BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, January 6, 1824

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany and a holiday. Anton Schindler comes to visit for what appears the first time since New Year’s Day. They discuss the financial woes of Johanna, Nephew Karl’s mother. Schindler suggests that perhaps Johann and Therese could take her in for a short time. Schindler thinks they should consider it. [Schindler seems to be unaware or have forgotten that Johanna also has an illegitimate daughter, now about three and a half years old.] Beethoven retorts that Schindler should bring it up to Johanna, but he protests that he has tried twice but has been unable to meet her.

Yesterday at the Theater in the Josephstadt, Schindler learned from alto Caroline Unger and soprano Henriette Sontag that they intend to drop by at about 3 p.m. to pay Beethoven a call. Beethoven is somewhat reluctant, but Schindler assures him they will not stay long. Beethoven asks how Schindler knows this. It cannot be any other way, Schindler suggests. They have rehearsals in the mornings, and in the afternoon they have to make preparations for their performances at the Theater. Afterwards, Beethoven and Schindler can retreat to the coffee house.

Beethoven is still unsure what to ask for regarding the opera Melusine, for which Franz Grillparzer has finished the libretto. Schindler thinks he should talk it over with Grillparzer. He would probably prefer that Beethoven first specify what conditions he has, and Grillparzer would conform to them. Beethoven makes an unspecified suggestion that Schindler thinks is a nonstarter. “He would probably not accept that if the Directorship did its duty.” Schindler notes that Grillparzer is well aware that Beethoven is a sincere supporter of his, and that being in Beethoven’s company will increase Grillparzer’s renown.

The discussion turns to the proposed Akademie concert to feature the Missa Solemnis and the premiere of the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven makes some suggestions about it being held by the Musikverein [Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.] Schindler corrects him that the advertisements should only say, “with the participation of the Verein,” not just “the Verein.” Only selected prominent members of the Verein will take part.

Schindler also suggests that Beethoven should invite Unger and Sontag to enjoy a pipe of tobacco with him. “Both of them are too clever and intelligent to abandon themselves indifferently, but enough–they don’t have any unpleasant reputation in the least.”

Beethoven asks for more information about the two young women that are to visit this afternoon. Sontag (1806-1854) came from Prague, Schindler says [actually she was from Koblenz.] She and her mother are under contract with the Theater an der Wien, for 17,000 florins W.W., plus she is authorized to hold a performance for her own benefit. [Her salary was in fact 18,000 florins.] “They live very simply and appear to be thinking of the future.” Schindler hasn’t really visited with them before, but now he has an opportune moment to do so.

The next section of the discussion, regarding the Schuppanzigh Quartet, appears to be a mix of genuine and falsified entries by Schindler in the conversation book. He confesses that he’s not very pleased with the performances of Beethoven’s quartets by them. “They are performed in a manner that is far too affected, and I am convinced that you did not intend to instruct them in such a way. This has been strongly censured in the review.” He also thinks they play out of tune and raggedly. [Is this professional jealousy over the fact both Schuppanzigh and Schindler had been angling for the concertmaster position at the Kärntnertor Theater?] Beethoven asks to see the reviews. Schindler replies, “I shall bring you the publicly available review of these concerts; it concerns your Quartets, says exactly what I said, and is correct.” Beethoven is somewhat disturbed by these statements. Schindler agrees, “They want to make it too beautiful, but that defeats the purpose.” Beethoven asks where this review was written. Schindler says it was in the Theater-Zeitung. [See our entry for December 16 for more details on the review, which is not nearly as harsh as Schindler makes it out to be.]

The new housekeeper has her proof that she has a pension and wants to show it to Beethoven. She doesn’t much care for her lodgings. Otherwise she has no complaints. Schindler thinks she is more arrogant than the last one. She works cheaply enough for Beethoven, but Schindler thinks that not everything is gold. The servant women all know each other and make excuses for one another.

Johann Baptist Gänsbacher (1778-1844) is in Vienna and Schindler understands he has the best chance to get the Kapellmeister position at St. Stephan. Schindler observes that it is a very well paid position. The previous Kapellmeister, Joseph Preindl (1756-1823) amassed a large estate in the position; he left his wife 12,000 florins and his other relatives another 72,000, plus had a large cellar full of wines. Although his salary proper was only 600 florins per year, the fees paid to the clergy for liturgical services paid for the rest. [This high income is a stark contrast to the low salary of the Berlin Kapellmeister Henning, as related by Schuppanzigh a few days ago.]

Joseph Weigl, the conductor at the Musikverein, is well set. Because he has served 40 years, he will continue to receive his salary as a pension, whenever he chooses to retire. He also held a benefit Akademie for himself that brought him another 2,000 florins W.W. Beethoven again ponders whether he should apply for such a position. Schindler says he doesn’t need that, and in fact doesn’t need to go to England, where he is considered a god. Beethoven still would like to do that. Schindler laughs that then he too could return to Vienna as a Rentierer!

3 p.m. comes and goes, and there is no sign of Unger and Sontag. Schindler says that they might have had some jealousy between them. Unger wanted to come alone, but he had suggested Sontag come along, and perhaps that caused trouble. Beethoven, seeming to blame Schindler, asks why he did that, and Schindler responds that he only expressed the wish that they should both come together. Beethoven asks for a description of them, and Schindler says “Very beautiful and gentle.” But alas, neither of them shows up today.

Schindler makes his escape, hoping that he will be able to bring news about the housekeeper tomorrow, and meet at the coffee house. The girls appear not to be coming. Schindler says when he sees her in the street Mademoiselle Unger will say she’s sorry that she couldn’t come, perhaps because of the cold. [The temperature in Vienna dipped below freezing on both January 5 and 6 of 1824.]

Conversation Book 52, 3r-8v.

A concert is given at the Gesellschaft der Musikfruende by Mathäus Strebinger, a student of Professor Helmesberger. The concert opens with Beethoven’s Overture from The Creatures of Prometheus, op.43. The Wiener Theaterzeitung of January 15, 1824 at 27 noted that the overture was played well, except for the inattention of some of the wind instruments.