BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, May 31, 1820

The conversation books will resume again in a few days, but today finds Beethoven in Vienna writing a letter, during one of his weekly trips to the city, to publisher Adolf Martin Schlesinger in Berlin. (Brandenburg letter 1393; Anderson 1024). The letter is actually written for Beethoven by Oliva, and signed by the composer. Beethoven had in April sold his 25 Scottish Songs, op.108, to Schlesinger for publication.

In this letter, Beethoven grants Schlesinger the right to sell his compositions in England. He also undertakes to deliver to Schlesinger’s firm by the end of July three sonatas, for the price of 90 florins, the price Schlesinger had specified, although the composer notes that it is a “small fee” (Beethoven’s asking price in a letter of April 30 was 120 florins.) Beethoven writes, “I am used to making sacrifices, the composition of my works not being made only from the point of view of earning fees, but with the intent of doing something good for art.”

The three sonatas referenced were to be Beethoven’s final piano sonatas op.109, 110 and 111. At this point, only the first movement of op.109 was more or less finished; the sonata would not be completed until December 1820, and the other two would be composed over the next two years. Schlesinger did eventually publish all three sonatas, in 1821, 1822 and 1823, respectively.

András Schiff performs Piano Sonata #30, op.109: