BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, August 29, 1820

Conversation Book 16, leaves 36v through 41v

Today is another very long day, and Beethoven pays the price.

Franz Oliva’s employer Biedermann is back in Vienna, so Oliva will not have much time to help Beethoven today; he must go to the Stock Exchange, and will not be finished until 5 p.m. There is an apartment Beethoven wants to have Oliva’s input about; Franz suggests authorizing him to see the house alone at 5 to see it, but Beethoven must make a decision today or the apartment will be gone; the field is continually getting smaller. They agree to meet at 9 p.m. at the Lobkowitz coffee house. Oliva asks Beethoven to give him the letter from Simrock; he knows what Beethoven wants to say and he will write up a response this afternoon for Beethoven to sign. Oliva can then mail it to Bonn tomorrow.

As Oliva heads out to work, Beethoven seems to have come to a decision. He stops by one of the apartments they visited on Sunday (the Wetzlar house that Oliva had preferred) but learns it has already been rented, even though the building superintendent had promised Beethoven he would hold it for two days. But the superintendent had people interested in it even then, so he did not wait. [This had to have been very discouraging.] At some point during this trip to Vienna, Beethoven buys at least one lottery ticket.

Beethoven visits Karl again at Blöchlinger’s. They discuss teacher Joseph Köferle, who had visited Beethoven on July 16th. Blöchlinger asks whether Beethoven had received his letter yet. [If he sent it to Mödling, Beethoven would not have, since he has now been in Vienna for at least five days.] He provides Beethoven with the itemized bills for the new expenses for Karl’s education. Blöchlinger is pleased to hear that Johanna’s appeal in her attempts to set aside Beethoven’s guardianship is finally refused absolutely.

Anxious about the letter being sent quickly to Simrock [perhaps triggered by the receipt of Blöchlinger’s new billing], on his return to the City Beethoven stops by Oliva’s office. Oliva has not yet written the letter, but he wants Beethoven to read it thoroughly before he signs it. In any event, the post to Bonn doesn’t go until tomorrow, so there is not an immediate rush. Oliva says he will bring the letter along to the coffee house this evening; he thinks he can make it to the Lobkowitz coffee house by 6:30 after all. Joseph Bernard also wants to speak with Beethoven, and he may join them.

Oliva suspects that Simrock’s failure to understand the exchange rates is an intentional ploy. Poking fun at Beethoven’s expressions of fondness for Simrock, Oliva says “your good old friend” wants to cheat you out of a couple hundred gulden by playing the differences between various currencies. So he suggests that the letter should set the price in gulden rather than louis d’or, so Simrock can’t wiggle out of the price. Simrock’s claim that the Mass can only be used by Catholics is not well-founded. Oliva suggests that even the price Beethoven has asked is too little.

Becoming exasperated by Beethoven’s indecision about his new apartment, Oliva reminds him that “time is wasting; in the end, you will have nothing.” When Beethoven lets him know that the apartment he was interested in has rented in the meantime, Oliva again says “You will now find nothing more with which you can be satisfied.” Delaying further will place Beethoven in an awkward position, which must be avoided. Oliva then goes back to work, and Beethoven runs errands or visits more apartments.

At 6:30, Beethoven heads to the Lobkowitz coffee house. Bernard is there, and promises once again that he will finish the libretto of the oratorio Victory of the Cross this week or next. He makes excuses about having to write things for other journals, as well as poems for children, and this in addition to his other work has forced him to put the oratorio aside. But now he has finished with these things and will not allow himself to be disturbed from completing the work. He expresses regret that Beethoven no longer has the first draft of the text, since he has misplaced his own.

Oliva joins them and shows Beethoven his draft letter to publisher Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn (Brandenburg Letter 1407, Anderson Letter 1029). In that letter, he attempts to clarify the exchange rate of a louis d’or as the equivalent of two ducats, at a rate of 90 gulden in 20 ducats. He therefore asks that Simrock remit 900 gulden to Franz Brentano in Frankfurt, which may be withdrawn as soon as Brentano receives the manuscript of the Mass. [This kind of mathematical conversion was far beyond Beethoven’s own skills.] He also points out the the Mass in C, op.86, was issued by Breitkopf with a German text, and it is performed every year in Leipzig and other Protestant towns, so Simrock’s nervousness about selling a Catholic Mass is misplaced.

“Besides I flatter myself that this latest work of mine will certainly cause in the world of music the sensation it deserves and that therefore the first publisher, in view of the difficulty of pirating the engraved edition, will make a good profit, which I grudge to you, my dear friend! far less than I do to all other publishers.” (Anderson translation.) Oliva continues Beethoven’s exaggeration of the state of the Mass, saying that he is only waiting for confirmation from Simrock for the Missa Solemnis to be copied and sent. [The Benedictus and Agnus Dei have barely been begun.] Oliva also adds another teaser about the possibility of Simrock publishing Beethoven’s collected works. A German translation of the Mass can be provided for him quickly, if desired. Beethoven approves, adding “in haste” and signs so Oliva can mail the letter tomorrow. The letter is now held by the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, catalogued as Br 232, and can be seen here.

Oliva also notes that Stein claims that he will bring the piano to Mödling on Saturday, September 2. But Oliva says he will check on Friday and make certain of the date it is coming and let Beethoven know.

Bernard has another possible housekeeper lined up for Beethoven. She does not come well recommended, but she is related to Johann Emanuel Veith, director of the Veterinary Institute, and they desire to help her. Bernard suggests coming to visit in Mödling next week, possibly bringing Karl along, perhaps on Saturday evening, September 2, and returning Sunday evening, September 3.

Oliva suggests that Beethoven’s next trip to Vienna should be September 9; he has to work in the morning but should be available the rest of that day to assist Beethoven.

At some point during the evening, Beethoven’s illness becomes more severe. He returns to Mödling and goes to bed for the next day or so.