BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Monday, November 12, 1821

Beethoven writes today from Vienna to his friend and agent Franz Brentano in Frankfurt am Main. Brentano at some point during the last year had given Beethoven an advance of 900 gulden on the fee due from the publisher Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn for the Missa Solemnis. Brentano wrote Beethoven last month asking where the manuscript was. Beethoven responds that he was sick, and had jaundice through the end of August. On Dr. Staudenheimer’s orders he had to go to Baden bei Wein in September, but as soon as it got cold there, he was “attacked by such a violent diarrhea that I could not endure the cure and had to flee here again. Now, thank God, things are better. Finally my health seems to want to revive me again in order to live anew for my art, which actually has not been the case for 2 years both for lack of health and because of so many other human sufferings.”

As far as the Mass itself, Beethoven claims the manuscript could have been sent earlier, but it needed to be proofread carefully, because outside publishers are not likely to do so, as he knows from experience. The copy has to be engraved and looked through note for note, and because of his sickly circumstances he did not do that. That was all the more true “since I had to do several bread-jobs (unfortunately, I have to call them that).” [What these “bread-jobs” might have been is unclear, unless he was referring to the proofreading of the Piano Sonata #30 and the 25 Scottish Songs. In any event, Beethoven is not being truthful because the Mass is still not finished.] Beethoven contemplates trying again to convince Simrock to pay in louis d’ors rather than friedrich d’ors [which would increase the effective rate by about 22%, despite the lengthy negotiations on this very point last year]. Beethoven notes that he has had several inquiries about the Mass from other quarters. [Schlesinger expressed an interest, as we will see tomorrow, and there may also have been an offer from a Vienna publisher, so Beethoven was not in this instance just trying to maneuver for a better price from Simrock.]

Beethoven promises that Brentano’s advance “will be repaid as soon as possible.”

Brandenburg letter 1445, Anderson letter 1059. The original is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, catalogued as BH 24. The original can be seen here: