BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, January 21, 1824

Unpaid assistant Anton Schindler visits Beethoven at his apartment early this afternoon. Beethoven mentions that mezzo-soprano Caroline Unger had wanted to perform Beethoven’s projected opera Melusine. Schindler says that really won’t be possible, since she will be on tour next fall. But it might work if the opera were to be premiered in November. Then Beethoven will have uninterrupted time to work on it while on his summer stay out in the country. Beethoven likes the idea of Unger singing the title role in the opera. Schindler believes the part of Melusine would be better suited to a proper soprano, rather than a mezzo. Beethoven asks how high her range goes, and Schindler says she can sing up to an E.

The opera Aschenbrödel [Cinderella] by Niccolò Isouard is being performed at the Theater in the Josephstadt, where Schindler is concertmaster. It was as successful as possible, and Schindler suggests Beethoven honor them and attend a performance. Last night’s performance (the first) was a fine audience, although it was not a full crowd.

Beethoven grumbles that he never got the libretto for Melusine back from Unger yesterday as she had promised. Schindler says “I can still hear her say that she would send it back to you right away today.” After Beethoven grouses some more, Schindler says at least she didn’t demand the title role herself.

Beethoven mentions violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh visited Monday. Schindler was at his concert last Sunday, the 18th, and they played the String Trio in C minor [op.9/3] “wondrously beautifully, so that it created the most brilliant sensation possible.” Next Sunday, the Schuppanzigh Quartet (and guests) will be playing Beethoven’s Septet, op.20. Beethoven, who was always derisive of the persistent popularity of the work, thinks that piece has worn out its welcome. Schindler objects, “Not to me, and also not to the world.”

Beethoven complains about the darkness of his apartment. [His apartment had windows facing west, receiving the afternoon light. Unfortunately, he did his work in the mornings, so that did not help him and probably increased his eyestrain, especially after his persistent eye infections in the first half of 1823.] Schindler says that’s only temporary, since in a few months he’ll be moving again and he can get an apartment with more sun.

Beethoven continues to complain, provoking Schindler. “You allow everything to concern you too much, even things that are not very important. And all of the things that aren’t good for you. You need peace! Peace! Peace! In order to be wholly that to which Nature has destined you here on earth.” Beethoven says he has so many things to deal with, but Schindler tells him he needs to get his priorities straight. “Get rid of a lot of this and consider it beneath your dignity, so that you can concentrate your efforts, and that will already put you well ahead.”

Schindler, perhaps concerned about having agitated Beethoven unduly, changes the subject to the projected Akademie benefit concert. The time is approaching that it will need to be confirmed. If Beethoven wants, he can have several people arrange it, once they know what he wants. Beethoven is accusatory that Schindler has been gossiping about the Akademie, since Leopold Sonnleither at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde somehow knows about his plan. Schindler denies that he has done so.

Kiesewetter and Sonnleithner can make preliminary inquiries about the idea of an Akademie at the Musikverein. But Beethoven needs to know in advance what he wants to ask of them. He should write to them and specify the details. “I now ask you most urgently to write soon to the Verein, so that you are relieved of the first concern [whether the Musikverein would be willing to host the concert, if they did not bear the expenses.] You will receive the answer right away.” It could be held at the Kärntnertor Theater’s Great Redoutensaal, or the Verein has the stage scaffolding necessary in place.

The copying work for the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis will need to be finished by a specified time in order to be ready for the concert. [Schindler is plainly unaware that the orchestration of the symphony is only partially completed, and the bulk of it exists only as continuity drafts and sketches. There is as of yet no full score of the work to copy.] It would be best if Beethoven can get someone to pay for those copying costs as part of the concert, without him having to front the money.

Schindler asks whether Brother Johann has told Ludwig his latest plan: he would take care of the copying expenses, if Ludwig would agree to his wishes. Ludwig, perhaps taken aback, asks what Johann wants for this uncharacteristic generosity. Johann wants to have a Duet or Quartet from the opera Melusine [Johann still seems unaware that Ludwig has done nothing on this opera] performed at the Akademie, and then he would sell the piece to the theater administration. That way a part of the copying costs would be covered. Ludwig seems to be amused by the creativity of his brother’s wheeling and dealing, because Schindler answers, “You can see from this that he is a better speculator than his great exalted brother. Ludwig observes this plan would not work, and Schindler has already told Johann as much.

Beethoven wonders whether Schuppanzigh is making a significant profit with his quartet concerts. Schindler thinks he must be; he has a large and well-to-do audience so they must be profitable. Ferdinand Piringer also wants to revive the Concerts spirituel, which had ceased after the death of Franz Xaver Gebauer in 1822. [Those concerts had frequently featured Beethoven works. Piringer will briefly revive the concert series in March and April of 1824 during Lent as four private concerts, rather than the more ambitious series of public concerts that had made up the series previously.]

Conversation Book 53, 21r-23v. The conversation continues uninterrupted into Conversation Book 54. This is a comparatively thick book of 46 leaves.

Kärntnertor Theater manager Louis Antoine Duport is doing well with the new ballet, Die Fee und der Ritter [The Fairy and the Knight] based on music by Rossini and other composers. “It pleases very much and is also said to be very beautiful.”

Schindler notices Beethoven’s hat is in terrible shape, and he jocularly accuses Beethoven of being a “Hat Tyrant.” [Beethoven’s shabby hat will become a running joke over the next month.]

The gossip is that Joseph Weigl has won the Kapellmeister position at St. Stephan’s, but it has not yet been formally announced. That was a great victory for Weigl, since his competitors had the advantage of significant patronage. [There will be more on this situation in coming weeks.]

Nephew Karl arrives at the apartment as Schindler is leaving. Schindler invites them both to come to the Josephstadt today to see the Cinderella opera. If they delay, then it will start to run into Karl’s rapidly-approaching examinations.

Once Schindler is gone, Karl is unenthused about the invitation. He thinks that the conductor at the Josephstadt is phlegmatic, and Rossini’s music to Aschenbrödl [La cenerentola (1817)] is hardly comparable with Isouard’s.

The housekeeper applicant from Saturday, January 17 shows up again, and writes in French, “I am not able in the kitchen, but I also know a bit about music.” She is promptly shown the door.

Conversation Book 54, 1r-1v. Many thanks to our friend Birthe Kibsgaard for her assistance in sorting out Schindler’s comments regarding Johann’s copying offer.

Beethoven appears to attend the second performance of Isouard’s opera Aschenbrödl at the Josephstadt Theater this evening, at Schindler’s invitation. It is unclear whether Karl joins him.