Newly bequeathed letter shows Beethoven's misery

Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:36am EST
 
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - A rare handwritten letter by German composer Ludwig van Beethoven complaining about illness and a lack of money has turned up at a northern German institute as part of a bequest, causing excitement among lovers of the musical genius.

The Brahms Institute in the northern city of Luebeck said the six-page letter bearing the composer's signature and original seal was, in essence, an attempt to sell his well-known "Missa solemnis" mass which he completed in 1823.

In the letter, Beethoven asks harpist and composer Franz Anton Stockhausen to help find advance buyers for the mass.

But most striking are details about his personal circumstances, such as his financial concerns, an eye disorder and an attempt to track down a music-loving dentist who wrote to him, said Stefan Weymar, music researcher at the institute.

"My low salary and my illness demand efforts to make a better fortune," said Beethoven in the letter, which has turned yellow with age and needs to be stored in special conditions and handled with gloves.

Beethoven, 53 at the time of writing, went on to say that the education of his nephew was costly and that the boy would need support after his death.

The black writing, which slopes to the right, looks messy and is marred by corrections and crossings out.

"Beethoven was not a composer with beautiful handwriting. It is spontaneous and he wrote things, then crossed them out, his thoughts changed as he went on and that is the impression the letter gives," Weymar told Reuters.   Continued...

 
<p>A scanned handout image shows a rare handwritten letter from 1823, by famous German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, at Brahms Institute in Luebeck, December 30, 2011. REUTERS/Mathias Broesicke/Dematon Luebeck</p>