Beethoven letter on display at rare book fair

  • Classical Music
  • 25. August 2022
  • Florence Lockheart

The original autograph letter will go on display next month with a price tag of over £75,000

An original autograph letter from Beethoven to Viennese civil servant Franz Rettich will go on display at rare book fair, Firsts, next month with a price tag of €90,000 (£75,890).

Antiquarian bookseller Inlibris will display the letter from 16-18 September at the fair which will take place in London’s Saatchi Gallery. The document, originally written in Vienna on 23 March 1812, details the process of writing the ‘King Stephen’ and ‘Ruins of Athens’ overtures.

Beethoven himself admits he worked right down to the wire on these works, writing: ‘The two overtures ought quite certainly to follow by tomorrow evening, and so you shall be accommodated, but only thanks to the greatest exertions… everyone must prepare for the rehearsal in advance, as the things will arrive by stagecoach, not indeed too late, but still only just in time.’ (Translated from the original German)

Rettich accommodated this delay, but the scores reached the venue with only six and a half hours to spare before the concert began on 29 March and the ‘Ruins of Athens’ overture was ultimately pulled from the programme.