BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, March 25, 1823

Beethoven writes to Karl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin, the director of the Berlin Singakademie, who you may recall said he would subscribe to the Missa Solemnis if it were recast as an a cappella work, which Beethoven admittedly suggested was possible in his solicitation letter to Zelter. But first he sends a letter of recommendation for Nina Cornega, as Schindler had requested on Sunday, who will be going on tour through Prague to Berlin in April. “She has a beautiful mezzo-soprano and is an artistic singer in general. She has also appeared in several operas to applause.”

Now, as to the Mass, Beethoven has thought over Zelter’s proposition. He doesn’t have time to rewrite the Missa Solemnis, but what he will do is send Zelter a copy of the Mass at no charge. There are a number of sections that could be performed a cappella as they are, or could readily be edited to do so. But he will leave that work to Zelter, if he has the patience for it. Beethoven signs the letter, “With great esteem, your friend, Beethoven.” The letter was not sent through the mails, but rather delivered by hand by Cornega to Zelter.

Brandenburg Letter 1621, Anderson Letter 1161. The original is in the Musée Royal de Mariemont (aut. 1085/2a).

Today is a holiday, the Feast of the Annunciation, so nephew Karl is able to join Beethoven and Anton Schindler for midday dinner. Schindler reports that Diabelli will commit to wait until the outstanding subscription replies have come in, and then he would open a subscription for the published version. He is not interested in waiting a full year as Beethoven requests.

Attorney Johann Baptist Bach met with publisher Steiner yesterday, and he asked for Bach to intercede to let him have the Mass. He would be willing to pay the full asking price of 1000 florins, plus half of the profits. Bach would like to see Beethoven tomorrow after dinner to discuss it. As to the three new pieces, [probably the projected Graduale, Offertorio and Tantum ergo that have been discussed with Diabelli] Steiner would pay between 200 and 300 florins.

They head to a restaurant, but apparently are too late due to the holiday traffic; there is nothing left but a leg of meat [likely veal, venison or pork.] Karl is pleased that Uncle Ludwig likes his professor; Karl likes him very much as well. Yesterday, when he saw Uncle Ludwig at the examinations, his professor asked whose father he was, and when Karl told him “He is mine,” he immediately had Karl translate a great deal more into Greek, even though he had already taken his examination, to give Ludwig pleasure. Today, Karl went to get a letter of reference, which was supposed to be ready, but he was not at home and Karl will need to go back tomorrow. The professor asked Karl to assure his uncle that he will have only very good classes.

Attorney Bach has an apartment that he can lease to Beethoven, if he likes. Steiner is pressing him since he is afraid Beethoven may have already come to an understanding with Diabelli. He would like to get an agreement signed tomorrow. Bach assured Schindler that he has “the utmost confidence in Steiner, although he nevertheless considers him to be a Jew.” [Steiner was in fact Catholic and not Jewish.]

The mail arrives with Prince Nikolai Galitzin’s letter of March 5, saying that the 50 ducats for the first quartet is being sent now and the 100 ducats for the other two quartets will follow. Nephew Karl notes that while Prince Galitzin writes in French to make sure his meaning is understood, he would like Beethoven to write to him in German.

In an effort to expand the circle of possible subscribers to the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven sends a subscription solicitation letter (probably dictated to Schindler) to Prince Nikolai Galitzin, who has already demonstrated himself to be a fan of Beethoven’s work, to be presented to Czar Alexander I of Russia. The letter to the czar is most likely in French, and that to Galitzin in German in accordance with his request.

Brandenburg Letters 1619 and 1620. Neither letter is known to exist, however, and they are known only from the Conversation Book discussions with Schindler. Schindler questions whether it would be better to send this request through the embassy.

Conversation Book 27, 26r, with Karl’s calligraphic experiments at top (Berlin Staatsbibliothek)

Yesterday after examinations were finished, Karl went with Blöchlinger to hear Haydn’s Four Seasons. It was a very large ensemble, conducted by Umlauf. [The top of the page 26r includes several calligraphic experiments by Karl.]

The three walk back towards Blöchlinger’s to return Karl before the 7 PM curfew. Nephew Karl much prefers his current professor over Paul Pulay, who spread rumors detrimental to Blöchlinger. “He still remains a bad fellow.” Beethoven asks what Karl would like as a gift for the successful completion of his examinations, and the response is that he would like a nice edition of Schiller. “Schiller goes over everything.” Karl has read a great deal of Goethe, who is superb but on an intellectual level only. Schiller is read both for the intellect and the heart.

Karl asks who Karl Peters’ friend in the uniform was that he saw yesterday at the examinations. Karl wonders why he was brought along, though he was very courteous. “I am happy, though, that the examination is finished! I was completely exhausted.”

Karl asks twice how satisfied Beethoven is with his new maid. Barbara Holzmann is too old to help the housekeeper, in Karl’s opinion. [She had recently sustained a fairly serious injury working for Beethoven, so Karl’s caution is not misplaced.]

Karl does not believe Uncle Johann will live very long; he enjoys eating too much. When Uncle Ludwig says he himself eats too much as well, Karl says Ludwig has a stronger constitution than Johann, as does Karl. Since Johann’s meals don’t agree with either of them, they can’t be doing him any good either. But Karl acknowledges that Johann takes good care of himself generally, so far as his stinginess allows. [Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven (1776-1848) would in fact live to the age of 71, as compared to Ludwig and Karl, both of whom died in their 50s.]

After dropping off Karl, Beethoven returns home and Schindler goes his own separate way.

Conversation Book 27, 23r-29v.