Beethoven around 1801



Perfection is one of the important goals composers and conductors strive for. Whenever they, in their eyes, cannot achieve this goal, they might tend towards voicing interesting opinions, as, for examplee, Leonard Bernstein with respect to the acoustics of the Philharmonie in Munich or Beethoven with respect to his ever-popular Septet op. 20:

"One day Neate spoke to him about the popularity of his Sonatas, Trios, etc., in England, and added that his Septet was very much admired: -- "That's damned stuff" (or "a damned thing"), said Beethoven, "I wish it were burned!" or words to this effect to Neate's great discomfiture" [Thayer-Forbes: 620].

However, an investigation of possible reasons for Beethoven's anger over his popular early work might not be the right approach here. We might fare better in pursuing traces of the creation of it and of Beethoven's life circumstances during this time, and in following traces of its further fate during his life time. During this process, we can also consider his progress as a composer and might be able to come closer to an understanding of his anger.


In the process of discussing sketches to Beethoven's first string quartets op. 18 in the years 1798 and 1799, Thayer-Forbes [p. 263] also refers to sketches for the Septet:

"Another sketchbook contains the continuation of the sketches for the F major Quartet, and, indeed, for all the movements; then an unused sketch for a "third" quartet [still not yet in existence], then to two songs by Goethe [one "Ich denke dein"], then to the movements of the G major Quartet, which is thus indicated to have been the third [the intermezzo in the second movement was conceived later], further sketches for the A major Quartet, which, it follows, was the fourth. Among these sketches are others for the Septet and the Variations on "Kind, willst du ruhig schlafen?" which appeared in December in 1799, and was therefore not composed earlier. All these sketches date from 1798 and 1799" [TF: 263].

While our "older source", Thayer-Forbes [p. 265 and p. 273 in the list of completed compositions], describes op. 20 as having been finalized in 1800, both Solomon [p. 74] and Cooper [p. 82 and p. 86] mention that it was ready at the end of 1799. Let us quote Cooper:

"During the last few months of 1799 Beethoven concentrated mainly on composing his Septet, Op. 20 . . . " [p. 82].

If we take this information as a given, we can imagine that, in the summer of 1799, Beethoven, as we know from the relevant section of our Biographical Pages and our page on Beethoven's Friendship with mit Carl Friedrich Amenda, enjoyed the company of his Baltic friend and of the Hungarian von Brunsvik family, before he, in the fall, again concentrated on his compositions and thus also on completing the Septet.


With respect to the question as to when and where the Septet was first performed, let us consult Cooper:

"The Septet was first performed on 20 December 1799; a little known letter written by Josephine Deym the next year states that . . .

Josephine v. Deym, nee v. Brunsvik

. . . her brother Franz had attended music played by Schuppanzigh, 'and was transported by it, especially by a septet composed by Beethoven, which must have been the non plus ultra, as much for the performance as for the composition" [Cooper: 87].

Maynard Solomon's reference to the creation of the Septet in 1799 is placed in parantheses in a sentence that deals with Joseph Haydn and refers to a report by the virtuoso and composer Johann Nepomuk Emanuel Dolezalek: "Dolezalek reports that when the Septet (completed in 1799) was first played Beethoven exclaimed: "This is my Creation" [Solomon: 74].

In any event, the first public performance of the work, according to Thayer-Forbes [p. 255-256] took place in Vienna on April 2, 1800:

"To-day, Wednesday, April 2nd, 1800, Herr Ludwig van Beethoven will have the honor to give a grand concert for his benefit in the Royal Imperial Court Theatre beside the Burg. The pieces which will be performed are the following:

1. A grand symphony by the late Kapellmeister Mozart.
2. An aria from "The Creation" by the Princely Kapellmeister Herr Haydn, sung by Mlle. Saal.
3. A grand Concerto for the pianoforte, played and composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven.
4. A Septet, most humbly and obediently dedicated to Her Majesty the Empress, and composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven for four stringed and three wind instruments, played by Herren Schuppanzigh, Schreiber, Schindlecker, Bär, Nickel, Matauschek and Dietzel.
5. A Duet from Haydn's "Creation", sung by Herr and Mlle. Saal.
6. Herr Ludwig van Beethoven will improvise on the pianoforte.
7. A new grand symphony with complete orchestra, composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven.
Tickets for boxes and stalls are to be had of Herr van Beethoven at his lodgings in the Tiefen Graben, No. 241, third story, and of the box-keeper.
                                                                                    Prices of admission are as usual.
                                                                               The beginning is at half past t o'clock."

Empress Maria Theresia of Austria,
the second wife of Emperor Franz II.

The correspondent of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, in his review, discusses the piano concerto, the improvisation and the First Symphony and also mentions the inferior quality of the orchestra, but does not mention the Septet. Thayer-Forbes then mentions that:

"The Symphony in C soon became known throughout Germany; while the Septet achieved a sudden popularity so widely extended and enduring as at length to become an annoyance to the composer[2": Czerny to Jahn, TDR II, 173: "He could not endure his Septet and grew angry because of the universal applause with which it was received" [TF: 256].

Let us conclude our report with respect to the first performance of the Septet with Haydn's opinion of it, which Solomon mentions in his foot note 47 on page 340:

"According to Moscheles, "Haydn heard that Beethoven had spoken in a tone of depreciation of his oratorio The Creation. "That was wrong of him," said Haydn: "What has he written then? His Septet?" Haydn then added: "Certainly that is beautiful, nay, splendid!" [Solomon: 340].



As Thayer-Forbes [p. 258-259] reports, Beethoven spent the summer of 1800 at Unterdöbling, at that time about an hour's walk from downtown Vienna, and from this time, the Austrian dramatist Grillparzer remembers his family staying there in the same house as Beethoven.

Franz Anton Hoffmeister

After his return to his apartment at the "Tiefe Graben" in the fall, the composer and music publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister turned to Beethoven:

"One of the most prolific and popular composers whom Beethoven found in Vienna was Franz Anton Hoffmeister, "Kapellmeister and R.I. licensed Music, Art and Book Seller." He was an immigrant from the Neckar valley and (born 1754) much older than Beethoven, to whom he had extended a warm sympathy and friendship, doubly valuable from his somewhat similar experience as a young student in Vienna. This is evident from the whole tone of their correspondence.  In 1800, Hoffmeister left Vienna and in Leipzig formed a copartnership with Ambrosius Kühnel, organist of the Electoral Saxon Court Chapel, and established a publishing house there, still retaining his business in Vienna. As late as December 5, 1800, his signature is as above given; but on the 1st of January, 1801, the advertisements in the public press announce the firm of "Hoffmeister and Kühnel, Bureau de Musique in Leipzig." Since 1814 the firm name has been C.F. Peters.  Knowing Beethoven personally and so intimately, it is alike creditable to the talents of the one and the taste and appreciation of the other that Hoffmeister, immediately upon organizing his new publishing house, should have asked him for manuscripts.   To his letter he received an answer dated December 15, 1800, in which Beethoven says:

Dearest Hr. Brother!

    I have been on the point of replying to your inquiry several times, but I am so fearfully lazy about my correspondence and I am loath to write dry letters [of the alphabet] instead of musical notes. Now at last I have prevailed upon myself to comply with your request--

    Pro primo you must know that I am very sorry that you, my dear brother in music, did not let me know anything of this earlier so that I might have marketed my quartets with you, as well as many other pieces which I have sold.   But if Hr. Brother is as conscientious as many other honest engravers who stab us poor composers to death, you will know how to derive profit from them when they appear-- I will now set forth in brief what Hr. B[rother] can have from me.   1. A Septet per il violino, viola, violoncello, contra bass, clarinet, corno, fagotto--tutti obbligati (I cannot write anything non-obbligato for I came into this world with an obbligato accompaniment.)   This Septet has been very popular.   For its more frequent use the wind-instruments, namely: fagotto, clarinetto and corno might be transcribed for another violin, viola and violoncello.-- . . . That is all I can give you at this moment . . .

    Dearest brother, take care of yourself and be assured of the regard

                                                                                                                                     of your brother

                                                                                                                                                                             L.v.Beethoven" [Thayer-Forbes: 259-261].

                                                                                               Beethoven an Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       Vien am 15ten dezember.[1800][1]

Geliebtester Hr Bruder!

ich habe dero Anfragen schon mehrmahlen beantworten wollen, bin aber in der Briefstellerey erschrecklich faul, und da steht's lange an, bis ich einmal statt Noten trockene Buchstaben schreibe, nun habe ich mich endlich einmal bezwungen, dem Begehren genüge zu leisten --

pro primo ist zu wissen, daß es mir sehr leid ist, sie mein geliebter Hr. Bruder in der Tonkunst mir nicht eher etwas zu wissen gemacht haben, damit ich ihnen meine Quartetten hätte zu Markt bringen können,[2] so wie auch viele andere Sachen, die ich nun schon verhandelt,[3] doch wenn der Hr. Bruder eben so gewissenhaft sind, als manche andere Ehrliche Stecher, die unß arme Komponisten zu Tod stechen, so werden sie schon auch wissen, wenn sie herauskommen, nuzen davon zu ziehen[4] --ich will in der Kürze also hersezen, was der Hr. B.[ruder] von mir haben können: 1 ein Septett[5] per il Violino, viola, violoncello, ContraBasso, clarinetto, corno, fagotto, -- tutti obbligati, (ich kann gar nichts unobligates schreiben, weil ich schon mit einem obligaten accompagnement auf die Welt gekommen bin.) Dieses Septett hat sehr gefallen,[6] zum Haüfigern gebrauch könnte man die 3 BaßInstrumente nemlich: fagotto, clarinetto, und corno, in noch eine violine, noch eine Viola, und ein Violoncello übersezen. -- 2 eine große Simphonie . . .

Geliebtester Hr. Bruder gehaben sie sich wohl, und seyn sie Versichert von der Achtung Ihres Bruder's

                                                                                                                                                    Lv Beethoven.

Herrn Herrn Fr. Ant. Hoffmeister in Leizpig

English text:  see above quotation from Thayer-Forbes.

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 49, p. 54-55; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the season pursuant to the registration note as well as based on the content of the letter; to [2]: refers to op. 18; to [3]: refers to op. 15, op. 16 and op. 17, all of which, according to the GA, were published by Mollo in Vienna in March, 1800; zu [4]: according to the GA, this is a veiled reference to a possible copy etching, which Hoffmeister, although having been reminded, did not follow; to [5]: refers to op. 20; to [6]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that that the Septet was performed on December 20, 1799, and after that several times; details taken from p. 55].


Reading on in Vol. 1 of the Gesamtausgabe, as first letter of the year 1801, we find one that refers back to Hoffmeister's lines to Beethoven:

                                                                           Franz Anton Hoffmeister an Beethoven in Wien

                                                                                                                                                                       [Leipzig, 7. Januar 1801]

[Laut GA greift Hoffmeister Beethovens Angebot vom 15.12.1800 auf (Brief 49) und bittet ihn, die Preise selbst zu bestimmen. Er berichtet ihm von seiner geplanten Ausgabe der Werke J. S. Bachs.]

                                                                   Franz Anton Hoffmeister to Beethoven in Vienna

                                                                                                                                      [Leipzig, January 7, 1801]

[According to the GA, Hoffmeister takes up Beethoven's offer of December 15, 1800 [see Letter No. 49] and asks him to set the prices, himself.  He also tells him of his plans regarding an edition of J. S. Bach's works.]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 53, p. 63; Original: not knoown; according to the GA, the existence of the letter can be derived from the registration notes on Letters No. 49 and No. 54; details taken from p. 63].


Page 63 of the Gesamtausgabe features Beethoven's reply to Franz Anton Hoffmeister of January 15, 1801. (Also Cooper [p. 104] refers to this letter).


                                                                          Beethoven an Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       Vien am 15ten (oder so was dergleichen) Jenner 1801

mit vielem Vergnügen mein geliebtester Hr. Bruder und Freund habe ich ihren Brief[1] gelesen, ich danke ihnen recht herzlich für die Gute Meynung, die sie für mich und meine Werke gefaßt haben, und wünsche es nur recht verdienen zu können; auch dem Hr. K.[2] bitte ich meinen Pflicht-schuldigen Dank für seine gegen mich geäußerte Höflichkeit und Freundschaft abzustatten.-- . . . für jezt trage ich ihnen folgende sachen an: Septet[5], (wovon ich ihnen schon geschrieben, zu mehrerer Verbreitung und Gewinn ließ es sich auch auf's Klawier arrangieren) 20# - . . .

. . . ich bin schon einige Zeit nicht wohl, und da wird es mir jezt sogar ein wenig schwer Noten zu schreiben, vielweniger Buchstaben, ich hoffe, daß wir oft Gelegenheit haben werden, unß zu versichern, wie sehr sie meine Freunde, und wie sehr ich bin ihr Bruder und Freund

                                                                                                                                      L. v. Beethoven.

A Monsieur Francois Hoffmeister maitre de Chapelle a Leipzic
abzugeben in dem Bureau de Musique

                                                                                            Letter excerpt

                                                                                                                                      Vienna on the 15th (or so) January 1801

with great pleasure, my most beloved Herr Brother and Friend, have I read your letter[1], I thank you sincerely for the good opinion which you have of me and my works, and I wish that I can earn it; also Hr. K.[2] I ask you to convey my dutiful thanks for his courtesies and expressions of friendship towards me.-- ...for now I offer you the following:  Septet[5], of which I have already written to you, in order for it to be more widely circulated, it could also be arranged for piano) 20# - . . .

. . . for quite some time I have not been feeling well, and now, it is also becoming difficult for me to write notes, all the more letters, I hope that we will often have an opportunity to assure each other how much you are my friends and I your brother and friend

                                                                                                                                       L. v. Beethoven

A Monsieur Francois Hoffmeister maitre de Chapelle a Leipzig

to be delivered to the Bureau de Musique

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 54, p. 63-65; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [1]: refers to Letter No.  53 of January 7, 1801, which has not been preserved; to [2]: according to the GA, this refers to Hoffmeister's partner, the organist Ambrosius Kühnel; to [5]: refers to op. 20; details taken from p. 64-65].


Already on January 24, 1801, Hoffmeister replied to Beethoven:

                                                                           Franz Anton Hoffmeister an Beethoven in Wien

                                                                                                                                                                       [Leipzig, 24. Januar 1801]

[Laut GA nimmt Hoffmeister Beethovens Angebot vom 15.1.1801 an und berichtet von dem Plan, Mozarts Klaviersonaten in Bearbeitung für Streichquartett herauszugeben, und bittet Beethoven, sich daran zu beteiligen.]

                                                                        Franz Anton Hoffmeister to Beethoven in Vienna

                                                                                                                                      [Leipzig, January 24, 1801]

[According to the GA, Hoffmeister accepts Beethoven's offer of January 15, 1801 and reports of his plans to publish Mozart's piano sonatas arranged for string quartet and asks Beethoven to take part in this project.]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 55, p. 65; Original: not known; according to the GA, the existence of this letter can be derived from the registration notes on Letters No. 54 and No. 60; details taken from p. 65].


