BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, July 9, 1823

Beethoven is visited in Hetzendorf by piano maker Matthäus Andreas Stein and musical pedagogue Friedrich Wieck (1785-1873) of Leipzig, owner of a piano factory. Wieck is also the father of a three-year-old daughter who will eventually become Clara Schumann (1819-1896), concert pianist and wife of Robert Schumann.

Portrait of Friedrich Wieck by an unknown artist, about 1840, courtesy of the Robert-Schumann-Haus Zwickau.

Stein’s immediate business today is to deliver the 50 ducats for the Russian Czar’s subscription to the Missa Solemnis. Stein offers to take the package of the scores for Prince Galitzin; the next mail to St. Petersburg will go in 14 days, and there was one that went just yesterday. [The scores for the Russians are not finished, but Beethoven probably does not tell Stein that. Since Beethoven knows Galitzin is currently in Karlsbad, he more likely uses that fact to decline Stein’s offer.] Stein also delivers a letter from Schindler, announcing the arrival of “50 armored horsemen as the Russian contingent to do battle under your flag for the Fatherland….Herr Stein has been commissioned to arrange quarters for them with you. There is nothing new about our neighbors.” The last sentence, written in French, was an oblique reference to brother Johann, who lived next door to Ludwig’s apartment in the City, and his troubles with illness and his family. Brandenburg Letter 1696, Albrecht Letter 329. The original, dated today, is in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut. 36,74).

Wieck fifty years later recounted the story of his visit to Beethoven. Other than erroneously recalling the visit was in Hietzing in 1826, his account matches the Conversation Book version of their visit quite consistently. His story as follows is found in Sonneck, Beethoven: Impressions by his Contemporaries at pp. 207-209:

“I was introduced to Beethoven by his and my own genial friend, the famous instrument-maker Andreas Stein, as a tone-poet and writer who had devoted much attention to improving deafness and to ear-trumpets, and spent several hours with him. Otherwise, according to Stein’s experiences, he would not have received me.

“Under the ruddy grapes the conversation turned on musical conditions in Leipzig-Rochlitz-Schicht [the recently-deceased Thomaskantor in Leipzig]-the Gewandhaus-his own housekeeper-his many lodgings, none of which really suited him-his promenades-Hietzing [probably meaning Hetzendorf]-Schönbrunn-his brother-various silly asses in Vienna-aristocracy-democracy-revolution-Napoleon-[female operatic singers] Mara, Catalani, Malibran, Fodor-and the gifted [male] singers Lablache, Donzelli, Rubini, etc.-the perfected Italian opera (German opera never could attain perfection owing to the language, and because the Germans could not sing as well as the Italians) and my opinion anent piano playing-the Archduke Rudolph-Fuchs, then a famous musical personage in Vienna-my improved method of piano instruction, etc.-all with the most rapid, continuous writing on my part (for he asked frequent and hasty questions) and with continual stoppages. For he grasped the whole when I had only completed my answer in part; yet all was done with a certain heartfelt sincerity, even in his utterances of despair, and with a deep inward rolling of his eyes and clutchings at his head and hair. All was rough, at times, perhaps, a little rude, yet noble, elegiac, soulful, well-principled, enthusiastic, anticipatory of political mishap. And then?

“Then he improvised for me during an hour, after he had mounted his ear-trumpet and placed it on the resonance-plate on which already stood the pretty well battered, large grand piano [Beethoven’s beloved Broadwood,] with its very powerful, rough tone, which had been presented to him by the city of London. He played in a flowing, genial manner, for the most part orchestrally, and was still quite adept in the passing over of the right and left hands (a few times he missed the mark), weaving in the clearest and most charming melodies, which seemed to stream to him unsought, most of the time keeping his eyes turned upward, and with close-gathered fingers.

“After three hours of the greatest tension, with a beating heart, after the most laborious and rapid writing, and the utmost exertions to return brief and appropriate replies, which he constantly interrupted with new queries, my whole being was filled with profoundest respect, as well as the sincerest joy that such good luck had been my portion.

“Then, too, there was the wine-drinking, to which I was unaccustomed! After a hearty farewell-and the prospect held out to him that he still would find the right ear-trumpet in the end because science now was making great discoveries in acoustics-I crept away with Andreas Stein quite exhausted and dissolved in the strangest sensations and excited by the whole unprecedented affair, and drove rapidly back home again.”

See also Conversation Book 35, 31v-35v. Wieck recounted in the Conversation Book that Doctors Samuel Friedrich Hanemann (1755-1843) and Moritz Wilhelm Müller (1784-1849), were having success in treating hardness of hearing through homeopathy, sometimes in a matter of four to six weeks. Hahnemann was the founder of homeopathy. Wieck says Hahnemann cured his wife’s cramps permanently within 4 weeks. But exercise in the open air, in all weather, is key.

Wieck also raises the problematic subject of Leipzig publisher C.F. Peters. Wieck suggests that he is one of the finest publishers and should get some of Beethoven’s immortal works. When Beethoven reacts badly [Peters rejected Beethoven’s compositions as unworthy of him, along with casual anti-Semitism against publisher Adolf Schlesinger], Wieck backs up and agrees that Peters is not a musical connoisseur, but is otherwise fine. Beethoven also demonstrates impatience with Wieck’s questions about new symphonies and a new opera, cutting him off mid-word.

As Wieck is going, he notes that his daughter Clara does not like Vienna and is very dissatisfied there. Beethoven probably agreed with her on that point. Clara will nevertheless in 1837-1838 take Vienna by storm at the age of 18, winning acclaim as she performs Beethoven’s “Appassionata” sonata and others. But little Clara is not yet a pianist in the summer of 1823, and will only begin receiving piano lessons from her mother Mariane Wieck, a prominent Leipzig singer and tutor, over the next year.

There are no more Conversation Book entries over the next four days, until Sunday, July 13. Beethoven probably had no visitors in Hetzendorf and would have had some uninterrupted time to work on the last two movements of the Ninth Symphony. Or he may have spent that time stewing about Brother Johann and his unfaithful wife.

Today’s Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (Nr. 28) at col. 450 reports of a revival of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, op.72, in Cassel (now Kassel) after a long absence. “Beethoven’s Fidelio, already a favorite opera of our audience, received unanimous support. Herr Gerstäcker’s Florestan was masterful in every respect. Only Herr Berthold (Rokko [sic]) left the impression of coldness, but as we learned later on was the result of an indisposition. Dem. Brown (Fidelio) performed the difficult and tiring role to everyone’s satisfaction.”

The same issue at col. 451 discloses that at the fourth subscription concert of the Cassel orchestra, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony op.68 was the opening piece, while the Fifth Symphony, op.67 was performed at the seventh concert.

The Wiener Zeitung for today includes an advertisement by Sauer & Leidesdorf for Ferdinand Ries Rondeau for Pianoforte on a Scottish Theme, op.102/2. The publisher also notes that forthcoming to press are several new works by Ries. Those will include Ries’ Fourth Piano Concerto, which will be the subject of discussion by Beethoven in a few weeks.