BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, September 8, 1822

Beethoven, along with nephew Karl, writes from Baden bei Wien to his brother Johann in Vienna. From context, the letter is probably actually written by Karl, taking dictation from uncle Ludwig. They are concerned about Johann’s well being since they have not heard from him. In particular, Ludwig, anxious as always about money, is concerned whether Johann has been successful in his commission to sell the Ruins of Athens op.113, and King Stephan, op.117, to Steiner. [Steiner will eventually publish both overtures.]

Ludwig has also been thinking about the negotiations for the Missa Solemnis. Simrock wrote to him again asking where the Mass is, insisting on the old price of 100 friedrichs d’or. Ludwig suggests that perhaps if Johann wrote to him, he might match Peters’ higher offer.

There has been no real improvement in Ludwig’s health, but he retains hope that the baths will at least suppress his ailments, if not alleviate them.

Beethoven humorously notes that two singers visited them today [soprano Henriette Sontag (1806-1854) and alto Caroline Unger (1803-1877)]. They really wanted to kiss his hands, but since they were quite pretty he suggested that they kiss his mouth instead. He begs Johann write him right away, whatever he is doing, so Ludwig may know where he stands. He signs himself, “guardian of my underage lout.”

Karl adds a postscript of his own: “I’ve been forced to stay in bed for two days now because of a little cough, but I’m quite well again and able to take over the secretary’s position for my dear uncle.” He asks about the price that Johann agreed for Karl’s overcoat to be tailored. He adds a further postscript: “My dear Uncle asks you to observe the tempo, which is called prestissimo, in your answer.”

The letter is forwarded to Johann’s brother-in-law, master baker Leopold Obermayer, to be forwarded to wherever Johann is living currently.

The original of this letter is lost, and it is known only from an old copy made by Mrs. Fanny Linzbauer-Ponsing in Budapest, from the original that was then owned by Karl Holz. That copy is in the possession of the British Library in London (Loan 48/14, fol. 15-16). Brandenburg Letter 1494, Anderson 1097.