BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, January 22, 1823 (approximately)

Beethoven makes a to-do list (most of which are tasks for his new unpaid assistant Anton Schindler), including having his violins repaired and ordering some Austrian wine. He is also thinking about bequests under his will.

Beethoven writes to Schindler, in the morning a day or two before January 23, enclosing a calendar that includes the addresses for foreign embassies and legations to the court of Austria. You may recall that Beethoven had sent a letter in late December inquiring about obtaining a copy of this particular calendar, apparently for this express purpose. Beethoven hopes that Schindler can extract the necessary information expeditiously to speed the subscription process along. He warns that if his “Lord Brother” interferes, Schindler should cooperate with him. If he does not, they will experience suffering instead of joy.

Beethoven also asks Schindler to “find a philanthropist who will lend me money on a bank share, so that I don’t have to rely on the generosity of my only friends in the world, the B[rentanos].” Beethoven does not want to be financially embarrassed by his lack of cash, for which he has to thank the wonderful arrangements of his dear brother. He tells Schindler it would be nice if he showed up to [a coffeehouse in the suburb of] Mariahilf this afternoon at half past 3 or tomorrow morning.

Brandenburg Letter 1524, Anderson Letter 1125. The original is in the Berlin State Library, aut. 36,45. The first two pages are written in pencil, traced in ink by Schindler. The words “only” and “in the world” may be additions by Schindler, as well as the B for Brentanos. That is, the original may have read simply, “so that I don’t have to rely on the generosity of my friends.”

This letter gets the ball rolling for the solicitations of subscriptions to the nobility for the Missa Solemnis, which Schindler will write over the next few days. The reference to finding someone who will lend on the bank share finds Beethoven putting Schindler immediately in the role Franz Oliva had served; as an employee at a mercantile establishment that did banking, Oliva had been well connected to perform such a service. Schindler, a former law student and musician, is far less qualified to conduct such a search for Beethoven.

Coincidentally, the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, January 22, 1823 (Nr. 4 at col.56) announces that “Beethoven has now also completed his second great Mass, and will perform it in a concert during the coming Lenten season. He is currently supposed to be busy composing a new symphony.” While it is true that Beethoven now considers the Missa Solemnis completed (though he will continue to make changes into the spring of 1823), and is hard at work on his Ninth Symphony, the premiere of the Mass does not occur until May of 1824.

Schindler, possibly having already received the letter, comes by Beethoven’s apartment in the afternoon to discuss the subscriptions and other financial matters. Another issue facing Beethoven, which he will need to discuss with attorney Johann Baptist Bach, is the debt of 800 fl. owed to publisher S.A. Steiner, who has been threatening legal collection action. Beethoven wonders whether certain songs could instead be given to Steiner as an interest payment. [Ted Albrecht suggests that these might be the four Irish folk songs from WoO 157, which were already in Steiner’s possession since 1815.]

As an immediate step, Beethoven may need to sell one of his eight precious bank shares, which he had been hoping to keep as an inheritance for nephew Karl. Schindler warns him not to be too hasty about selling the Missa Solemnis, as he would likely give it away if he sold it to a publisher for 1000 florins; Schindler thinks he can receive four times that amount from the various courts. [At the proposed subscription rate of 50 ducats, at 4.5 florins per ducat, each copy would sell for 225 florins, so to meet Schindler’s forecast, they would need to sell 18 subscriptions, an optimistic but not impossible task.] Schindler says he has filled Bach in about the subscription plan. Schindler shares Beethoven’s distrust of his sister-in-law Therese.

Schindler had stopped by the Bavarian ambassador’s offices earlier today to let them know that the subscription solicitations will be coming, only to find that he had already been thoroughly briefed by ambassador Tettenborn. In any event, he will write to all of the German ambassadors today, and strike quickly as Tettenborn had urged. The letters to kings and nobles outside Germany will follow in later rounds of correspondence.

Schindler again affirms he has already told Bach about the issues with Steiner. He is excited about Bach’s suggestion of how to deal with Steiner and these songs: Beethoven could make small changes to the pieces, then resell them to someone else and Steiner could not raise any objection against it. In Bach’s view, Steiner has committed fraud against by Beethoven by taking his works and letting them lie dormant for years.

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