BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, November 5, 1822

Wilhelmine Schöder, portrait by Charles Auguste Schuler

According to Wilhelmine Schröder (1804-1860), who is playing Leonore in the revival of Beethoven’s Fidelio, the composer comes to visit her today. Regarding her second performance in the role last night, she recalls, “Even then they used to call me a little genius; and indeed on that evening a more mature spirit seemed to have come over me, for several touches of sheer genius shone forth from my performance which must not have escaped Beethoven, for the next day he came himself, the great master, to bring me his thanks and his congratulations. With hot tears I moistened the hand that he offered me, and in my joy, I would not have exchanged anything in the world for this praise from Beethoven’s lips! He promised at that time to write an opera for me, but unfortunately it remained nothing but a promise.”

It seems that publisher Anton Diabelli has written a now-lost letter to Beethoven in response to the note of October 29, in which the composer begged for few days more time on some promised compositions. Diabelli pressed Beethoven to produce these works, and asked what the fee for the promised variations will be. Beethoven, who apparently is still not settled in his new apartments, writes an undated note to Diabelli in reply. “Patience! I am not yet housed as a human should be, let along as what is appropriate and necessary for me.” The fee for the Diabelli Variations, op.120, is set at 40 ducats at most, given the scale of the work. If it ends up being reduced, Beethoven will lower the fee as well.

As to the overture to Consecration of the House, op.124, Beethoven would also like to add eight numbers from the performance last month. [which had been borrowed from The Ruins of Athens, plus the new ballet with Chorus and soprano, WoO 98]. For that, he had been offered 80 ducats; he can also contribute a Gratulationsmenuett for full orchestra [WoO 3] and altogether he would like 90 ducats. [This reference to the Gratulationsmenuett places the note after November 3, when it was premiered; the reference to not yet being housed suggests it needs to be fairly soon afterwards since Beethoven has been moved in for at least five days at this point.]

Beethoven’s elderly housekeeper, Barbara Holzmann, is coming into the city today and again tomorrow, so he would appreciate if Diabelli would give her an answer to his offer. He hopes to have the variations to Diabelli by the end of next week. [In a typical case of overpromising, the variations would not be complete until the first quarter of 1823.]

Brandenburg Letter 1507, Anderson Letter 1106. The letter is in the possession of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, H.C. Bodmer Collection Br 114, and can be seen here: