BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, December 19, 1822 (very approximately)

Portrait of Klopstock by Swiss artist Johann Caspar Füssli (1706-1782).

Beethoven writes an undated letter to S.A. Steiner & Co., asking if he can borrow collections of the poems of Friedrich Gottlob Klopstock (1724-1803) and Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim (1719-1803) for a few days. The purpose of this request is unclear, but it seems possible that it is in response to publisher Carl Friedrich Peters’ recent demand for the songs he has paid for but not received. Beethoven may be having second thoughts about the songs he was intending to send Peters, which had been written about 25 years earlier, and might not be good enough. If Beethoven thought he might start afresh with a setting of Klopstock or Gleim’s poetry, nothing came of it and not even any sketches are known to exist from this period. In any event, Beethoven says he will come by Saturday to pick them up.

The request for Gleim’s poems might be related to proofreading Der Kuss, op.128. That song was actually a setting of a poem by Christian Felix Weiße, but Beethoven mistakenly says in a letter to Peters of June 1822 that it is by Gleim.

Brandenburg Letter 1522, Anderson Letter 708. Emily Anderson tentatively dates this letter to 1816, but that seems highly unlikely. The watermark of the paper (“VAN DER LEY”) is of a kind used by Beethoven only in years 1822 and 1823. The letter is held by the Vienna City and State Library, (I.N. 3676).