Veturia pleads with Caius Marcius Coriolanus



If we follow the Wikipedia English and German language presentations on this topic, particualrly in the German version, we first come across the ancient Roman sources of this topic, Livius' Ad urbe condita libri CXLII and across the historic work of Dionysos of Halikarnassos, Romaike Archaiologia (Early Roman History).  However, as the German Wikipedia entry further explains, the source of the numerous theatrical depictions of Coriolanus is Plutarch's biography of Coriolan, which entirely relies on Halikarnassos's Romaike Archaiologia

According to Wikipedia's German entry, Plutarch describes Coriolanus (before 505 B.C. - 488 B.C.) as a proud Roman patrician and warrior who, in his youth, fought to please his mother, but who also excelled as a public speaker. He earned his name Coriolanus through his bravery in the fight of the Romans for the Volscian city of  Corioli, which, in the year 493 B.C., was occupied by the victorious Romans.   

On account of his popularity, Coriolanus was able to run for the office of a Roman Consul.  Out of pride in his Patrician heritage, however, he refused to accept the newly-created offices of the Plebejans, the so-called "public tribunes".  As a result, the Plebejans did not vote for him and lost the election.  After that, he is reported as having vigorously fought against the democratic inclinations of the Plebejans and as having been accused of subversion of the constitution of inciting against the senate.   The English Wikipedia version also mentions his being accused of misappropriating public funds.  While, in 491 B.C.,  the public tribunal sentenced him to death, the still-reluctant senate is reported as merely having banished him from Rome.    

Out of revenge, Coriolanus is reported as having turned to Rome's fiercest enemies, the Volscians whom he, after several victories over cities that were befriended with rome, led directly to Rome in 489/488 B.C.  After the Roman Senate first refused to negotiate with him, ultimately, they sent delegates to him.  After three unsuccessful attempts of this king, Coriolanus's wife, Vergilia, together with his mother and other women, resolved to visit him in his camp and to plead with him.  Coriolanus is reported as not having been able to refuse his mother's plea, who, together with his wife and children, kneeled before him.   Coriolanus is reporting as having retreated from Rome.  At their gathering at Antium, the Volscian are reported as having declared Coriolanus a traitor and as having murdered him there. 

The most famous dramatic depiction of this topic is that by William Shakespear who, as even the German Wikipedia version reports, with his Coriolanus, wrote his last and most mature tragedy.  In Shakespeare's drama, it is the leader of the Volscian, Aufidius, who kills Coriolanus.  As Wikipedia further reports, Shakespeare's source was mainly the English translation (by Sir Thomas North, from the year 1579) of Plutarch's entry on Coriolanus in Parallel Lives.

While die above-noted ancient sources still presented Coriolanus as a historic figure, during the 19th century, historians began to consider him to be a legengary figure.  For example, the German 19th centry historyan Theodor Mommsen, following a comment by Cicero, concluded that the Plebejan nobles, the Marcians, had created the figure of Coriolanus in order to glorify their own family, the Plebejan nobility and the Plebejans overall. 

What we can discern from that with respect to the early 19th-century Viennese theatrical and musical treatments of this topic is that, at least at that time, Coriolanus was still considered a historic figure.  



Heinrich Joseph von Collin

With respect to the author of the Viennese dramatic Coriolan rendition, Heinrich Joseph von Collin (whom we already encountered on our website in our look at Beethoven's "mammoth" concert of December 22, 1808), the English-language Wikipedia article, based on the 1911 entry of the topic in the Encyclopedia Britannica, offers some interesting details. 

Collin was born on December 26, 1771, in Vienna, studied law and embarked on a career in civil service, with the Austrian Ministry of Finance.  During the two occupations of Vienna by the French, he was entrusted with important political tasks.  In 1803, together with other members of his family, he was ennobled, and, in 1809, he was appointed as Court Counselor.   He died on July 28, 1811.

As a dramatic writer, he made his debut in Vienna (which lagged behind German dramatic theatre) with his drama Regulus, was very successful with it.   The drama is described as held in a strictly classical style.   

In his further plays, Coriolan (premiered in 1802 and published in 1804), Polyxena (1804), Balboa (1806) and Bianca della Porta (1808)  he tried to adapt his pseudo-classical style to the style of Shakespeare and to that of the German Romantics.  

As a lyrical poet, with his posthumously published volume of poems, he left behind some moving, patriotic  Wehrmannslieder for the Austrian soldiers and some good ballads (such as Kaiser Max an der Martinswand, Herzog Leopold vor Solothurn).



With respect to this, we can refer to reports by Thayer-Forbes and by Lewis Lockwood.  Thayer-Forbes writes that

"Collin's tragedy was originally performed November 24, 1802, with "between-acts music" arranged by Abbe Stadler from Mozart's Idomeneo.  The next year Lange assumed the leading part with a success of which he justly boasts in his autobiography, and played it so often down to March 5, 1805, as to make the work thoroughly familiar to the theatre-going public" (Thayer-Forbes: 416).

Lewis Lockwood writes about Collin's drama: 

" . . . Collin leaves the political aspects of the plot in the background, focusing less on the outer conditions for Coriolanus's downfall than on his response to each succeeding turn of events. Collin's version includes Coriolanus's tragic meeting with his mother and his wife, who plead with him to spare Rome, its people, and themselves. This meeting determines his fate: the appeal from the woman who bore him and whose voice is somehow within him, despite himself, tears him apart as he is caught between irreconcilable necessities. In Shakespeare's play, following Plutarch, Coriolanus is murdered by the Volscians; in Collin, Coriolanus, having lost his honor and his moral courage, kills himself" (Lockwood: 203-205). 

Thus prepared, we are ready to consider Beethoven's musical treatment of this topic.  



With respect to the beginning and origin of this composition, Barry Cooper reports: 

"Again little is known about the origins of the work--no sketches survive and the reason why it was composed is uncertain.  The play dates from 1802, but it was revived in Vienna for a single performance on 24 April 1807.  Since Beethoven would have been unlikely to write a dramatic overture without the incentive of a performance in the theatre, the overture was probably composed for this occasion (despite Thayer's assertion to the contrary. . . . " (Cooper: 164).

With respect to the time of the composition, Lewis Lockwood (p. 262) writes that it was composed at the beginning of 1807 for Heinrich Joseph von Collin's drama  Coriolanus.

Beethoven around 1806

This time frame leads us back to Beethoven's life circumstances at the turn of 1806/1807.  We know that at the end of October, 1806, after his falling-out with Prince Lichnowsky, he abruptly departed from Troppau and, very likely, that from then on, he would no longer receive his annuity of 600 florins that he had received from this patron, for several years.  Kropfinger (p. 33) reports that for 1806, this annuity had still been paid out in full.  However, we do not know whether Beethoven had allotted it wisely to last for the entire year so that he might still have had 100 florins to rely on, at the time of his return to Vienna.  As Kropfinger (p. 33) further mentions, on February 3, 1807, Beethoven received 500 florins from Count Oppersdorff, for his Fourth Symphony.  

With respect to the completion of the Coriolan Overture, Barry Cooper further reports:

" . . . If so, however, it was completed surprisingly long in advance, for it was ready by the beginning of March, and was heard that month in two private concerts organized by Prince Lichnowsky and Prince Lobkowitz (these were before select audiences, and so would not have detracted from the public premiere at the theatre the following month" (Cooper: 164).

With respect to the premiere of the overture in March, 1807, we can add further comments.  Lewis Lockwood (p. 262) reports:  " . . . the overture was first performed at a subscription concert in March, 1807",  while William Kinderman (p. 120) writes:  "In March 1807 the first performances of the Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto were given at the Lobkowitz palace, together with another orchestral work completed early that year, the Coriolan Overture, Op. 62."

Maynard Solomon (p. 203) also reports that Op. 62 premiered in March 1807, at the Lobkowitz palace.  

With respect to the March 1807 premiere, Thayer-Forbes quotes the February 27, 1807, announcement in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, followed by a report in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden:

"Beethoven's big symphony in E-flat, which has been recently reviewed so scrupulously and impartially in these pages, will be performed along with the other two symphonies by this composer (in C and D) and also with a fourth, still unknown symphony by him, in a very select circle that contributed a very select circle that contributed a very considerable sum for the benefit of the composer.--These performances, which took place in March, were described at the beginning of April in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden:

     Beethoven gave two concerts at the house of Prince L. at which nothing but his own compositions were performed; namely his first four symphonies, an overture to the tragedy Coriolan, a pinaoforte concerto and some airs from the opera Fidelio" " (Thayer: 415-416).

Thayer-Forbes's following discussion who the "Prince L." might refer to and his argument that it most likely refers to Prince Lobkowitz, is also already known to us from previous mention in our pages.   

While Barry Cooper, as we could read above, is of the opinion that the Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, was composed for the re-staging of Collin's drama on April 24, 1807, Thayer-Forbes writes:  

" . . . From that date to the end of October, 1809 (how much longer we have no means at hand of knowing), it was played but once--namely on April 24, 1807.  The overture was assuredly not written for that one exceptional performance; for, if so, it would not have been played in March in two different concerts.  But it is very likely that the single performance of the tragedy was arranged so soon after the two concerts in order to bring together the composition and the work for which it was written.  Furthermore Lobkowitz had recently become a member of the theatre direction.  The fact that the correspondent for the Allg. Mus. Zeitung wrote in December, 1807, "A new overture by this composer . . . is full of fire and power; according to the inscription, it was intended for Collin's Coriolan," does not prove so much that the performance of Collin's work in April was done without Beethoven's music as it does that the overture was new to the reviewer and that he had missed this performance as well as the concerts in March both at Lobkowitz's and at Lichnowsky's" (Thayer-Forbes: 416-417).

This leaves at least room for the possibility that the Overture was also performed on April 24, 1807. 




As Barry Cooper reports, between the first performances of the Overture in March 1807 and the re-staging of Collin's drama on April 24, 1807, Muzio Clementi arrived in Vienna:

"In early April 1807 the London-based composer, pianist, piano-maker and publisher Muzio Clementi arrived in Vienna on his way to Rome.  Beethoven was a great admirer of Clementi's piano sonatas, and his own early sonatas follow Clementi's more closely than any other composer's; but he had been weary of associating with him during Clementi's previous visits in 1802 and 1804, and no proper contact had been made.  This time, however, the ice was broken and they rapidly agreed on a publication contract.  This was dated 20 April and witnessed by Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein (who about this time took over Carl's former role as Beethoven's secretary):  Clementi was to receive the British publication rights to Beethoven's five largest-scale works:  the Fourth Piano Concerto, the 'Razumovsky' Quartets, the Fourth Symphony, the Violin Concerto and Coriolan (Opp. 58-62).  . . . Three works, the piano concerto, the symphony, and the overture--were despatched by courier almost immediately on 22 April.  . . . He also eventually published the 'Razumovsky' Quartets and the Violin Concerto (in both versions), but surprisingly, he never published any of the three works sent by courier.  The courier was travelling to London via Russia and the precious manuscripts were probably lost in transit" (Cooper:  166-167).

A confirmation of the contract between Beethoven and Clementi is already contained in the GA comment to Letter No. 261 (Breitkopf & Härtel's November 26, 1806, refusal of Beethoven's offer): 

"Breitkopf & Härtel an Beethoven

                                                                                               [Leipzig, 26. November 1806]

[Der Verlag ist mit Beethovens Vorschlägen in Brief 260 nicht einverstanden und verzichtet unter Hinweis auf die kriegsbedingte schlechte Ertragslage auf den Ankauf der angebotenen Werke]"

Breitkopf & Härtel to Beethoven

                                                                [Leipzig, November 26, 1806]

[The publisher does not agree with Beethoven's proposals in letter no. 260, and, according to the GA, referring to the unstable conditions, declines Beethoven's offer to purchase the works from him.] 

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter No. 261, p. 294]

[Original: not known, content derived from the registration note on letter no. 260; according to the GA, the content can be derived from the fact that the negotiations were broken off.  Here, the GA refers to letter no. 327.  The GA also refers to Muzio Clementi's letter of April 22, 1807 to  Breitkopf & Härtel:  "Beethoven ed io siamo diventati buoni amici alla fine.  Abbiamo fatto un accordo, pel quale mi cede la proprieta per li Stati Britannici, i 3 quartetti, una Sinfnia, un Overtura, un Concerto da Violino, ed un Concerto da Piano e Forte.  Ho fatto quest accordo co lui in consequenza della vostra lettera, data di 20 Gennaio, nella quali mi dite   n o n   p o t e r   a c c e t a r e ,  a cause dalle guerra, le sue proposizioni.  L'ho pregato di trattar con voi per la Germania" ["Beethoven and I have finally become good friends.  We have entered into an agreement that makes me the owner of the rights for the United Kingdom, for 3 quartets, a symphony, an overture, a violin concerto and a piano concerto.  I have made this contract due to your letter to me of January 20th, 1807, in which you told me that you could not accept his proposals, on account of the war situation.  I have asked him to negotiate with you with respect to Germany"], see  Max Unger, Muzio Clemitis Leben, Langensalza 1914, p. 162 f."; details taken from p. 294.]

Only two days after the re-staging of Collin's Coriolanus, Beethoven endeavored to reach the French market: 

"Beethoven an Ignaz und Camille Pleyel[1] in Paris

                                                                              Wien den 26. April 1807.

    Ich bin gesonnen, nachstehende sechs neue Werke an eine Verlags Handlung zu Paris, an eine in London und an eine in Vienne zugleich, jedoch unter der Bedingung zu verkaufen, daß sie an jedem dieser drey Orte erst nach einem bestimmten Tage erscheinen dürfen.[2]  Auf diese Art glaube ich meinen Vortheil in Beziehung auf die schnelle Bekanntmachung meiner Werke, und dann in Beziehung des Preises sowohl meinem, als dem Vortheil der verschiedenen Verlags Handlungen zu vereinigen die Werke sind:[3]

1)   eine Symphonie                                        4)  3 Quators

2)   eine Ouverture,                                         5)  ein Concert für's Klawier

       komponiert für das Trauerspiel               6)  das Violin Concert arrange

       Coriolan von H. Collin                                  für das Klavier

 3)   ein Violin Concert.                                        avec des notes additionelles

Ich trage Ihnen den Verlag dieser Werke für Paris an, und mache Ihnen, um durch schriftliches Handeln die Sache nicht in die Länge zu ziehen, gleich den sehr billigen Preiß von 1200 Gulden Augsburger Current.[4]  Diese Summe würden Sie mir dann bei Ihrem hiesigen Korrespondenten oder Wechsler in guten Augsburger Wechseln gegen Empfang der 6 Werke auszahlen lassen, und Ihr Korrespondent hätte dann auch für die Versendung zu sorgen,  Da ich nicht zweifle, daß Ihnen dieser Antrag gefällt, so ersuche ich Sie um eine baldige Antwort, damit diese Werke, welche alle schon bereit liegen, dann unverzüglich Ihren hiesigen Korrespondenten können übergeben werden.

    Was den Tag der Herausgabe betrift; so glaube ich für die 3 Werke der ersten Kolone den 1. 7br (September),[5] und für die der zweiten Kolone den 1. 8ber (Oktober) d.J. bestimmen zu können.

                                                                              Ludwig van Beethowen

    Mein lieber verehrter Pleiel -- Was machen sie, was ihre Familie, ich habe schon oft gewünscht bey ihnen zu seyn, bis hieher war's nicht möglich, zum Theil war auch der Krieg dran schuld, ob man sich ferner davon müßte abhalten laßen -- oder länger? -- so müßte man Paris wohl nie sehen -- --

    mein lieber Camillus, so hieß, wenn ich nicht irre der Römer, der die bösen Gallier von Rom wegjagte,[6] um diesen Preiß, mögte ich auch so heißen, wenn ich sie allenthalben vertreiben könnte, wo sie nicht hingehören -- was machen sie mit ihrem Talent lieber Camill -- ich umarme sie beyde Vater und sohn von Herzen, und wünsche neben dem Kaufmännischen, was sie mir zu schreiben haben, auch vieles von dem, was sie selbst und ihre Familie angeht zu wißen -- leben sie wohl und vergeßen sie nicht ihren Wahren Freund


Beethoven to Ignaz and Camille Pleyel[1] in Paris

                                                           Vienna the 26th of April, 1807.

    I am inclined to sell the six new works listed below to a publisher in Paris, to one in London, and to one in Vienna at the same time, however, under the condition that in each of these three locations, they only may appear after a certain date.[2]  In this way I believe that I can combine my advantage with respect to the speedy publication of my works, and then with respect to the price, with the advantage to the various publishers.  The works are:[3]

1)  a symphony                            4)  3 quartets
2)  an overture,                            5)  a concerto for the piano
     composed for the tragedy      6)  the violin concerto arranged
     Coriolan by H. Collin                  for the piano
3)  a Violin Concerto.                       with additional notes

    I am offering you the publication of these works for Paris, and offer you, in order not to prolong the matter through written negotiations, right away, the very reasonable price of 1,200 florins in Augsburg currency.[4]  You would then pay out to me this sum to your Viennese correspondent or exchange partner in good Augsburg drafts, in exchange for the receipt of the six works, and your correspondent would then also have to take care of the delivery of the works.  Since I do not doubt that this offer will be to your liking, I ask you for a quick reply so that these works which are already ready for dispatch can be handed over to your correspondent without delay.  

    As far as the publication date is concerned, I believe that I can name the 1st of September for the three works of the first column, and for those of the second column the 1st of October, as the publication dates.  

                                                                              Ludwig van Beethowen

    My dear revered Pleiel --What are you doing, what are your family doing; often, I have wished that I could be with you; up to now, it has not been possible.  Partly, the war was also to blame for it, if one has to abstain from it further--or longer?--that way, one might never see Paris-- --  

    my dear Camillus, that was the name, if I am not wrong, of the Roman who chased the bad Gauls out of Rome,[8] for this price, I would also like to be named thus, if I could chase them out where they do not belong--what are you doing with your talent my dear  Camill--I sincerely embrace you both, father and son, and, in addition to the business matters you will have to write to me about, I also want to know much of what concerns you and your family--farewell and do not forget your true friend  


[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 277, p. 308-310]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to Ignaz Joseph Pleyel [1757-1831], Austrian-born composer, music publisher and piano maker and pupil of Vanhal and Haydn who, after touring and performing in Italy, Strasbourg and London, settled in Paris in 1795 and, in 1802, with his  "Bibliotheque musicale" opened the first known series of pocket book scores, as well as to his son Camille Pleyel [1788-1855], composer, pianist and music publisher; to [2]: refers to the fact that no contract was formed with Pleyel; to [3]: refers to Op. 60, Op. 62, Op. 61, Op. 59, Op 58 as well as to the arrangement of Op. 61 as piano concerto; to [4]:  refers to the florin of Augsburg currency, which had the equivalent value of the Austrian convention currency; to [5]:  refers to the fact that, in his contract with Clementi, Beethoven had agreed not to publish the three works of the first column outside of Britain, before the 1st of September, 1807; to [6]:  refers to Beethoven's reference to Marcus Furius Camillus, the second founder of Rome who, in 390 BC, chased the Gauls out of Rome; details taken from p. 310.]  

"Beethoven an Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn

                                                                       Wien den 26. April 1807

    Ich bin gesonnen nachstehende sechs neue Werke an eine Verlags Handlung in Frankreich, an eine in England, und an eine in Wien zugleich, jedoch unter der Bedingung zu verkaufen, daß sie erst nach einem bestimmten Tage erscheinen dürfen.[1]  Auf diese Art glaube ich meinen Vortheil in Rücksicht der schnellen Bekanntmachung meiner Werke, und dann in Rücksicht des Preises sowohl meinen als den Vortheil der verschidenen Verlags Handlungen zu vereinigen.  die Werke sind: 

1)  eine Symphonie                            4)  3 Quatuors
2) eine Ouverture,                              5) ein Concert für's Klavier
    komponiert für das Trauerspiel     6) das Violin Concert arrange
    Coriolan von H. Collin                       für das Klavier
3) ein Violin Concert.                             avec des notes additionelles

    Ich trage Ihnen an, diese Werke in Paris herauszugeben, und mache Ihnen, um durch schriftliches Handeln die Sache nicht in die Länge zu ziehen, gleich den sehr billigen Preiß von 1200. Gulden Ausburger Current; welche Summe Sie mir bey Ihrem hiesigen Korrespondenten oder Wechsler in guten Augsburger Wechseln gegen Empfang der sechs Werke auszahlen lassen würden.  Ihr Korrespondent hätte alsdann auch fär die Versendung zu sorgen.  Da ich nicht zweifle, daß Ihnen dieser Antrag ansteht; so ersuche ich Sie, mir bald zu antworten, damit diese werke, welche alle bereit liegen, dann unverzüglich Ihrem hiesigen korrespondenten können öbergeben werden. -- Was den Tag der Herausgabe betrifft, so glaube ich für die 3 Werke der ersten Kolone den 1. 7br, und für die der zweiten Kolone den 1. 8br d.J. bestimmen zu können.

                                                                               Ludwig Van Beethowen

Beethoven to Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn

                                                              Vienna, the 26th of April, 1807

    I am inclined to sell the six new works listed below to a publisher in France, to one in England, and to one in Vienna simultaneously, however, under the condition that they many only be published after a certain date.  In this way I hope to combine my advantage with respect to the rapid publication of my works, and with respect to the price, with the advantage to the various publishers.  The works are:  

1)  a symphony                            4)  3 quartets
2)  an overture,                            5)  a concerto for the piano
     composed for the tragedy     6)  the violin concerto arranged
     Coriolan by H. Collin                  for the piano
3)  a Violin Concerto.                       with additional notes

    I am offering you the publication of these works in Paris and offer you, in order not to delay the matter through written negotiations, right away, the very favorable price of 1,200 florins in Augsburg currency, which sum you will pay out to me through your Viennese correspondent or exchange partner, in form of good Augsburg drafts in exchange for these works.  Your correspondent would then also be responsible for the delivery of the works.  Since I do not doubt that you will like this offer, I ask you to reply to me right away so that these works that are already ready for dispatch can immediately be handed over to your correspondent.  As far as the publication date is concerned, I believe that I can indicate Sept. 1 for the works of the first column and for those of the second column, October 1st.  

                                                                               Ludwig Van Beethowen

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 278, p. 310-311]

[Original:  from the hand of Ignaz von Gleichenstein, signed by Beethoven; Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1] here, the GA refers to the contract with Muzio Clementi of April 20, 1807 and to the offer to Pleyel (letter no. 277]; details taken from p. 311.]

At least his old Bonn friend Simrock replied:

"Nikolaus Simrock an Beethoven

                                                                    Bonn den 31. Mai 1807.

