BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, January 7, 1823

Beethoven writes to Georg August von Griesinger, the Saxon charg√© d’affaires (and Haydn’s first biographer) about the notion of a subscription for the Missa Solemnis. He sends brother Johann in person to Griesinger with the letter, possibly in hopes of getting a prompt answer that doesn’t require the laborious task of using the conversation books. Beethoven had corresponded with Griesinger last summer, when Breitkopf & Haertel asked Griesinger to approach Beethoven about composing a new opera for them. Beethoven thus appeared to feel safe in asking for his advice.

“Since I am not intending to publish my great Mass, which I have been writing for some time, by way of engraving, but rather in a way that I believe is more honorable and perhaps more profitable for me, I ask for your advice. If it is possible, my intention is to offer the same to the great courts. Since I am very inexperienced in everything except my art, it would oblige me infinitely if you could tell my brother, the bearer of this your thoughts. I would have come myself, but I’m a bit indisposed again. I’ve always seen you as in the vanguard of the progress of art, so I am convinced that in your sympathy you won’t shy away from accommodating my wishes.”

Whether Griesinger responded to Beethoven is not known. However, the project quickly goes into full gear within the next two weeks. Griesinger may be the person who suggested that Beethoven approach the various ambassadors, rather than writing directly to the various courts.

The original letter is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection BBr 129, and can be seen here: