BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, August 19, 1823

Beethoven, clearly in a foul mood, writes a fairly appalling letter from Baden (crossing out Vienna) today to his younger brother Johann at his estate in Gneixendorf. Ludwig is pleased to hear that Johann has recovered his health. Ludwig’s eyes are still bothering him, and when he arrived in Baden he had both a stomachache and a catarrh from the cold he caught from his “arch-pig” housekeeper Barbara Holzmann.

Ludwig suggests that Johann not attempt to deal with publisher S.A. Steiner, and he will see himself what can be done. The songs are in German and might not be salable. [This is probably a reference to the Opferlied op.121b and Bundeslied op.122, and possibly Der Kuss, op.128. Johann was also attempting to sell Ludwig’s compositions to Antonio Pacini in Paris, which would explain the problem with there being German texts.] It would probably be easier with the Overture. [Almost certainly the Overture to The Consecration of the House, op.124, which Ludwig had given to Johann as payment for debts.]

Johann’s letter of August 10th was received from the “miserable scoundrel” Schindler. In the future, Johann should address everything directly to Ludwig where he is, as Ludwig wants to avoid “that despicable, contemptible person as much as possible.”

Karl will be joining Ludwig in Baden bei Wien on August 29th. Once he arrives, he can write unobserved what the “two fat louts and bastards” [Johann’s wife Therese and her daughter Amalie] have been up to in his absence. “You will also receive letters through Karl from me, because however little you deserve it, I will never forget that you are my brother. A good spirit will come over you, separated from these two scoundrels, the former and current whore, who during your illness slept with her lover three separate times, and on top of that she has the key to your money. O wicked shame! Isn’t there a spark of manhood in you?!!!!!” [Punctuation in original]

Ludwig moves on to The Ruins of Athens. Johann has Ludwig’s autograph scores of some of the numbers used at the Josephstadt, and Ludwig needs them to have copies made. There are some passages contained in them that are only found in the manuscripts. [One missing portion probably meant here was the Chorus of Dervishes, op.113/3, which was not played at the Josephstadt performance of the revised version, Consecration of the House.] Since Ludwig is composing something else of this type, he needs the scores urgently, and Johann is asked to send them. [The “something else” might refer to the choral Finale of the Ninth Symphony, which he was working on at this time, or it may be related to one of the many abortive opera projects Beethoven was considering.]

Ludwig can’t come to stay in Gneixendorf right now, and doesn’t want to come when Therese and Amalie are there anyway. “Should I humble myself another time to be in such bad company? But maybe this can be avoided and we can spend a few days with you.”

“Farewell, and I float with you as an invisible spirit, to prevent the rascals from garroting you.”

“As always, your faithful brother.”

Brandenburg Letter 1731, Anderson Letter 1231. The original is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection Br 15, and can be seen here:

Probably at about the same time, Beethoven writes a short round or canon in the back of his 1823 calendar about his sister-in-law Therese and her daughter, “Fettlümmerl und Bankert haben triumphirt” (Fat-Lout and Bastard have triumphed,) WoO 226, Hess 260, which can be heard here:

Page 26 of Beethoven’s 1823 calendar containing this round is seen here (contrast enhanced for readability, as the original is much faded).

Courtesy of the Berlin Staatbibliothek, aut.35,87c.

The original of the calendar can be seen at: