BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, July 17, 1823

Beethoven writes from Hetzendorf to Hans Heinrich von Könneritz in Dresden, General Director of the Royal Kapelle and Theater there. He sends a receipt for the 40 ducats received from the performances there of Fidelio and the conductor score, apologizing for the delay. Carl Maria von Weber spoke highly of von Könneritz.

Beethoven suggests that perhaps he could intervene and get the King of Saxony to subscribe to the Missa Solemnis. He has already rejected it once, but Archduke Rudolph has written to him, and perhaps von Könneritz could use his influence at court as well. It would be an honor to count the King of Saxony amongst his subscribers, such as the King of Prussia, the King of France, the Russian Czar, etc. etc. etc. Beethoven apologizes for the intrusion, and says it would be an honor to serve von Könneritz in any way he can.

Brandenburg Letter 1704, Anderson Letter 1210. The location of the original letter is unknown. The text is from Moritz Fürstenau’s article on Two Unknown Letters of Beethoven in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Neue Folge 1 (1863), p.619. It may have been in the Dresden archives, which were destroyed in World War II.

Beethoven also writes a long-delayed response to publisher C.F. Peters in Leipzig today. He begins civilly but rapidly loses his temper as he writes, suggesting that even though he has been drafting a possible response to Peters for over a month, the final document was written in stream of consciousness. [Peters had rejected most of the works Beethoven sent him as unworthy, and demanded a replacement piece be sent to him, but he was willing to pay a higher price if appropriate. Peters was particularly angry that he had paid a significant advance to Beethoven and received what he considered to be unpublishable works, though Clementi in London was happy to print the Bagatelles op.119.]

Beethoven says he will hand over a manuscript to Meißel Brothers, as had been arranged. If the fee has to be increased, he will let Peters know. He then launches into a tirade about how Peters does business, “You never know what you want.” Beethoven did not ask Peters to forward an honorarium before getting the manuscript; that was Peters’ own idea. He only took the money to silence the gossips. “And whose fault is that but yours?” Beethoven says that he has plenty of money coming in, and other publishers are happy to wait to receive his works, taking his Art and his frail health into consideration. They take into account the musical and not just the mercantile.

Brandenburg Letter 1705, Anderson Letter 1211. The original of this letter is in the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection BBr 41, and can be seen here:

According to Peters’ registration mark written on the letter, it was received on July 25, 1823. He did not respond to Beethoven.

Today is the sixth and last of Ignaz Schuppanzigh’s lunchtime series of subscription concerts. This concert features a quartet by Haydn in E-flat major, one by Mozart in A major and one by Beethoven in E minor [“Razoumovsky” Quartet Nr. 8, op.59/2 (1806)].

The Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of September 17 (Nr. 38) at 621-622, had this to say about the sparsely-attended performance: “All true art lovers heartily wish a speedy continuation to this long-missed festival of music. Admittedly, the support may well have been far too little: one speaks of a maximum of 70 to 80 audience members, for which both the unsuitable time of year and the not entirely pleasant lunchtime hour are likely to bear equal parts of the blame. Meanwhile, one hopes that in the autumn these will perhaps ripen along with other fruits. Previously, Herr Schuppanzigh celebrated his greatest triumph with Beethoven’s compositions; now time seems to have brought about a slight change in this too; these original creations were met with admiration, and Father Haydn delighted, but only the hero Mozart irresistibly enraptured.”

One of Beethoven’s unrealized pet projects was a setting of Goethe’s Faust. In today’s Wiener Zeitung at 604, S.A. Steiner & Co. advertises the opera Faust in two acts by Louis Spohr, in piano arrangement. The work was only recently published, although written in 1813. The opera was first performed in Prague in 1816, under the baton of Carl Maria von Weber. The lyrics for Spohr’s opera, WoO 51, were written by Beethoven’s friend, Joseph Carl Bernard. The libretto is not, however, based on Goethe’s verse drama, but on various earlier Faust plays and poems. The two-act Singspiel was revised by Spohr in 1851 into a full grand opera in three acts, replacing the spoken dialogue with sung recitatives.

Both the original and revised version have been recorded. The original 1813 version, performed by the South West German Radio Kaiserslautern Orchestra, conducted by Klaus Arp, can be heard in a playlist here: