Commentary on Wawruch's Report: Biographies of Andreas Wawruch and Johann Seibert, Schindler's Responses to Wawruch's Report, and Beethoven's Medical Condition and Alcohol Consumption

By Lorenz, Michael | The Beethoven Journal, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Commentary on Wawruch's Report: Biographies of Andreas Wawruch and Johann Seibert, Schindler's Responses to Wawruch's Report, and Beethoven's Medical Condition and Alcohol Consumption


Lorenz, Michael, The Beethoven Journal


Michael Lorenz would like to thank David Euch and David Black for providing helpful advice and corrections.

DR. ANDREAS WAWRUCH'S ACCOUNT, WHICH WAS REPUBLISHED in other periodicals and newspapers soon after its first publication in the Wiener Zeitschrifi,1 may be regarded as a turning point in Beethoven biography. For the first time, die monopoly of information that had been controlled by Schindler with his biography of Beethoven in 1840 was shaken by the authentic voice of a medically qualified witness, who although he raised his voice fifteen years after penning his account, did so with much credibility. A testimony came to light that had been recorded only two months after Beethoven's death and therefore-apart from Schindler's letter to Schott2-was without parallel. We have to keep in mind that in 1842 the public knew almost nothing about Beethoven's last physicians and the treatment they applied. Coundess admirers of the deceased composer were only familiar with Schindler's description of the wretched behavior of Beethoven's nephew Karl, who had been sent for a doctor and instead, forgetting all about his sick uncle, went to the coffee house to play at billiards.3 Schindlers heartrending story of Dr. Wawruch's quasi-coincidental arrival at Beethoven's sickbed has long been debunked by Thayer,4 who was able to prove that the chronology Schindler gave couldn't be true and that the physician had actually been summoned by Karl Holz. The reason for Wawruch being the most opportune choice was certainly the fact that he lived on Alsergrund near Beethoven's apartment and worked close by in the Allgemeines Krankenhaus.

Although this commentary cannot provide a detailed chronological account of Beethoven's last illness,5 the following general facts should be kept in mind. On December 2,1826, Beethoven arrived in Vienna allegedly stricken with severe pneumonia. Three days later Professor Wawruch paid his first visit to the Schwarzspanierhaus and introduced himself with the following entry in Beethoven's conversation book, "A great admirer of your name will apply everything possible, soon to bring you allevation Prof Wawruch mp."6 Exactly who was this man who came to pky such an important role so kte in Beethoven's life?7

Biographical Sketch of Andreas Wawruch

Wawruch entered the field of professional medicine at the relatively ripe age of thirty-seven because he had dedicated the greater part of his life to his other favorite passions: theology, classical literature, and music.8 Andreas Wawruch was born on November 25, 1772, the son of the peasant Ignaz Wawruch and his wife Anna, née Kazyk9 in the Moravian village Niemtschitz an der Hanna (today Nemcice nad Hanou, Czech Republic). Because his father was too poor to provide his son with an education, Wawruch's uncle Kaspar Wawruch,10 a theologian and local schoolteacher, took the boy into his home in 1779 and in addition to regular schooling also gave him violin and singing lessons. In 1783 Wawruch entered the gymnasium in Kremsier (Kromeriz). In 1786, after brilliantly passing a singing audition, he was accepted into the archbishop's chapel as boy soprano, which also allowed him free attendance at the Humaniora classes in the archiepiscopal piarist seminary in Kremsier. Until the day he left the gymnasium, Wawruch always held the rank ofprinceps scholae. During his philosphy studies at the university in Olmürz, which he began in 1792, Wawruch gave music lessons and earned his living as music copyist. In 1795 he enrolled in theological and law courses and decided to prepare himself for a clerical profession. His studies also included dogmatics and lessons in Italian and French. He was about to receive his second consecration when Mozart's Magic Flute-was performed for the first time in Kremsier in 1796, "an event" (as Wawruch himself puts it) "that was to change my life forever." Because no professor dared to allow the seminary students to attend the opera, they submitted a petition to the archbishop, Anton Theodor von Colloredo (a cousin of Mozart's former superior), who not only gave his permission but also paid 200 florins entrance fee for all the seminarians. …

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