BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, April 19, 1822

Beethoven today reviews and corrects a copyist’s score of the piano reduction of Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt, op.112, originally written for chorus and orchestra in 1815. The names of neither the arranger nor the copyist are known, but the arrangement was not by Beethoven. He places today’s date on the score, with the cryptic notation “Nb: Again 150 fl. erased from the mea culpa mea maxima culpa and on today’s date on the glacis the glow of it in fire and flames. Vienna on 19th apr. 1822.” One possible interpretation is that Beethoven considered the arrangement like a military attack upon the fortification of his original. However, he did not make his own piano arrangement instead, so the final product as corrected apparently has his grudging approval. The original of this corrected copyist’s score is held today by the Schott archive in Mainz.

A devoted reader and friend of The Unheard Beethoven, Birthe Kibsgaard, suggests the following interpretation of Beethoven’s note on the score: “I have always understood the inscription from Meeres Stille… (‘nb: Schon wieder 150 fl. getilgt von der mea / culpa mea maxima culpa u. am heutigen date / auf dem glacis der schein davon in Feuer u. Flammen aufgegangen / vien am 19ten apr. 1822’) as an indication of Beethoven’s debts to Steiner. He owed Steiner a great deal of money and had to let Steiner have some compositions as part of the payment. This manuscript then, could be worth 150 fl. meaning that the debt (‘mea culpa’, one of Beethoven’s puns, ‘meine Schuld’ = my debt), has been reduced [forgiven] by that sum – and Beethoven might have burned one of the bonds (The German word ‘Schein’ could mean a certificate.) I am not at all sure about this, just guessing.” Sounds like a plausible reading to us.

Publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner has had the engraving template for the full orchestral version of op.112 in hand since at least about 1816, but has apparently only recently turned his attention to printing it in orchestral score, parts and the accompanying piano reduction. The orchestral score at least will be published next month. We are unaware of the piano version ever having been recorded. Perhaps for the next Beethoven Bicentennial in 2027…

Franz Schubert’s Eight Variations on a French Song in E minor for piano duet, opus 10, now catalogued as D.624, is published today, with a dedication to Beethoven. The French song that is the basis of Schubert’s variations is “Le bon Chevalier” as arranged by Dutch Queen-in-exile Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837), stepdaughter of Napoleon. Her son would eventually become Emperor Napoleon III (1809-1873). Hortense was a fairly talented amateur composer. At the time, she was living in exile in Switzerland. American President James Monroe’s daughter Eliza was close friends with Hortense, and named her daughter Hortensia after her.

Schubert’s set of variations states it is “dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven, by his admirer Franz Schubert.”

Schubert’s variations are here performed by Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone: