BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, June 8, 1823

Oil portrait of Prince Nicholas II (1793) courtesy of Esterházy Privatstiftung, Burgenland, Austria. Artist unknown.

Hungarian Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy (1765-1833) writes to Beethoven today. The letter is lost, but a draft, in the handwriting of one of the Prince’s clerks, survives in the Budapest National Library Széchény (Acta musicalia 4218). In this draft, the Prince thanks Beethoven kindly for his proposal to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis. “Since, however, I do not intend to expand the collection of my Masses for the present, and am already well supplied, I cannot make use of the subscription offered to me. I remain with all admiration your high-born devoted [etc.].”

This rebuff must have come as an unwelcome surprise to Beethoven, who plainly thought that he had adequately prepared this subscription through approaching both the Prince’s Secretary Anton Wocher and Nikolaus’ son Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy (1786-1866). Beethoven was almost certainly counting on the 50 ducat honorarium requested in his letter of May 29th. Haydn biographer Karl Geiringer says of Prince Nikolaus II that “He was as complete an autocrat as his grandfather had been, but lacked the latter’s charm, kindliness, and genuine understanding of music.”

Brandenburg Letter 1674. Not in Albrecht or Anderson.