BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, November 13, 1821

Beethoven writes to Berlin publisher Adolph Martin Schlesinger today. Beethoven is disturbed that the publisher already published the sonata op.109, even though he did not receive the supplemental list of mistakes. He asks that these mistakes be corrected in the engraving plates, since the errors are really obvious. Beethoven would like a printed supplemental list of these errors sent to him. He suggests that he could arrange with Steiner to have the mistakes corrected in Vienna before Steiner’s copies are distributed.

Beethoven blames his persistent ill health as the reason why everything wears him out so easily, and that happened in the case of the proofreading; while he was proofreading he was taken ill with jaundice. He exerted himself as much as possible to help Schlesinger, and then forgot to send off a supplementary list of mistakes he discovered later. “My advice is, and I ask you to follow it exactly, that you send this addendum of errors to all the places where you send copies, and indeed do so quickly, along with the order to correct the copies with ink before they are issued; in this way the matter is most easily dealt with. Please, please, please follow this advice so that the work appears in its true form.”

With respect to the other two sonatas, these will follow soon, and Beethoven will make sure they are copied correctly. Sending the manuscript is too risky; if something happened to the manuscript and the copy, then the whole work would be lost. Last time (with op.109), he had written down the draft more fully than usual and sent that off because of his ill health. But now that he feels better he just jots down his ideas, and only after the whole has been completed in his head does he write everything out.

He responds to Schlesinger about his inquiry relating to the Missa Solemnis. “It is one of my greatest works, and if you wanted it, it could well happen. I leave it to you. The fee is 100 louis d’or (but not friedrichs d’or nor pistoles), with the louis d’or calculated at two ducats in gold, thus actually 200 ducats in gold, or 900 florins in Vienna money. I cannot take less, because this amount has already been offered to me by others, and I am just giving them preference, but I must urgently ask you to give me an answer immediately, because the matter can no longer be postponed. Kindly write yes or no, but either way, immediately after receiving this letter. By the way, I ask you to keep this application secret.”

[Beethoven had good reason for asking Schlesinger to keep these negotiations secret, since he had already contracted to sell the Mass to Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn a year ago, and had even accepted an advance from Franz Brentano on that contract. These dealings with publishers over the Mass are Beethoven at his least scrupulous.]

Beethoven asks that Schlesinger arrange for payment for the remaining two sonatas through Tendler & Co. He notes that the business transactions are a burden when he is occupied with art. He asks for Schlesinger’s reply by letter post so he receives it at once. Again, Beethoven proudly notes that the only address necessary is to “To Ludwig van Beethoven.” He adds a final plea in closing “also, don’t forget the correction of the errors needs to be added in.”

After mailing this letter, Beethoven coincidentally receives in today’s mail four copies of the piano sonata #30 op.109 sent to him by Schlesinger. The composer looks them over and is horrified to see a number of additional serious errors. For example, where are bars 44 and 45 of the first movement? He begins compiling a list of corrections immediately, which will be addressed tomorrow.

Anderson Letter 1060, Brandenburg 1446. Both today’s letter and tomorrow’s are held by the British Library as Add. ms. 41628 fol. 30r-33v. That manuscript is a collection of 19th-century letters and ephemera. While a few pages have been digitized, as of this writing the Beethoven pages have not yet been made available digitally.