BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, July 16, 1823

Beethoven writes today to Ferdinand Ries in London. He was most pleased to receive Ries’ letter yesterday. The Diabelli Variations should be on their way to him now, or perhaps already received. [Beethoven had arranged for the copy to be sent back in May, but for various reasons it did not get sent until the beginning of July, after the work had already been published in Vienna, upsetting the plan for simultaneous publication and correspondingly higher fees.] Beethoven wasn’t able to put the dedication to Ries’ wife since he didn’t know her name, and asks Ries to write it in for him. Beethoven notes that the publishers in Vienna should be ashamed to call themselves that; they print Ries’ compositions but Ries gets nothing for it. Beethoven asks if there is any way he can help, perhaps acting as Ries’ agent in Vienna.

He thanks Ries for the fee for the 11 Bagatelles, op.119; that was quite satisfactory. [Ries had sent him 26 pounds, 5 shillings.] He warns Ries not to give anything to the King of England. [Beethoven was still angry about the failure of the then-Prince of Wales to acknowledge the dedication of Wellington’s Victory, op.91.] Ries should get whatever fee he can for the Variations. As far as an honorarium for the dedication, Beethoven would be happy with a kiss from Ries’ wife when he sees them in London. Beethoven notes that sometimes he writes guineas, and receives pounds sterling; he wonders if there is a difference between them. “Don’t get angry with a pauvre musicien autrichen [poor Austrian musician]. Really my situation is quite difficult. Also, I am writing a string quartet. Could this be offered to London’s musical or unmusical Jews?” [Only a few sketches for the quartet can be traced to 1823; most of the work on it was done in the second half of 1824, so Beethoven is again exaggerating the status of his ongoing projects.]

Brandenburg Letter 1703, Anderson Letter 1209. This letter is not known to survive; its text is known only from the transcription contained in Wegeler/Ries at p.157.

About today, or possibly one of the next two days, Beethoven is visited in Hetzendorf by Friedrich August Kanne, editor of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. They were very close friends, as Kanne is one of the few people who was able to use the familiar “du” with Beethoven without him taking it badly. Kanne notes that as a result of the thunderstorms last night in Vienna [which began Tuesday the 15th and continued through Thursday the 17th], there were fire alarms in Vienna due to the multiple lightning strikes. Kanne asks about Schindler, jokingly calling him “Schindelbein” [“shingle-legs” or “splint-legs.”] Beethoven no doubt had a good laugh at this, and Kanne writes, “If he only knew what I call him.”

Kanne says that “As an author, I want to gain my freedom through struggle; therefore I have scribbled so much.” These were sentiments that surely appealed by Beethoven. Kanne can’t stay for dinner, but he plans to come back again at 8 a.m. and work until noon in a little garden patch he has there; he would do that today but he can’t remember the number of his plot.

Their mutual friend Joseph Carl Bernard is engaged, and is to be married in November. Beethoven complains more about his eyes, and Kanne suggests it is an inflammation caused by drainage. They discuss prominent singers, and the issue of copyists comes up. Schlemmer is the best, of course. Kanne also likes Benjamin Gebauer, copyist at the Theater an der Wien, but Beethoven does not think very highly of him.

Rumor has it that the old Burgtheater, which once hosted operas, will be done away with; the Kärntertor Theater will become the Dramatic Theater, and the Theater an der Wien will become the Opera Theater. [As it happened, although most operas were performed at the Kärntnertor Theater, the Burgtheater struggled along until 1888.] Kanne complains that at the Theater an der Wien there aren’t any singers any more, and not even a full chorus. He had written a melodrama for them last year, The Iron Maiden, but without singers he doesn’t feel it would be possible to write another one.

The Missa Solemnis comes up, and Beethoven mentions that he has publishers interested at 1000 florins. Kanne is impressed; he would have to write two plays and two musicals to make that much. He only makes 100 florins per year editing the AMZ. The printer, Anton Strauss, keeps all the profits. He feels he dare not publish anything abroad without first submitting it to the Austrian censors. “Censorship here, publication abroad, otherwise prison.”

Conversation Book 35, 42v-46r.

Rossini Fever is still high in Vienna. Amongst the many advertisements for arrangements of Rossini’s operas in the Wiener Zeitung, today we see the announcement of the second volume in Sauer & Leidesdorf’s deluxe Complete Operas of Rossini, Mosè in Egitto, arranged for piano solo by M.J. Leidesdorf. The price of the opera for subscribers is 6 florins W.W.; the charge to nonsubscribers is 10 florins W.W.

Artaria & Co., which claims to have exclusive rights to four of Rossini’s operas, will have something to say about this series next week.