BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, July 27, 1822 (very approximately)

We may be able to call the Missa Solemnis finished at about this time, after over three years of work.

The pocket sketchbook Artaria 205, bundle 6A, consisting of 13 leaves, was used in the summer of 1822 by Beethoven. These sketches are mostly for the later portions of the Dona nobis pacem of the Missa Solemnis, and it was used in parallel with desk sketchbook Artaria 201. That book is dateable due to the presence of three canons known to come from 1822. The first part of Artaria 201 includes work on the piano sonata op.111, then sketches for the Mass parallel to those in this pocket sketchbook come on pages 63-78. After that, the remainder of the desk sketchbook is mostly concerned with work on The Consecration of the House, which was premiered at the beginning of October, and initial work on the Ninth Symphony. Interspersed with the Mass sketches is work on Der Kuss, op.128, and Heidenröslein, Hess 150, which no doubt were among the lieder Beethoven considered providing to Leipzig publisher C.F. Peters in his correspondence of early July. Thus the work on the Mass in these materials is comfortably assigned to be still ongoing during July of 1822.

The last material in Artaria 205/6a that concerns the Mass is a change in voicing of certain chords in the Kyrie, which, unlike the wholesale revisions to the Dona nobis pacem, seems like the sort of change that might be picked up by Beethoven in proofreading. Thus, about this time Beethoven has at last more or less completed the composition of the Missa Solemnis, a task begun in early 1819, and intended for ceremonies related to Archduke Rudolph’s enthronement as Cardinal Archbishop of Olmütz in March of 1820.

Proofreading and copying the Mass will still take some considerable time, but no future sketchbooks are known to contain material that is intended for the Mass. Beethoven’s desire to finally complete the work is no doubt related to the 1000 gulden fee that Peters has promised for the work. How he will explain that to rival publishers Simrock and Schlesinger, to whom he has already sold the Mass, is still unclear.

Attached is the Dona nobis pacem, called by Beethoven a “prayer for inner and outer peace,” in a 1959 performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan with soloists Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Nicola Zaccaria and the Wiener Singverein.