BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, December 20, 1821

Beethoven today writes to his friend and agent Franz Brentano in Frankfurt. He needs to clear up a number of things, the most important of which is the composer’s dubious dealings regarding the Missa Solemnis. As you may recall, about a year ago Brentano had advanced Beethoven money on the sale of the mass to Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn. Beethoven had written on November 12 to let Brentano know that there was interest from other quarters in the Mass. He now lets Brentano know that he is making arrangements for the fee to be paid directly to Brentano (he does not name Schlesinger).

Beethoven also apologizes to Brentano for not getting his permission first before dedicating the piano sonata #30, op.109, to Brentano’s daughter Maximiliane. [As we observed on December 13, Brentano may have written Beethoven a now-lost letter expressing paternal displeasure over what might be taken as an interest in his daughter.] “May you accept this as a token of my constant devotion to you and your whole family – but do not give this dedication a bad interpretation of any interest or even a reward – this would offend me very much. There are probably even more noble motives, which one could ascribe, if you really wanted to find them.”

Beethoven offers his best wishes for the New Year to Brentano, and increase his happiness with his children. He also asks that Brentano “remember me to your excellent and most wonderful Toni.” That was Antonie Brentano, making this a rather awkward request if she was, as some have theorized, Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved.

Beethoven adds in a P.S. that he has been offered 200 gold ducats for the Mass, but thinks he might get another 100 gulden on top of that. He is waiting for one more letter on that point [very probably the response from Schlesinger, since that additional amount conforms to Beethoven’s last proposal], and he will inform Brentano at once. Then they can give Simrock the bad news. “So please be patient and do not believe that you have shown yourself generous towards an unworthy one.”

Anderson Letter 1064, Brandenburg Letter 1451. The original is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus as BH 25, and can be seen here: