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

This long day fills nearly a third of this entire conversation book. Count Moritz Lichnowsky visits Beethoven at his home again today, most likely in the morning since Karl is not present. He observes that one of Beethoven’s string trios was performed last Friday, November 21, by the Schuppanzigh Quartet. [The trio op.9/1 was on the program.] And the Mass in C was performed at the Augustinian cloister church on the Josephplatz on Sunday in honor of the Feast of St. Cecilia. However, “it came together badly.”

Beethoven, having been egged on by Schindler, is thinking more about the possibility of an Akademie. He asks Lichnowsky about having a contract to get paid a fixed amount. That would be an option, but “you would surely get considerably more without a contract.” But if he wants a contract, the administration of the Kärntertor Theater would surely be happy to do so. Grillparzer can fill him in. But speaking of Grillparzer, Duport from the theater had asked Lichnowsky to inquire about Beethoven’s progress on his libretto for Melusine. Beethoven has little to offer, but Lichnowsky remains encouraging. “Your Overture to Fidelio was stormily applauded in the last Akademie, and was repeated.” [He refers to the charitable concert held there on November 15th, the late Emperor Leopold II’s name day.] But he assures Beethoven that such an Akademie is “absolutely a universal wish.”

But no one is going to Weber’s opera Euryanthe. A review has been written in defense of the poet, Helmina von Chezy. There is talk of dropping it and instead reviving Fidelio, with Henriette Sontag in the lead role. Beethoven prefers young Wilhelmina Schröder, who played the lead last November, and then repeated the success in a number of performances in Dresden this spring. Lichnowsky agrees that Schröder is better in acting and power, but Sontag is the better singer. Beethoven asks why he thinks so. Lichnwosky answers that she has a considerable high range, and very accurate intonation. [Sontag will sing the soprano part in the premiere of the Ninth Symphony.]

Lichnowsky asks after Karl. The count can introduce him to a professor from Poland who is very knowledgeable about Greek history. The professor left Poland since he was something of a free-thinker. Getting ready to leave, Lichnowsky invites Beethoven to dinner on Sunday, November 30, and urges him to bring Karl. “Give me that pleasure; then he can converse with the gentleman in Greek to his heart’s content.”

Brother Johann comes up; Lichnowsky jokes that he is “the manager” and his wife Therese is “the squanderer.” Beethoven mentions the article in the Theater-Zeitung about him and his family and Lichnowsky chimes in that if Johann sees it, “he will be angry that there is no other mention of him, except that he is an apothecary.”

That afternoon, Beethoven and Nephew Karl host Ludwig’s friend violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh for dinner. [Despite their close friendship, Schuppanzigh quite consistently and oddly uses the third person when talking with the composer. This appears to be some private joke.] Beethoven mentions that Heinrich Bethmann of the Berlin theater came to request use of the incidental music to Consecration of the House for the opening of their own theater there. Schuppanzigh says it’s up to Beethoven; he could set the price, or he could leave it to their generosity. And Beethoven “can be assured that they will certainly treat you generously.” Too bad about Weber and Euryanthe; he had so much more success with Der Freischütz.

Going forward, Schuppanzigh’s quartet will be giving their concerts on Sunday afternoons at 4:30, but this Friday they will be playing at around 12:30 in the afternoon. On the program is the third Razoumovsky Quartet [op.59/3 in C.]

There is some disparaging discussion of a pianist playing a set of variations [possibly Ignaz Moscheles, who played a fantasy on themes by Rossini and Weber on Saturday, November 22.]

Schuppanzigh would like to get the concertmaster position at the Kärntnertor Theater, but the administrator Duport said he would need to break some contracts first. [Joseph Ketter has been in that position since 1820.] Karl interjects that Barbaja, who had been managing the theater, is no longer here. Uncle Ludwig asks where he has gone; Karl answers, “Naples.”

Schuppanzigh notes that violinist Zeno Franz Menzel, in the court opera orchestra, died. Beethoven asks who has filled his position, and Schuppanzigh says the position is vacant now. Beethoven suggests that Schuppanzigh could get that position, but he thinks there is no use; they already have their minds made up. Now, if Archduke Rudolph could intercede, with but one word things would be different. The Archduke could thus do two good deeds: Schuppanzigh would no longer have to make his living elsewhere, and it would improve the quality of the music greatly if he got the position. [The latter discussion appears to be a mixture of Karl transcribing Schuppanzigh talking, and Karl’s own opinions.] Schuppanzigh begs Beethoven to write to the Archduke on his behalf tomorrow. It may not help, but it can’t hurt. The Archduke would then have to write to Count Dietrichstein, the manager of the Court theaters. [This position is also one that Schindler is angling for, but Beethoven does not appear to mention that to Schuppanzigh.]

Schuppanzigh insists that Beethoven must come and dine at his place one of these days. He thinks he can get Beethoven a very fine housekeeper and cook, the wife of a justice of the peace who died a few days ago. He asks how much Beethoven’s paying his housekeeper. Beethoven tells him, then complains that they can’t tell whether or not the eggs have gone bad. Schuppanzigh is surprised, since one can typically tell that without trying very hard by the smell.

Schuppanzigh’s brother-in-law is a doctor who recommends the health benefits of red wine; Schuppanzigh will have him send some that comes from Hungary.

The discussion turns to the biographical sketch in the Theater-Zeitung. Beethoven is concerned that someone may have stolen some of his musical sketchbooks and tried to use them for profit. Schuppanzigh scoffs at the thought. “Then the lucky finder will be able to make very little use of it because of its lack of clarity.”

Beethoven mentions that Lichnowsky heard Schuppanzigh play one of his string trios at last Friday’s concert, and asks which one. Schuppanzigh says it was the one in G major [op.9/1.] Schuppanzigh mentions that the engraved portrait of Weber includes a quote from him, “As God wills.” Beethoven’s portrait should say, “As Beethoven wills.”

Schuppanzigh notes that the Jewish community in Vienna is making a terrible commotion over Ignaz Moscheles’ return to Vienna. [Moscheles was Jewish.]

Beethoven mentions that the subscription with the Missa Solemnis went well enough that he’s thinking of doing a subscription of his works. Schuppanzigh thinks that an excellent idea, and he could make a great amount of money doing that. in revised editions. Schuppanzigh offers to help. “You will become a rich man with your old works.”

Beethoven suggests that he might do that through Steiner. Schuppanzigh will have none of it. “Steiner is a damned Jew.” [Steiner was not in fact Jewish, but Schuppanzigh appears to be referring to the fact Beethoven is deeply in debt to him.] “You must make it known that you want to issue a splendid edition of all your works. But you would have to promise to make some small alterations.” Beethoven, who is quite satisfied with his works as he wrote them, is reluctant. Schuppanzigh says it only needs to be pro forma. “I assure you that it would bring you great capital….Unfortunately we live in an age where one must deal with works like a businessman.” Beethoven again raises Steiner, who is again dismissed. “Steiner has made fine capital with your compositions.”

Schuppanzigh, having excited Beethoven with this talk of riches, takes his leave. Ludwig and Karl go out in the evening, and Beethoven continues talking far too loud, which concerns Karl. He reminds his uncle that Schindler had also wanted to become a concertmaster at the Kärntnertor Theater. They order some oysters, which come quite quickly.

Karl thinks Schuppanizgh appears to be a good man. He reminds his uncle that Caesar [in Shakespeare] said that “I do not fear fat men; I fear lean ones.” Antiochus had a soldier who was very brave but was in bad health. When his health was recovered, he was no longer as brave. So it may have been with Caesar; “once he attained the highest power, life became all the more dear to him.” Uncle Ludwig is fuzzy on the details of Julius Caesar and asked what that highest power was. Karl tells him, “They offered him the crown.” [The German editors note that Karl may have confused Antiochus with Antigonus, about whom a similar story is set out in Plutarch’s Lives. But in any event, Karl seems to be recommending his uncle trust the obese Schuppanzigh over the thin Schindler.]

Karl observes the wine has gone bad. This morning he walked to the University from his boarding house with Professor Stein. Uncle Ludwig makes some loud remarks about the professor, whom Karl had recently been disparaging for his pronunciation of Greek. Karl tells him in Latin to be silent. “Good fellow! You are awakening the people.” Uncle Ludwig, perhaps a little drunk, insults the people and Karl agrees they do nothing bu sleep. He calls them bovines, in Latin.

Uncle Ludwig is becoming a handful, and Karl thinks it best to get him into bed. A little sentimental, his uncle asks his nephew to pray for him, and Karl reassures him it is always his last wish at the end of the day. Karl totals up the expenses for the evening, between the late supper and sugar. Meanwhile, Uncle Ludwig gets into a row with the maid and makes some unspecified inappropriate remark to her. Uncomfortable, Karl tells him to knock it off and go to bed, then leaves and returns tomorrow morning.

Conversation Book 46, 23v-39r.