BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, March 9, 1824

Beethoven, expecting numerous copyists soon, and needing to finish the autograph score of the Ninth Symphony, makes a note to buy more ink.

Sometime around today, or possibly a few days earlier, Beethoven receives a letter from either the Schott publishing house or Gottfried Weber, the editor of the new Schott journal of the arts, Cäcilia. They are looking for a Viennese correspondent, and sent Beethoven a sample copy of their magazine, apparently suggesting that he might be interested. [The letter does not survive, and is known only from Beethoven’s response, which he will write tomorrow, March 10.]

In the afternoon, violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh comes with a copyist named Paul Maschek, who will be supervising the work. He confirms with Beethoven that the solo parts for the Missa Solemnis will include the bass line underneath, for rehearsal purposes. Schuppanzigh asks whether an organ will be required for the Mass, and Beethoven tells him that yes, there is an organ continuo. An additional two copyists are expected to come today. The copyist brags that once he copied 80 sheets in one night.

[The copyists set to work first on writing out the choral parts of the three movements of the Missa Solemnis to be performed at the concert, the Kyrie, Credo and Agnus Dei, which will also still need to be lithographed. After that will come the solo vocal parts with a bass line so the vocalists can start rehearsing, and lastly the orchestral parts, beginning with the strings. Each of the copyists takes one of the three movements of the Mass, and Maschek, as the fastest, probably takes on the lengthy Credo. Once that work is under way, Maschek will start on a fair copy of the Ninth Symphony from Beethoven’s autograph score, from which parts can be extracted. Beethoven does not as of yet let him take the symphony score, and Maschek may well not even get to see it until next week, and thus probably has little idea what he is in for. The Consecration of the House Overture, op.124, already exists in a set of parts at the Theater at the Josephstadt. Since Schindler is concertmaster there, it seems the plan is to borrow that set of parts for use at the Akademie concert, rather than make a new set. As it turns out, there are problems with that plan, since no one can find it.]

Beethoven tells Schuppanzigh that he would prefer Henriette Sontag to sing the soprano part over Therese Grünbaum. Schuppanzigh appreciates that Beethoven is finally being decisive, and agrees that Sontag is generally more beloved by audiences than Grünbaum.

After Schuppanzigh leaves, Karl quotes poet Johann Heinrich Voss (1751-1825), “Spring is already beginning to sprout.” The housekeeper is afraid the schnitzel has spoiled because she had to wait and it was already ready at 9 o’clock. [Barbara Holzmann, who was acting in a temporary capacity as housekeeper, has departed sometime between March 5 and today; this is a new housekeeper.]

Karl notes there are two new operas opening next week: Das Schloss Lowinsky with music by Harmann Stunz, coming to the Theater an der Wien [opening March 18th]; and Der Schnee at the Kärntnertor. Karl notes the music to Schnee [Snow] is by a Frenchman. [François Auber, adapted by Ignaz Castelli, which opens March 19th.] Below this, Karl makes calligraphic doodles of Schneemann (snowman) and Schneeball (snowball.)

Conversation Book 57, 41v (courtesy Berlin Staatsbibliothek)

The housekeeper offers a number of choices for mid-day dinner: Veal, vegetable soup, green cabbage, rice, or veal with salad.

This concludes Conversation Book 57. Book 58 has already been discussed in connection with the planning meeting for the Akademie, so we resume with Conversation Book 59, later this same afternoon. Book 59 consists of 15 leaves, and covers approximately the next week.

Schuppanzigh returns to Beethoven’s apartment and asks whether the date of the concert has been set. Ludwig tells him no, it has not. Schuppanzigh wonders what Brother Johann thinks. Schuppanzigh suggests the best day would be April 8th. [April 8 was the Thursday before Palm Sunday, which would avoid conflicts with the Lenten charitable benefit concerts being held on April 11 and 12.] Schuppanzigh asks when Ludwig will see his brother next.

The topic of Joseph Blahetka offering to print the tickets for the concert comes up. Schuppanzigh thinks it would be better if Beethoven were to have Kärntnertor Theater manager Louis Antoine Duport handle the theater tickets for the concert, because ticketing causes “hellacious confusion.” Having a professional handle it will avoid those problems. That way no one can make a mess of it. Beethoven appears to ask who would automatically get complimentary tickets; Schuppanzigh responds, “Except for the Imperial Court, no one.”

Schuppanzigh has to go earn his bread again, but he asks Ludwig to send his brother over to see him.

Karl is unimpressed with the new servants, and suggests that they discuss them confidentially, since servants do a great deal of harm with their gossip. Up to this point, they’ve been able to tell in the first three days whether a housekeeper was suitable, honest, etc. In the case of the current one, it won’t take long for them to be completely certain, but until then, he thinks it best that they say very little.

Unpaid assistant Anton Schindler comes to Beethoven’s apartment later in the afternoon. He bears word from alto Caroline Unger that she now has so many rehearsals in the mornings and afternoons she cannot come to visit Beethoven. But “to participate in the concert would be the greatest honor that she could ever hope for.” She confirms that her range is from an F to an A or B natural. [Schindler had suggested yesterday that her range was only from G to F.] She suggests that Joseph Preisinger would be better for the bass part than Anton Forti.

Schindler as usual is full of theater gossip. Cherubini’s opera Der Wasserträger “has been shamefully mistreated, and people in general are dissatisfied.” The conductor, Joseph Drechsler, doesn’t understand either the spirit of the work, or the abilities of the orchestra personnel. He took all the tempi absolutely wrong, which resulted in the finale of Act I going to the devil. “I cannot forgive it.” [Beethoven had to be disappointed by this, considering the high esteem that he held for Cherubini and especially this opera. Schindler’s displeasure is echoed by contemporary reviews.]

Unger would be happy to invite Sontag and Preisinger to participate in the concert in Beethoven’s name, and they would doubtless agree. Who would Beethoven like as a tenor, Herr Anton Haitzinger, or someone else? Beethoven suggests Franz Jäger (1796-1852), and Schindler agrees he is better for such a large work. Schindler socializes with Jäger, so if Beethoven will permit it, he will let Jäger know Beethoven would like him to take part.

Beethoven asks Schindler to invite Sontag and Unger to dinner on Sunday. Schindler dutifully agrees.

Schindler asks whether Beethoven will be writing something special for the 2 girls on this occasion. Beethoven clearly says no [the planned concert is already quite lengthy] as Schindler proceeds to ask whether it will be an evening concert, since he thinks that would be better.

If the concert will be at the Kärntnertor Theater, then it’s just a matter of reaching an agreement with the manager, Duport. If he gives a ballet, then the concert won’t hurt him. Beethoven expresses his concerns about the Kärntnertor Theater orchestra, and how many of the good performers have departed. Schindler thinks it is more important how the departing musicians are replaced. But Beethoven should just make clear what he wants and needs to Duport, and he will take care of it. [This conversation supports the idea that Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony with the particular talents of the members of the Kärntnertor Theater in mind.]

Beethoven may indicate he doesn’t want to be visible on stage and have a repeat of the disastrous Fidelio rehearsal in the fall of 1822, and would like to be hidden behind a folding screen. Schindler says he just needs to appear on stage; it is time and it is necessary. What is the point of a folding screen? Beethoven seems to have second thoughts about whether the symphony is really ready for this concert, as he is likely still reworking the Finale. Beethoven’s friends and admirers cannot be indifferent as to what is ready, and what, because of his unpardonable reticence, cannot be heard. That would be just as unpleasant as having Beethoven’s works being premiered in foreign countries. “Enough.”

It seems that Beethoven reacts poorly to Schindler’s scolding, because Schindler abruptly leaves. Karl turns to domestic matters. “A kitchen candle burns 2 to 2 1/2 hours.” Uncle Ludwig asks how long they need the candles, and Karl says they have to be lit until 11:30 p.m. [Ludwig typically would be in bed well before that time, since he gets up around 5 a.m.] Why do they need candles so late, he asks. Karl says it’s because of the washing; the laundry needs to be done in the evenings. Karl then does some financial computations for his uncle, demonstrating two different ways of coming to the sum 1 florin and 35 kreutzers W.W.

Conversation Book 57, 40v-41v; Conversation Book 59, 1r-4v.

Meanwhile, Brother Johann speaks to both Schuppanzigh and Duport today. The substance of these discussions will be relayed to Ludwig in tomorrow’s installment.