BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, September 20, 1820

Beethoven is in Vienna, and he has unpaid secretary Franz Oliva write to publisher Adolf Martin Schlesinger in Berlin. Beethoven acknowledges to Schlesinger that the bill of exchange has been paid and the funds received, and that his “persistently poor health” has prevented him from finishing the proofreading of the songs. [Recall that on August 28th, Oliva suggested that Beethoven write Schlesinger pleading ill health as a reason for the delays. It was true that Beethoven became quite sick in late August, but that illness had very little to do with the delays since Oliva was still writing in the English lyrics at that time.] In addition, he blames Oliva as well, calling him “a linguist who is very busy; and here too everything was held up,” [which Oliva was no doubt used to by this time.] Beethoven promises that the score will go by the next mail coach to Berlin, and “on this you may count with absolute certainty.”

Beethoven then as usual exaggerates his progress on the three piano sonatas, saying “the first is quite ready save for correcting the copy, and I am working uninterruptedly at the other two.” [The first was not quite yet finished, and the other two had not progressed beyond a few pages of sketches.] Beethoven notes that his “health is completely restored and I will make every effort to fulfill my obligations to you as soon as possible.”

Beethoven says that after he dispatches the other two sonatas, then he will draw the final 50 ducats owed for them. [That will not occur until 1822.] Beethoven concludes by asking once again that Schlesinger excuse the delay, and “I send you my greetings with all due respect and devotion.”

Beethoven signs the letter, and Oliva posts it. The letter bears an undated Vienna postmark, and also a dated postmark of September 23 at Neisse in Upper Silesia (now Nysa, Poland) en route to Berlin. Anderson letter 1033, Brandenburg letter 1410. The original is in the Bonn Beethovenhaus, as part of the H.C. Bodmer Collection, HCB Br 210. It can be viewed here at