Beethoven’s missing trunks

After Beethoven’s biographer and sometime secretary Anton Schindler (inset) was exposed as having forged certain entries in the composer’s conversation books, scholarly suspicions were raised regarding all of Schindler’s activities—not least, he was blamed for the 22-month gap in his collection of these books, from mid-September 1820 to June 1822. Since his forgeries had tended toward self-aggrandizement, many scholars assumed that Schindler had destroyed these priceless documents because they somehow undermined the image that he wanted to project.

An article in the Stuttgart Morgenblatt on 5 November 1823 absolves Schindler of this crime. In it, Johann Sporschil profiled the composer in glowing terms and added, by way of a human interest angle, that Beethoven had lost a great deal of his correspondence when he had recently moved from the country to the city. The gap in the missing correspondence exactly matches the gap in the conversation books, indicating that both sets of documents were lost in one or more of the trunks that the composer himself had, in a surviving letter, rued having had to transport.

This according to “Anton Schindler as destroyer and forger of Beethoven’s conversation books: A case for decriminalization” by Theodore Albrecht, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history. Above, a page from one of the surviving conversation books.

More posts about Beethoven are here.


Filed under Classic era, Curiosities