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The Conversation Books

Donald Macleod leafs through the notebooks used by Beethoven’s circle to converse in writing with the deaf composer.

Donald Macleod leafs through the notebooks used by Beethoven’s circle to converse in writing with the deaf composer.

This week Donald Macleod is joined by Beethoven scholar Erica Buurman and biographer Jan Swafford to investigate some the many documents and papers that Beethoven left behind after his death, which are now scattered in archives and collections across the world. Donald and his guests explore high-quality, digital facsimiles of Beethoven’s most personal records including his letters, notebooks and journals; scouring them for clues to his relationships, his work and his everyday life.

Composer of the Week is returning to the story of Beethoven’s life and music throughout 2020. Part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Unleashed season marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Sonata for Cello and Piano Op.69, II. Scherzo
Mischa Maisky, cello
Martha Argerich, piano

Fidelio: Act 1 No.1: Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein
Christoph Strehl, tenor (Jaquino)
Rachel Harnisch, soprano (Marzelline)
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Conducted by Claudio Abbado

Piano Trio, Op. 97 ‘Archduke’, III. Andante Cantabile, Ma Però con Moto – Poco più Adagio
Trio Owon

Triple Concerto, Op.56, I. Allegro
Gordan Nikolitch, violin
Tim Hugh, cello
Lars Vogt, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Bernard Haitink

19 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Cello Sonata in A major, Op 69 (2nd movement)

    Performer: Mischa Maisky. Performer: Martha Argerich.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOP : 437-514-2.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOP.
    • 2.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Fidelio, Act I No.1: Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein

    Singer: Christoph Strehl. Singer: Rachel Harnisch. Orchestra: Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Orchestra: Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Conductor: Claudio Abbado.
    • DECCA : 478-2551.
    • DECCA.
    • 2.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Piano Trio in B flat major, Op 97 'Archduke' (3rd movement)

    Ensemble: Trio Owon.
    • DECCA : 4810701.
    • DECCA.
    • 3.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Triple Concerto in C major, Op 56 (1st movement)

    Performer: Gordan Nikolitch. Performer: Timothy Hugh. Performer: Lars Vogt. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Bernard Haitink.
    • LSO0078.
    • LSO0078.
    • 5.

Examples from Beethoven’s Conversation Books

Examples from Beethoven’s Conversation Books

As his hearing deteriorated, Beethoven began carrying notebooks, in which his companions would write down questions and comments.  Here are links to some examples from Beethoven’s  Conversation Books, as mentioned in this programme, from the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

Here’s an exchange with his nephew Karl, from August 1825, talking about dinner arrangements and grocery shopping!

Here, in December 1826, Karl is teaching Beethoven how to multiply:

Here are some visually interesting pages from Nov/Dec 1819, providing a look at the different ways in which the conversation books were used.

  • Fol. 6r: Oliva (friend and secretary) having a conversation mostly about business things. Oliva’s writing is neat.
  • Fol. 6v (the following page): the messy scrawl in the middle is Beethoven making notes, copying an ad from that day’s newspaper - Official’s widow seeks employment as housekeeper - inquire at the chocolate shop – No682 Rothgässel. On either side the newspaper’s editor, Joseph Bernard is making short remarks, including “sometime on a Sunday we’ll go to Klosterneuburg”:

Here is Beethoven, with his male friends Peters and Bernard, having a talk about women in 1820:

And finally, here's an example where his friend Schindler (who kept these books when Beethoven died) has altered an entry to show himself in a good light (from 30 March – 1 April 1824):


Broadcast

  • Thu 2 Jul 2020 12:00

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