BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, May 11, 1822 (approximately)

About now Sigmund Anton Steiner publishes the orchestral score of Beethoven’s choral settings of two of Goethe’s poems, Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), op.112. Beethoven sends a copy hot from the press off to poet and dedicatee Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Weimar. Beethoven is apparently in such a hurry that he does not include a cover letter. He finally will send a dedicatory letter nine months later, on February 8, 1823 (Brandenburg Letter 1562/Anderson Letter 1136).

Although written in December 1815 for a performance that month, the choral settings seem to have sat in Steiner’s inventory unpublished for some years and had not yet been printed. Steiner was primarily occupied with publishing Mozart’s complete piano works, and Beethoven’s large choral piece, with a limited audience, had to wait its turn. Franz Gebauer had borrowed the score and parts for two performances of the work in 1820.

Oddly, Steiner gives Beethoven’s work zero publicity until much later. His first known announcement of the publication of op.112 does not occur until February 28, 1823, in the Wiener Zeitung, where it will be described as “newly published and now available.”

It’s possible that there is some delay in Steiner’s printing of the piano reduction and the parts. C.F. Whistling’s Handbook of Musical Literature, Nr.5 (1821/1822) only lists the full score; the parts and piano version first appear in Nr. 6 (1822/1823). Steiner thus may have waited until all three versions had been printed before making an announcement. However, all versions will be available at least by October, 1822, when the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of October 9, 1822, col. 676, notes that “The score is beautifully engraved. The work … is also published in engraved parts and in a piano reduction.” According to KH2, there are several sets of the parts in libraries around the world that bear 1822 purchase dates. So there is still an unexplained delay of a number of months between availability of the piece, and its promotion by Steiner.

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage op.112 is performed here by Robert Shaw, conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus: