BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, October 29, 1822 (approximately)

Beethoven writes to publisher Anton Diabelli. It seems that Diabelli has contacted Beethoven, asking when he will get the piano sonata for four hands that was commissioned two years earlier, and Beethoven (who in his ill health may have forgotten about that commission completely) makes a number of promises. This letter is particularly interesting for its mention of phantom works that, if they ever existed, are utterly lost today.

Beethoven asks Diabelli to be patient a few more days, when he will come himself. He asks that Diabelli take “the songs belonging to the Overture,” [which probably means the vocal works for Consecration of the House, op.124], the variations [the Diabelli variations, op.120, which must have been well along; they had been begun in 1819 but were set aside for work on the Missa Solemnis and the last three piano sonatas], as well as the piano sonata for four hands [which had been promised for no later than November, 1822, as described in a letter from Diabelli to C.F. Peters], and a flute quintet [Beethoven is known to have written no such piece, though there is an arrangement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata #8, op.30/3 for Flute Quintet, done by an unknown hand, catalogued as Hess Anhang 8]. Beethoven promises to bring everything on Monday [Sieghard Brandenburg suggests Monday, November 4, 1822]. He would like 50 florins for the overture alone.

As it happens, only the variations would be published by Diabelli. There is no sign of the four-hand piano sonata (which is not to be confused with the Sonata op.6, written decades earlier). Beethoven continued to discuss such a possible sonata, in the key of F, well into 1824, but it seems to have not gotten any further in actuality than a vague idea. Unless the flute quintet is the arrangement Hess Anhang 8, after the violin sonata #8, there is nothing extant of it either.

Brandenburg Letter 1505a. The letter itself is lost today, but was transcribed by Gustav Nottebohm in Beethoveniana. While Emily Anderson attributed the letter to 1824 (as her Letter 1313), the above-mentioned letter from Diabelli to Peters specifying that the four-hand piano sonata was to be completed before November, 1822, puts the date of this letter roughly in the last week of October, 1822. There is a followup from about a week later.

The flute quintet, Hess Anhang 8, can be heard here: