opera on Macbeth some years earlier, catalogued as Biamonti 484.]

Karl complains that his textbooks are not useful, since the professor approaches the works completely differently and is always concerned with interpretation. While the lectures are quite nice, he would prefer a compendium that recapitulates what he has said, since he strays far from the textbook, making it useless.

The money from the Tuscan Legation [for the Missa Solemnis subscription] will come sooner or later. It won’t be here until about the middle of December though, since nothing is scheduled to arrive from Tuscany for three weeks, and it also takes three weeks for a letter from Vienna notifying them that the score has been delivered to reach Tuscany in the first place.

Karl reminisces about the woman whom they visited while they were living in Mödling who also had a son who was a student. The son is now at the University. One boy whom he knew from the Gymnasium in the Josephstadt has already left college because of the priests. In Vienna, only a nobleman can become a church canon, short of a special miracle occurring.

Uncle Ludwig has read an essay about Weber’s opera Euryanthe, written by the librettist, Helmina von Chezy (1783-1856). Karl asks how he liked it? [The essay had appeared in the Allgemeine Theater-Zeitung 17 Nr. 134 for November 8, 1823 at p.536, giving the history of the libretto and the revisions that Weber had requested.] Uncle Ludwig thinks that there’s no harm in adding material to fill out a story. Karl points out that there is a great difference between such a necessary supplement and totally overruling a story line, as Weber did. Karl thinks Weber a dull person; publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner will have nothing good to say about Weber now.

Uncle Ludwig suddenly has a burst of feeling sociable, and wants to acquire furniture and dishes to make people comfortable. Karl thinks this is ridiculous. “But with whom do we even get together?” He does think it amazing that Frau Nannette Streicher née Stein has not yet honored them with a visit.

Later that evening, in another coffeehouse, Uncle Ludwig takes note of a 6 volume supplement to the pocket edition of Schiller’s works, published in Leipzig. He also makes a note of Bonifacio Asioli’s work on a new method for tuning a piano. They go shopping and price porcelain dinner services; the ones with roses are 1 fl. 15 kr., while the ones with little flowers are 1 fl. 40 kr. Uncle Ludwig seems to prefer the ones with little flowers, and calculates (by addition) the cost of a service for five.

Conversation Book 45, 10v-11v, 37r-37v, 38v-42v. This concludes Conversation Book 45; there is no gap between it and Conversation Book 46.

At page 1059 of today’s Intelligenzblatt, someone unidentified is offering for sale musical instruments in a classified advertisement. Available are violins, including an Italian one, violas and cellos, and then duos, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets for violins, flutes, pianos and harps, by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Romberg, and others, and finally full orchestral scores of symphonies, all for sale “at a very cheap price.” This rather reads like an estate sale of a working musician or well-heeled music lover. The ad is repeated in the Friday, November 28th Intelligenzblatt.