Beethoven and King Max

Hornöck_Maximilian_I_von_Bayern_um_1810

Beethoven was known for his unwillingness to show subservience to the aristocracy, but sometimes others might do it for him, as when his friend and occasional librettist Aloys Weißenbach tried— without the composer’s knowledge and without success—to wangle him an Order of Merit from King Maximilian I of Bavaria. When Breitkopf & Härtel issued his 1811 Chorphantasie, op. 80, with an inscription to King Max, Beethoven wrote in protest:

“To what in Heaven’s name do I owe the dedication to the King of Bavaria? Explain it to me immediately. If you meant it as an honorable gift to me, then I want to thank you; for the rest, such a thing does not suit me at all. Did you dedicate the work yourself, personally, perhaps? How does this fit together? One cannot with impunity start dedicating things to kings.”

This according to “Ludwig van Beethoven: Verhinderter Träger eines bayerischen Verdienstordens” by Robert Münster (Musik in Bayern 73 [2007–2008] pp. 207–14).

Many thanks to David Bloom for bringing this to our attention and translating Beethoven’s letter! Above, Maximilian I; below, the Chorphantasie.

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