BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, September 27, 1821

Beethoven writes two letters from Baden bei Wien to Vienna today. In dire need of money, he attempts to arrange the sale of one of his precious bank shares. Distressing as that must have been to Beethoven, the whole thing ends on a slightly comic note.

The second letter would have been enclosed along with the first (Brandenburg 1440). That cover letter was written to Joseph Köferle (about 1794-1874), one of nephew Karl’s former teachers with whom Beethoven was friendly. With Beethoven’s recommendation Köferle had obtained a job as a clerk in the royal general court chamber.

That letter to Köferle (the first part of which is lost) discusses the sale of one of the bank shares, and urges Köferle to always check the newspapers to see what rate the shares are trading at. Beethoven suggests it would be better to discuss it with one who is well versed in business. He mentions enclosing a note to the chief accountant of the National Bank [i.e., Franz Salzmann (1787-1865), who frequently advised Beethoven on matters regarding the bank shares after the departure of Franz Oliva.] As far as selling the bank share, he leaves it up to Köferle’s disrection entirely. The smaller the discount on the sale, the better, but Beethoven fears a large discount will be unavoidable, since he urges that Köferle hurry. Köferle will need to meet Salzmann at the bank. Beethoven also urges Köferle to read the enclosed letter before handing it over.

Beethoven asks Köferle to come visit on Sunday [September 30] (presumably to deliver the money). If he can’t, he asks that Köferle please respond by Sunday morning, because Karl wants to have an Indian dinner prepared for him. Beethoven emphasizes their affection for the former teacher, saying, “Only dine with good friends.”

Karl adds a postscript to the letter as well. “Dear Mr. Köferle! My good uncle has already written to you that he is expecting you on Sunday, and so I am only writing in a hurry that I am expecting you with great joy, as you will already know. Please only hand over the letter to Salzmann if you find it necessary. Your C.v.B.”

The enclosed letter to Salzmann, dated September 27, is almost certainly the letter Anderson 1057/Brandenburg 1441. In it, Beethoven says he has commissioned the bearer of the letter to cash or sell one of Beethoven’s bank shares, due to the illnesses that have disrupted his finances so badly. Beethoven has been in Baden since September 7, and must remain until the end of October, and things are quite expensive there. Because Beethoven knows nothing of how to handle such a transaction, he requests his friend’s advice and insights. He hopes that once he is earning money again he will be able to reacquire a new bank share.

Beethoven, after putting the letter in the envelope, but before sending it off to Köferle, writes upon the envelope, “You will see what a business genius I am.” He had discussed the bank share question with a friend, who reminded Beethoven he only had to cut off a dividend coupon to sell and that would resolve the money problem. The bank share itself did not need to be sold at all. “But I am delighted not to be troublesome to you.” Apparently, having written the letters, Beethoven felt compelled to send them, even though much of the desired transaction was now moot.

The letter to Köferle is today separated into multiple pieces, and the first section appears to be lost. Of the two extant pieces, one is in private hands and the other is owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library, Mary Flagler Cary Music Collection. The Salzmann letter’s whereabouts are unknown today; its text was reprinted in Wegeler/Ries. At that time, the Salzmann letter and the envelope were held by the Aachen Police Council archives.