In his letter of April 22, 1801, Beethoven lets Hoffmeister know the opus number for the Septet:


                                                                          Beethoven an Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       Vien am 22. April [1801]

Mein geliebtester Hr. Bruder,

. . .

um so viel als möglich die Werke in der gehörigen Ordnung folgen zu laßen, merke ich ihnen an, daß Sie auf . . . das Septett opus 20 . . . sezen mögen laßen-- . . .

haben sie sich wohl und halten sie lieb Ihren Freund und Bruder


An Herrn Kapellmeister Hoffmeister in Leipzig
abzugeben in dem Bureau de Musique

                                                                                           Letter Excerpt

                                                                    Beethoven to Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                     Vienna, April 22 [1801]

My most beloved Herr Bruder [brother],

. . .

in order to have the works follow in the right order as much as possible, I advise you, that on . . . the Septett you can print opus 20-- . . .

farewell and keep on loving your friend and brother


[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 60, p. 72-73; Original: in private hands; details taken from p.73].


Immediately thereafer, on April 25, 1801, the Vienna branch of Hoffmeister's publishing house reported to Leipzig that the score to op. 20 has been sent on its way:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Comp. an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       Wien, den 25. April 1801

[Laut GA meldet der Geschäftsführer Caspar Josef Eberl: >>unterm 20. dies habe durch Postwag.[en] für ihre Rech.[nung] unter adreße Köhler Bernhard & Comp. 1 Packet mit Musiqu[e] Manuscript[en] v Beethoven des 7tet u Simpfonie,[1] . . . gesant, unter obiger adreße welche wohl zu empfangen wünsche . . . <<

                                                                        Hoffmeister & Comp. to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                     Vienna, the 25th of April, 1801

[According to the GA, the Vienna manager Caspar Joseph Eberl reported:  >>on the 20th of this month I have sent 1 package with Music Manuscripts by van Beethoven the Septet and Symphony,[1] on your account, via the adress of Köhler Bernhard & Comp., which I hope you will receive in good order . . .  <<

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 61, p. 74; Original: Sächsisches Staatsarchiv (C.F. Peters, Music Publishers, No. 1401 fo. 38f; to [1]: scores of  op. 20 and op. 21; details taken from p. 74].


In June, 1801, Beethoven had to defend himself towards his Leipzig publisher.  Let us read the letter in order to find out why:


                                                                          Beethoven an Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       [Wien, 22. oder 23. Juni 1801][1]

    Ein wenig Verwundert bin ich wirklich über das, was sie mir durch den hiesigen Besorger ihrer Geschäfte[2] haben sagen laßen, fast möchte es mich Verdriessen, daß sie mich eines so schlechten Streichs fähig halten, ein anders wäre es, ich hätte meine Sach nur gewinnsüchtigen Krämern verhandelt, und machte denn noch verstekter Weise eine andere gute Spekulazion, aber Künstler gegen Künstlerdas ist etwas stark mir so etwas zuzumuthen, mir scheint das ganze entweder völlig ausgedacht um mich zu prüfen, oder bloß Vermuthung zu seyn, auf jeden Fall diente ich ihnen hiemit, daß ich ehe sie das Septett[3] von mir erhielten, ich es HR. Salomon[4] +um in seinem Konzert aufzuführen, dieses geschah bloß aus Freundschaft. + nach london schickte, aber es mit dem beysatze, ja zu sorgen, daß es nicht in fremde Hände komme, weil ich gesonnen sey, es in Deutschland stechen zu laßen, worüber, wenn sie es nöthig finden, sie sich selbst bey ihm erkundigen können, um ihnen aber noch einen Beweiß von meiner Rechtschaffenheit zu geben, gebe ich ihnen hiemit meine schriftliche Versicherung, daß ich das Septett, das Konzert[5], die Simphonie[6] und die Sonate[7] niemand in der Welt Verkauft habe als ihnen Hr. Hofmeister und Kühnel, und daß sie es förmlich als ihr ausschließliches Eigenthum ansehen können, wofür ich mit meiner Ehre hafte, sie können diese Versicherung auf jeden Fall brauchen wie sie wollen - übrigens glaub ich eben so wenig, daß Salomon eines so schlechten streichs das 7tet stechen zu laßen fähig ist,[8] als ich es ihm <und ihnen> Verkauft zu haben - ich bin so gewissenhaft, daß ich verschiedenen Verlegern den Klawierauszug von dem Septett, um den sie mich angesucht haben, abgeschlagen, und doch weiß i[ch] nicht einmal, ob sie auf diese Art Gebrauch davon machen werden, --hier folgen die längst versprochenen Titel von meinen Werken:

                                                                                              . . . 

                                               Pour un violin, Viole, violoncelle, contreBasso, un cors, une Clarinette, un fagot.
                                                                                    compose et dedie
                                                                      a sa Majeste l'imperatrice et Reine[10]
                                                                               par louis van Beethoven
                                                                                         oeuvre 20
                                                                                            . . .

                                                                                            . . .

An den Titeln wird noch manches zu ändern oder zu verbessern seyn,[13] daß überlasse ich ihnen - nächstens erwarte ich von ihnen ein schreiben, und auch bald nun die Werke, welche ich wünsche gestochen zu sehen, indem andere darnach schon herausgekommen und kommen,[14] welche sich auf diese Nummern beziehen - an Salomon habe ich auch geschrieben,[15] da ich aber ihre Aussagen bloß für Gerücht halte, das sie ein wenig zu leichtgläubig aufnahmen, oder gar für Vermuthung, die sich ihnen vieleicht, da sie von ohngefähr davon gehört haben, daß ich es S.[alomon] geschickt, aufgedrungen hat, so kann ich nicht anders als mit einiger Kälte so leichtgläubigen Freunden mich nennen

ihren Freund

                                                                                       Letter Excerpt                                                                              

                                                                  Beethoven to Franz Anton Hoffmeister in Leipzig

                                                                                                                               [Vienna, the 22nd or 23rd of June, 1801][1]   

            I am really somewhat surprised about that which you have conveyed to me through your local business representative[2]; I am almost dismayed at the fact that you consider me capable of such an evil trick; it would be something else if I had just left my matter in the hands of greedy merchants and would then have entered another speculation in secret, but from artist to artist, it is something else to consider me capable of that, the entire matter appears to me, on the one hand, designed to test me, or to be just an assumption, in any event I am letting you know that, before you received the Septet[3], I had sent it to Hr. Salomon[4] in London in order for it to be performed at a concert, and this only happened out of friendship  but I had done so with the caution that he should not allow it to fall into the wrong hands, since I intended for it to be published in Germany, about which you can, if you find it necessary, obtain information from him, yourself; however, in order to provide you with another proof of my honesty, I asure you herewith in writing that I have not sold the Septet, the Concerto[5], the Symphony[6] and the Sonata[7] to anyone else but you Hoffmeister and Kuehnel and that you can formally consider these as your property for which I guarantee with my honour, in any event, you can make use of this reassurance in any way you wish -- moreover, I do not believe that Solomon would be capable of such a trick of having printed the Septet,[8] with the effect of my having sold it to him and to you -- I am so conscientious that I have refused to give the piano reduction to several publishers who had asked me for it, and yet I do not know whether you wish to make use of the work in that way, -- here follow the long-promised titles of my works: 

                                                                                           - - -


                                            For one violin, viola, violoncello, contrabass, one horn, one clarinet, one bassoon

                                                                           composed and dedicated

                                                                 to Her Majesty the Empress and Queen[10]

                                                                           by Ludwig van Beethoven

                                                                                        opus 20

                                                                                          - - -

                                                                                          - - -

With respect to the titles, one or the other thing might still have to be changed[13] I am leaving that to you -- next, I expect a letter from you and very soon also the works which I wish to see published, since after them, others have been published and still will be published[14], which are related to these numbers -- I have also written to Salomon[15], however, since I only consider your notions to be rumours that you might have believed, or even considered a hunch that you might have had since you might have heard that I had sent it to Salomon, towards such cool or foolish friends I cannot do anything but call myself their friend


[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 64, p. 76-78; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection BBr 33; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the fact that, pursuant to the registration note the letter arrived in Leipzig on June 29, 1801; to [2]: refers to Caspar Josef Eberl, the bookkeeper in Hoffmeister's Vienna branch and to the fact that the conversation with him that Beethoven refers to might have taken place on June 21, 1801; to [3]: refers to op. 20; to [4]: refers to Johann Peter Salomon, violinist, composer and concert impressario in London, formerly from Bonn; to [5]: refers to op. 19; to [6]: refers to op. 21; to [7]: refers to op. 22; to [8]: according to the GA this refers to the fact that Solomon had acutally not published the Septet; to [10]: according to the GA, this refers to Maria Theresia, the second wife of Empreorer Franz II; to [13]: refers to the fact that the titles of the original editions do not literally correspond to the above wordings; to [14]: refers to the fact that these works were composed after op. 19-22, but that they were published later: the variations WoO 77, the Violin Sonatas op. 23 and op. 24 and the piano reduction of the Ballet Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus; to [15]: refers to the fact that, according to the GA, this letter has not been preserved; details taken from p. 78].


Only three weeks later,  Hoffmeister was in Vienna, and Beethoven asked him for a meeting:

                                                                           Beethoven an Franz Anton Hoffmeister

                                                                                                                                                                       [Wien, 11. Juli 1801]

[Laut GA bittet Beethoven Hoffmeister zu einem Gespräch.]

                                                                          Beethoven to Franz Anton Hoffmeister

                                                                                                                                      [Vienna, July 11, 1801] 

[According to the GA, Beethoven asked Hoffmeister for a meeting.]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 68, p. 87; Original: not known; according to the GA, the existence of this letter was derived from Hoffmeister's letter to his partner Kühnel in Leipzig of July 11, 1801; according to the GA, Hoffmeister had arrived in Vienna for a stay of several months on July 3, 1801; details taken from p. 87].


With respect to the slow progress of the publication of op. 20, the Leipzig publisher reported to Vienna in February, 1802:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Kühnel an Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                                                       [Leipzig, 27. Februar 1802]

[Laut GA bittet der Verlag seinen Wiener Geschäftsführer Eberl um Überbringung der "Nachricht an Beeth. wegen Sonate und meldet auch, dass das Septett[2] op. 20 wegen Schuppanzigh noch nicht fertig ist.]

                                                                        Hoffmeister & Kühnel to Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                      [Leipzig, February 27, 1802]

[According to the GA, the publisher asked its Vienna branch manager Eberl to convey the "message to Beeth. regarding the Sonata and also reports that on account of Schuppanzigh, the Septet op. 20 is not ready, yet.]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 79, p. 101; Original: not known; to [2]: according to the GA, this refers to op. 20 and to the scores for op. 20 and op. 21; according to the GA, Schuppanzigh  intented to perform the work in March 1802 in Dresden as a yet unpublished novelty; details taken from p. 101].


On March 13,  1802, Eberl in Vienna conveys to the Leipzig publisher that Beethoven was asking for the Septet to be printed now.

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Comp. an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leizpig

                                                                                                                                                                       Wien, d.[en] 13ten März 1802

[Laut GA teilt der Wiener Geschäftsführer Eberl Leipzig mit, dass Beethoven "wegen dem Septett[4] sagt er, sollen Sie nur zum Stich schreiten, dan wann sich Schubanzig damit hat hören lassen; so mag es ihme, wänn Sie seyner Composition zu trauen geben, vortheilhafter seyn, wänn Sie es schon zum theil verfertiget haben. [...]

ihr Ergebenster

                                                                                                                                      Caspar Josef Eberl"

                                                                       Hoffmeister & Comp. to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                     Vienna, the 13th of March, 1802 

[According to the GA, the Viennese branch manager Eberl conveyed to Leipzig that Beethoven "because of the Septet[4] he says that you should proceed to printing, for when Schuppanzigh will be heard with it, it might be of advantage to him, if you trust him with the composition, if it is already half-finished. [...]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 80, p. 102; Original: Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv [C.F. Peters Music Publishers, No. 1404, fol. 119f.; to [4]: refers to op. 20; details taken from p. 102].


From note 1 to Letter No. 82 of April 1802 from Hoffmeister & Comp. in Vienna to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig we learn the following:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Comp. an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leizpig

Leipzig d Hrn Hom. u. Kühnel

                                                                                                                                                                    Wien den 3ten April 1802

[...] H.[err[ van Beethoven dancket für die überschickten Exemp.[lare][1] . . .

                                                                         Hoffmeister & Comp. to Hoffmeister & K&ûuml;hnel in Leizpig

Leipzig to Herren Hom. and Kühnel    

                                                                                                                                                                   Vienna the 3rd of April, 1802 

[...] H.[err] van Beethoven thanks for the sent samples[1] . . .

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 82, p. 104; Original: Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv [C.F. Peters Music Publishers No. 1404, fol. 123; to [1]: according to the GA, this can only refer to samples of the original edition of op. 22, since op. 19 and op. 21 were already published in December 1801 and since op. 20 was only printed in June, 1802; details taken from p. 104].


Only a few days later did Beethoven, in his next letter, urge the publisher to start with the distribution of the Septet:

                                                                           Beethoven an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       Vien, am 8ten april 1802

. . .

Meine Sonate ist schön gestochen[5] -- doch hat's hübsch lange gedauert -- mein Septett schikt ein wenig geschwinder in die Welt[6] -- . . .

                                                                       Beethoven to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                       Vienna, the 8th of April, 1802

. . .

My sonata has been printed beautifully[5] -- however, it also took some time -- send my Septet into the world faster[6] -- . . .

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 84, p. 105-106; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus; to [5]: refers to op. 22; to [6]: refers to op. and to the fact that the work was published by Hoffmeister at the end of June, 1802; details taken from p. 106].


On June 19, the Leizpig publisher advised the Vienna branch manager Eberl that the Septet would arrive soon, now:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Kühnel an Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      [Leipzig, 19. Juni 1802]

  [Laut GA läßt der Verlag Beethoven durch seinen Wiener Geschäftsführer Eberl mitteilen, er solle "künftige Woche Septetto[1] erhalten. . . . ]

                                                                          Hoffmeister & Kühnel to Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                                                          [Leipzig, June 19, 1802]

[According to the GA, the publisher conveyed to Beethoven, via its Vienna branch manager Eberl, that "next week he shall receive the Septet[1] . . . ]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 93, p. 113-114; Original: not known, existence derived from the notices of Kühnel in the copy book of the publishing house; to [1]: refers to op. 20; details taken from p. 114].


On June 30th, Eberl in Vienna received a further message from Leizpig:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Kühnel an Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      [Leipzig, 30. Juni 1802]

  [Laut GA weist der Verlag den Geschäftsführer Eberl an: "Beethoven erhält 5. Ex.[emplare] von Septetto[1], sollte er 1 von guten Papier für die Kaiserin brauchen, so solls gedruckt werden.[2] . . . "]

                                                                          Hoffmeister & Kühnel to Hoffmeister & Comp.

                                                                                                                                                                        [Leipzig, June 30, 1802]

[According to the GA, the publisher advised Eberl: "Beethoven will receive 5 copies of the Septet[1], in the event that he should need 1 on good paper for the Empress, it shall be printed,[2] . . . "]

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 95, p. 115; Original: not known,  existence derived from notes by Kühnel in the copy book of the publishing house; to [1]: refers to op. 20; to [2]: refers to Empress Kaiserin Maria Theresia, to whom the Septet was dedicated; details taken from p. 115].


On July 14, 1802, Beethoven wrote to the publisher that he was fairly amazed at the "divided" publication of the Septet:

                                                                           Beethoven an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                       [Heiligenstadt,] am 14ten Juli - 1802 -

. . .

". . . - das 7tet in zwei Theilen,[2] das gefällt mir nicht, warum? - und Wie? - für die Kayserin ein E.[xemplar] - auf feinerm Papier,[3] es schikte sich, doch geht's auch so. - . . . "

                                                                       Beethoven to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                     [Heiligenstadt,] on the 14th of July - 1802 -

. . .

" . . . -- the Septet in two parts,[2], I do not like it, why? -- and how? -- for the Empress one copy -- on finer paper,[3] it would be appropriate, yet it is also passable in this way. -- . . . "

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 98, p. 117; Original: Bonn, Beethoven-Haus, Bodmer Collection Br 150; to [2]: refers to the fact that, according to the GA, the original publication of op. 20 was done in two parts, namely first the 1st to 3rd movement and second the 4th to 6th movemnt. important additional information!:  according to the GA, the idea to publish the Septet in two parts had already been discussed a year before.  "On April 22, 1801, Hoffmeister advised his partner Kühnel: "Herr v. Beethoven will still write me two pieces for the Septet, which I will also have printed in Vienna, so that it can then be divided into two parts and so that it can be sold with better success" [Source: Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, C.F. Peters Music Publishers No. 1404, fol. 57 f.]; to [3]: refers to Empress Maria Theresia, to whom the Sseptet was dedicated; details taken from p. 117].


In his letter to the Leipzig publisher, the Vienna branch manager Eberl wrote on July 24, 1802:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Comp. an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Wien, den 24t July 1802

 [Laut GA berichtet Eberl unter anderem:] "Herr van Beethoven Habe bereits ord[inaire] 5 Exem[plare] 7tet behändiget . . . er danket nicht nur allein für die Exp. sondern auch für die so saubere Reine auflage, nur ist es ihme nicht recht, das es in 2 Partien eingetheilt ist; auch sollten Sie, was beyliegendes zeiget,

         Partie 2 in Violos pag. 7, letzte Zeilen Takt 3[1]


 noch auf der Platte hin zu sezen lassen:[...]"

                                                                       Hoffmeister & Comp. to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig

                                                                                                                                                                 Vienna, the 24th of July, 1802

[According to the GA Eberl reports, among other details:]  "To Herr van Beethoven I have already given five ordiary copies of the Septet . . . he not only thanks for the copies but also for the beautiful printing, but he does not like it that it is divided into two parts; you should also, with respect to the attached

       Partie 2 in Violos, page 7, the last lines, measurement 3[1]

                                         [Note sample]

still add on the plate: [...]"

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 100, p. 118-119; Original: Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv [C.F. Peters Music Publishers No. 1404 fol. 156ff; to [1]: according to the GA, this refers to the last two measurements in the finale of op. 20; details taken from p. 119].


The last correspondence with respec to the Septet is that which the Vienna Branch sent to Leipzig on August 25,  1802:

                                                                           Hoffmeister & Comp. an Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      [Wien, 25. August 1802]

 [Laut GA berichtet Eberl unter anderem:] " . . . ich fühle es, der absatz so wohl von 7tet als quintett ist sehr unbetütend . . ."]

                                                                         Hoffmeister & Comp. to Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leizpig:

                                                                                                                                                                       [Vienna, August 25, 1802]

[According to the GA, Eberl reports, among other details:]  ". . . I feel it, the sale of the Septet and the Quintet is not very lucrative . . . "

[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe Vol. 1, Letter No. 101, p. 119; Original: Leipzig, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv [C.F. Peters Music Publishers No. 1404 fol. 171ff; details taken from p. 119].


As can be seen from the correspondence between Beethoven and the publisher [see above, Letter No. 84, note No. 6], the work was published at the end of June 1802.   Accordingly, the standard biography also lists the work as having been published in 1802:

"The publications of the year were:


By Hoffmeister and Co. and Hoffmeister and Kühnel in Leipzig:

Septet for Violin, Viola, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Violoncello and Double Bass, Op. 20, dedicated to Emrpess Maria Theresia" [Thayer-Forbes: 323].


With the end of our featuring of all letters connected to the publication of the Septet and with our closing remark on the publication year, we can move on to our next section.


Let us now, in this section, follow the further fate of this popular work during the composer's life time. 

In the fall of the actual publication year, Beethoven, as we know from the relevant section of our  Biographical Pages, wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament and in it, discussed in detail his loss of hearing.  In his leter of November 16, 1801 [No. 70, Vol. I of the Henle Gesamtausgabe, p. 88 - 92] Beethoven asked his Rhenish friend, Doctor  Franz Gerhard Wegeler for advice with respect to a change in physicians from  Stabsfeldarzt Dr. Vering to Dr. Johann Adam Schmidt [1759-1809], also a Stabsfeldarzt, and Profesor for General Medicine at the Josephsakademie.  With respect to this, we might recall that Wegeler stayed in Vienna from 1787 to 1789 and from 1792 to 1794:


Doctor Johann Adam Schmidt


"... von sturzbäder will W.[ering] nichts wissen überhaupt aber bin ich mit ihm sehr unzufrieden, er hat gar zu wenig sorge und Nachsicht für so eine Kranckheit, komme ich nicht einmal zu ihm und das geschiet auch mit viel mühe, so würde ich ihn nie sehen - was hältst du von schmidt[4], ich wechsle zwar nicht gern, doch scheint mir W. ist zu sehr Praktiker als daß er sich viel neue Ideen durchs Lesen verschafte - S.[schmidt] scheint mir hierin ein ganz anderer Mensch zu seyn und würde vieleicht auch nicht gar so nachläßig seyn? - . . . "

"...of shower baths, W.[ering] does not want to hear, but I am also very dissatisfied with him in general, he pays too little attention and heed to such an illness; if I do not go to see him, and that only happens with great difficuulty, I would never see him--what do you think of Schmidt[4], while I do not like to switch, it appears to me that W. is too much of a practitioner in order for him to have many new ideas that he would gain from reading - S.[schmidt] appears to me to be quite a different man and, perhaps, he would not be so easygoing? -- . . . " 

That Beethoven subsequently did switch doctors becomes clear from Thayer-Forbes' following report: 

". . . Later Beethoven did transcribe it as a pianoforte trio with violin or clarinet ad lib (Op. 38) as a tribute of gratitude from the composer to his new physican, Dr. Johann Schmidt. The doctor played the violin and his daughter the pianoforte, both fairly well, and Beethoven arranged his popular piece for family use and, as was customary at the time, gave Dr. Schmidt the exclusive possesion of the music for one year" [TF: 265-266].

On page 324 in the chapter to the year 1803, Thayer-Forbes lists this Trio as having been composed in that year, and on page 392 in the chapter to the year 1805 as having been published by the Kunst- und Industriekontor.  Please forgive us our diversion into the description of a further Beethoven work, but in this connection, it offered itself all the more since a separate creation history for such a small work would look somewhat small.  Let us return to the original work, the Septet. in the cuapter to the year 1816 Thayer-Forbes reports:

"Linke's departure with the Erdödys to Croatia was noted in the last chapter; he returned to Vienna in the autumn of 1815 in season to enable Schuppanzigh to begin his winter season of quartets in November. They were given in the hall of the hotel "Zum Römischen Kaiser," and had now ended. So, too, had ended the engagement of Schuppanzigh, Weiss and Linke with Razumovsky. The destruction of his palace, the approach of old age, and failing sight, induced him now to dismiss them with pensions from his service. Schuppanzigh went to Russia; Linke returned to the Erdödys and Weiss remained in Vienna. Before their departure the first two gave each a farewell concert. Schuppanzigh's took place in the palace of Count Deym, the programme being made up entirely of Beethoven's works viz: Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3; Quintet for Wind instruments and Pianoforte, Op. 16, Carl Czerny, pianist; and the Septet Op. 20. . . . " [TF: 640].

Although, as we already know, Beethoven already expressed towards Charles Neate his displeasure with respect to the popularity of the Septet, he appears to have tolerated the itinerary of the Schuppanzigh farewell concert, since, according to TF [p. 640] he was present, himself. 

We can find the next brief report with respect to a performance of the Septet in Solomon's Bethoven on p. 318, referring to a Concert by Schuppanzigh in 1824 in the following way:

" . . . For example, nephew Karl reported to Beethoven about Schuppanzigh's concert of January 25, 1824, which featured a Haydn Quartet in C major and Beethoven's Septet, that is was so crowded that 'the people had to stand in front of the door'" [Solomon: 318].

The last report in Thayer-Forbes with respect to a performance of the Septet during Beethoven's life time can be found in the chapter to the year 1825:

"Among the performances of Beethoven's works in these last months not already mentioned were . . . the Eroica on November 27, the Choral Fantasy, the E-flat Trio on December 11 played by A. Hahn, and finally the Septet, which again created great enthusiasm. In this last the players were Schuppanzigh, Weiss, Linke, the double bass player Metzer, the clarinetist Fredlowsky, the horn player Herbst, and the bassonist Mittag" [TF: 969-970].

This performance is also mentioned in Solomon, Beethoven, on p. 270.   On p. 293 the author also mentions that the original sketches to op. 20, in an auction of Beethoven's belongings, on November 5, 1827, brought 18 florins.  This is the last detail regarding op. 20 which even reaches beyond Beethoven's life time and with it, we can end this section.  


None of  "our" modern writers discusses the Septet in their respective Beethoven works.   On p. 44, Kinderman at least provides us with a short description of it:

"The most famous of all Beethoven's chamber works featuring winds is the Septet in E-flat, op. 20, from 1800.  This attractive six-movement divertimento is scored for bassoon, clarinet, horn, string trio, and double bass.   Its extreme popularity irked Beethoven, who did not regard his pieces for wind ensemble too seriously; . . . after 1800 the evolution of his resourceful writing for winds can be followed in his greater symphonic works" [Kinderman: 44].

With respect to Op. 20, Lewis Lockwood only refers to Beethoven's "ambition to please" and on p. 170 he mentions that it was "written for worldly success".  Without further discussion, we would rather leave you to your own thoughts.   However, it is also a fact that there have been and that there are still many who enjoy this work. 


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.

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

Ludwig van Beethoven. Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe. [6 Volumes] Edited by Sieghard Brandenburg on behalf of the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn. Munich: 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.

Thayer, Alexander Wheelock, Beethovens Leben, Vol. 1 - 5, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907-1917.