BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, September 5, 1820 (approximately)

Conversation Book 16, leaves 53v through 54v

Back in Mödling, Beethoven makes some notes about getting chickens from the City.

He has a reminder about a copyist. Beethoven also makes a cryptic note about “Take the Mass back.” Editor Ted Albrecht suggests that this refers to the performing materials for the Mass in C, op.86, performed by Franz Xaver Gebauer’s group at his Concert spirituel on May 5, 1820. William Kinderman offers instead that this may be related to the working copy of the Credo for the Missa solemnis. The autograph is finished by now, and Kinderman posits that Beethoven may have given it to a copyist in the City to make his working draft. Some additional sketches for the beginning of the Credo, dating from about this time, indicate that Beethoven was already rethinking his approach in the autograph, and thus would need to retrieve it from the copyist, according to Kinderman. As we will see, Beethoven will later talk to his regular copyist, Wenzel Schlemmer about making a working copy for revisions, as the piece becomes increasingly massive and complex. The autograph is already becoming unreadable in places due to Beethoven’s ongoing changes.

An equally cryptic note follows, wondering whether Oliva has given someone “the Overture.” It’s unclear what Overture he means, or whom the intended recipient is. Gebauer did not perform any Beethoven overtures in the following season of Concerts spirituels, according to the listing of these concerts in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1821), pp. 172-176. But this probably refers to some kind of upcoming public performance of one of Beethoven’s works.

Beethoven makes a note to visit Dr. Schönstädt, an optician in Vienna, who was advertising specially smoked glasses to view the solar eclipse that will occur beginning at 1:56 in the afternoon of Thursday, September 7th. [However, Beethoven will not go back to Vienna before the eclipse happens.]

He also reminds himself to get the affidavit that Johanna van Beethoven is still alive, so he can collect on the pension for Karl’s care that is based on her life. While money is on his mind, he also considers having Oliva speak to Steiner about the bank shares and when they need to be cashed in. [Since Oliva worked in banking, it’s not clear why Beethoven thought Steiner, a music publisher and dealer, would be more knowledgeable. Perhaps Steiner is being considered a resource while Oliva will be away in Leipzig later this autumn, and when he is to be sent to Russia in December. Alternatively, Beethoven may be considering borrowing more money from Steiner and pledging one of his bank shares as security.]