BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, July 3, 1822

Multiple music publishers write to Beethoven today. First up is Moritz ‘Maurice’ Schlesinger, writing to Beethoven from Paris. He has now set up operations for the Paris branch of the family publishing business, and is having the last two Beethoven sonatas engraved their so they could get better distribution. The engraving of op.110 is already complete, and it will be offered soon.

With regard to Sonata #32, op.111, Schlesinger says, “Since I had the pleasure of receiving your 3rd sonata a few days ago, which contains so many beauties that the great master was only able to create them, I take the liberty of asking you most obediently before I have any engraved, whether you only wrote the one Maestoso and one Andante for this work, or whether perhaps the Allegro was accidentally forgotten by the copyist?” Schlesinger wants to make sure the sonata is intended to be only two movements, and that a third movement hasn’t been misplaced or lost. “I consider it my duty to ask this question, since every masterwork must be printed strictly according to the will of its creator.” [Did this questioning of Beethoven’s intent for a two-movement sonata amuse the composer, ingratiate him, or did it infuriate him? One can readily imagine any of these reactions erupting from Beethoven, depending on his mood.]

Moritz Schlesinger also asks that Beethoven write some quartets or quintets, and send them either to father or son. “You have given the world so few works in these genres of music in recent years, that you probably not be surprised by my request; you probably have such things already in your portfolio.” He also inquires about the songs that Beethoven promised to father Adolph. “Now, one more request: Would you be so kind as to give me the metronome markings that were forgotten from all three sonatas in your reply? The enthusiasts have become so accustomed to performing pieces according to the wishes of the Master that everyone asks about them.” Moritz remembers fondly the time he spent with Beethoven, and also the gift of a canon [Glaube und hoffe, WoO 174, written out for Moritz on September 21, 1819.]

Brandenburg Letter 1476; Albrecht Letters to Beethoven 293. The original is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus, BH 218.

Meanwhile Carl Friedrich Peters writes Beethoven another lengthy letter from Leipzig. Peters confirms that he will buy and awaits delivery of the Mass, three songs and four marches. The fee of 40 ducats that Beethoven quoted for the latter items is agreeable. Payment will be made through the Vienna wholesale firm of Meisl Brothers, once the manuscripts are sent. “I am very pleased that you want to proofread the Mass very carefully beforehand, for I am stubborn about my editions, and I wish them all to be as perfect as possible.” Peters also notes that he is willing to give an advance, even though he has already had many unpleasant experiences with artists on account of advance payments, since Beethoven is a good honest man from whom nothing is to be feared.

“If your Muse leads you to do so, kindly write for me a piano quartet and a few bagatelles for piano solo. I would like to receive these things from you first. You mustn’t blame me for ordering things for myself and not just waiting for whatever you want to compose. I would really prefer to do the latter, if I didn’t have to look at what I need. For my business, it’s not enough to publish a certain number of new works every years; I also have to make sure there is diversity and appropriate proportions are provided for each genre of music. But I will also over time take as well whatever you are driven to create.”

Peters also encloses part of a letter received from Vienna publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner a few days ago. In it, Steiner claims that Beethoven has been in the country for two months and has been unavailable to speak to. [This was blatantly untrue; as has been seen from Rochlitz’ memoirs, Beethoven visited Steiner at least once per week while he was staying in Döbling.] Peters asks that Beethoven burn it as well as this part of the letter. [Beethoven did not do so.] He is unhappy that Steiner has dealt so unfaithfully, and repaid his friendship with ingratitude. He laments that Steiner was so easily led astray by greed.

Peters closes with some clever remarks that surely touched Beethoven deeply: “If I may contribute to your improved economic circumstances through our new connection, then I should be very happy. By the way, it is wrong that a man like you must take economic circumstances into account. The great ones of the world should have put you in a completely carefree situation long ago, so that you no longer had to make art to live, but could live for art. You probably also feel like many a deceased great artist, who was abandoned to worry during his lifetime, only to have monuments erected to him after death in an attempt to make things right again. While you may not be rewarded with temporal goods accordingly to your merit, then may heaven at least grant you health and a clear mind. Then you as an artist may be content like everyone else, and contentment is the most beautiful happiness.”

[Brandenburg Letter 1475; Albrecht Letters to Beethoven 294. The original is held by the Vienna Stadt- und Landesbibliothek, I.N. 161 672. This letter will cross in the mails with Beethoven’s letter of July 6th.]