BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, September 24, 1822 (approximately)

According to a note made by nephew Karl in Beethoven’s calendar, beginning on this date uncle Ludwig begins taking the baths in Baden bei Wien for at least an hour and a half per day, on Dr. Staudenheim’s orders. Berlin Staatsbibliothek, aut.35, 87b, p.15.

The grand reopening of the Theater in the Josephstadt is coming up soon on October 3, with Beethoven conducting his reworked version of The Ruins of Athens, op.113, under the name The Consecration of the House, op.124, with its new overture and a new chorus and ballet. Thus rehearsals by the orchestra of the Theater in the Josephstadt probably commence about now. Beethoven will therefore be making regular commutes to Vienna, since he will be quite busy with final details and coordinating the work. This will make maintaining his bathing regimen difficult, and he will complain about this in a later letter to brother Johann. At some point between now and the premiere he gives up his apartment in Baden altogether and remains in Vienna for at least a week.

It would be around now that Beethoven naturally gets to know the concertmaster of the orchestra of the Theater in the Josephstadt, Anton Schindler. It’s possible that Beethoven had met Schindler previously, at Schindler’s day job working as a clerk for Beethoven’s attorney, Johann Baptist Bach, during the ongoing litigation over Karl’s guardianship. However, any interaction at that time would have been incidental to the business relationship with attorney Bach, not music. Schindler will be an important figure for much of the rest of Beethoven’s life, and will be one of the composer’s first major biographers. Schindler preserves the bulk of Beethoven’s conversation books, but also gets the bright idea to write additional entries into the earlier books to make himself look like Beethoven’s friend and confidante years before they had any kind of close relationship. It’s a complex interaction between the two, but Beethoven, with his near-total and worsening deafness would come to rely on Schindler over the next several years much as he had Franz Oliva.

One of the obviously outrageous fabrications by Schindler in his biography of Beethoven is the claim that it was he who suggested the Overture to Consecration of the House be written in a fugal form. Schindler did not know Beethoven well (if at all) when the Overture was being composed and structured. This is typical of the self-aggrandizement that permeates Schindler’s writings, and unfortunately his deceptions were accepted as authoritative in such eminent works as the standard Thayer/Forbes biography (where it is quoted without remark on p.807). He did know how to make a good-sounding anecdote, though, truth be damned.