    Gestern erhielt ich lieber L. v. Beethoven Ihr mir sehr Werthes vom 26. April.[1]  Da durch die Mit-Verleger in Wien und England, mein Gewinn auf Frankreich eingeschränkt ist, wo ihre Werke außer Paris, und da bei weitem nicht nach Verdienst benutzt werden können.  Nun noch der Krieg, wo Alles, was nur Bezug auf Handel hat, völlig still liegt, noch unter keiner Epoche seit dem 15jährigen Krieg[2] lag der Musik-Handel so sehr darnieder, als nun, und fällt täglich tiefer.  Ein Englischer Verleger spürt das nicht so, denn[3] die österreichische Monarchie hat Frieden.  Ganz anders ist es mit dem nördlichen Deutschland und Frankreich.  Selbst einige Jahre Frieden werden die Wunden nicht heilen.  Alles, was ich in meiner dürren Lage kann, schraubt sich auf 1600 Livres[4] ein, wenn Sie diese Umstände, lieber Herr Beethoven genau erwägen wollen, so werden Sie selbst finden, daß ich sehr viel thue, so wenig Ihnen das gegen England scheinen mag.  Nur noch ein Umstand -- noch ist es ein Problem ob man mir dieses von Ihnen &uuuml;bertragene Eigenthum nicht nachsticht -- mehrere französische Verleger behaupten, der Compositeur müsse Citoyen francais sein, um sein Recht übertragen zu können.  Beweise hiervon habe ich an Cramer's Etudes[5], welche Mrs. Erard als ihr Eigenthum in Paris herausgaben, aber von Sieber, einem Engländer[6] gleich nachgestochen, und Mrs. Erard haben aber bis diese Stunde nicht reklamirt.  Dieser Umstand erfordert demnach wieder eine andere Maßregel.  Ich schlage demnach vor -- Im Fall Sie mein Gebot billig finden, Sie möchten ohne Zeit-Verlust diese Werke an Herrn von Breuning[7] senden.  Ich zahle demselben gleich 300 Livres baar und gebe ihm einen wechsel auf mich selbst, von 1300 Lives in 2 Jahren zahlbar, wenn man mir in Frankreich keines dieser Werke nachsticht.  Ich werde übrigens alle Maßregeln  nehmen, welche mir mein Eigenthum sichern, nach den Gesetzen.

2000 Franc habe ich offerirt."

Nikolaus Simrock to Beethoven

                                                         Bonn the 31st of May, 1807.

    Yesterday, I received, dear Beethoven, your very esteemed [letter[] of April 26th[1]  Since, on account of the co-publishers in Vienna and England, my profit is limited to France, where your works can be used besides in Paris, and there, by far, not as deserved.  And then [there is] still the war, where everything that is only related to trade, is lying completely still; at no time, since the 15-year-war[2], has the music trade been as down as now, and daily, it falls even lower.  An English publisher does not feel that as much, since [3] the Austrian monarchy is at peace.  This is quite different with respect to northern Germany and France!  Even several years of peace will not heal the wounds.  All that I can do in my constrained situation amounts to 1,600 livres[4]; if you, dear Herr Beethoven, consider these circumstances, then you will find, for yourself, that I am doing very much, as little as that might appear to you, compared to England.  There is one more obstacle--there still exists the problem that one might print pirate copies of the works you grant me ownership of--several French publishers say that the composer must be a French citizen in order for him to transfer his ownership rights.  Evidence of this I have with Cramer's etudes that Mrs. Erard published as their property in Paris, but of which a pirate copy was made immediately by Sieber, an Englishman[6], and to this hour, Mrs. Erard have not complained.  Therefore, this circumstance requires another measure.  Therefore I propose, if you find my offer fair, that you send the works, without delay, to Herr von breuning[7].  I will pay to the same 300 livres cash, right away and I will give him a draft issued in my name, in the amount of 1,300 livres, payable in 2 years, if one does not print pirate copies of the works in France.  Moreover, I will take all steps to secure my ownership, according to the law.   

I have offered 2000 Francs.


[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 282, p. 313-314]

[Original:  not known; text pursuant to the first print of TDR III, p. 31ff.; to [1]: according to the GA this refers to Letter no. 278; to [2]: according to the GA, this time has been calculated from the outbreak of the first coalition war in April, 1792; to [3]: refers to the note by TDR:    "Statt dieses 'denn' dürfte wohl 'und' zu lesen sein"["instead of 'denn,' it might read 'und'"; to [4]: this refers to the fact that this amount euqalled approximately 1,0-00 florins in Viennese currency; to [5]: according to the GA, this probably refers to Johann Baptist Cramer's Etude de Pf. en 42 Exercises doigtes dans les differns Tons, calcules pour faciliter les Proges de ceux qui proposent d'etudier cet Instrument a Fond, which appeared both through Erard in Paris and Sieber in Paris; to [6]: according to the GA, this refers to Gerog Sieber who hailed from Franconia in Germany and who held the French citizenship to [7]: refers to Stephan von Breuning; details taken from p. 314.]

In his lines dated June 13 and 16, to Gleichenstein, Beethoven also comments on his "French" project:  

"Beethoven an Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                     [Baden, 13. Juni 1807][1]

Lieber gleichenstein --

    die <Nacht> vorgestrige Nacht hatte ich einen Traum, worin mir vorkam, als sey's du in einem Stall, worin du von ein paar prächtigen Pferden ganz bezaubert und hingerissen wurdest, so daß du alles rund um dich her vergaßest.

    dein Hut-Kauf ist schlecht aus gefallen, er hat schon gestern morgen in aller Früh einen Riß gehabt, wie ich hieher bin, da er zu viel Geld kostet, um gar so erschrecklich angeschmiert zu werden, so must du Trachten, daß sie ihn zurück nehmen, und dir einen andern geben, du kannst das diesen schlechten Kaufleuten derweil ankündigen, ich schike dir i[h]n wieder zurück -- das is gar zu arg --

    Mir geht es heut und gestern sehr schlecht ich habe erschreckliches Kopfweh, -- der himmel helfe mir nur hievon -- ich habe ja genug mit einem übel -- wen du kannst schicke mir Bahrdt übersezung des Tacitus[2[] -- auf ein andermal mehr, ich bin so übel, daß ich nur wenig schreiben kann -- leb wohl und -- <träume>denk an meinen Traum und mich --

                                                                          dein treuer Beethowen

Baaden am 13ten Juni

    aus dem Briefe von Simrock[3] erhellt, daß wir wohl von Paris -- noch eine Günstige Antwort erwarten dürfen -- sage meinem Bruder[4] eine günstige Antwort hierüber, ob du's glaubst, so daß alles noch einmal geschwind abgeschrieben wird --

schick mir deine Nummer von deinem Hause[5] -- --

Pour Mr. de Gleichenstein Antworte mir Wegen dem Hut --"

Beethoven to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                     [Baden, june 13, 1807][1]

Dear Gleichenstein --

    the <night> the night before last I had a dream in which I thought that you were in a stable, where you were quite charmed by a few beautiful horses, so that you forgot everything around you.  

    your hat purchase turned out badly, already yesterday morning, it had a tear when I came here;, since it cost too much money in order for a person to be duped so terribly, you have to take care that they take it back and that they give you another one; in the meantime, you can let these bad merchants know about it, I will send it back to you--this is too bad-- 

   Today and yesterday, I felt very bad; I have a terrible headache--heaven help me against it--I have enough with one affliction--if you can, send me Bahrdt's translation of Tacitus[2]--more another time, I am feeling so bad that I can only write little--farewell and--think of my dream and me-- 

                                                                     your faithful Beethowen

Baaden on the 13th of June

    from Simrock's[3] letter it becomes clear that we might get a favorably reply from Paris--let my brother[4] have a favorable reply with respect to it, if you believe it, so that everything will be quickly copied, again-- 

send me the number of hour house[5] -- --

Pour Mr. de Gleichenstein Reply with respect to the hat-- 

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 283, p. 315]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]:  refers to the fact that the year can be derived from the mention of Simrock's letter of May 31, 1807; to [2]: probably refers to the edition of Cornelius Tacitus, Sämtliche Werke übersetzet von D. Carl Friedrich Bahrdt, Wien-Prag 1796, 2. Aufl. 1801; to [3]: refers to letter no. 282; to [4]: probably refers to Johann van Beethoven, see letter no. 288; to [5]: refers to Gleichenstein's Vienna apartment in the inner city, no. 155, Hohe Br? on the 2nd floor, and to letter no. 287; details taken from p. 315.]

"Beethoven an Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                  [Baden, 16. Juni 1807][1]

    Ich hofte von dir eine Antwort[2]--Was den Brief von Simrock anbelangt, so glaube ich, daß man diesem mit Modifikation doch die Sachen geben könnte, da es doch immer eine gewisse Summe wäre,[3] man könnte mit ihm den Kontrakt auf nur Paris machen, Er kann doch hernach thun, was er will -- so könnte das Industrie-Komtoir nichts dagegen einwenden -- Was glaubst du?  -- Mir gehts noch nicht sehr gut, ich hoffe es wird besser werden -- komm bald zu mir -- ich umarme dich von Herzen -- viele Emphelungen an einen sehr gewissen Ort

                                                                             dein Beethowen

Baaden am 16ten Juni

    Meinem Freunde Gleichen-Stein ohne Gleichen im Guten und bösen das Numero Von Gleichensteins Wohnung"

Beethoven to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                      [Baden, June 16, 1807][1]

    I hoped for an answer from you[2]--AS far as the letter of Simrock is concerned, I believe that one could give him the things with modifications, since it would still be a certain sum;[3] one could make a contract with him only for Paris; after that, he can still do what he wants--in this way, the Industrie-Komptoir could not have any objections--What do you think?--I am still not very well, I hope that it will get better--come to me, soon, I embrace you sincerely--many greetings to a very particular place 

                                                                             your Beethowen

Baaden on the 16th of June

    To my friend Gleichen-Stein, without equal (Gleichen) in good and bad, the number of Gleichenstein's apartment. 

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter No.  284, p. 316]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that the year can be derived from the mention of Simrock's letter; to [2]: refers to the fact that Beethoven was waiting for an answer to his letter no. 283; with respect to this, the GA notes that Gleichenstein replied on June 13, 1807, but that the content of the letter has not bee preserved;  to [3]:  refers to the fact that in letter no. 282 Simrock had offered a fee of 1,600 livres; details taken from p.  316.]

With respect to Op. 62 it should be noted that neither Pleyel nor Simrock published it. 

Around the time that Beethoven, in July 1807, in his correspondence with Prince Esterhazy, already dealt with his invitation to Eisenstadt, he also tried to send the works that were now to be published by the Kunst- und Industriekontor in Vienna, to that publisher, with the help of Gleichenstein, and to obtain payment for them, as well:  

"Beethoven an Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                               [Baden, vor dem 23. Juli 1807][1]

    Lieber guter Gleichenstein -- dieses sey so gut dem Kopisten Morgen zu übergeben -- Es ist wie du siehst, wegen der Sinfonie[2] -- übrigens falls er nicht fertig ist, Morgen mit dem quarett[3] so nimmst du's weg, und gibst es sodann in's Industrikommtoir -- Meinem Bruder[4] kannst du Sagen, daß ich ihm gewiß nicht mehr schreiben werde -- die Ursache, warum, weiß ich schon, sie ist diese, weil er mir Geld geliehen hat, und sonst einiges ausgelegt,  ist er, ich kenne meine Brüder, jezt schon besorgt, da ich's noch nicht wiedergeben kann, und wahrscheinlich jezt der andere[5], den der Rache-Geist gegen mich beseelt, auch an ihm -- das beste aber ist, daß ich die ganze 15 Hundert gulden[6] aufnehme (vom Industrie-Komtoir) und damit ihn bezahle, dann ist die Geschichte am Ende -- der Himmel bewahre mich, Wohlthaten von meinen Brüdern empfangen zu müßen -- gehab dich wohl -- grüße West[7] -- dein


Nb.  Die Sinfonie schickte ich von hier an's Industrie Komtpoir sie werden sie wohl erhalten haben --

Wenn du wieder herkömst bring etwas vom guten Siegellack mit --

An Seine Hochwohlgebohrnen den Hr. Von Gleichenstein. in Vien

abzugeben auf der Hohen Brücke No 155 2ten oder 3ten Stock[8]

Beethoven to Baron Ignaz von Gleichensten

                                                              [Baden, before the 23th of July, 1801][1]

   Dear good Gleichenstein--be so good to hand this over to the copyist, tomorrow--It is, as you see, because of the Symphony[2]--by the way, if ne is not finished with the quartet, tomorrow,[3] take it away from him, and then bring it to the Industrie-Kommtoir--You can tell my brother [4] that I will certainly not write to him, anymore--I know the reason, it is because he has lent me money and has advanced this and that--otherwise, he is, I know my brothers, already worried now, since I can not pay it back, yet and now, probably the other one[5] who is filled with a spirit of revenge against me, is also [nerving] him--the best, however, is if I take up the entire 15 hundred florins [6] [from the Industrie-Komptoir] and pay him with it, then the story is at an end--heaven save me from having to take alms froom my brothers--take care--greet West[7] your 


Nb.  I sent the Symphony from here to the Industrie-Komptoir--they will probably have received it--

When you come here, again, bring something of the good sealing wax with you--

To the Esteemed Herr Von Gleichenstein in Vienna

To deliver at the Hohe Brücke No 155 2nd or 3rd floor[8]

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 1, Letter No. 287, p. 317-318]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to [1]:  refers to the fact that the letter is connected with the payment of the fee for op. 58, op. 59, op. 60, op. 61, op. 62 and for the piano reduction of op.  61 by the Vienna Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir; to [2]: refers to Op. 60; to [3]: refers to one of the Quartets of Op. 59; to [4]: refers to  Johann van Beethoven; to [5]: refers to Karl van Beethoven; to [6]: probably refers to the fee that Beethoven had agreed upon for the above-noted works; to [7]: refers to the writer Joseph Schreyvogel; to [8]:refers to the fact that from Gleichenstein's family correspondence it can be derived that Gleichenstein lived in on the second floor of the mentioned building; details taken from p.  318.]

"Beethoven an Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                    [Baden, 23. Juli 1807][1]

    lieber guter G! -- du kamst nicht gestern -- ohnehin müste ich dir doch heute schreiben -- nach schmidts Resultat darf ich nicht länger hier bleiben[2] -- daher bitte ich dich die Sache mit dem Industrie-Komtoir so gleich vorzunehmen,[3] was das Schachern betrift, solches kannst du meinem Bruder apotheker[4]-- übertragen, -- da die Sache selbst aber von einiger Wichtigkeit ist, und du bisher immer mit dem Industrie Komptoir für mich dich abgabst, so kann man dazu aus mehrern ursachen meinen Bruder nicht gebrauchen -- hier einige Zeilen wegen der Sache an das I.[ndustrie] K.[ontor][5] -- Wenn du Morgen kömmst, so Richte es so ein, daß ich mit dir wieder hinein fahren kann --

leb wohl ich habe dich lieb, und magst du auch alle meine Handlungen Tadeln -- die du aus einem falschen Gesichtspunkt ansiehst, so sollst du mich darin doch nicht übertreffen -- vieleicht kann West[6] mit dir kommen -- --

                                                                       dein beethowen"

Beethoven to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                                       [Baden, July 23, 1807][1]

    dear good G!--you did not come yesterday--in any event, I had to write to you, today--according to Schmidt's result I may not stay here, any longer[2]--therefore, I ask you to take the matter of the   Industrie-Komtoir right away,[3] as far as haggling is concerned, you can leave that to my brother pharmacist[4]-however, since the matter is of some importance, and since thus far, you have always dealt for me with the Industrie Komptoir, due to various reasons, one can not use my brother--here a few lines in the matter to the  I.[ndustrie] K.[ontor][5]--if you com tomorrow, arrange it in such a way that I can drive back [to the city] with you--  

farewell and stay fond of me, and even if you criticize all of my actions--<so> which you see from a wrong viewpoint, you shall not surpass me in it--perhaps, West[6] can come with you-- --  

                                                                       your beethowen

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 288, p. 318-319]

[Original:  London, British Library; to [1]: according to the GA, the date of this letter can be derived from the letter that was enclosed with it, to the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, of Jul. 23, 1807, Letter no. 289; to   [2]: refers to Johann Adam Schmidt's letter of July 22, 1807; to [3]: refers to the payout of the honorarium; to [4]: refers to letter no. 289; to [5]: refers to Joseph Schreyvogel; details taken from p. 318.]

"Beethoven an das Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir

                                                                              (Baden, 23. Juli 1807][1]


    Herr Von Gleichenstein mein Freund -- hat ihnen in Rücksicht meiner einen Vorschlag zu machen, wodurch sie mich ihnen sehr verbindlich machen würden, wenn sie ihn annähmen[2] -- nicht Mißtrauen in Sie führt diesen Vorschlag herbey, nur meine jezigen starken Ausgaben in Rücksicht meiner Gesundheit, und eben in diesem Augenblick unüberwindliche Schwierigkeiten, da, wo man mir schuldig ist, Geld zu erhalten --

                                                                         ihr ergebenster Beethowen

Baden am 23ten Juny"

Beethoven to the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir

                                                                             (Baden, July 23, 1807][1]


    Herr Von Gleichenstein, my friend--has to make a suggestion on my behalf which I would be very much obliged if you could accept[2]--not mistrust in you is the cause for it, only my present high expenses on account of my health and momentary, insurmountable difficulties to receive money there, where one owes it to me--   

                                                             your most devoted Beethowen

Baden on the 23rd of June

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtaufabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 289, p. 319]

[Original:  in private hands; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that, although Beethoven dated the letter the "23rd of June", within the context of the concurrent letter to Gleichenstein (letter no. 288], the 23rd of July is to be assumed as date; to [2]: probably refers to a suggestion with respect to the payout of the fee for the works bought by the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, Op. 58 - Op. 62, see letters no. 287 and no. 290; details taken from p. 319.]

"Beethoven an Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                           [Baden, nach dem 23. Juli 1807][1]

   Ich denke -- du läßt dir wenigstens 60 fl. über die 15 hundert bezahlen, oder wenn du glaubst, daß es mit meiner Rechtschaffenheit bestehen kann -- die Summe von 16 hundert -- ich überlasse dir's jedoch ganz, nur muß Rechtschaffenheit und Billigkeit dein Pol seyn, wonach du dich richtest."

Beethoven to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein

                                                           [Baden, after July 23, 1807][1]

   I think--you have them pay you 60 fl. over the fifteen hundred, or, if you believe, that this agrees with my uprightness--the sum of 16 hundred--however, I leave that up to you, entirely, only, righteousness and fairness has to be your pole according to which you act.  

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I, Letter no. 290, p. 319-321]

[Original:  not known; text, according to the GA, pursuant to Nohl II, No. 28, whereby Nohl probably had at his disposal a copy that was made in 1865 of the autograph that, at that time, was in the possession of Gleichenstein's widow Anna in Freiburg; to [1]: according to the GA, this letter is connected to the payout of the fee for the works bought by the  Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir, Op. 58 - Op. 62; details taken from p. 321 .]

Thayer-Forbes lists Op. 62 as having been published by the Kunst- und Industriekontor in 1808: 

"The publications of the year 1808 were:

By Kunst- und Industrie Comptoir:

. . .

. . .

. . .

Overture to Coriolan (Tragedy by H.J. von Collin), Op. 62" (Thayer-Forbes: 451-452).

Beethoven's own confirmation of the arrangement he had come to with this Viennese publisher is reflected in his lines of June 8, 1808, to Breitkopf & Härtel:

"Beethoven an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig

                                                                       Vien am 8ten Juni [1808][1]

Euer Hochwohlgebohrn!

   . . .

   . . . -- ich künnte auch dieselbigen Werke an das Industrie-Komtoir hier überlaßen, wenn ich wollte, da sie voriges Jahr auch 7 Große Werke[8] von mir genommen, welche nun beynahe alle schon im Stich zu haben sind -- . . . "

"Beethoven to Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig

                                                                      Vienna the 8th of June, [1808][1]

Esteemed Sir!

   . . .

   . . . -- I could also leave the same works to the Industrie-Komtoir here, if I wanted, since last year, they took 7 large works[8[ from me, which, by now, can almost all be had in print-- . . .    

[Source:  Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 2, Letter no. 327, p. 14-15]

[Original:  Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection; to l1]: according to the GA, the year can be derived from the registration note by the publisher; to [8]:  refers to Op. 56 - Op. 62; details taken from p. 15.]

The best "proof" of Beethoven's dedication of this work to Collin is a look at the title page of the first edition by the Kunst- und Industriekontor in Vienna that describes the work as composed for and dedicated to Collin.  With respect to this, we offer you a link to the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn:   


Title Page of the Original Edition of Op. 62


That Beethoven could not keep the fee of 1,500 florins that was due to him from the publisher, becomes clear from Thayer-Forbes's following report:

"These undated notes can also be connected with a letter to Gleichenstein in which Beethoven made it clear that his apothecary brother could not be involved in these negotiations with the Industrie-Comptoir "for several reasons." The compelling one was that it was just this firm to which Beethoven was turning for financial aid to satisfy Johann's demands.

The case in few words, was this:--Eleonore Orelley, sole heir of her sister, Theresia Tiller, was, in the autumn of 1807, seeking a pruchaser for the house and "registered apothecary shop" which, until 1872, still existed directly between the market-place and the bridge at Linz on the Danube, and was willing to dispose of them on such terms of payment, as to render it possible even for Johann van Beethoven with his slender menas to become their owner. "I know my brothers," writes Beethoven. His brothers also knew him; and Johann had every reason to fear that if he did not secure his debt now when his brother's means were abundant, he might at the crisis of his negotiations find himself penniless. His demand was too just to be resisted and Gelcihenstein evidently drew the money from the Kunst- und Industrie-Comptoir and paid it; for on the 13th of March, 1808, the contract of sale was signed at Vienna. . . . " (Thayer-Forbes: 421-422).

This shows us that Beethoven would not reap any 'direct' benefits from his composition of this Overture.  In our next section, let us see whether or not he would at least be compensated by the critical judgment of his contemporaries, but also take a look at information on further performances of the work during his life time. 



In January 1808, the Leipzig AMZ reported from Vienna: 

"Wien, den 26sten Dec. . . .  Noch schwieriger ist wol die grosse  B e e t h o v e n s c h e   Sinfonie aus Es, welche, von dem Komponisten selbst dirigirt, sehr vielen Beyfall erhielt.  Ref. muss, trotz allem, was über dieses Kunstwerk geschrieben worden, seiner, gleich bey der ersten Darstellung geäusserten Meynung treu bleiben, dass die Sinfonie allerdings des Erhabenen sowol als des Schönen sehr viel enthalte, dass dies aber auch mit manchem Grellen und allzu Breiten vermischt sey, um nur bey einer Umarbeitung die reine Form eines vollendeten Kunstwerks erhalten könne.  Eine neue  O u v e r t u r e  dieses Komponisten, (der unter sehr vortheilhaften Bedingungen für das Theater engagirt werden soll,) ist voll Kraft und Feuer; sie war, nach der Aufschrift, für   C o l l i n s   C o r i o l a n  bestimmt."

"Vienna, the 26th of Dec. . . .  Still more difficult is the great B e e t h o v e n  Simphony in E-flat Major, which, conducted by the composer himself, received much applause. In spite of what has been written about this work of art, the reviewer has to remain true to his original opinion that he had rendered upon its first performance, that this Symphony, indeed, contains much that is sublime and beautiful, but that it also is mixed with a great deal of peculiartities and broadness, and only in form of an revision can it receive the pure form of a perfect work of art.   A new  O u v e r t u r e  by this compoers, (who is supposed to be hired on terms that are very advantageous to the theater) is full of strength and fire; is was, according to its title, designated for  C o l l i n ' s   C o r i o l a n. " 

Thayer-Forbes reports that the former Saxon "Wunderkind" from Deassau, Wilhelm Rust, stayed in Vienna in 1807 and 1808 and, on July 9, 1808, wrote to his sister Julie, from Haking near Vienna: 

"Last year he composed a piece which I have not heard and an overture "Coriolan" which is extraordinarily beautiful.  Perhaps you have had an opportunity to hear it in Berlin. . . . " [Thayer-Forbes: 439].

From our description of the "mammoth" concert of December 22, 1808, and of the events leading to it, we are already familiar with the fact that, for the benefit concert of November 15, 1808, at the Theater-an-der-Wien, Beethoven had agreed to the playing of one of his symphonies, of the "Coriolan" Overture and of one of his piano concertos.  From this can be derived that on November 15, 1808, the overture was performed at that benefit concert [Source:  Thayer-Forbes: 445].  Thayer-Forbes [p. 519] also reports of a performance of the Overture at a benefit concert on July 14, 1811, and of a performance of it on April 16, 1812, "in Streicher's Pianoforte Warerooms, conducted by Schuppanizgh . . . " [p. 527].

The obviously most beautiful "reward" for this composition is E.T.A. Hoffmann's review of it in the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung:


E.T.A. Hoffmann


"AMZ August 5, 1812

R e v i e w s .

Ouverture de Coriolan, Tragedie de Mr. de Collin, a 2 Violons, Alto, 2 Flutes, 2 Hautbois, 2 Clarinettes, 2 Cors, 2 Bassons, Trompettes, Timballes, Violoncelle et Basse, composée -- -- par Louis van Beethoven. Op. 62 a Vienne, au bureau des arts et d'inustrie. (Prix 1 Rhtlr. 12 Gr.)

Since it is the customary and in no way reprehensible practice to introduce every performance in the theatre with music, every really important play should have an overture conducive to the frame of mind that the character of the work requires.  A number of tragedies have already been provided with overtures, and now the great Beethoven has furnished Collin's Coriolan with a splendid production of this kind.  However, the reviewer must admit that Beethoven's purely romantic genius does not seem to him to be entirely appropriate to Collin's predominantly reflective poetry, and that the composer would seize the soul with his full force and properly arouse it for the scenes that follow if he were to write overtures to the tragedies of Shakespeare and Calderon, which express romanticism in the highest sense.  The somber gravity of the present composition, with its awe-inspiring resonances from an unknown spirit-world, foreshadows more than is subsequently fulfilled.  One fully believes that the world of spirits ominously announced by subterranean thunder will draw closer in the play, that, perhaps, Hamlet's troubled shadow will steal across the sage, or that the terrible sisters will drag Macbeth down into the abyss.   More emotion and brilliance would perhaps have better suited Collin's poetry.  Nevertheless, apart from those expectations aroused only in a few critics who fully understand Beethoven's music, the composition serves very well to suggest the intended idea, namely that a great and tragic event is to form the content of the ensuing play.  Even without having read the programme nobody can expect anything else.  This overture cannot be followed by a domestic tragedy but only by high tragedy, in which heroes appear and perish. --  

   The overture consists only of one movement, Allegro con brio, common time, in C minor, but the first fourteen bars are written in such a way that they sound like an andante that leads into the Allegro.  Through its overall conception, but especially through its original orchestration, this opening irresistibly seizes and captivates the spirit.  Despite the Fortissimo, the first two bars, with the strings playing a low C, sound hollow and poignant, so that the F minor chord from the full Orchestra on the first crotchet of the third bar breaks stridently in.  The following deathly silence, the reiteration by the strings of the same hollow, eerie C, again a strident [illegible symbol] on F, again the deathly silence, the C from the strings for the third time, the chord now intensified to a seventh, and finally two chords from the full orchestra leading to the Allegro theme:  all of that adds to the expectation and closes in on the listener's breast.  It is the threatening rumble of an approaching storm.  In order to make this clear, the reviewer quotes the whole opening:  

[Note Sample]

The main theme of the Allegro that now sets in bears a character of implacable unrest, of insatiable yearning, and, although it is unmistakably the product of Beethoven's unique mind, it vividly reminds the reviewer of Cherubini and clearly reveals to him the spiritual kinship of the two composers.  Even the further development of the overture is closely related to Cherubini's overtures, particularly in its orchestration.   

[Note Sample]

The transposition of this theme down by a tone (to B flat minor) right after the bar's rest is unexpected and increases the tension created by the first few bars.  The music moves towards F minor and then in a full tutti towards C minor.  After the main theme has been briefly touched upon by the second violins and cellos [Note sample] etc. the first period of the overture closes on the first inversion of the dominant of the relative minor key of E-flat.  Now the second main theme enters and is accompanied by a figure that recurs frequently throughout the work, almost always in the cellos: 

[Note Sample]

F minor, G minor, and C minor are touched upon, mostly in developments of this second theme, until the second period of the overture closes in G minor, namely with syncopated notes in the first violins, accompanied by a new quaver figure in the cellos and violas:  

[Note Sample]

After the close on the just-quoted dominant figure, with the same accompaniment from cellos and violas, carries the music for thirty-four bars through G minor, F minor, A flat major, D flat major etc. into F minor, in which key the beginning of the overture is repeated,  the music moves towards C minor and the second theme, with the same accompaniment as in the first half, enters in C major but goes straight into D minor, E minor, and then immediately back into C minor [note sample].  Then comes the figure in syncopated notes with cello accompaniment which previously introduced the close in G minor but is now cut short in the following way::  

[Note Sample].

The reviewer has included the oboes, trumpets, and timpani in order to let the reader appreciate the frightening effect of the dissonant C that he felt on hearing the overture performed.  The distant horn octaves on G, followed     quite unexpectedly by the second main theme in C major (as shown above), also increase the sense of expectation again before the close.  However, this luminous C major was merely a short-lived glimpse of the sun through dark clouds, since only four bars later the somber main key returns and a theme in syncopated notes, similar to the figure frequently referred to, leads back to the beginning of the overture, now differently orchestrated.  Oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and trumpets also intone the hollow C previously played by the strings alone.  This is followed by short, disjointed phrases, whole bar rests, and finally the music dies away with these notes:     

[Note Sample]

The reviewer points out that he has quoted the complete score of the conclusion and that the entire remainder of the orchestra remains silent.  These hollow sounds, the lugubrious tone of the bassoon sustaining the fifth above the key-note, the lament of the cello, the short punctuations from the double-basses--all combine in a profound way to produce the most tragic effect, and the most tense expectation of what will be revealed to us when the mysterious curtain is raised. --

    The reviewer has tried to give a clear idea of the inner structure of this masterpiece, and one will observe the extremely simple elements from which its artful edifice is built.  Without contrapuntal devices and inversions, it is mainly the ingenious and rapid modulation which makes identical phrases appear new on their return and draws the listener powerfully along.  If several different elements were strung together, then the constant modulations, hurrying without a pause from one key to the next, would turn the composition into a rhapsody devoid of stability and inner coherence, like many pieces by recent, imitating composers.   However, there are only two main themes here.  Even the linking sections and the powerful tuttis remain the same, and even the kind of modulation remains constant.  AS a result the theme becomes involuntarily impressed upon the listener and everything emerges clearly and intelligibly.--The reviewer must refer the reader to a study of the work itself in order to appreciate its deeply though-through orchestration, which he finds genuinely thrilling, since it would take too much space to illustrate the many inspired passages.  Every entry of the wind instruments is calculated to produce the utmost possible effect.  The E flat horns and C trumpets frequently play triads that make a deeply awe-inspiring impression.--The cello has been earning its place in the orchestra for some years now; previously, nobody would have thought of treating it as a fully obbligato instrument, independent of the bass-line.  In this overture, it seldom plays col basso, but has its own figures that are sometimes not at all easy to perform.   The reviewer admits that this way of treating the cello is an obvious gain for the orchestra:  tenor figures played by the violas, usually too few in number and in any event muted in tone, often do not emerge clearly enough, while the penetrating, original sound of the cello has a radical effect. In a full tutti, however, he could never be brave enough to deprive the double-basses of the cellos' support, since the higher octaves of the latter sharply define the notes of the former.  The reviewer is referring here only to figures given to the cellos as an inner voice in the tutti, for it goes without saying that they can play bass-figures in the tutti that are unwieldy for the double-basses, while the latter play only the main notes, so that the clarity of the bass-line is unaffected. 

[Note Sample]

    In general, the overture makes very heavy demands on the orchestra, like almost all the orchestral works of this extraordinarily thoughtful composer, although no individual part is particularly taxing.  Only the crispest precision and a total surrender by every musician to the spirit of the composition, achieved through frequent, intensive rehearsals, can result in the irresistible effect that the master has intended and has summoned all his abundant resources to create."

In comparison to this, Thayer-Forbes's report [p. 576] of the choice of this Overture by the Deutschmeister Regiment for their concert of March 25, 1814, almost acts as a denouement.  Let us now consider the musical content of this work and its contemporary criticism. 


 William Kinderman's description might, perhaps, serve both purposes:  

"Beethoven begins the Coriolan Overture with yet another transformation of the topos associated with death in the Joseph Cantata and in Fidelio.  As in those works, deep sustained unisons are juxtaposed with harmonized chords employing winds in the upper register.  In the faster tempo of this Allegro con brio, Beethoven prescribes tied whole-notes for each of the unisons; the sharp, accented chords that follow are hurled into the void.  Sequences of this arresting gesture ensue, with the rising upper voice supported by diminished-seventh chords, before two further chords connect cadentially to the main theme in more rapid eighth-note motion, beginning in bar 15.  Michael Broyles suggests that this opening resembles a typical slow introduction notated in the main tempo, but this is wide of the mark.  The prescribed metrical structure does apply to these fortissimo chords, placed as they are in a context of extraordinary rhythmic tension.  In order to sustain the tension, and propel the music forwards.  Beethoven foreshortens the metrical pattern just before the cadence, so that the music is pushed ahead of time into the main theme.  Characteristically, he compensates for this gain of energy by otherwise relaxing the point of arrival; the new subject begins piano, in a relatively simple structure that lends itself to later development.  In later sections of the overture he combines the sinuous figuration of the main subject with massive, emphatic sonorities such as were heard at the outset.  Thus, like the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, the Coriolan Overture shows an interplay between molecular motivic figures and larger harmonic structures" [Kinderman: 120-121].

Among other consideration, Barry Cooper's comment also discusses the difference of this 'drama' overture to overa overtures and to ballet overtures: 

"The Coriolan Overture confirms a sudden turn away from the more lyrical style the prevailed in most of the 1806 works, back to the heroic gestures of the preceding years and forward towards the dramatic fire of the Fifth Symphony.  One of the Overture's most striking features is the new relationship between slow introduction and main Allegro.  The opening idea, which recalls the beginning of the Joseph Cantata and of the dungeon scene in Fidelio, is heard as seven very slow beats, with the eighth beat marking the start of the main Allegro theme.  Thus there is already a rhythmic overlap between the end of the slow introduction and the ensuing music.  But the true nature of the slow introduction becomes apparent to the listener only later, when it is developed as a integral part of the Allegro, and what had been heard as slow notes is now heard as prolongations within a fast tempo.  The 'slow introduction' proved to be an illusion!  The concept of integrating a slow-moving opening passage with the ensuing Allegro had already been tentatively explored in the Piano Sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, and in the Fourth Symphony (where the same motif is heard both before and after the change in tempo); but in the Coriolan Overture it is developed in an extraordinary new way.  The introduction and the following quaver theme are totally unified within a very powerful first subject.

   It is significant that the Coriolan Overture was composed when Beethoven had already begun sketching a new overture for his opera--the so-called Leonore No. 1.  He had apparently sensed by now that the two previous overtures revealed too much of the narrative by including the denouement--the trumpet calls--thus making the ensuing opera dramatically redundant.  At any rate, Leonore No. 1, though still containing a quotation of Florestan's theme, suggests little of the drama to follow, like the earlier Prometheus Overture.  With Coriolan, Beethoven took a middle road.  Since what follows here is a play rather than an opera or ballet, it was possible to embody the whole drama in the overture, without creating the sense of duplication that arises when Leonore No. 2 or 3 are used with the opera.  Accordingly, strong rhetorical gestures are used throughout the Coriolan Overture to stress the moods rather than the narrative of the drama, starting with the initial outbursts of anger that recur intermittently during the course of the overture.  Also discernible are a prevailing sense of foreboding and despair, the gently lyrical pleading of the second subject, and ultimate death, represented at the end by melodic disintegration and eventual annihilation.  Overall, the overture owes something to the dramatic style of Cherubini and the French school, but this is fused with the Viennese symphonic style in a highly original and succesful creation" [Cooper: 164-165].

Lewis Lockwood's comment deals with the inner contradiction of Coriolanus:  

"This inner contradiction is writ large in Beethoven's overture.  The musical image in the first theme, in C minor, depicts (no other word will do) Coriolanus as the tragic warrior, with its fortissimo unison C stated three times, each time cut off abruptly.  The theme is then contrasted with its perfect foil, the second theme, in E-flat major, the antithesis of the first in its beauty and tenderness.  The second theme is perfectly balanced between its first two measures and its second pair.  It hovers on the dominant of E-flat, never decisively landing but moving on into new thematic ideas.  This thematic dualism--this dialectic of a son's rage and a mother's entreaty--of Coriolanus and Volumnia, remains unresolved to the end, as the failure of any resolution results in Coriolanus's fate.  The whole feeling of the two principal themes is akin to that of the forthcoming Fifth Symphony's first movement, with which the whole work has much in common.  Yet the two elements reflect more than the dramatic figures of Coriolanus on the one side and Volumnia on the other, both elements are within Coriolanus himself.  Thus the overture ends with the two themes but in reversed order:  the coda begins first with Volumnia's theme, again in C major although it has been heard in this key in the recapitulation; then to end it all, the Coriolanus theme, in C minor, as it had first been heard at the opening, as if Coriolanus is now giving his tragic answer.  He is first shown in his strength, then in his disintegration as the second part of his theme slows down, repeats its first measure in ever slower forms, and finally dies away, followed by three quiet pizzicato tonic touches in the unaccompanied strings, pianissimo. . . . " [Lockwood: 265].

Maynard Solomons brief comment represent our conclusion to this section:  

"The closing, disintegrating passage--reminiscent of the end of the Eroica Funeral March--symbolizes the death of the hero.  Unlike Plutarch's  or Shakespeare's hero, Collin's Coriolan chooses death-- . . . Like the Sonata, op. 57, Coriolan demonstrates that Beethoven did not always insist on joyful conclusions, but was able to locate transcendence in the acceptance of death itself" [Solomon: 203-204].

As always, let  us offer you some links on the topic: 


German Wikipedia Entry on Coriolanus
German Wikipedia Entry on Shakesspeare's Coriolanus
Further German Information on Shakespeare's Coriolanus
English Wikipedia Entry on Heinrich Joseph von Collin
English Wikipedia Entry onCoriolanus
English Wikipedia Entry on the Coriolanus Drama
English Text of Shakespeare's Coriolanus
English Translation of Plutarch's Coriolanus
Further English Text : "The Life of Coriolanus" by Plutarch
Information on Beethoven's Ouverture at "Music with Ease"


Cooper, Barry: Beethoven.  (Master Musician Series, edited by Stanley Sadie). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Kinderman, William.  Beethoven.  Oxford + New York, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Kropfinger, Klaus.  Beethoven.  2001.  Gemeinschaftsausgabe der Verlage Bärenreiter, Kassel und J.B. Metzler, Stuttgart, Weimar.

Lockwood, Lewis.   Beethoven.  The Music and the Life.  New York, London, W.W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Ludwig van Beethoven.  Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe. [6 Bände]  Im Auftrag des Beethoven-Hauses Bonn herausgegeben von Sieghard Brandenburg.  München: 1996, G. Henle Verlag.

Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. New York: Schirmer Books, Paperback Edition 1979.

Thayer's Life of Beethoven, edited by Elliott Forbes. Princeton, New Jersey Princeton University Press, 1964.

Wikipedia Entries on the Coriolan topic and on Heinrich von Collin in English and German.