BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, May 8, 1822

Beethoven’s one-time factotum, unpaid secretary, and constant companion Franz Oliva, who as you will recall obtained a three-month visa to go to Russia on business for his employer in December 1820 but never came back, is in hot water with the Austrian government. Today a summons is issued by the government for Oliva to explain why he has not returned to Vienna as was required by the terms of his visa.

The summons is most likely not general public knowledge until it is published in the June 1, 1822 Wiener Zeitung. However, given Beethoven’s connections with the court and various government officials, as well as numerous journalists, he probably learns about the summons within the next few weeks.

Today’s Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung published in Leipzig, at column 310, has an odd and gossipy entry about Beethoven. “Miscellany. Our Beethoven seems to be becoming more receptive to music, which he has avoided almost like a misogynist due to his increasing hearing problems. He has fantasized masterfully several times in a social circle to everyone’s delight, and proved that he still knows how to treat his instrument with strength, joy and love. It is to be hoped that the art world will see the glorious fruits of this much desired change.” These private performances may have occurred in March; most of this issue is devoted to an overview of the performances at the Kärntnertor theatre during the month of March. But nothing else appears to be known about them, if they ever actually occurred. Given the erratic state of Beethoven’s health in the first quarter of 1822, and his increasingly severe hearing problems, the truth of this claim seems dubious.

S.A. Steiner & Co. today announces in the Wiener Zeitung the publication of a new piano quintet in E-flat minor, op.87, by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). Steiner also offers the quintet in a version for two pianos, also by the composer. Hummel was friends with Beethoven, and they both studied with Haydn and Salieri at about the same time.

Hummel’s delightful quintet is here performed on period instruments by Hausmusik, led by violinist Monica Huggett, with Cyril Huvé on the fortepiano.

Oddly, although Steiner publishes Beethoven’s Merres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt, op.112, at about the same time, there are no advertisements in the Wiener Zeitung for that work. Perhaps the intimidating forces required (a full chorus and orchestra) did not give Steiner much hope for popular sales of the work, but as we saw on April 19th, Steiner also went to the trouble of having a piano reduction arranged by someone and corrected by Beethoven, but Steiner does not advertise that reduction either.