BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, July 23, 1821

Today’s Wiener Zeitung at page 3 contains a number of advertisements by Artaria & Co. for compositions by Carl Czerny, who had been Beethoven’s pupil from 1801-1804 and sporadically thereafter. The advertised piano works include the Divertissement Brilliant for piano four hands, op.4; Easy and Brilliant Variations on a Favorite Theme, op.9, and Sonata nr. 1 in A-flat major, op.7. These were not new compositions, but were over a decade old. Still, it may have given Beethoven some pleasure to know his old student was still finding favor with the public.

Beethoven may have been less happy about Artaria’s advertisement on the next page of a “brand new arrangement for string quintet” of one of his (unnamed) pieces, printed by someone in Augsburg. But perhaps this arrangement ties in with the mysterious payment of 600 gulden to Beethoven from somewhere else through the Artaria firm back on October 27, 1820? Beethoven had previously authorized arrangements of his seventh and eighth symphonies for string quintet in 1816-17 by the Simrock firm, so that would not be unheard of.

Exactly what the Beethoven work is that was thus arranged is unclear. The new Kinsky-Halm catalogue of Beethoven’s works does a thorough job of listing contemporary arrangements by other hands, but I am unable to locate anything that meets the description of “brand new” as of mid-1821, that also was published in Augsburg. The string quintet op.104 (an arrangement of the Piano Trio in C minor op.1/3) by Beethoven himself had been published by Artaria in Vienna in February of 1819, so it qualifies as newish, but does not meet the Augsburg criterion. It also was printed in Strasbourg, Milan, London and Paris.

However, Kinsky-Halm does list one version of op.104 printed “after 1820” with no publishing location and no listed publisher, with a cover price of 3 florins C.M. The Wiener Zeitung advertisement states a price of 9 florins W.W. 3 florins C.M. would convert to around 7.5 florins W.W., so this is at least in the ballpark of 9 florins W.W., given some currency fluctuation. This might be our mystery work. If an Augsburg publisher were actually paying for the rights to the work, instead of pirating it as was so very common in the pre-copyright days, that could explain the mystery funds going through Artaria’s firm last October, since they were Beethoven’s original publisher for the work. But this is all entirely speculation.

The op.104 quintet is played here by members of the Vienna String Sextet:

Our next update will be August 1.