BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, February 25, 1824

Conversation Book 57 begins today. This book is another substantial one, consisting of 41 leaves, and it is completely filled. The book is used until March 9, 1824.

After his classes, Nephew Karl comes by the apartment and mentions that the servants did not receive any candles, so they will need to get some. He also says that all of a sudden, today, the maid decided she wanted to leave and claims that she gave notice two weeks ago. But she just started two weeks ago Monday.

Ludwig and Karl go to a restaurant or coffee house in the City, where they run into Ignaz Schuppanizgh, who seems to be meeting someone else in another room in the same place. Schuppanzigh says he will definitely meet them here tomorrow morning.

Karl mentions that the departing maid would like a testimonial. Karl suggests that they indicate her birthplace, and that she is still a virgin, and the usual things they say in testimonials. If she will bring a Stempelbogen, a stamped paper for writing official documents, Karl would be happy to write it out, but she wants more information to be included.

While they are at the venue, they meet Leopold Sonnleither, an attorney and musician who was the unofficial leader of the chorus at the Musikverein, and poet/dramatist Ignaz Franz Castelli. The subject of an Akademie comes up, and Beethoven mentions he intends to do just that. Sonnleithner is very encouraging, and says that Beethoven will surely do well, and the income will be great. Schuppanzigh, Ferdinand Piringer and he will take care of everything. [Sonnleithner immediately crosses this out, and does not mention that he has signed the Petition asking that Beethoven premiere the Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony in Vienna, which he realizes too late the composer has not yet received.]

Sonnleithner confirms that there is nothing in the Hofkapelle for Schuppanzigh, and that young Jansa, “who absolutely doesn’t take no for an answer” has been hired as a violinist there.

Castelli introduces himself to Beethoven, and Sonnleithner continues, again letting the cat out of the bag: “Have you received the Invitation that I signed? Count Lichnowsky sent it to me, and 100 of your friends signed it.”, which he again immediately crosses out. [Actually there were 30 signers, including both Sonnleithner and Castelli.] Sonnleithner immediately changes the subject to Abbé Jelinek (1758-1825), a Bohemian priest and composer whose output is so extraordinary in quantity that Sonnleither calls him a machine. [Editor Theodore Albrecht suggests this is a reference to a fraudulent invention introduced in Paris the previous month under the name the Componium. For an admission fee, the mechanism appered to compose a theme of its own, or took one provided to it, and then played endless variations upon it.]

Karl asks whether his uncle intends to have dinner here. There might be roast at home otherwise. The options here are vegetable soup and horseradish soup, blue cabbage and roast or loin of beef. Sonnleither offers to take Beethoven to see Schuppanzigh, but he tells them they already met briefly. Beethoven adds up the charges for their food and drink and comes up with 3 florins 40 kreutzers. [The correct sum is 2 florins 40 kreutzers.]

Back at the apartment, the maid tells Karl that a gentleman came today while Ludwig was gone, and was very vexed to find no one there. [The mysterious visitor was bearing the Petition, which has been fully signed and is ready for delivery to Beethoven. He will try again tomorrow.]

Conversation Book 57, 1r-4r.

Beethoven and Karl likely spend the evening writing letters. The first letter is to Maurice Schlesinger in Paris, in Karl’s hand from Uncle Ludwig’s dictation, with the greeting, signature and date in Uncle Ludwig’s hand. Beethoven thanks Schlesinger for the thoughtful gift of a score by Étienne Méhul (1763-1817) [probably the opera Valentine de Milan, published posthumously by Schlesinger in 1823, a copy of which was inventoried in Beethoven’s estate.] “It is so worthy of him, and a reminder of the loss of his passing.”

Schlesinger had asked for some large-scale works by Beethoven, and he has available a grand solemn Mass with choruses, solos and full orchestra. Schlesinger’s father Adolf in Berlin had wanted the Mass earlier, but, in order to live, he had first sold subscription copies to various royal houses. The fee is 1000 florins C.M. [Beethoven writes 100, which is surely a slip of the pen; perhaps he confused it with his prior asking price for the Missa Solemnis of 100 gold louis d’or, an entirely different currency, which he later increased to 1000 florins. Beethoven has already sold the Missa Solemnis several times, and every one of those publishers is going to be disappointed.] There is also a new overture [Consecration of the House, op.124,] which is being used for the opening of the Berlin Königstädter theater; they have the rights to use the work in the month of May, though if there is a delay in the opening they could use it longer. The fee for that work is 50 ducats in gold. He also offers the Ninth Symphony, which will first be available for publication in 1825. [The London Philharmonic has an exclusive right to the Symphony for 18 months.] It includes a grand Finale with chorus and solo voices, in a similar manner (but much grander) as the Choral Fantasy, op.80. [Beethoven calls op.80 a “Clavierphantasie.”] The honorarium for the Symphony is 600 florins C.M. Later there will also be new quartets available, so he is already thinking ahead to Prince Galitzin’s commissioned pieces.

Beethoven says he will also be writing Maurice’s father, and he asks for a quick answer, because others are interested in publishing these works. The Mass can be published as quickly as it can be engraved. Beethoven mentions he would like to spend the winter in the south of France, and perhaps also visit Schlesinger in Paris. If he wants the works, Beethoven will arrange for the copying and they can agree on where payment is to be sent.

Brandenburg Letter 1782; Anderson Letter 1267. The original (with a significant chunk missing in the middle) is in the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection BBr 138, and can be seen here:

Ludwig also has Karl write another letter, this time to publisher Heinrich Albert Probst (1791-1846) in Leipzig. Probst has asked for some new works from Beethoven, and he offers a few minor pieces: 3 lieder with piano accompaniment, two of which can are also for other instruments and without piano [Opferlied op.121b, and Bundeslied op.122] and an Arietta [Der Küss, op.128.] The price for all three is 24 ducats in gold. Six bagatelles for piano solo [op.126] may be had for 30 ducats in gold. A grand overture for full orchestra [Consecration of the House, op.124] that is being used to open a new theater, will soon be available for publication at 50 gold ducats. That includes the rights to offer a piano reduction, or whatever other arrangements are suitable; the only condition is that it cannot be published before the month of July.

This is what Beethoven can offer at the moment. If he takes those, there are also some larger works that can be made available. He asks for a quick response; there are other publishers interested, but they are all farther away than Leipzig. Beethoven doesn’t want to deal with the publishers in Vienna any more. “I have to thank Heaven, which blesses me so much in my works, that although I am not rich, I am still able to live for my Art through my works.”

Brandenburg Letter 1783; Anderson Letter 1266. The whereabouts of the original letter are unknown, though a facsimile was published in Charles Bouvet, Une lettre inédite de Beethoven à l’éditeur H.A. Probst, in Revue de musicologie 6 (1922), pp. 15-17. Probst’s notation on the letter states it was received on March 1, 1824.