BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY, Friday, July 12, 1822

Leipzig publisher Carl Friedrich Peters responds to Beethoven’s letter of July 6 today. Since the four marches, the songs and the bagatelles for piano are ready, he asks that Beethoven send them to him. Whether the bagatelles should be issued separately or as a set, he will decide after he sees them. As far as the songs are concerned, Peters would like things that use a beautiful text, such as Adelaide, op.46, or Merkenstein (probably referencing the version for two voices, op.100 published by Steiner in 1816, since the single-voice version WoO 144 had only been printed in a musical supplement to a Viennese almanac, and it seems unlikely to be familiar to Peters.) Since Peters does not know how many pieces are being sent, he can’t yet determine the exact amount of payment due. The fee, which Peters estimates at between 200 and 300 gulden, can be collected from the Meisl Brothers banking firm. The money is there on deposit for him, and if Beethoven likes, he can claim it now.

Peters resists the idea of bargaining over art as if it were a commodity, and says he relies upon Beethoven’s sense of fairness. While he has been reproached for paying excessively high fees, Peters is glad to pay them. He regrets that they cannot reach agreement about the price of a string quartet, but he is already printing four this year by various artists such as Spohr, Beethoven’s friend Romberg and others. If Beethoven can get his price from another publisher, Peters will be happy to see him profit from it.

In any event, what Peters really would like is a piano quartet, not a string quartet. However, he goes a step too far and asks, “please don’t make it too difficult, so that dilettantes can also enjoy it. With the spoiled sense of taste now, one must lead amateurs back to better taste through pleasant but not too difficult works of great masters. Great masters often pave the way for superficial composers by making works that are too difficult, since the amateurs are deterred by works that are too difficult, and instead reach for the bad, easy ones. If good artists can take the trouble to write pleasant music that is not too difficult, then you can encourage good taste. I as a publisher can often observe this, and I pity those who would prefer the works of great masters, if they were not always put off by the excessive difficulty.”

[Beethoven had been harangued repeatedly by George Thomson about making his folk song arrangements too difficult for his audience, young ladies performing in their parlors, and he did not appreciate it then. In particular he did not care for rewriting works to make them easier, though he did so grudgingly on occasion for Thomson. Beethoven almost certainly would resent getting the same lecture from Peters in this letter. Although from the date of the letter it was written almost immediately upon receipt of Beethoven’s missive, it seems not to have been mailed by Peters for several days, as it bears a Leipzig postmark of July 17.]

Brandenburg Letter 1480; Albrecht Letters to Beethoven 295. The original is held by the Vienna Stadt- und Landesbibliothek (I.N. 43032).