BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, January 9, 1824

The directors of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna hold a meeting today and one of the topics of discussion is the long-delinquent oratorio Der Sieg des Kreuzes. Beethoven had been paid 400 florins for the work in 1819, and the Musikverein has received nothing. [Nearly all of the blame should properly lay at the feet of Joseph Carl Bernard, who took almost all the intervening time to write the libretto. Beethoven had only had the full libretto since October, 1823, and the time since then had been entirely devoted to finishing the Ninth Symphony. The Society of the Friends of Music is well aware that Bernard has been delaying from the repeated letters received from him with various excuses, but he also told them in an October 1823 letter that Beethoven had had the full poem for some time, which was not true. Bernard, aware he was causing problems with these delays with the oratorio, had acted cold and distant towards Karl at a concert on November 16.]

The directors of the Society decide that Beethoven “should be asked in the strongest possible terms for a peremptory deadline for completion of the composition.” As for Bernard, the matter is in Beethoven’s hands now, since until he completes the music it cannot be properly submitted to the censors for approval. Once that is obtained, the fee for Bernard can be negotiated. [GdM Minutes 126/1824.]

The Society will write separately to Bernard and Beethoven on the 13th of the month, and those letters will be discussed at that time.

At the same meeting of the directors, according to Society librarian C.F. Pohl, Leopold von Sonnleithner puts forward a proposal that Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony be premiered by the Musikverein at an Akademie concert for the benefit of the composer. All the proceeds of the second performance would accrue to the Society, and they would be responsible for the expenses of copying and all other such incidentals. However, these estimated costs would by the Society’s computations come to 1,842 florins. These costs were considered too great and the profit too uncertain, so such a proposition would be an unacceptable risk to the fledgling society with its insecure finances. The idea was rejected.

Pohl suggests that the proposal may have come from Brother Johann and Anton Schindler without the composer’s knowledge; while Ludwig may have been contemplating such a proposal [and we have seen that he was], it does not appear to have been brought to the directors of the Musikverein with his authorization.

Carl Ferdinand Pohl, Die Gesellschafte der Musikfreunde des österreichischen Kaiserstaates (Vienna, 1871) pp.13-14.