BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, April 1, 1823

The remainder of Conversation Book 28, which was begun yesterday, seems to have been written in out of order; there are also intervening blank pages. We are here following the conjectural chronology established by the German and English editors of the Conversation Books.

After completing his work, Beethoven reads the newspapers and makes note of pheasants for sale at the Lion. He also makes note of a doctor in the Servitengasse with office hours between noon and 2 PM daily. He is located very near copyist Wenzel Rampl’s home.

Beethoven meets with Johann Bihler, a “doctor of pharmaceutics,” who also worked as a tutor. Beethoven had known Bihler since at least 1817, and he was also on friendly terms with Joseph Blahetka, Joseph Czerny and Cajetan Giannatasio del Rio, among Beethoven’s circle. He asks about progress on Beethoven’s composing, especially the three quartets for Russia. Bihler suggests making the quartets shorter, and not on the large scale of the Razoumovsky quartets. Bihler thinks it is too much work for the money Beethoven is charging. He also asks about the commission from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society to write a biblical oratorio, but that has gone nowhere.

Beethoven responds in writing to avoid being overheard, “I am not writing only those things that I most prefer, but also what I need to in order to make money. That way, it cannot be said that I write merely for money. When this has passed, then I hope to finally write that which is for me and for Art the most exalted – Faust.”

They complain about Steiner’s efforts to collect his long outstanding debt from Beethoven; Bihler calls him a usurer, probably in response to Beethoven’s anger that he is being charged interest. Beethoven orders wine, and Bihler disapproves, suggesting it is rather early in the day for that. [They appear to be talking in the late morning.] Bihler says that beer makes one lazy, while wine inflames the soul. Beethoven notes that the bill comes to 1 fl. 38 kr.

Later in the day, Beethoven meets Schindler for midday dinner. Schindler has rehearsal tomorrow at 10 am, so he would like to send the copy of the score for Fidelio to Weber before that. The mail coach to Dresden leaves at noon on Thursday, April 3, so that is the deadline for getting it into the post. Beethoven needs to decide what the charge is, but they won’t pay it until the score arrives in Dresden. They also need to come to a decision for the value to be placed on the score for customs purposes.

Beethoven asks what the exchange rate for the pound sterling is. Schindler will check at a shop or at a bank. Caspar Bauer arrived safely in London on March 13th, so they believe a letter should be coming from Ries in the next few days. There were storms in the English Channel, so the trip took him 12 days this time. Bauer has state business in London to conclude, so he should not be expected back in Vienna for several weeks.

Beethoven suspects Holzmann of cheating him on shopping for fish; Schindler comes to her defense and says that such a thing is unthinkable from her.

They discuss the possibility of a subscription for the Missa Solemnis by Diabelli. He is proposing that one month after he announces the subscription, he will pay Beethoven the 1000 florins. At that time, he would put it into production.

Beethoven is feeling insecure about his income and suggests hurrying the composition of the Ninth Symphony. Schindler warns, “Do not hurry with such a great work.” If he wants to earn some quicker money, he could work on the quartets, for which there is significant demand, and they would be a good deal less trouble. He also says Grillparzer has written a libretto for Beethoven. He has given it to bass Anton Fortti to read through, and then he will give it to Beethoven.

Schindler leaves and runs his errands, then returns to meet with Beethoven. He has mailed the Fidelio score to Weber; the cost is 4 kr. plus 4 kr. for customs. Beethoven finally settles on charging the higher fee, 40 ducats, and Schindler approves; given the high costs of copying the score that is appropriate and Beethoven really could not ask for less.

The conversation returns to Diabelli and the Missa Solemnis subscription idea. Schindler reminds Beethoven that these things tend to move slowly, and he needs to be patient. He might get more if he were to announce it at the Leipzig or Frankfurt fairs. Attorney Bach was inquiring whether it might be better for Beethoven to print it himself. He can negotiate with Palffy at the Lithographic Institute. Diabelli should not be allowed to have the score until he pays for it. But Beethoven needs to decide which route he intends now. If he self-publishes, then he can get started within the month. Brother Johann does not favor the self-publishing idea, but Schindler thinks he is worrying himself unnecessarily.

Schindler leaves to run some more errands and then returns with word that the exchange rate for a pound sterling is 26 fl. W.W. or 10 fl. 24 kr. C.M. Johann probably should not send off the Consecration of the House overture until word is received from Ries. Johann will be bringing some money tomorrow.

Conversation Book 28, 4v, 7v-19r. These pages also include not only forged entries by Schindler, but what appears to be an attempt to disguise his handwriting to add even more forged entries.