May 19, 2014

Agnes Selby: Constanze, Mozart's Beloved (Wien: Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag 2013)

Why the Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag published a second edition of this smorgasbord of howlers, whose first edition in 1999 had already been the laughing stock of Mozart scholarship, is a total mystery. Agnes Selby is completely ignorant of the recent Mozart literature. She has to quote Mozart's letters from Emily Anderson's out-dated edition and simply repeats all the old popular nonsense that has been debunked ages ago. This book literally runs over with hogwash and could be turned into a successful comedy program, easily providing endless laughter for attendees of a meeting of musicologists.


A piece of popular literature like this does really not deserve a detailed review. But because this opus has been republished and contains passages that are so outrageously funny, I want to quote some of them and point out some of the most glaring mistakes it contains. Selby has an uncanny ability to create what I call "Selbyisms": statements that sparkle with so much nonsense that they are irresistibly funny. For example (from p. 96): 
Mozart had more immediate problems. He was known to be a Freemason and the French revolution had been fostered by French Freemasons who were in contact with their Viennese brethren. King[sic!] Leopold's secret police were well informed about the Lodges in Vienna and soon those connected with Freemasonry were discharged from their government posts.
Where to begin in the face of such ignorance? After the unification of the Lodges by Joseph II in 1785 the Freemasons had to register by name. They were completely harmless and under control. Hence they posed no threat at all to the Court and nobody was discharged from a government post. Even professors at the university (such as Franz Schubert's patron Heinrich Watteroth) were Freemasons. The French Revolution had not "been fostered by the French Freemasons" (it is immensely funny to imagine those French Freemasons beating down the Bastille with their trowels and to visualize all the suddenly unemployed noblemen wandering the streets of Vienna). Mozart's Vienna is presented as a kind of fairytale paradise. That nonsense like this is being published in 2013 by a publishing house that calls itself a Wissenschaftsverlag is truly amazing:
The Vienna that Constanze encountered was unlike any other city in Europe. The population was so homogeneously united that only the epithet 'Viennese' fits its description. There was no question of 'nationality' as such among the inhabitants of Vienna, where Magyars, Bohemians, Slovaks and Slovenes, Germans, Italians and Poles rubbed shoulders in good humour. (p. 23)
This description of the eighteenth-century Viennese population is completely false and obviously caused by Selby's mistaken concept that the Ringstraßenzeit of the late 1900s – when huge numbers of people from all parts of the monarchy moved to Vienna – took place one hundred years earlier. Mozart's Vienna was not "unlike any other city in Europe" and at that time only an extremely small part of the city's population were foreigners.
The modest sum of 31 kreutzer would purchase a meal consisting of two meat dishes, soup, vegetables and unlimited bread with a litre[!] of wine. Because people were generous, even industrious citizens accepted the fact that some individuals might prefer begging to working, extreme poverty was practically nonexistent and those who made begging their profession often profited handsomely by it. (p. 23)
Of course the price of 31 kreuzer for such a meal is based on pure fantasy. And extreme poverty could be found everywhere in Mozart's Vienna. Here is another classic (from p. 32): 
In an amazing display of ill-will Leopold Mozart accused Constanze of being a slut.
Of course Leopold Mozart did no such thing and this insult cannot be found anywhere in the Mozart letters. Selby's slanderous claim (which she has repeatedly presented on various websites and internet forums) is based on her deep hatred of Leopold Mozart and her pathological jealousy of all people who in her opinion were not fond enough of Constanze. There are more of these priceless statements (p. 71):
Mozart had many opportunities to gamble. Mozart's concerts at the Mehlgrube Casino were always followed by gambling tables being set up to allow the aristocracy to participate in their favorite sport. [...] Gambling was also endemic in Salzburg.
There was no public gambling in Joseph II's Vienna, because gambling (except for the state lottery) was illegal. It was also illegal in deeply Catholic Salzburg. That "men would gamble at street corners" in Salzburg (as claimed by Selby) is pure nonsense. All through her book Selby mistakenly thinks that the word "Casino" refers to a gambling venue. The word "Casino" in eighteenth-century Vienna referred to a venue for social gatherings and events. The book's low scholarly flight level becomes apparent in Selby's imagining Mozart in Prague, losing money to Casanova in a series of card games: 
Casanova was an inveterate gambler who could never resist tempting his friends with a game of cards and it would not be inconceivable that Mozart lost considerable sums to him." (p. 85)
One can only wonder: where was Constanze and why could Mozart's guardian angel not forestall her husband's nightly activities? Emperor Franz II – one of the most hardworking monarchs of all time – is described by Selby in the following inimitable way:
Franz II lived through this period as though in a dream, occupying himself with gardening, attending to his family and walking through the streets of Vienna dressed as just another burgher enjoying a bit of window shopping.
Some of the most glaring nonsense to be found in this book is already well-known from Selby's longstanding and relentless self-praising activities on the Web. The problem is that all these sparkling bloopers should really not be republished in 2013. Here are some of the most impressive examples (and this list is far from complete):
  • That Joseph Lange signed a document "which bound him to grant his widowed mother-in-law an annual income of 700 ducats" (p. 23) is of course false. Lange promised to pay Cäcilia Weber 700 gulden which is less than a quarter of the sum given by Selby. That at the time of her wedding Aloysia Weber was already pregnant is still an unproven assumption.
  • That Gottfried van Swieten was "dismissed from the Imperial Service on suspicion of participating in the Freemasons' conspiracy of 1791" (p. 35) is a piece of gross misinformation that Robbins Landon presented in his book Mozart: The Golden Years. There was no "Freemasons' conspiracy of 1791". Van Swieten was dismissed by the Emperor "in good grace", because of their differing views concerning the universities' role in science and the freedom of education that was part of van Swieten's political concept.
  • Like many amateur Mozart researchers Selby mixes up the family of Adam Isaac Arnsteiner (1721-1785) with that of his daughter-in-law Fanny Arnstein. Fanny Arnstein did not "occupy the house at Graben No. 1175" (p. 35), her father-in-law Arnsteiner lived there on the second floor and he also was Mozart's landlord.
  • "Johann Thorwart was an altogether unpleasant and unsavory character". As a matter of fact we have absolutely no documentary information concerning Thorwart's character. Selby is just jealous of him and picks her negative judgement out of thin air.
  • Selby is unable to let go of the story regarding the music supposedly performed at Mozart's wedding dinner: "During the dinner Constanze was surprised by the unexpected performance of Mozart's Serenade in B-flat (K. 361)." (p. 40) This alleged performance is a myth which may have been caused by a sentence that was willfully added into one of Mozart's letters in Nissen's Mozart biography. There is absolutely no documentary evidence to support it.
  • On p. 50 Selby claims that on the occasion of the christening of Mozart's first child Raimund Leopold on 17 June 1783 "Baron Wetzlar could not be present due to the death of his father". What looks like very educated information, is based on pure fantasy. Wetzlar's father Karl Abraham Wetzlar von Plankenstern died but on 3 September 1799
  • The information that "Neustift suburb No. 250 is now Lerchenfelder Straße[sic] No. 65" (p. 52) is false. As Hans Rotter published in 1925 and I have explained on this blog it is Mariahilfer Straße 94.
  • That Mozart "composed the two duets for violin and viola for Michael Haydn [...] who was ill (supposedly due to heavy drinking)" (p. 53) is a fairy tale that has been debunked by Mozart scholarship a long time ago. It should really not reappear in a book released by a publishing house that calls itself a Wissenschaftsverlag.
  • Maynard Solomon's estimates concerning Mozart's income that Selby copied into her book are based on speculations. They have absolutely no basis in archival sources.
  • "The banns for their marriage were read at the Theatines Chappel." (p. 39) No, they were not. Everybody who has seen Mozart's marriage entry knows that he and Constanze were exempt from the three readings of the banns. Furthermore no banns were ever read at this chapel, because it was not a parish church. Mozart and his bride visited this chapel to go to confession and to get the "Beichtzettel" (certificates of confession) which they needed for the wedding.

A typical Viennese "Beichtzettel" of the composer Joseph Eybler (A-Wkhm, Archiv der Burgpfarre)
  •  "After Lodge meetings, Mozart would join his brother Freemasons at the Cafe Jüngling, whose owner, Johann Jüngling belonged to the Lodge 'Zur neugekrönten Hoffnung'. There the men would sit down to dinner after which they gambled well into the early morning." (p. 63). There was no "Cafe Jüngling" in 1785, because Johann Jüngling (1762-1835) became the owner of this coffee house only in 1791. There was also no gambling at this Cafe. The whole scenario of this supposed "Freemasons' Casino" is the product of one of Selby's countless brain bubbles, obviously triggered by abysmally flawed secondary literature.
  • The "ballet story" concerning Le nozze di Figaro is nice, but it has been shown ages ago that it is purely fictional. There is no documentary confirmation that dancers were hired for the complete production of Figaro in 1786.
  • Franz de Paula Hofer's annual salary in 1788 at St. Stephen's Cathedral was 25 gulden, but (like another writer, who in her new book calls Hofer a "penniless violinist") Selby is unaware of the fact that Hofer was a court musician and held several well-paid jobs simultaneously. Why should Josepha Weber have married a poor church mouse? At the time of his death, Hofer was making 360 gulden a year at the Court and 100 gulden at St. Stephen's and he had additional jobs at other churches. Selby's claim (p. 142) that he "left Josepha and their daughter burdened with enormous debts" is simply false. Franz Hofer's debts were managable: unlike Mozart he had actually joined the Tonkünstler-Sozietät to secure the livelihood of his widow and child. Between the death of her first husband on 14 June 1796 and her second marriage on 23 December 1797, Josepha Hofer was paid a pension from the Tonkünstler-Sozietät which according to § 15 of the society's regulations in 1797, was passed on to her daughter who received it until 1813, the year she got married to Karl Hönig.

An unpublished document, issued on 21 July 1788 by the "Stadtwiener Conscriptions Amt", stating that Franz Hofer "is 31 years of age, Catholic, was born in Vienna, is employed as K.K. Hof-Capell Musicus, has been living at Stadt 587 for twelve years" and that "the conscription office does not object to his marriage". The information in Deutsch that Hofer only became a court musician in 1789, is false.
  • Landstraße No. 224 was not "a large house". It was rather small. The Danish actor Joachim Daniel Preisler did not visit the Mozarts in 1787 at Landstraße No. 224, but in 1788 at Alsergrund No. 135.

A groundplan of the front section of the house Landstraße No. 224 where Mozart lived in 1787 (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt, Baukonsens 87/1833)
  • Nannerl Mozart did not "retain all the valuable gifts given to the young Mozart". The list which was drawn up on the occasion of the auction of Leopold Mozart's belongings, proves that those gifts had been sold by Leopold many years earlier. Selby's description of the distribution of Leopold Mozart's estate is based on Solomon's erroneous speculation and is therefore completely false. Nannerl did not "receive 6,000 to 10,000 florins from her father". As I explained in detail in 2012, Solomon's theory is based on a miscalculation of Nannerl's heritage from her husband, who not only bequeathed to his widow an annual pension of 300 gulden from the interests of her children's share, but also the main share of his estate of 22,000 gulden. Selby's descripton of the events after Leopold's death is rife with unfounded speculation and – as always – driven by hatred towards all of Constanze's "less well-meaning" contemporaries. That Mozart "received punishment through Leopold's will" is a classic "Selbyism". Selby is ignorant of the sources and the literature dealing with Leopold's estate.
  • Gluck did not receive "a lavish funeral." As a matter of fact this funeral was performed "in der Stille" (without music) and only cost 28 gulden 49 kreuzer (of which 12 gulden were paid for the carriage with four horses to the Matzleinsdorf cemetery).

The entry concerning Gluck's modest exequies on 17 November 1787 at Vienna's Paulanerkirche: "NB: Ist in der Stille Eingesegnet worden" (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch 1787, fol. 408v)
  • In 1787 Mozart did not earn "1,700 florins in Prague". This estimate is based on Maynard Solomon's flawed presumptions.
  • Selby writes: "On December 7 Mozart was appointed to Gluck's vacated position as Chamber Music Composer to the Viennese Court" (p. 86). No, he was not, because: a) Gluck's position was not that of a "Chamber Music Composer to the Viennese Court". Gluck held an honorary position as a supernumerary which also explains his high annual salary of 2,000 gulden. b) Mozart was not appointed "Chamber Music Composer", but "k.k. Kammermusikus" which is a huge difference and explains the modest annual salary of 800 gulden that came with that position.
  • That Mozart's begging letters to Puchberg are proof for his poverty in 1788, is an out-dated point of view. At this time Mozart was living in a 300m2 apartment for which he paid an annual rent of 250 gulden. He also owned a horse and a carriage. Of course he shamelessly took advantage of a well-to-do brother Mason. The suggestion that Mozart's begging letters were mostly theatrical scrounging efforts (which I first published in 2012 in my review of Günther Bauer's book Mozart. Geld, Ruhm und Ehre) has recently been echoed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who (not surprisingly) disingenuously presented this concept as his own brilliant idea.
  • Selby's account of the origin of Così fan tutte is based on the out-dated popular literature and is therefore worthless.
  • "Theresia von Trattner stood godmother for the little girl and the christening took place in St. Peter's Church". As I have shown in 2009, Theresia Mozart's christening did not take place in St. Peter's Church, but in Mozart's apartment.
  • Prince Lichnowsky's 1791 lawsuit against Mozart had nothing to do with gambling. As a matter of fact gambling debts were classified as "Naturalobligationen" (so-called imperfect debt relations) and therefore their payment could not be claimed in a court of law. Debts incurred from illegal gambling on the other hand were legally void, i.e. they did not exist at all in the eyes of the law. Hence they could not be considered "Naturalobligationen". In 1753 Maria Theresia had issued a "Generale" (general law), ruling that "von niemanden, was er auf Borg verspielet, es mag wenig oder viel seyn, dem Gewinner, wenn selbser schon derentwegen eine schrifltiche Recognition in Händen hätte, etwas bezahlet, noch der Verspieler von einer Obrigkeit hierzu angehalten werden soll" ("Nobody, who has gambled away money, be it little or much, should be forced by the authorities to pay the winner, even if this person is in possession of a written recognition."). The only gambling contracts that were legally valid were those concluded in connection with legal gambling, such as the official state lottery. The repeated description of Mozart's debts as having been caused by gambling is comparable to the plot of Groundhog Day transferred into late eighteenth-century Vienna.
  • Walther Brauneis did not come across information "in a Logbook of the Special Courts of Aristocrats" (Selby will never understand the correct name of this source). The entry that Otto Mraz found (and Brauneis then mistranscribed and published with a wrong date) is located in the 1791 Cameralprotocoll of the I. & R. Court Chamber.
  • The address "Schulerstraße 816" is wrong. Johann Michael Auernhammer was neither a nobleman, nor a wealthy merchant. Gottfried Ignaz von Ployer was not "a high official of the court". He was a minor "Hof-Agent" who, at the time of his death in 1797, was totally broke. Babette Ployer was not a "von Ployer".

The seal of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the signature of its Viennese administrator Johann Michael Auernhammer (A-Wsa, Patrimoniale Herrschaften, Johanniter A12/1, 134/1747)

Seal and signature of Gottried Ignaz von Ployer (A-Whh, OMaA, Testament 4/1774)
  • That in 1789 "the priest of the Church am Hof was able to administer an emergency baptism to Anna Mozart" is false. Selby does not know the sources, the literature or any other documents related to this child's birth. Mozart's daughter Anna was baptized by the midwife.
  • The idea that Mozart's mass K. 317 was performed at the 1790 coronation in Prague (as Selby claims on p. 97) has been soundly debunked by Mozart scholarship years ago.
  • That "Die Zauberflöte embraced the philosophy of Freemasonry" (p. 101) is a popular misconception that has been refuted in several recent scholarly publications. Die Zauberflöte is not a cryptogram of Freemasonry, but a classic fairy tale opera. Its supposed relation to Freemasonry (which nobody ever noticed back in Mozart's days) is a creation of fanciful twentieth-century writers.
  • In summer 1791, in Baden, Constanze was not – as claimed by Selby – "again housed on the first floor above the butcher's". This error is one of the most ancient "Selbyisms", mostly because for years Selby has relentlessly been repeating it on several online forums. In his letter to Anton Stoll of May 1791 Mozart expressedly refers to Joseph Goldhann's former apartment on the ground floor: "das nothwendigste aber ist; daß es zu ebener Erde seye [...] zu ebener Erde, beym Fleischhacker". Because of her bad feet Constanze could not live "on the first floor above the butcher's", but had to use the apartment beside the butcher's. 
  • The estimation (copied from Solomon) that "Mozart in 1791 earned 5,000 florins" is of course pure hogwash. The rent for Mozart's apartment at the Camesina house was not "320 gulden for six months" (p. 63). It was 450 gulden for one year. 
  • The claims that "Süssmayr had a gift for composing in the style of famous composers" and that "Süssmayr composed numerous ballets which often lasted for three hours and were performed by the monks" (p. 106) are two other priceless "Selbyisms". That Franz Xaver Süßmayr "died of alcoholism" – as Selby impudently states – is nothing but slanderous hogwash. All surviving documents prove that Süßmayr died of tuberculosis.

The entry concerning Süßmayr's burial in St. Marx cemetery ("An Lungensucht besch[aut] word[en]"). Note that owing to inflation this third-class burial cost even less than Mozart's 22 years earlier. (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch 1802-03, fol. 304r)
  • Selby claims that "for La Clemenza di Tito Mozart was paid 1,150.gulden[!], including expenses" (p. 107). This alleged fee is an old myth, based on Mozart's claim in 1789 that he was offered "200 Dukaten und 50 Dukaten Reisegeld" for an opera. But there is absolutely no proof that Guardasoni ever made that offer in 1789 and even less that Mozart actually received this amount in 1791.
  • "Many of Mozart's Zettel were found among Süssmayr's papers in the Hungarian National Library." (p. 162). No, they were not.
  • Not "Jakob Haibel's father had been a tenor in the Schikaneder Company", Haibel himself had been that tenor.
  • Like countless amateur Mozart writers Selby is unaware of the fact that the name of Mozart's last child was not "Franz Xaver", but Wolfgang. The names "Franz Xaver" only appear in the baptismal register and were never used by the parents. Mozart's last child was always called Wolfgang or "Wowi" by his parents and the claim (appearing all over the popular literature) that Constanze "later changed his Christian names" (p. 34, 163, 250 and 253) is simply false. Selby's claim that "Franz Xaver[sic] inherited from his father his malformed left[sic] ear" is just too funny to be commented on.
  • On 4 December 1791 Dr. Closset (which one of the brothers, Nikolaus or Thomas?) was of course not "enthralled by Die Zauberflöte that he refused to come". Closset came from the Burgtheater where Die Zauberflöte was not performed.
  • Mozart's belongings were not "catalogued and assessed for taxation purposes", but to secure the assets for the claims of the creditors. Mozart's debts with Lichnovsky, Puchberg and Lackenbacher were not included in the official records, because "Constanze did not include them in her list prepared for the public records" (as Selby claims on p. 118), but because these creditors did not come forward to register their claims with the civil court of the Vienna City Council. A widow had no right to determine what the Sperrskommissär put on the list of passiva of her deceased husband.
  • There was no such name as "Walsegg von Stuppach". The correct name is "von Walsegg". Walsegg did not commission "Johann Martin Fischer to create a tomb". He commissioned the sculptor Benedikt Hainrizi to do this.

The design for the tomb of Countess Anna von Walsegg by Benedikt Hainrizi (1749-1799) (Vienna, Albertina)
  • Selby's bizarre presentation of Franz Schubert as "poor, lonely young man who had struggled in a Vienna barely aware of his existence [...]", and who "had died young and of syphilis[sic]" (p. 119) makes us very glad that Selby has refrained from writing books about other famous dead people.
  • Selby's claim that Constanze "was listed in the Vienna Archives[sic] as living in the Palais Liechtenstein in the Dorotheergasse which was near the Michaelerplatz" (p. 147) is just a conglobation of errors.There is no "Palais Liechtenstein" in the Dorotheergasse. Selby seems to have mixed it up with the Palais Dietrichstein, where Constanze also never lived. Constanze resided in the Palais Eskeles which is not located near the Michaelerplatz. Wetzlar von Plankenstern's villa in Meidling was not located "on the Grünberg", but at the bottom of this hill, above the "Steurer Mühl Fahrtweg".
  • The spelling "Friedrich Sebastian Mayer" is wrong. This singer and his wife always signed their names Meier.

Friedrich Sebastian Meier's seal and signature in 1812

 Josepha Meier's signature in 1800
  • Constanze Mozart and her second husband did not get married in Pressburg, because she and Nissen fled from Napoleon's army or wanted to "wait for the storm to blow out". As a matter of fact in 1809 Pressburg was bombed by Napoleon's army. They went to Hungary, because only there could they get the permission for an interfaith marriage.

In the chapter "Constanze's Second Widowhood" Selby falls into a well-known trap that regularly claims victims among all kinds of enthusiastic amateur Mozartologists: she actually thinks that Leopold Mozart, Euphrosina Pertl and Genoveva Weber were buried in the family grave in the cemetery of St. Sebastian in Salzburg. And yet is has been known for decades – based on the Berchtold von Sonnenburg family papers in Brno – that Leopold Mozart (just like "Theophrastus Paracelsus" as Selby hilariously misnames this historical figure) was not buried in the churchyard, but in the communal crypt of St. Sebastian. The "Mozart family grave" in this cemetery is an artificial site, created by Johann Evangelist Engl for reasons of nostalgia. There were no family graves in today's sense in the eighteenth century. The whole defensive rant, brought forward by Selby against "attacks by Mozartean writers accusing Constanze of desecrating Leopold Mozart's grave by having her aunt Genoveva buried there" is based on ignorance of the literature.

To defend Constanze's absence from her husband's burial Selby resorts to Philippe Ariès's book Images of Man and Death, but her discussion is completely beside the point. The main issue was not "the wife's place in her home and not at the burial", but the customs related to Josephinism. Constanze was not "forbidden to attend Mozart's burial", she did not even consider to attend it, because it was not customary. At that time the act of burying a body was no part of the Christian rite as it is today. People bid goodbye to their loved ones at the church and not in the cemetery, a behavior that only began to change in the course of the Napoleonic Wars. Selby's musings about "the United States changing western attitudes toward death in the 20th century" (p. 114) have nothing to do with the relevant issues of eighteenth-century cultural life in Vienna. Because Selby is totally ignorant of the intricacies of the Josephinian burial regulations and their partial repeal in 1785, she rehashes all the nonsense about "Mozart having been sewn into a linen sack and having been buried with a reusable coffin". These old misunderstandings have all been refuted and should certainly not resurface in a 2013 publication. Not "eighty-five percent of Vienna's citizenry" received a third-class burial, but ninety-nine percent. Selby extrapolates from a small section of the St. Stephen's burial records which does not represent the situation in all of Vienna's parishes. First-class burials were not (as Selby presumes on p. 117) "reserved for the nobility", but for anybody who was willing to pay for them (this old misunderstanding seems ineradicable). Because Selby's description of the funeral classes is copied from the worst secondary literature, it is totally flawed.

Selby repeats her old story about Süßmayr's supposed trip to Kremsmünster Abbey in December 1791 and that after Mozart's death "Süssmayr was nowhere to be found" (p. 128). Over thirteen years ago Selby already posed as omniscient archival researcher on internet forums:
I would like to add that I have serious doubts about Sussmayr working on the Magic Flute which Constanze sold for 100 ducats 23 days after Mozart's death. While working on my book, "Constanze. Mozart's Beloved", I came across Archival evidence at the Vienna National Library, in the archives of Kremsmunster Abbey wherein Sussmayr arrived at the Abbey on 17 December, 1791 in the company of Pater Pasterwitz. It had been Sussmayr's custom to spend Christmas at Kremsmunster where he organised the Christmas festivities. It is also the reason why Constanze could not find him, when pressured for the completion of the Requiem by Count Walsegg's representative and why the Requiem was first handed over to Joseph Eybler who signed for it on 21 December, 1791. Eybler found himself incapable of completing the Requiem and it was then given to Sussmayr on his return from Kremsmunster. I have not been able to find in the archives his departure date from the Abbey. [...] Some further information to iron out one more wrinkle posed by both Carr and Gartner, Constanze was NOT MAD AT SUSSMAYR when she could not find him after Mozart's death. She was looking for him to complete the Requiem and NOT TO MARRY HER. She could not find Sussmayr because he was at Kremsmunster Abbey making preparations for Christmas festivities which he did every year. Again Kremsmunster archives can be found at the National Library in Vienna. (Agnes Selby on www.openmozart.net, 28 December 2000)
There are no "Kremsmunster archives" at the National Library in Vienna. My on-site research at Kremsmünster Abbey in July 2002 has shown that there is no documentary proof that Süßmayr went there in late 1791. The whole story about this Christmas trip is a figment of Selby's imagination. All Viennese sources related to Süßmayr's employment at the Court show that at the end of December 1791 he was working in Vienna at the Burgtheater. Selby has a notorious reputation for fabricating her sources. On 12 June 2001 and on 26 and 27 November 2002 she posted the following statements on the (long defunct) online forum www.openmozart.net:
My studies in the Vienna archives where all Baden records about the comings and goings to and from Baden record that on every occasion Sussmayr was in Baden he travelled with Pater Pasterwitz and not with Constanze. Sussmayr and Pater Pasterwitz were registered at a hotel, the name of which escapes me but if anyone is interested, I would be happy to go through my files. This is very important to understand in order not to perpetuate the lies created by Francis Carr and Heinz Gartner. Neither of these two gentleman seems to have taken time for proper research. [...] I checked the Baden records at the Viennese National Library[sic]. These are records of people coming and leaving Baden. I took as my point of departure the dates of Constanze's presence in Baden. [...] Sussmayr seems to have led a good life, e.g. his trips to Baden. These may have been paid for by Pater Pasterwitz in whose company he travelled. (List of Arrivals and Departures. Baden police file in Archives, Austrian National Library, Vienna). 
There are of course no records "about the comings and goings to and from Baden" in the Vienna National Library. None of the archival documents Selby referred to in the above statements do exist. Such documents are also not held by the Austrian State Archives. When asked for the location of these mysterious sources, Selby replied: "Records pertaining to this are in Vienna. I am sorry, I do not remember the section in the archives as my research concerned Constanze and the biography I was writing about her." According to Selby other researchers could not find these sources, "because they lacked the necessary »Sitzfleisch«".

After Dan Leeson in 2006 had somebody search in vain for these sensational police records, Selby simply relocated their place of discovery to the Baden City Archives:
Police files from Baden indicate the arrival of Pasterwitz and Sussmayr on at least three occasions and staying together at a hotel in the township. These files are available to researchers in the Baden city archives. (Agnes Selby, 23 November 2006)
The Baden archivist Dr. Rudolf Maurer has assured me personally that these files do not exist. Neither do the Austrian State Archives hold any Baden police files from 1791. The Baden police station was only established in 1809. When Selby was told about Dr. Maurer's statement, she immediately returned to her initial narrative and relocated the fictitious police files back to Vienna:
As for the Police Files, I know, Mr. Lorenz has had a field day telling me that they do not exist and that they were burnt in a fire. Mr. Lorenz, you know perfectly well that this is not true and the files do exist. Somewhere you have got all this mixed up as the police files rest comfortably in the archives of the Austrian National Library. (Agnes Selby, 17 August 2008)
Needless to say, I never claimed that "the Baden police files burnt in a fire". Whenever Selby was caught lying, she tried to defend herself by producing a new lie. In 2007 Selby tried to convince the members of an online forum that Alfred Einstein, in his biography of Mozart, had "described the Weber family as useless vagabonds" and "had placed Constanze's sisters as parading in front of the Vienna military barracks to catch husbands." (Selby, 11 November 2007). When she was asked to provide an exact quote and a page number to prove these gross accusations, she claimed that she had no access to Einstein's book, because "she had lent it to her daughter Kathryn".

Agnes Selby's fictional sources are not limited to Süßmayr's life. Concerning Mozart's commemorative service, which Emanuel Schikaneder organised on 10 December 1791, she claimed to have received a letter from St. Michael's Church:
I wrote to St. Michael's Church and received a polite reply informing me that the singers were listed in the Church records as well as the payment they received from Schikaneder who had organised this Commemorative Service. Although it has often been stated that parts of Mozart's Requiem were performed, I was told that there is no record as to the music performed. (Agnes Selby, 14 August 2008)
This list does not exist in the parish archive of St. Michael's. It is a flimsy figment of Mrs. Selby's legendary imagination. She never corresponded with the staff at St. Michael's who do not even know her name. Selby even claimed to have corresponded with Professor Neal Zaslaw and Robert Levin (or "Levine" as she called him) regarding this issue:
I wrote to St. Michael's Church and was told that although a list of performers exists in the archives of the Church and even how much they were paid, whose Requiem was performed had not been noted. I sent this letter to Dr. Zaslaw who had the same information sent to him. (Agnes Selby, 9 August 2007)
Well it must have been a "ghostie" who wrote to me and to Dr. Levine that the list of performers at St. Michael's Church exists but not what was peformed on that crucial night. (Agnes Selby, 17 August 2008)
It must have been a ghostie indeed, because Neal Zaslaw and Robert Levin never received any letters from Selby or St. Michael's Church. In August 2004 Selby reported on www.openmozart.net that "an Australian PhD student named Morgan Flannery is currently doing research in the Lichnowsky archive in Prague and will present his findings at a congress in the Mozart Year". This student (originally intended to serve as one of Selby's pseudonyms) also turned out to be one of her countless fabrications. When she was asked in 2008 about Mr. Flannery's research and why he had never published anything concerning the Lichnowsky papers in Prague, she simply decided to give Flannery's career an unexpected turn towards family life and to declare the Lichnowsky papers destroyed:
Morgan Flannery lives in London where he has a teaching job. The last I saw him was over a capuccino at the Sydney seaside suburb of Woolloomooloo, where good capos can be found. Morgan has since his Prague adventure got married and has to now "earn his crust". It is true, he has yet to present his findings but I did not realize it was my duty to inform you of his inability to complete his thesis in time. You see, the Lichnowsky files were indeed burnt during World War II by the Germans, and information is difficult to find although he has a good bit of material available. The Germans did a lot of damage to beautiful Prague!!! As a very young and enthusiastic warrior of that era, you must remember it well. (Agnes Selby, 17 August 2008)
It is not quite clear as to whether the words "as a very young and enthusiastic warrior of that era, you must remember it well" were meant to refer to me, but the fact that Selby obviously tried to slander me by calling me a Nazi soldier, speaks volumes about her state of mind. I have dealt with Mrs. Selby's amazing concoctions in print in my article "Süßmayr und die Lichterputzer: von gefundenen und erfundenen Quellen" in the Mozart-Jahrbuch 2006, (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2008, 425-38).

Selby's book presents a grossly overoptimistic, untrue and apologetic picture of Constanze Mozart as a flawless saint. This does not correspond to the current state of research and is caused by Selby's only rudimentary knowledge of the scholarly literature. The reissue of Selby's book is a regrettable waste of money and paper. This book has not even come close to an expert musicologist's proofreading eyes and there is ample reason to presume that not even the publisher bothered to read it with adequate attention. It is a real pity that Selby was unwilling to completely overhaul her work. So many interesting topics related to Constanze Mozart are still waiting to be explored more deeply: Where and when did Constanze move after Mozart's death? Where exactly did Nissen live in Vienna? Why did Constanze reject Schwanthaler's first design of her husband's statue? Who destroyed the many letters of Leopold Mozart? Who is the woman on the supposed "photograph of Constanze Mozart" that for simple technical reasons cannot originate from before 1842? What about the early musical career of Karl Mozart, who in many Viennese sources is being addressed as "Tonkünstler"?

Karl and Wolfgang Mozart, both addressed as "Tonkünstler" in an 1811 register of the Hauptregistratur of the Vienna City Council (A-Wsa, HReg. B1/104, fol. 180r)

Karl Mozart being described as "als Hand[lungs]pr[aktikant] abwesend soll klein seyn" ("absent as business intern, is said to be small") on an 1805 conscription sheet of the Palais Eskeles (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Stadt 1110/1r). Selby considers it possible that "Constanze feared that Wolfgang might be conscripted into the Austrian army", but in fact both Mozart brothers were exempt from service owing to their small body height. The above entry was first published in 1957 by Gustav Gugitz, but Selby is completely ignorant of the standard German Mozart literature.

Georg "von Niessen" listed as "Dänischer Gesandschafts Rath" on a Viennese conscription sheet from 1805 (A-Wsa, Konskriptionamt, Stadt 4/2r). This entry proves that Nissen already was living with Constanze Mozart in 1805 in the house Stadt No. 4.

The Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag did not put any editorial effort into the production of this superfluous book, which is proved by glaring typos such as "Beamarchais", "Greisinger", a "quintet K. 542" (p. 60), numerous missing spaces and a letter written by Leopold Mozart on "November 17, 1886" (p. 78). It would also have helped if the editors had at least done a little research concerning Mrs. Selby's reputation as an extraordinarily imaginative author. While the negative effect of Selby's book had already died down in Australia, her work from the 1990s is now unfortunately revived in Europe, as if it were a scholarly contribution that meets today's standards.

Selby's book was not the only biography of Constanze Mozart published in 2013. At the same time the German musicologist Gesa Finke published her dissertation titled Die Komponistenwitwe Constanze Mozart. This book, which addresses the topic "Mozart's widow" from the perspective of "commemorative and gender studies", also resulted in a massive failure, albeit on an academic level. Finke was completely on her own and had to fulfill her task without any competent help from her advisor. But this will be the topic of a future blogpost.



Wir sehen voraus, daß wir auch manchmal in den Fall kommen werden, daß ein Liebling der Menge nicht gerade auch unser Liebling sei und wollen die deshalb unvermeidlichen Vorwürfe gern über uns ergehen lassen.

(Goethe: Über strenge Urteile)



© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014.

Updated: 3 October 2017

May 5, 2014

Robert Franz Müller and Beethoven's Third Will

Beethoven's Third Will

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote three wills. The first, the famous Heiligenstadt Testament, was written in 1802 and was found among his papers after the composer's death. Although it is basically a letter, it meets all legal requirements of a will and would have been accepted as valid by any court of law. The second will was a letter (No. 1606 in the complete edition) written on 6 March 1823 to his lawyer Dr. Johann Baptist Bach, in which Beethoven appointed his nephew Karl sole heir and Dr. Bach curator of his estate. Quote: "Death might come without asking [...]" and "[...] you are entitled to choose a guardian for Carl with the exception of my brother Johann van Beethoven". This letter, which was once owned by Albert Cohn in Berlin and today is part of a private collection in the Netherlands, was first published by Emerich Kastner in 1910. On 3 January 1827, after Beethoven had returned sick from the countryside, he wrote a third will, also in the form of a letter to Dr. Bach (No. 2246 in the complete edition). The fourth disposition concerning his estate, bearing Beethoven's last signature, is just a short codicil, written on 23 March 1827, when the composer was lying on his deathbed and could barely write.

 Beethoven's last piece of handwriting: the codicil to his will written on 23 March 1827 (A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten B16)

Only the last two wills written by Beethoven ever gained legal validity. The letter Beethoven wrote to his lawyer on 3 January 1827 (i.e. his third will) reads as follows:
                                                                                  Vien Mittwochs
                                                                                   3ten Jenner 1827
An Hr. Dr. Bach

Verehrter Freund!

Ich erkläre vor meinem Tode Karl van Beethoven meinen geliebten Neffen als meinen einzigen Universalerben von allem meinem Hab u. Gut worunter Hauptsächlich 7  Bankactien und was sich an baarem vorfinden wird – Sollten die Geseze hier Modifikationen vorschreiben, so suchen sie selbe so sehr als möglich zu seinem vortheile zu verwenden - Sie ernenne ich zu seinem Kurator, u. bitte sie mit Hofrath Breuning seinem Vormund vaterstelle bey ihm zu vertreten – Gott erhalte Sie – Tausend Dank für ihre mir bewiesene Liebe u. Freundschaft. –
                                                                Ludwig van Beethoven.
                                                                        m.p. [L.S.]
Esteemed friend!
Before my death I declare my beloved nephew Karl van Beethoven my sole and universal heir of all my property of which the main part are seven bank shares and what ever cash will be found. Should the law demand any modifications in this case, try to use them in his favor as much as possible – I appoint you his curator and request you to act as his father together with his guardian Hofrat Breuning – may God preserve you – a thousand thanks for the love and friendship you have shown me. –
                                                                   Ludwig van Beethoven.
                                                                            m.p. [L.S.]
The second page of this letter looks as follows:

 The second page of Beethoven's third will, the letter written to Dr. Bach on 3 January 1827 (A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten, Serie 3.1.4.A1, B16.1)

When Ludwig Nohl published this document in his 1865 edition of Beethoven's letters, he copied it from a document preserved in the estate of Anton Schindler in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (D-Bsbha, aut. 35,17). Schindler's copy (which Thayer described as "the original") was not written by Beethoven and only bears the composer's autograph signature.

The first publication of Beethoven's third will in Ludwig Nohl's Briefe Beethovens (Stuttgart 1865, p. 332) with the note "Nur die Unterschrift ist von Beethovens Hand".

The existence of the original, fully autograph copy of Beethoven's 1827 letter to his lawyer never became known to Nohl and Kastner. The 1827 records of the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate prove that after Beethoven's death Dr. Bach had submitted the letter to the court, thus providing it with legal validity. The inventory of wills (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, B4/16) lists Beethoven's letter and its subsequent codicil as follows:

               van Beethoven Ludwig Tondichter                      153 [1827]
                         14957   Testament dd° 3t Jäner 827
                                          publ 27t März 827
                         15254    Testament dd° 23t März 827
                                          publ: 29t März 827

At some point before 1924, when the valuable holdings of the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate were fortunately moved from the archives of the regional court in Vienna's Palace of Justice to the City Archives in Vienna's city hall (most of the remaining material was to be destroyed in 1927), Beethoven's third will was stolen. It vanished without a trace and therefore Beethoven scholarship in the early 20th century never acknowledged its existence. Since the security precautions at the archives of the Vienna Justizpalast were not very strict – it was after all a frequently accessed facility of the court and not an official state archive – countless important documents related to prominent historical persons were stolen before they could be safeguarded by professional archival institutions.

The Return of the Document

Beethoven's third will was soon to resurface. On 31 August 1937 a certain Johannes Othmar Müller appeared at the Vienna City Archive and produced a number of valuable documents from the estate of his deceased father, the Oberrechnungsrat (senior accounting counsellor) Robert Franz Müller. The head of the archive at that time, Dr. Richard Mattis (1886-1946), drew up the following Aufnahmeschrift (document of reception):

Dr. Mattis's Aufnahmeschrift from 1937 (A-Wsa, M.Abt. 438, A1, 970/1937)
Mr. Johannes Othmar Müller, III., Löwengasse 7, apt. 6, today appears at the Vienna City Archive and hands over the following documents, originating from the holdings of the former civil court of the Vienna Magistrate, from the estate of his father Robert Müller, formerly residing at II., Alliertenstraße 3, apt. 8, who passed away in 1933. These documents, which once were housed in the registry of the Vienna Federal Court, were held by Mr. Robert Müller and after his death passed into the keeping of his widow Mrs. Leopoldine Müller who died on 14 August 1937. The files rightfully belong into the holdings of the Vienna City Archive, because in 1924 the archive took over the files of the civil court of the Vienna City Magistrate from the Landesgericht.
1.) An original will of Ludwig van Beethoven dated 3 January 1927 (two leaves),
2.) From the probate records of his brother Karl: 2 submissions by Ludwig van Beethoven from 28 November 1815 to the Lower Austrian Federal Court (1 leaf) and from 1 February 1818 to the Vienna City Council (6 leaves),
3.) Files from the registry of the Lower Austrian Federal Court: 1 submission by Therese Vogel, widowed Niembsch v. Strehlenau to the Federal Court from 22 June 1825 (2 leaves) and one submission, presented on 9 December 1825 (2 leaves),
4.) A protocol dated 2 June 1786 concerning the counterfeiting case Oelsner-Count Pozdazky.
                  Read and signed, Vienna 31 August 1937.
Dr. Mattis Arch. Dir.                                          Johann Othmar Müller

[overleaf note]
The will of Ludwig van Beethoven listed under 1.) was added to the second will dated 23 March 1827, wills of the court of the Vienna Magistrate No. 158 ex 1827.
The files listed under 2.) were placed into the probate records of Karl van Beethoven No. 1275 ex 1819.
The final paragraph of Beethoven's letter of 28 November 1815 to the court of the Landrechte (with the composer's autograph signature) which was among the documents that in 1937 were returned by Johann Müller to the Vienna City Archive  (A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten B14, fol. 4v)

Pages 2 and 3 of Beethoven's long 1819 letter to the Vienna Municipal Court regarding the education of his nephew Karl which was among the documents that in 1937 were returned by Johannes Othmar Müller to the Vienna City Archive (A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten B14, fol. 36v and 37r)

The documents from the estate of his father that Johannes Müller returned to the archive were the following:
  1. Beethoven's third will, i.e. the letter he wrote to his lawyer Dr. Bach on 3 January 1827, which had been stolen before 1924 from the collection of wills held by the archive of the Vienna Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen.
  2. a) Beethoven's letter to the k.k. n. oe. Landrecht of 28 November 1815 (No. 857in the complete edition), in which he declares his will to take guardianship of his nephew according to his brother's last will. b) Beethoven's letter to the municipal Civil Court concerning his pedagogical theories regarding the education of his nephew Karl. This eleven-page letter, bearing the wrong year "1818" (it was actually written on 1 February 1819) consists of 2,169 words and is the longest existing letter in Beethoven's hand (No. 1286 in the complete edition). It was originally part of the Sperrs-Relation (probate file) of Beethoven's brother Karl which in 1815 had erroneously been drawn up by the k.k. Landrechte with the shelfmark Fasz. 5-174/1815 and in 1819 was transferred to the Magistratisches Zivilgericht (the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate) under the registry number Fasz. 2-1275/1819. This long letter was first published in 1902 by Alfred Christlieb Kalischer ("Ein ungedruckter Brief Beethovens", in: Die Musik, December 1902, 403-11) who had found a copy of this letter in Otto Jahn's Beethoven estate in the Royal Library in Berlin. According to Kalischer, the first page of this copy bore the following note by Ludwig Ritter von Köchel: "Nach dem von Beethoven durchaus eigenhändig geschriebenen Originale bei dem Wiener Landesgericht" ("[copied] from Beethoven's completely autograph original at the Vienna Federal Court").
  3. Therese Vogel was the mother of the poet Nikolaus Lenau. Her two submissions to the Federal Court may have been related to the investigation that the Austrian police had initiated against her son, because by publishing under his pseudonym he had repeatedly circumvented the strict censorship laws. 
  4. The protocol concerning the "counterfeiting case Oelsner-Count Pozdazky" pertains to a legal cause célèbre of the Josephinian era. 

The Podstatzky-Liechtenstein Case

Count Franz Anton von Podstatzky-Liechtenstein was born on 23 November 1754 in Brno, son of Alois Ernst von Podstatzky-Liechtenstein (1723-1793), heir to the house Liechtenstein-Castelkorn and minister in charge in Bavaria. In 1786 Franz Anton von Podstatzky-Liechtenstein hoped that his noble birth would put him outside jurisdiction and shield him from prosecution. To support his expensive lifestyle he began counterfeiting Bancozettel  (early Austrian banknotes). Rumors about these illegal activities reached Joseph II who summoned Podstatzky-Liechtenstein and told him in friendly but certain terms that if he continued his forgeries, he would compromise his family's reputation and bring shame upon his relatives. The Count ignored the Emperor's warning and with the help of a young engraver and a group of accomplices produced 7,000 fake Bancozettel in a workshop in Nußdorf. He eventually was reported to the police by his own chamberlain Johann Elsner who had instigated the counterfeiting in the first place (the Preßburger Zeitung claimed that Podstatzky was betrayed by a Jewish accomplice who received a reward of 10,000 gulden). In my opinion Elsner and the engraver were one and the same person, but this remains unclear. In the first volume of his Reminiscences the singer Michael Kelly recounts the events as follows:

The "Hantz garden" was the Augarten, "Princess L____n" was Princess Eleonore von Liechtenstein (1745-1812), a recipient of one of the few farewell letters that Joseph II wrote in 1790 shortly before his death. Similar to the embezzler Johann Cetto von Cronstorff (1729-1786), who in 1782 had been Constanze Mozart's witness at her wedding, Podstatzky-Liechtenstein was sentenced to "public forced labor" which at that time meant sweeping the streets in Vienna. This typical Josephinian punishment somehow backfired when the Count, while working in the streets, saluted a highranking figure with his broom. The Emperor had enough and on 31 August 1786 had Podstatzky and his accomplice Elsner deported to Peterwardein and Semlin respectively, where they were forced to pull ships on the Danube.

The Preßburger Zeitung of 2 September 1786 reporting Podstatzky's arrival in Preßburg

Since very few delinquents survived this gruesome labor for more than two years, Podstatzky-Liechtenstein's punishement amounted to a death sentence. On 10 January 1787 the slavonisch-banatisches Generalkommando reported the death of twenty arrestees, among them Podstatzky-Liechtenstein. Johann Elsner's death was reported on 20 October 1787. In his card catalogue pertaining to the entries in the court's cabinet protocols the historian Gustav Gugitz describes this case as "actually a judicial murder by Joseph II".

 The Preßburger Zeitung on 28 June 1786 describing the toil of pulling ships on the Danube and how the delinquents were plagued by mosquitoes

It is not known where the documents related to Lenau and Podstatzky-Liechtenstein are today and if in 1937 the City Archive passed them on to their legal owner, the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv department of the Austrian State Archives. According to a written statement, issued on 15 January 2014 by the responsible archivist Dr. Roman-Hans Gröger, "the registry of the holdings of the State Archive of Interior does not contain any reference to the searched donation". By stealing them Robert Franz Müller saved two valuable documents from the 1927 fire of the Palace of Justice, but after their return nobody could save them from the unfathomable labyrinths of Vienna's archives.

The events at the Vienna City Archive in August 1937, when Johannes Müller came forward with four precious documents that his father had stolen before 1924, are easy to reconstruct. Müller junior must have realized that it would be difficult to sell the priceless Beethoven documents. Therefore he offered the head of the archive Dr. Richard Mattis the following deal: for returning the documents Müller requested that the whole affair and the identity of his father would be kept secret. As the case of stolen autographs in the Vienna City Library has shown, sometimes a theft is simply too embarrassing for a public institution to be fully made public. Thus the Vienna City Archive kept its promise until long after Johannes Müller's death. The Aufnahmeschrift from 1937, which eventually led to the truth about Robert Franz Müller's thefts being revealed, was always meant to be kept confidential. The Beethoven file in Vienna's Municipal and Provincial Archives (A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten B16) still contains the following note, written by the archivist Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau:
B e e t h o v e n ' s will of 3 January 1927 came into the possession of the Vienna City Archive only on 31 August 1937. See the archive file with the number: 970/1937.
       This note is to be kept confidential!

Robert Franz Müller

Robert Franz Müller was born on 26 June 1864 in Vienna's Leopoldstadt district (at Obere Donaustraße 41), fourth child of Eduard Bruno Müller, an official of the "K:K: Central-Hofbuchhaltung" (I. & R. central accounting department) and his wife Franziska Theresia, née Schenböck (the spelling "Schönbeck" that is found in many sources is incorrect).

The entry concerning the baptism of Robert Franz Josef Serafin Müller on 3 July 1864 at the parish church of St. Leopold (Tom. 37, fol. 121).

Müller's father Eduard Bruno Müller had been born on 4 October 1826 in Mährisch Trübau and had come to Vienna before 1851 where he is recorded as "Student" on a conscription sheet of the house Alsergrund 315. On 29 November 1855 Eduard Müller married Franziska Schenböck, born on 6 March 1831, daughter of the "K.K. Bankal-Zilleneinnehmer" (tax collector for flat-bottomed boats on the Danube) Ignatz Schenböck (b. 26 July 1800 in Engelhartszell, d. 6 November 1832 at Leopoldstadt 140) and his wife Theresia, née Summerer (b. 19 September 1805 in Erdberg, d. 24 September 1869). On 22 December 1869 Eduard Bruno Müller was appointed "K.K. Rechnungsoffizial" with the ministry of finance. Only one of his five children – Robert Franz – can be documented as having been still alive in 1890. Eduard Bruno Müller died of pneumonia on 29 January 1905 in his home at Nordbahnstraße 8. When in 1962 Leopold Nowak bought Robert Franz Müller's estate (A-Wn, F56 Müller) for the music collection of the Austrian National Library, Müller's son Johannes Othmar Müller provided a "Kurze biographische Skizze" ("short biographical sketch") concerning the life of his father (A-Wn, F56 Müller 1). This document claims that Robert Franz Müller was related to the composer Wenzel Müller – a claim that could not be verified – and that his mother had been a sister of the DDSG captain Josef Poscher (b. 29 April 1839), a close friend of the conductor Hans Richter. Müller was very proud of his relationship to Josef Poscher, but as a matter of fact Poscher was not Franziska Schenböck's brother, but her half-brother and the original name of Josef Poscher's father was not really Poscher, but Fitzel.

 
The family of Karl Poscher (Fitzel) (b. 18 December 1788 in Ybbs, d. 10 January 1861 in Vienna) and his wife Theresia with her daughter Franziska (Müller's mother) from her first marriage and "Joseph Fitzl (Poscher)", her son from her second marriage. (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Leopoldstadt 140/25r)

Robert Franz Müller enjoyed an excellent musical education. After having studied violin with Josef Hellmesberger and counterpoint with Anton Bruckner, he had to renounce an artistic career for financial reasons and entered civil service in the Austrian postal administration. Müller pursued his musical activities in his free time: he composed songs and waltzes and was the musical leader of two choral societies. His other main interest outside his job was historical and musicological research in Vienna's archives, the results of which he published in various Viennese newspapers. After his retirement on 1 November 1922 (after 489 months of service) he fully concentrated on Beethoven research. According to his son his most important work was a lengthy article titled "Beethoven's Relatives" whose significance is based on the fact that some of the material that Müller was able to use was to perish in the 1927 fire of the Palace of Justice. For instance Müller's research concerning Beethoven's sister-in-law (now A-Wn, F56 Müller 27) was still used by Sieghard Brandenburg in his article titled "Johanna van Beethoven's Embezzlement" (in Essays in Honor of Alan Tyson, Oxford 1998). O. E. Deutsch used some of Müller's material on Schubert's uncle Karl without naming his source. Müller's archival research on various topics of Viennese music history and its pioneering quality made him an internationally sought after authority regarding biographical data of friends and relatives of composers and musicians. Müller regularly corresponded with prominent musicologists and historians. When Theodor Frimmel was preparing the publication of his 1926 Beethoven-Handbuch, he asked Müller for information. Frimmel's frail health and bad eyesight were the causes of many mistakes in the Beethoven-Handbuch. On 18 November 1926 Frimmel wrote the following resigning words to Müller:
Der frühere Trost des Klavierspiels oder sogar des Patience–legens verfängt nicht mehr –– Nur der grosse Hund wird immer deutlicher, der mir auf's Grab sch––– wird.
The earlier comfort of playing piano or even playing solitaire has no effect anymore –– Only the big dog is becoming increasingly recognizable which will poop on my grave. (A-Wn, F56 Müller 6)

The place "where the big dog poops": Dr. Theodor Frimmel von Traisenau's grave in Vienna's Döbling Cemetery (8/4/8).

The historian Arthur Schurig (1870-1929), who in 1927 was working on a (never to be published) Chronologie zu Beethovens Leben und Schaffen, also corresponded with Müller for whom he had nothing but praise, while he harshly criticised most of his colleagues: "The gaps in the so-called detail work of biographical material are enormous. Basically nothing has been done since Thayer. [...] Of course Frimmel just ruminates the old and well-known cabbage. And in what apothecary German! [...] The Beethoven-Year has produced absolutely nothing so far, because Orel, Frimmel, Nohl, and Kobald present nothing new." (Schurig to Müller on 19 February 1927, A-Wn, F56 Müller 18).

Müller's research and publications include the following selected topics:
  • Beethoven's friends and contemporaries
  • Beethoven's burial
  • Johanna van Beethoven's crimes
  • Beethoven's family (from files of the Vienna police)
  • Beethoven's burial
  • An unknown apartment of Beethoven in Altlerchenfeld
  • Mozart in Upper Austria
  • Emanuel Schikaneder
  • Schubert's relatives
  • Schubert's body height
  • Therese Grob
  • Haydn's will (first publication)
  • Marriage contract, will and probate documents of Haydn's wife (first publication)
  • Hans Richter's "Pilot" (a Great Dane that Richter bought from Josef Poscher)
  • Josef Lanner's mistress Marie Kraus
  • Ferdinand Raimund

From Müller's correspondence we know that he owned a significant and widely admired "Autographensammlung" (collection of autographs) and we have a hunch concerning the possible origin of this collection. Müller might have arranged the fate of these documents and their distribution after his death in a detailed will, but he seems never to have considered this an important issue. A sudden death forestalled all possible provisions. On 15 February 1933, while waiting in line at the post office at Weintraubengasse 22, Müller suffered a massive stroke and died (as the newspapers put it) "within a few moments".

A newspaper note concerning Müller's sudden death from a stroke at the post office Weintraubengasse (Das kleine Blatt, 16 February 1933, p. 7)

Müller was survived by his wife Leopoldine (née Weber), living at Alliertenstraße 3/8 and his son Johannes, "39 J., Privatangestellter, Wien III, Löwengasse 7/6". Not surprisingly, the existence of the autograph collection does not appear in Müller's short probate document which under "assets" merely states "kein Nachlaß" (no estate).

Two pages from Robert Franz Müller's probate document, giving "kein Nachlaß" (A-Wsa, BG II, A6, 178/1933)

Right after her husband's death, Müller's widow may have sold off certain items from the autograph collection which would explain the fact that some documents from Karl van Beethoven's Sperrs-Relation were not returned in 1937 by Müller's son, but ended up in other places. As long as his mother was alive, Johannes Müller did not want, or was not allowed to return the Beethoven documents, because Leopoldine Müller obviously did not want to tarnish her own and her husband's reputation. Leopoldine Müller died on 14 August 1937. She left a will in which she possibly addressed the issue of the autographs, but this document is not accessible, because the particular box from the holdings of the Leopoldstadt district court could not be found in Vienna's Municipal and Provincial Archives. Only after his mother's death did Johannes Müller dare to come forward with the valuable Beethoven material and for doing that posterity owes him gratitude. It is not known what became of the main part of Robert Franz Müller's collection. Johannes Othmar Müller died childless on 18 August 1965, his widow Aloisa Maria Müller (b. 1894) died in May 1986. In 1965 the plaque on the stone of the family grave was replaced and now bears only Johannes Müller's name.

Robert Franz Müller's grave in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof (55B/11/16)


The following people are buried in this grave:
Eduard Müller (1826-1905, Robert Franz Müller's father)
Franz Müller (1831-1901, Robert Franz's uncle)
Robert Franz Müller (1864-1933)
Leopoldine Müller (1867-1937, Robert Franz's wife)
Therese Schenböck (1832-1902, Robert Franz Müller's aunt)
Johannes Othmar Müller (1893-1965, Robert Franz's son)
Aloisia Maria Müller (1894-1986, Johannes Othmar's wife)
Aloisia Müller was the last surviving family member. The grave fees were only paid for ten years and the right to use this burial site expired on 27 May 1996.

Robert Franz Müller's work was generally excellent and far more meticulous than that of his contemporaries which – as we know only now – was related to the fact that he sometimes had the sources he used at home on his desk. It turns out that some stolen items that once were part of Müller's collection survive and their provenance can be traced.

Other Thefts by Müller

The Paganini File

On 28 July 1828 Nicolò Paganini and his former mistress, the singer Antonia Bianchi reached an agreement in the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate regarding the custody of their illegitimate son Achille. For a compensation of 3,531 fl 2 x CM Bianchi gave her son into his father's guardianship to be raised and educated by Paganini, who, on his part, agreed to return to her all of her music that he had in his possession.

Paganini's son Achille Ciro Alessandro (baptized on 24 July 1825)

On 8 March 1925 Robert Franz Müller published an article in the Neues Wiener Tagblatt, titled "Paganinis Sohn. Unbekanntes aus alten Wiener Akten" ("Paganini's son. Unknown information from old Viennese files") in which he not only referred to Achille Paganini's (now lost) baptismal certificate from the church of San Bartolomeo in Palermo, but also quoted extensively from the contract between Paganini and Achille's mother Antonia Bianchi.

The beginning of Müller's article "Paganinis Sohn" (Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 8 March 1925, p. 24)

Müller's article was based on one single file from the "Faszikel 3" series of the civil court of the Vienna City Magistrate, which, among other issues, covers custody cases. This file (bearing the original shelfmark Mag. ZG, Fasz. 3 - 688/1828) is now missing from the holdings of the Vienna City Archive.

The entry concerning the file in matters of Achille Paganini's custody in the 1828 register of the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, B1/327, p. 152)

Müller must have stolen the Paganini file from the archive of the Vienna Federal Court before 1924, because parts of this document are now held by the archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. At some point the file must have been taken apart, because two leaves only survive in the form of fragments that bear Paganini's autograph signature. The remains of this highly fascinating court file seem to have gone through the hands of a ruthless collector who seems to have cared very little about the historical context of this unique document. The Gesellschaft is obviously totally unaware of the document's shady origin, because in 2011 a part of it was shown at the exhibition "Auf den Flügeln des Applauses Virtuosenkunst – Virtuosenkult".

The Strauss Files

On 10 January 1926 the Neues Wiener Journal published Müller's article "Die Heirat des alten Strauß" in which Müller dealt with Johann Strauss, the Elder's wedding. It is not clear on which sources Müller based his article, but since he quoted a document that normally is not part of an "Ehekonsens" (marital consent) file of the civil court, it is obvious that Müller stole both of the existing sources: the "Ehekonsens" from the archive of the Vienna Federal Court and Strauss's "Verkündakt" (the documents submitted for the banns) from the holdings of the Lichtental parish archive.

The beginning of Müller's article "Die Heirat des alten Strauß." (Neues Wiener Journal, 10 January 1926, p. 8)

When in April 1825 Johann Strauss's girlfriend Anna Streim realized that she was pregnant, the couple was a little pressed for time to get married. Since Strauss was still a minor (the age of legal majority was 24 back then), his guardian, the tailor Anton Müller, had to apply to the Vienna municipal court for his ward to be allowed to get married. The bride, who, born in August 1801, also was still a minor, got the permission from her father. On 5 April 1825 Anton Müller submitted the application, which referred to an upcoming tour of the groom (urgent travel plans, or the telling term periculum in mora, were a popular excuse for quick wedding preparations), curiously gave a wrong date of birth of the bride and pointed out the fact that, based on his income as music teacher and his concerts with the brothers Scholl, Strauss was able to earn 400 gulden per year. In addition to that, the bride was able to make money with her needlework and had a secure shelter at her parents' home during the absence of her future husband. Because Strauss was unable to attend the first hearing, scheduled for 13 May, the court extended the deadline and granted the permission on 24 June 1825. The wedding took place on 11 July 1825 in the Lichtental Church, the couple's first child was born on 25 October of that year.

Robert Franz Müller was able to publish the application, together with the reply of the municipal court, because he had stolen the valuable "Verkündakt" from the Lichtental parish archive. When the archivist Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau (1911-2008) collected Strauss documents for his book Johann Strauss. Der Walzerkönig und seine Dynastie (Vienna: Verlag für Jugend und Volk, 1965), he noticed of course that the marriage documents of Strauss, Sr. were missing. Being an employee of the Vienna City Archive, Jäger-Sunstenau knew about Robert Franz Müller's activities and the return of the stolen Beethoven documents in 1937. He also knew that he was obliged to keep this particular affair and Müller's identity a secret. Thus the most he could do in his book, was to express his anger by bringing up the subject without giving the thief's name:
Die bei der Pfarre hinterlegten Dokumente fehlen dort aus der Reihe. Sie sind von einem skrupellosen Sammler entwendet worden, wie er es auch an vielen anderen Archivstellen praktizierte. So müssen wir ihm noch dankbar sein, daß er wenigstens manche urkundlichen Texte in der Tagespresse veröffentlichte. (Jäger-Sunstenau, Johann Strauss 1965, p. 20)
The documents that were deposited at the parish are missing from the series there. They were stolen by an unscrupulous collector, as he practiced it at many other places in archives. Thus we even have to be grateful to him that he published at least some documentary texts in the daily press.
It is rather likely that Robert Franz Müller also stole the file concerning Strauss's marital consent (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A3, 664/1825) from the holdings of Vienna Federal Court. Needless to say that – like the Paganini file – it is missing today from the A3 series of the civil court files.

The entry concerning Johann Strauss, Sr.'s marital consent in the 1825 register of the civil court of the Vienna Magistracy (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, B1/306, p. 197)

A Letter by Giannattasio del Rio

A document from Karl van Beethoven's probate documents, stolen by Robert Franz Müller before 1924, which Müller's relatives were obviously unable to sell, ended up in Müller's estate in the Austrian National Library (A-Wn, F56 Müller 93). It is a letter by Cajetan Giannattasio del Rio (1764-1828), the owner of the boarding school that Beethoven's nephew Karl attended, to Beethoven's sister-in-law Johanna who had fought with the composer in court over her son's guardianship. That the letter once belonged to the file of the civil court is proved by the imprinted six kreuzer revenue and the control stamp on top of it. Del Rio was ordered by the court to write this letter and he submitted a copy of the document as evidence.
6 Xr.
Frau v. Beethoven.
I have to notify you herewith that you will never again be allowed to visit your son in my institution, and that is because of an order which I myself considered necessary and which was stipulated by the guardian. On the basis of the resolution issued by the Landrechte court to the uncle and guardian respectively, of which I hold the original in my hands, it is absolutely within his authority to decide, whether, how and where you can see your son. Regarding this issue you must consult only with him. I request you therefore not to come into my house again, because you would be faced with the most unpleasant scenes.
8. März 816                                         Giannattasio Edl: del Rio mpia

Giannattasio del Rio's letter to Johanna van Beethoven from 6 March 1816, a document stolen by Robert Franz Müller from Karl van Beethoven's probate documents (Magistratisches Zivilgericht, Fasz. 2-1275/1819) in the Archives of the Vienna Federal Court. (A-Wn, F56 Müller 93).

This letter was published as No. 915 in the complete edition of Beethoven's letters, but the editors did not address the document's provenance. Beethoven's request to the Landrechte of 15 February 1816, which today is held by the Beethoven-Haus and which also originates from Karl van Beethoven's probate file, also bears the distinct smell of Robert Franz Müller's larcenous activities. Beethoven's letter of 29 March 1818 to his sister-in-law (No. 1251), which today is held by the Yale University Library (73.B 393), was also at some point of time stolen from Karl van Beethoven's probate file which is proved by its bearing the shelf marks of both Viennese courts. There are countless other Beethoven documents whose provenance can be traced to Vienna's Landesgerichtsarchiv. Of course none of the collections and libraries addresses the thefts. These institutions all behave as if, at some time, court-related Beethoven documents had begun to magically materialize in the desks of private citizens who were generous enough to donate them to the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.

A Letter by Karl von Valmagini

A second historical document in Müller's estate in the ONB, which must once have been part of his autograph collection, is a letter by the military officer Karl von Valmagini, dated Bucharest, September 27th, 1790, to his aunt in Vienna (A-Wn, F56 Müller 94). Valmagini's aunt was nobody else than Maria Anna von Gluck, the widow of Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck. On 22 December 1740, Valmagini's father, the Milan Mauro Ignazio von Valmagini, had married Maria Josepha Bergin, Gluck's future sister-in-law. In 1790 Karl von Valmagini took part in the Austro-Turkish War and the request he had from his wealthy aunt was a simple and obvious one: he asked her if she would be so kind as to lend him an amount of 500 to 1,000 ducats. How Valmagini's letter came into Müller's possession is not known. The document is an interesting Gluck family item, but its financial value is neglible.

The 1982 Hassfurther Affair

In January 1982 the Viennese auction house Hassfurther offered a Beethoven document for sale at a price of 50,000 Schillings (then about $5,070). It was a two-leaf sheet of paper with one and a half pages of handwritten text bearing the composer's autograph signature. The document's text consists of a protocol of a meeting which took place on 29 March 1820 at the civil court of the Vienna Magistrate in the presence of the following people who discussed issues regarding the custody of Beethoven's nephew: the Vienna City councilors Franz Xaver Piuk, Aloys Beranek and Anton Bayer; the court recorder Leopold Staudinger, Ludwig van Beethoven and the writer Joseph Carl Bernard. According to the protocol, Beethoven stated that "first, he persists to request the guardianship [of his nephew] in accordance with his brother's will and the law, second, that he proposes Herr von Peters, Court councilor of Count Lobkowitz as co-guardian, third, he requests that Johanna van Beethoven be excluded from the guardianship like it was decreed earlier by the Landrechte court; and, fourth, referring to the statements  he already made earlier to the civil senate, that he is fully taking care of his nephew and that he accepts a co-guardian, but certainly not a guardian, because he persists on his right of guardianship and that based on his experience he is sure that no other guardian is able to take care of the ward the way he can".

The second page of an 1820 protocol of the municipal civil court, bearing Beethoven's signature, which was sold by Hassfurther in 1982: "[...] sorge, und er nehme wohl einen Mitvormund an, aber schlechterdings keinen Vormund, indem er auf seinem Rechte, die Vormundschaft zu begleiten[sic!], beharre, und überzeugt sey d[urc]h die Erfahrung, daß ein anderer Vormund nicht so wie H[err] Rekurrent für den Mündel sorgen würde. Ludwig van Beethoven. Vidi Beranek".

The – meanwhile retired – archivist Hanns Jäger Sunstenau took notice of the document being offered by Hassfurther and immediately informed the head of the City Archive Felix Czeike. Of course Jäger-Sunstenau still remembered the Müller affair and thus he was totally sure that the 1820 court protocol belonged to Karl van Beethoven's probate documents and had been a part of Robert Franz Müller's original loot. On 25 January 1982 Czeike sent Hassfurther the following letter:
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
some time ago the Municipal and Provincial Archives of Vienna came into the possession of a xerox of a document that you are offering for sale. The document in question, which bears Ludwig van Beethoven's signature, is a sheet from the probate records of Karl van Beethoven, the composer's nephew[sic]. Because these probate records – like Beethoven's and those many other prominent people – are held by the Provincial Archives and because it can be presumed that the document has been removed in the past from the original file, we would very be very interested in clarifying the situation. Therefore we would like to ask you for a talk concerning this matter and would be grateful for an appointment.
Respectfully yours [...]

Felix Czeike's letter to the auction house Hassfurther (A-Wsa, M.Abt. 438, A1, 54/1982). The file concerning the Hassfurther incident of 1982 has only become accessible to the public in 2012.

When the City Archive got absolutely no reaction from Wolfdietrich Hassfurther, on 31 March 1982 the archivist Helmut Kretschmer paid a personal visit to Hassfurther's shop in the Hohenstaufengasse. In a memo, dated 6 April 1982, Kretschmer gave the following account of the events:
On 31 March I visited the Gallerie Hassfurther to conduct a conversation concerning a document that bears the original signature of Ludwig van Beethoven. This document, which has been offered for sale by the above gallery, originates from the probate records of Karl van Beethoven. [...] Our former colleague Dr. Hans Jäger-Sunstenau pointed the attention of the archive to the aforesaid document which is being sold by Hassfurther. After the archive had asked for an appointment weeks ago without getting any reaction, a personal visit to the gallery seemed necessary. When I requested information concerning this matter, I was told in a harsh and dismissive manner by the head of the gallery that the archive had absolutely no right to request information, even less to make a claim on the document proper. He told me that the sheet in question had already been taken from the holdings of the court between 1850 and 1870 and that the gallery had received this information from an unnamed scholar. Apart from that the gallery refuses to provide any further information and all future conversations have to be conducted with the Viennese lawyer Dr. Rudolf Bazil.
Of course the City Archive had no chance to get back the stolen document. On 7 April 1982 Czeike informed the Senatsrat at the Magistratsdirektion Dr. Richard Sehnal, the (then) city councilman Dr. Helmut Zilk and the general director of the Austrian office for archives Dr. Rudolf Neck. On 14 April 1982 the archive submitted a long and detailed report concerning the matter to the police administration (Z. II.-29.160 – SB/82), expressing gravest concern that "a stolen document might be sold to an anonymous occasional customer and thus be lost forever to the archive." A complaint with the public prosecutor (8 St. 26.448/82) was filed against Hassfurther and the writer Dr. Fritz Habeck (who seems to have been the original seller of the document). Owing to the lack of evidence the City archive had no legal case against Hassfurther and all legal action by the attorney of state was abandoned on 25 May 1982. Hassfurther agreed to at least provide the archive with photographs of the document. The original protocol from 1820 was sold (at a much too high price) to an anonymous German buyer. When Dr. Kretschmer put the photographs of the document into Karl van Beethoven's "Persönlichkeitenakt", in a fit of desperate optimism, he also put a note into the file, reading: "Currently[!] in German private property (1992)".

Dr. Kretschmer's wishful note in Karl van Beethoven's probate records: "z Zt. in deutschem Privatbesitz (1992)"
(A-Wsa, Hauptarchiv, Persönlichkeiten, B14)

Epilogue

The popularity that Beethoven material enjoys with ruthless thieves has a long tradition in Vienna. Beethoven is the only major composer, whose entry in the official death register of the Vienna City Council has been cut out about a century ago. When in 1922 the volume in question was transferred to the City Archives, the official in charge considered it necessary to glue the following "Amtsvermerk" (official note) to the cover page:
At the letter BP folio 23, containing the death date of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven (+ 26/3 1827) is missing. In the report of the journal of the Toten-Amt ["TAZ"] which was submitted today by this office to the Archive of the City of Vienna this was especially empasized. Conscription office, department for burial issues, on 13 Februry 1922. Mankamp[?] senior supervisor, head of the Toten-Amt

The note in the 1827 death register of the Vienna Magistrate. Parts of this text cannot really be translated, for instance "h[ier] ä[mtlichen]", "Abteilung für Beerdigungswesen" or "Leiter des T[oten] A[mts]". (A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt 160)

The missing leaf in the death register with Beethoven's name has been replaced with a typescript copy of the death notices in the Wiener Zeitung of 30 March 1827.

(A-Wsa, Totenbeschreibamt 160, BP, fol. 23r)

We find ourselves wondering how Mozart's and Schubert's entries in Vienna's death registers ever could survive into the 21st century.

Until 1924, Beethoven documents in the archives of the Vienna Federal Court were plundered ruthlessly and we can safely state that every document in the collection of the Beethoven-Haus that bears an Austrian imprinted revenue stamp once belonged to these archives. Unfortunately the losses of valuable material have not ceased: in 1969 Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau numbered the sheets of the Beethoven file in the Vienna City Archive with a ballpen, but in 1999 I discovered that nine leaves of that file had already been stolen.

The entry in the inventory of documents belonging to prominent persons referring to the nine leaves that are missing from the Beethoven file ("Fehlt: 5, 8, 9, 17, 90, 106, 116, 172, 173")

Owing to the lack of a reliable inventory (Jäger-Sunstenau's documentation from 1970 is very fragmentary), the archive could not even figure out what exactly had gone missing. When in 1999 I informed the (meanwhile retired) head of the archive of the loss, he bluntly replied: "We have so many files of prominent people!"

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014. All rights reserved.

Updated: 6 November 2017