BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, March 14, 1821

Beethoven writes today from Vienna to publisher Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn. Work seems to be proceeding on the Missa Solemnis, because he asserts that the score of the Mass will be in Frankfurt (with agent Franz Brentano) by the end of April at the latest. [Beethoven had first previously promised Simrock he would have the score by the beginning of June, 1820.] He explains that he “was bedridden for six weeks, during which time I was not allowed to be bothered with anything, and I am still continuing to take various medicines. So it went with the translator and all the people I know around me.” He blames the terrible winters in Vienna; having been raised in the milder climes of the Rhineland, they were a new and strange thing to him.

Again, he blames the delays on the translator, who is overwhelmed with other literary work. However, the translator is a musician familiar with Beethoven’s idea about the Latin text, “and being a finished writer is able to produce an ideal translation.” Beethoven refuses to disclose the translator’s name [suggesting there may not in fact have been any translator engaged as of yet].

Beethoven urges Simrock to remain calm, and he will be amply rewarded for the wait. “I am merely giving you this information so that you may not imagine anything different from what actually is happening.”

Beethoven sends good wishes to Simrock, and asks him to likewise pass on Beethoven’s best wishes to Franz Wegeler. Beethoven also makes a pun about Wegeler’s job, saying, “I know from experience that he will not be Government Rubbish [Unrath], instead of a Government Councillor [Rath].”

Beethoven closes in haste, and suggests “I still hope to see Bonn this summer.” [He would never see his homeland again.]

[Given the lack of correspondence or other evidence of activity in the first quarter of the year 1821, Beethoven’s claim of having been confined to bed for six weeks and unable to work is probably not far from the truth, though one must expect there is some exaggeration here. But since he also mentioned being laid up for six weeks in his letter of March 7, he seems to be experiencing relatively good health currently. That will not last.]

The original letter is in the holdings of the Bonn Beethovenhaus, H.C. Bodmer Collection, Br 234. The original may be seen here: