BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, March 7, 1821

Beethoven is feeling much better, and writes to publisher Adolph Martin Schlesinger in Berlin. He begins by saying “You have probably formed an unfavorable opinion of me. But you will think better of me when I tell you that for six weeks I have been laid up with a violent rheumatic attack.” Beethoven promises to make up for lost time, but meanwhile he has several instructions for Schlesinger.

First, the names of the English authors of the song lyrics need to be added to the 25 Scottish Songs, op.108 [Beethoven slips up and writes op.107]: Lord Byron, Scott, etc. A list of the authors will follow shortly. [Beethoven does not actually send the list until July, suggesting that he may shortly suffer another relapse, preventing him from doing so.] He does not object to Schlesinger’s proposed dedication to Prussian crown prince Friedrich Wilhelm, even though Beethoven had intended someone else to have the dedication. [As noted previously, for some reason Schlesinger instead issues the dedication to Prince Anton Heinrich von Radziwill (1755-1833), apparently without consulting Beethoven.]

With respect to the piano sonata op.109, Beethoven would like the dedication to read as follows:

“Sonata for the Hammerklawier written
To Fräulein Maximiliana
dedicated by Ludwig
van Beethoven 109th work.”

Beethoven suggests also adding the year “as I have often wished, but no publisher has ever wanted to?” [Schlesinger did not include the year as requested. Maximiliane Brentano (1802-1861) was the daughter of Beethoven’s close friends and publishing agent Franz and Antonie Brentano. Maximiliane was quite musical herself, and Beethoven had previously written for her the Piano Trio WoO 39 on June 26, 1812. Her mother, Antonie, has been proposed as one of the primary candidates for Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved in early July of that year. Sylvia Bowden has also suggested that Beethoven became infatuated with Maxe herself in 1817, when she would have been only 14, and wrote her a series of letters between April 1817 and January 1818 (none of which are extant, so this proposal is very heavy on speculation, but he carefully noted in his diary the dates he sent a series of letters to Frankfurt, where the Brentanos lived). Bowden further suggests that Maxe is the “Distant Beloved” addressee of the song cycle “An die ferne Geliebte,” op.98, written in 1816-1817. An English edition of the Hammerklavier sonata, op.106, written at the same time, would also bear a dedication to Maxe rather than Archduke Rudolph, although it is unclear precisely how that dedication arose.]

Beethoven promises that the other two sonatas [op.110 and 111] will follow soon. He does not remember exactly what the arrangement for the fee was since he does not have Schlesinger’s letters at hand, but if he wants a few more works, “I can make arrangements and create what is desirable for my art, as well as for you and the public.” Beethoven believes that Schlesinger can read the manuscript [of the piano sonata], but he offers to proofread the songs and the sonata if Schlesinger believes proofing is necessary. He asks that the manuscript of the songs be returned with them in order to do the job properly; while it is a hasty copy, he no longer has an original manuscript. [Beethoven had marked up the copyists’ manuscript of the Scottish Songs and sent it to Schlesinger without keeping a copy; in the case of the piano sonata, he seems to have sent his original autograph, which is now in the Library of Congress, Washington DC.]

Anderson letter 1050; Brandenburg letter 1428. The original letter is in private hands in Switzerland.

Our next update will be March 14.