Handwritten Beethoven Letter Demanding More Pay Expected To Sell For 300,000 Dollars


By Anamarija Brnjarchevska

A handwritten letter by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1815 is expected to sell for 300,000 dollars.

The four-page note by the world-renowned musician, discussing fair pay for his work, is being auctioned by the Boston-based company RR Auction.

“It’s a rare and important handwritten letter by the musical genius, discussing both his financial difficulties and a long-contemplated but never completed work,” said Bobby Livingston, executive VP for the auction house.

Writing in German, Beethoven composed the letter to librettist Friedrich Treitschke, emphasizing money woes.

It reads: “Many sacrifices I have willingly made and am making for the sake of my art.”

In the letter dated September 24, 1815, Beethoven asks Treitschke to help him secure 200 gold ducats for their planned opera “Romulus und Remus.”

A handwritten letter by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1815 is expected to sell for $300,000.  (Steve Chatterley/Zenger)

Part of the letter reads: “I should long ago have commenced on your Romulus, but the theatre management will only grant me one evening’s receipts for such a work; and however many sacrifices I have willingly made and am making for the sake of my art, I really lose too much by such a condition.”

It also says: “I am paid, for instance, for an oratorio such as the Christ on the Mount of Olives, which only takes half an evening, or only 1 hour and 9 minutes, 200 ducats in gold… I am firmly convinced that any place in Germany or elsewhere would pay me at least as well as any other man.

“For Romulus, I have asked from the theatre management, 200 ducats in gold and one evening’s receipts.”

Georg Friedrich Treitschke was a German librettist and principal of the Theater an der Wien in Vienna from 1809 to 1814.

In 1814, he revised Beethoven’s only opera “Fidelio.”

Beethoven then planned to compose the music for Treitschke’s opera poem “Romulus,” but eventually lost all interest due to the management of Count Ferdinand Palffy, who was running the theatre at the time.

In the letter, he asked Treitschke to intercede and secure a better deal for him.

He wrote: “Dear Tr.—do what you can to induce them to make other and more honorable conditions for me than the mere one evening’s receipts.”

A handwritten letter by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1815 is expected to sell for $300,000. (Steve Chatterley/Zenger)

“I, therefore, beg you in a friendly way to speak with N. N.; they cannot wish me to be a loser. I am quite ready on the conditions I have named to begin writing the opera, and to have it ready for the stage at latest in February or March.

“There is nothing I should like better than to be able to write altogether gratis, but in the present state of things such a thing would be difficult for a German, or much more an Austrian artist!”

The letter has previously been translated and published in “Beethoven’s Letters: A Critical Edition with Explanatory Notes, Volume 1,” by Dr. Alfred Christlieb Kalischer.

The original letter had a top bid of 73,143 dollars at the time of writing. Bidding closes today (April 13).

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