BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO, Tuesday, May 6, 1823

Unpaid assistant Anton Schindler visits Beethoven in the late morning, having just come from Attorney Bach. Bach would like very much to see Beethoven for just a moment before he goes out to the country. If Beethoven wishes, it could also be a longer visit.

Schindler writes that “the old woman” [housekeeper Barbara Holzmann] reports Brother Johann sends his greetings. He will come over after he has had a chance to rest. [At this point, Johann lived next door.]

Schindler asks whether Schuppanzigh has been by to visit yet. Schuppanzigh had to pay 100 florins for his concert Sunday night, which explains why the ticket prices were so unusually high. [The AMZ of July 2, 1823 also complained about the prices of the tickets.]

Beethoven is once again thinking of purchasing a country home. Schindler says that it would be fine, if this weren’t an “absolutely miserable” time for buying real estate, and there is good reason to think it may become even worse. Baron Prónay paid 50 thousand for his estate, and he has put another 50 thousand into its beautification. And a prime location will also add several thousand to the cost.

Schindler suggests that Brother Johann be invited for asparagus. “He likes it very much.” Johann now has a cook who is especially good. They fear she may not stay long, though, because she is used to being in larger households. Therese leaves everything to her. She cooks whatever she likes, and they are always satisfied with her choices. “She is the exact opposite of your old woman, however, in that she does everything in the most precise way. There is never too much of something, but often too little, says your brother.” He pays her 10 florins per month, though she has always before gotten 19-20 florins. She is between 36 and 38 years old. But she doesn’t understand washing very well. “Tell your brother that he should relinquish his cook to you.” Johann says the cook is always sick.

Beethoven asks about the linens that Johann was supposed to get for him [perhaps the 14 shirts on yesterday’s shopping list.] Schindler says that everything has been bought, but it’s too much to carry over here. Ludwig should go next door and look at it. Johann will bring the receipt tomorrow.

Conversation Book 32, 28v-32r.

Beethoven writes several letters today. The first is to Louis Schlösser, and encloses with it letters to composer Luigi Cherubini and publisher Moritz Schlesinger, to be delivered when Schlösser goes to Paris. Beethoven suggests that Schlösser should ask publisher Sigmund A. Steiner if he can use Steiner’s apartment in Paris. Beethoven asks that he also give Cherubini his best personally, and his desire that we soon get a new opera from him. Beethoven asks that Schlösser tell Cherubini, “that I have the highest respect for him, out of all of our contemporaries.” Beethoven hopes Cherubini he has received his letter, and that he may hope to get a few lines back from him. [Cherubini after Beethoven’s death denied ever receiving the letter asking for help in getting King Louis XVIII to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis.]

When Schlösser delivers the letter to Schlesinger, he should ask why there have been no copies of the piano sonata op.111 sent to Beethoven for himself yet. Beethoven asks that Schlösser let him know as soon as the letters have been delivered. He cautions that Schlösser should make sure to pay sufficient postage; otherwise in Paris they just stick the letter in a box and never deliver it.

The letter to Cherubini [Brandenburg 1646] does not survive; the envelope, however does, so it appears to have made its way to the addressee, unlike the March letter Brandenburg 1611. The letter to Schlesinger, Brandenburg 1648, similarly is not known to survive. According to the registration date written on the preceding letter from Beethoven in February, the letter to Schlesinger is dated May 7. The forwarding letter to Schlösser is Brandenburg Letter 1645, Anderson Letter 1176, and is kept at the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection BBr 51, which can be seen here:

This is very likely the occasion on which Beethoven makes a parting gift to Schlösser of the little canon, “Edel sei der Mensch, hülfriech und gut,” WoO 185. The line is from Goethe’s poem, “Das Göttliche.” The whereabouts of the original are unknown, but a transcription is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection, Mh 39.

Schlösser’s account of the gift is as follows: “In the morning, exactly one day before my trip, he came into my room. I was beside myself with joy and amazement. He just wanted to see me again, he began, and say goodbye to me. He wouldn’t stay any longer than necessary, and would only hand me the promised letters to Cherubini and Schlesinger, both of which were unsealed because of the mail. In response to my repeated assurances, of course in writing, that I gratefully acknowledge his kindness, and that I would take care of his instructions as soon as possible upon my arrival in Paris, he continued, ‘I brought a little souvenir with me. I know that you attach some importance to it, but even if you do not want it, take it, take it as a token of my friendship and my affection.’ After that, he pulled out of his pocket a sheet of paper with the heading, ‘Words by Göthe, Tones by Beethoven, Vienna, May 1823.’ It was a Canon for six voices on the words, Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut! ‘Travel happily my dear Herr Schlösser, may everything come to you as you wish. Your devoted Beethoven. ‘” Schlösser, Erinnerungen, p.416.

This was not the only time that Beethoven wrote a canon on this text; another version, WoO 151, was written for Baroness Eskeles in January 1823.

Accentus here performs WoO 185: