BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, June 5, 1822

Ludwig visits Johann, probably at his apartments in the City, and shows him his proposed response to Peters. Johann responds that the letter is well written, but offers to have it copied or to copy it himself; he reminds Ludwig that it is good business practice to keep a copy of your business letters so you know what was written. He also suggests stipulating in the letter that the pieces are given at an inexpensive price only if all of them are taken together. [Beethoven does not include such a provision in the final letter, possibly recognizing a publisher would be unlikely to take all of such a diverse accumulation of works at once.]. Johann’s wife Therese also mentions that the potential housekeeper she had suggested cannot come for several weeks, but she is mature and reliable and would be just right for Beethoven. Conversation Book 17, leaves 12r-12v.

The response sent to Peters was a copy, probably in Johann’s hand (Therese also comments in the conversation books that he will not trust that work to anyone else) and signed by Ludwig, but Ludwig’s first draft also survives. The differences between the two are generally inconsequential.

In the letter, Beethoven recounts his visit a few days earlier to Steiner, who had been silent about Peters’ interest in publishing Beethoven’s works. Unhappy with Steiner’s request for an exclusive contract, Beethoven explains this kind of shabby treatment is why he frequently gives preference to foreign publishers. “I love honesty and sincerity…unfortunately, common mankind all too often adversely pulls the artist down from those pure ethereal heights.”

Beethoven then gives Peters an ambitious price list of various works that could be available for publication. “The greatest work I have written so far is a grand mass with choruses, four obbligato voices and a large orchestra” [the Missa Solemnis, op.123, which has already been sold to both Simrock in Bonn and Schlesinger in Berlin, so why not sell it to Peters in Leipzig as well.] While he has been offered 100 full weight louis d’or, he would want at least 1000 gulden, which would include the piano arrangement done by Beethoven himself.

The first page of Beethoven’s personl price list, courtesy of the SBB/SPK under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Second, variations on a waltz for piano solo, for 30 gold ducats [the Diabelli Variations op.120, still languishing incomplete since 1819.]

Beethoven offers a number of songs: A comic aria on Goethe’s text “Mit Mädeln sich vertragen” [WoO 90] and another similar aria [the bass aria Prüfung des Küssens WoO 89], 16 ducats each, with a piano arrangement if required. Several songs with piano accompaniment, 12 ducats each [Beethoven does not list them here, but the songs set forth on his personal price list prepared in preparation for responding to Peters are the following: 1) Seufzer eines Ungeliebten und Gegenliebe, WoO 118; 2) the long-lost Ich wiege dich in meinem Arm Hess 137, which I am proud to say was rediscovered in 2013 by The Unheard Beethoven; 3) an unknown setting of Vom Tode by Gellert in G minor; and 4) Ein Selbstgesprach, WoO 114. All of these songs were sketched during Beethoven’s first years in Bonn, 1793-1800.] An Italian cantata with recitative [No, non turbati, WoO 92a]. An elegy for four voices with accompaniment of string quartet for 24 ducats [Elegischer Gesang, op.118], and a chorus of Dervishes with full orchestra, 20 ducats [the chorus of dervishes from The Ruins of Athens, op.113/3].

As to instrumental music, Beethoven offers for 12 ducats the grand march for orchestra, with a piano arrangement, composed for the tragedy Tarpeja [WoO 2a]; a violin romance with full orchestra for 15 ducats. [If it ever existed, it is now lost and is catalogued as Hess 11. The violin romances op. 40 and op.50 had already been published. Alan Tyson has suggested it could possibly be the surviving torso of the first movement of the Violin Concerto in C, WoO 5;] a grand trio for two oboes and English horn, which could be arranged for other instruments, for 30 ducats [The variations on Là ci darem la mano, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, WoO 28]. Four military marches with Turkish music [WoO 18, 19, 20 and 24], bagatelles for piano solo [most likely some of the set op.119], with prices to be quoted if Peters is interested. A piano sonata for 40 ducats. A string quartet for 50 ducats. [Neither the sonata nor the quartet had at this point even been begun as sketches, even though he says they could be had very soon.]

But most of all, Beethoven would like to have the publication of his collected works. “The publication of my complete works is closer to my heart than anything else, since I would like to take care of it during my lifetime. I did receive some requests to do so, but there were objections that could not be overcome, and conditions I could not fulfill. I would undertake to have the whole material ready and completely edited in two years (or even in a year or a year and a half, if I had the necessary help).” Beethoven would prepare it all personally, and for each type of composition he would deliver a new work. For instance, for the Variations, he would provide a new set of variations; for the Sonatas a new Sonata, etc. For the entire undertaking, everything included, he would want 10,000 gulden.

Beethoven says, “I am not a tradesman, and I would rather that things were different, but the competition is what guides me and determines my actions, and it cannot be otherwise.” He asks that Peters keep their business secret. “For, as you can already see from the actions of others, I am otherwise exposed to many a drudgery. Once you have started publishing my works, then they would plague me no longer. I should be happy if a relationship developed between us, for you have assured me of many good things about dealing with you, and you would also find that I would rather have dealing with someone of this type than with many others of the common species.” Beethoven asks for a quick response, as he is about to decide on the publication of several works. [Johann here omits, possibly with Ludwig’s approval, a sentence disdaining Steiner as a “common merchant.”]

“Awaiting an early reply, yours sincerely,
[signed] ludwig van Beethoven”

[Clearly, Beethoven was counting on his health being restored promptly and remaining stable for some time in order to make such lavish promises. Even so, he was promising the impossible. Few of the listed works were anywhere near readiness for publication and some had not even been sketched, while the editing of his complete works was a much more massive task than Beethoven was imagining, let alone also composing a new work of each type. It seems very likely that Beethoven used the price listing that was provided to him by Haslinger and Steiner to come up with the 10,000 gulden price quoted to Peters for the complete works. Albrecht, Letters to Beethoven 288. The listing includes genres in which Beethoven never actually wrote anything, such as a Requiem mass. On that price list, Beethoven makes notes about reserving the rights for London and Paris separately, and also notes that the sum paid by the publisher would be 10,000 florins C.M., the exact amount quoted to Peters here.]

Anderson Letter 1079; Brandenburg Letter 1468. The copy sent to Peters is held by the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, H.C. Bodmer BBr 35. Beethoven’s original draft is also held there as H.C. Bodmer BBr 73. Here is the link to the letter sent to Peters:

This is Beethoven’s original draft:

The price list itself is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, as aut. 35,80, and can be seen here:

Finally, the price list drawn up by Haslinger, with Beethoven’s notes upon it, is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, as aut. 35,69, and can be seen here:

The premiere performance of the song Liebe, Hess 137 (Ich wiege dich in meinem Arm) by tenor Dominic Armstrong and pianist George Lepauw can be heard here, and you can read the story of its discovery:

Among the ads for various Rossini arrangements, Cappi & Diabelli also announces the new publication of the 8th volume of songs by Schubert, with piano accompaniment. The advertisement indicates that this volume contains two songs, Der Jüngling auf dem Hügel, text by Heinrich Hüttenbrenner (today catalogued as D.702) and Sehnsucht, text by Schubert’s friend Johann Baptist Mayrhofer (1787-1836) (catalogued as D.516). Both of these songs had been written about five years earlier, and were only now being published due to Schubert’s increasing popularity. The volume also included the songs Erlafsee (D.586) and Am Strome (D.539), both again on texts by Mayrhofer.

First (1822) edition of Schubert’s opus 8 set of four songs, published by Cappi & Diabelli

The ad goes on, “Connoisseurs and enthusiasts have already judged Schubert’s works according to their merit; therefore this booklet does not require any further recommendation.” It was not that long ago that Diabelli was requiring Schubert to pay the costs of publication for his songs.