BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, October 31, 1822 (approximately)

Beethoven has by now moved back to Vienna and is getting settled into his new apartment at Obere Pfarrgasse 60, Windmühle, now 22 Laimgrubengasse. The conversation book for the next few days, Nr. 18, survives! The chronology in the book is messy, since the pages appear to have been used out of order, with leaves 21r through 27v being used today, before leaves 1r through 20v. We have followed the probable reconstruction by the German and English editors of the conversation books. This first entry might possibly come from a day before or a day after October 31.

In any event, Beethoven’s belongings are being returned from Baden bei Wien, as Karl notes that there are four trunks, with a charge of 20 fl 20 kr. all told. [Theodore Albrecht notes that it may be in the course of this conversation that Beethoven notices one trunk is missing.] There is interest on the part of various women to do household work for Beethoven. “The short woman” [or possibly a woman named Klein] who had previously been Beethoven’s housekeeper once and maid another time, has been around several times to inquire. In addition, “the old woman” [Barbara Holzmann] is interested in coming back into Beethoven’s service. She notes that at the countess’s where she was working, there was a newly-invented fuel-saving stove that Beethoven might like.

Karl appears to be living with uncle Ludwig, at least until he gets settled, and he comments that the house is full of common people. For several days the same maid has been standing at the house door with her lover. The housekeeper is sent to check into the fuel-saving stove, but there doesn’t need to be a separate stove in the servant’s room.

There is some discussion about the actor Küstner (pseudonym for Joseph Reichel (1787-1821), actor and stage director at the Theater an der Wien, who had shot himself nearly a year ago). A painter who watched him attempt suicide is portraying the event on painted tin boxes and selling them. Karl passes on gossip about Küstner, who apparently wanted to cut his contract with the Theater an der Wien short to work at the Burg theater. He forged the owner’s signature on the release, then killed himself in shame. Karl notes suicide is not as common here in Vienna as in Paris, where people gamble everything away playing faro in the Palais Royal. There is a pistol seller upstairs there, who will rent you a pistol to commit suicide with your last groschen. [These rather offhand and jocular comments are portentous in hindsight, given that Karl will in a few years attempt suicide with a pistol.]

Karl also relates an anecdote about a young man who was sent somewhere with a 1000 florin banknote. On the way, the young man saw a game of chance and he thought he would gamble with a 5 florin note he had. But he accidentally used the 1000-florin note without noticing it. He won, receiving 2,000 florins. Amazed and overjoyed at his good luck, he foolishly told his boss what had happened, but he was fired. The boss said, “Young Man, take the 1,000 fl. that you have won, but leave my house this very day, because how am I to install a man as administrator of my cashier’s office when he cannot tell 1,000 fl. from 5 fl?”

Beethoven makes a note he needs to buy a coffee spoon. Karl reminds uncle Ludwig that his school fees are due. The schoolbooks for the first course cost 7 florin at the used book shop; brand new they cost 30 florins. Karl then steps out for at least two hours. On his return, he says that the vice-director was satisfied with his certificate of studies, but not with his testimonial letters. He has an appointment to meet with the vice-director again tomorrow.

The short woman [or Frau Klein] is bombarding Karl with questions. Karl met with Cajetan Giannatasio del Rio, who ran one of Karl’s former boarding schools. He introduced Karl to his family, but no one so much as recognized him, though they knew him well. Apparently Karl has grown and changed much, since they all claimed they had never met him and were astonished when they found out who he was. They asked him to return soon, especially in the evenings when the whole family would be there. Two members of their family now have hearing illnesses. Karl will be going to college for the first time on Monday, November 4, his name day. Karl and Ludwig have a short discussion about screwdrivers before the day’s lengthy entries conclude. (Heft 18, f. 21r-27v).

On this evening Kapellmeister Hermstedt gives a concert in Berlin, performing on the clarinet. Together with one of the four clarinet concerti by Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859), the program includes an arrangement of Beethoven’s song “Adelaide” op.46, in which Hermstedt accompanies the vocalist, Herr Bader. “The listeners were quite deeply moved, and the applause extraordinary.” Herr Bader, with every aspect “of his beautiful voice and dramatic acting finds the expression in the magnificent tonal work.” Vienna Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr. 95 p.758 (November 27, 1822).

A clarinet version of Adelaide is played here by Chad Burrow, accompanied by Amy I-Lin Cheng, piano.