BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, February 9, 1821

Beethoven is feeling well enough today to write a short note in somewhat awkward French to Swiss-Italian composer Carlo Soliva (1791-1853) in Milan. [Soliva was a once-well-regarded operatic composer in a Mozartean style. His best known work today is “La testa di bronzo,” or “The Head of Bronze” (1816). Soliva fell out of fashion when Rossini swept onto the scene, making Soliva’s music seem old-fashioned. He then devoted himself primarily to conducting and teaching. He was the director at La Scala in Milan from 1816 to 1821, at which time he moved to Warsaw for a teaching position. Soliva had at some point written to Beethoven, asking if he would do him the honor of accepting the dedication for Soliva’s new Grand Trio Concertant for Piano, Harp, and Viola.]

Beethoven warmly responds, “Monsieur! You will forgive me for not writing to you sooner, but I have been too busy – I will receive your dedication with the greatest pleasure, and if I am able, to be of service to you here in any case, you will always find me ready. – In the meantime, Monsieur, I remain your friend and servant, Beethoven.” Beethoven makes no mention of his illness, but that is the most likely reason for his noted delay in responding.

Anderson Letter 1049; Brandenburg 1426. The original of this letter is in the Bonn Beethovenhaus, HC Bodmer Collection, HCB BBr 53. The letter, with a portion of Beethoven’s wax seal, can be seen here:

Beethoven will later meet Soliva in person, and will write for him the canon “Te solo adoro,” WoO 186, as a souvenir of the visit.