Ideally, our collection of music criticism of Beethoven's works should start with reviews of his works by his contemporaries.  My coming across a Dutch reprint of the entire Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung was a fortunate coincidence that can now assist me in this endeavor.

Of course, I am familiar with the fact that on the topic of the reception of Beethoven's music during his life time, extensive research and writing has already found reflection in the publication of two works.  The first ist in German:  

Ludwig van Beethoven, die Werke im Spiegel seiner Zeit: Gesammelte Konzertberichte und Rezensionen bis 1830 (The Works in the Mirror of their Time: Collected Concert Reports and Reviews up to 1830). Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1987. 672 pages (cited on February 18, 2002, from the web site of the   Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies "").

The second publication is in the English language: 

Wayne Senner, gen ed., Robin Wallace, William Meredith, ed. Contemporary German Reception of Beethoven. 4 vols. Univ. of Nebraska Press. Vol. 1: Fall 1999; Vol. 2: Fall 2001; Vols 3-4 not published, yet (cited on February 18, 2002, from the web site of the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, "").

Therefore, if you wish to seriously and thoroughly study this topic at a research level, you will, of course, turn to that material.  However, most readers of this web site are, like its owner and writer, interested lay persons and, as such, might also want to gain a lively impression of this issue here.  For this purpose, it might even be better to limit ourselves to one musical periodical, namely, to the perhaps most important German musical periodical from Beethoven's life time, the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung.  Due to the fact that the edition that I was able to consult, is a reprint, I would have to point out that I can make no claims as to the completeness of the material presented here.   

As an apprenticed German retail bookseller, I am somewhat familiar with the topic of the history of the City of Leipzig as a publishing center.  Those of you who read German fairly well might enjoy taking a look at a time table on this topic that students of the University of Leipzig have put on the internet:   Chronik der Buchstadt Leipzig.

In addition, I can also provide you with a link to the English language history section of the publisher of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel - History.

Before we turn to Thayer's comments on the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, I can also present you with my translation of the introduction that the editors of this musical periodical featured in their Intelligenzblatt:  



of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung.

October .                          No. I.                              1798 

Repeated Overview of the Content of this Periodical, extracted from the Comprehensive Overview.

In the new musical periodical, there will be featured:

1) Small philosophical or historical treatises on the topic of music--however, treated in such a manner that not only the aesthetic individual, but also every thinking musician and music lover can understand them, enjoy them and find them interesting; 

2) Clear extracts from the most important and latest theoretical works on music, by emphasizing the most excellent and latest ideas therefrom; short reviews or evaluations of those works and of these ideas--all with the appropriate modesty;

3) Reviews of the latest published compositions--whereby, however, the following considerations will be adhered to:

a) Only the most important and most excellent musical products will be dealt with thoroughly, whereby we will not only show that they are excellent, but also why they are exellent.  

b) Compositions that are not bad but still not excellent, yet fairly good, will be briefly mentioned; their particular features will be mentioned, and their suitable public and or/audience pointed out, so that music lovers, as happens so often, are not forced to buy musical products that, while being good, are not for them.

c) Unimportant and bad compositions will merely be advertised as existing, in the Intelligenz-Blatt.

Moreover, our periodical will feature:  

4) News from the world of music that are of general interest--latest, still unknown news about excellent composers and virtuosos, short biographies on them, interesting anecdotes from their lives; treatises on the ruling taste in this or that major center, and that not only in Germany, but also in other countries; announcements with respect to important musical institutions, and of performances of excellent compositions; reports on the invention(s) of new instruments, etc.  

Finally, with the periodical itself, there will be distributed: 

5) a musical Intelligenz-Blatt, where, in part, one can find the compositions referred to in No. 3 c. 1, as merely existing, in art all that which is sent in (to us) for the purpose of being featured there, such as, for example, catalogues of publishers, announcements of concerts and theater performances, announcements of instruments for sale, etc.  However, since these insertions are to the particular advantage of those who are sending them in, they will have to agree to pay 1 Groschen per printed line.  

 From Michaelmas of this year on, there will appear, on a weekly basis, one sheet in quart of this publication, on good paper, printed in Latin Script, in our musical publishing house.  For musical supplements, our buyers pay nothing, since these are part of our good and comprehensive package.  these supplements contain examples for the purpose of illustrating some ideas contained in the articles, illustrations of passages in compositions that contain errors, as well as suggestions for improvement, but also particularly excellent passages from compositions discussed in our reviews, and, on occasion, also a little song or another short composition that has not been printed, yet, etc.   

In the event that, in addition to our own writing staff and in addition to the already invited music connoisseurs and scholars, someone wants to send in contributions in writing, we shall receive them with due gratitude.  However, to the advantage of our periodical, its editors insist on only making use of that of which it can be expected that such a varied readership as ours will be interested in.  After all, they strive to carry out our own aims in a dignified manner, rather than to expand these plans further and further, in the process of which, as happened to many other periodicals, they would end up with no plan, whatsoever.  

The price for one year is 4 Saxon Talers, which shall be paid on receipt of the first issue.  In order to subscribe, one should turn to the nearest esteemed post offices and magazine distributors, for which the Electoral Saxon Magazine Distribution in Leipzig has taken on the main responsibility of distribution, as well as to all good book stores which will receive a certain commission and which will, in turn, not increase the price.  

   Leipzig in June 1798.

                BREITKOPF and HÄRTEL.

 Just a few more comments to the public by the editors.

  What we, in general, deemed necessary to announce to the public about our institute, he have done in the comprehensive plan that was published.  Here a few additional comments, in particular. 

   To our announcement of our plan that we will accept mailed-in articles with gratitude, provided that they will interest our readers, we will want to add the condition:  that they should not contain anything injurious.  Criticism of the works--as sharply as they deserve it and as much as one can stand behind it, but not of their authors, is our law.--Should we receive something that might contravene this condition, then we would quietly set it aside and let its writer dispose of it, otherwise.  However, in order that honesty and candidness will not be curtailed, without which a fruitful discussion can not take place, it will be our sacred duty to withhold the names of those authors who ask for it.  Moreover, it lies in the nature of this endeavor that the publishers can not necessarily agree with every single opinion and with every single remark that is made in this publication and can thus also not underwrite these as their own and can also not be held responsible for them.  Should debates, however, become necessary at times, should some advantage of peace only be won through war, we shall, after the example of the Jen. Allgem. Literat. Zeitung, let the parties carry out their debates, themselves, in our Public Announcement Section or Intelligenz-Blatt, and restrict ourselves to publishing the facts that may come to light through these debates.   

   One should not judge our institute by the first quarter, although we shall furnish our publication as well as possible (during this time).  We believe that we can promise that this endeavor will gain in interest, with time:  after all, in the head and desk of many a fine, partially lesser known, musician or music lover, there may be concealed so much of importance and with respect to which our hopes have already been kindled that we will receive it for our publication.  It is just that some of these men would rather wait for our institute to have opened up so that they will not give their work away for the benefit of a few parties who may hold a passing interest. 

   Moereover, one might ask, "Why an Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in Leipzig, of all places?  In Leipzig, where there is, after all, in comparison to Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, such little and such unimportant music? --To this, we reply:  Particularly Leipzig appears to us, more than any of these places, and more than any other large center in Germany, excellently suited for such a venture.  

   First of all, as is well known, it serves as a kind of center, gathering place and warehousing place for everything literary in Germany; 

and that both in a strictly scientific as well as in a commercial sense.  Secondly, we know that one hears far more music, for example, in Vienna, far better music in Berlin and Prague than in Leizpig (namely, from an overall perspective and, more particularly, considering the executing of instrumental music):    however, whether in any one of these or in any other place in Germany, as much as here, can be done for the scientific aspects of music, or, at least, whether one wants to do as much for that as here, this--with all due respect for individual great and active men in these places, this we do not know.  Furthermore, he who is familiar with many local and internal states of affairs, particularly with those of societies and corporations, consequently also with those of musical societies and corporations, knows that every city in which there is no orchestra and, consequently, also no infallible kapellmeister and no infallible chamber composer and virtuoso, also has an advantage over cities in which these can be found--czeteris partibus.  It is said that preachers preach more freely in places where there are no consistories.  Finally, if we were to add to that the argument that particularly our publishing house, due to its far-reaching connections and correspondence, could give our institute one more advantage, this might sound presumptuous and self-congratulatory.  Yet, one should allow us Leipzigers to say something good and one should admonish us if we do not keep our word--and not because we are Leipzigers.  

  More frequent interruptions of articles are, of course, unpleasant; however, these are unavoidable in case of longer treatises.  In this respect, one should regard our Zeitung (newspaper) less of a newspaper but rather as a continuous book that is printed in installments.  However, we will see to it that every issue also contains something complete.  

With respect to detailed presentations and reviews of new works, we have to choose a commencement date, as it appears most natural to choose the time of the publication of the first issue, thus, Michaelmas 1798, for it.  Only in the first issues will we have to track back to some extent, since we can not announce what has not been published, yet.  Earlier works will only be presented in detail if special circumstances warrant it, such as new editions, etc., or if additions have been made to them.  Moreover, for the time being, all new works known to us will be advertised in the Intelligenz-Blatt and only subsequently will the most excellent (of these) be chosen for detailed reviews.  Last, at the end of each annual edition, the publisher will, in addition to a general title page, feature the picture of a popular tone artist, etched by a good master. 

                T h e   E d i t o r s . 

Thayer-Forbes (1964) discussed the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung as follows:   

"Beethoven had just cause for the indignation in the treatment which he had received at the hands of the writers for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung mentioned in his letter of January 18, 1801. Hofmeister had evidently written him on the subject, and his reticence in confining himself in reply to a single contemptuous sentence, though writing in the confidence of private correspondence, is something unexpected; not less so is the manly, dignified and ingenuous style of his answer to Breitkopf and Härtel upon the same topic in the letter of April 22nd. The first number of that famous musical journal (take it all in all, the noblest ever published) appeared October 3, 1978, edited by Rochlitz, published by Breitkopf and Härtel. In the second number, "Z.: eulogizes the Six Fughettas of the lad, C. M. von Weber; in the tenth, young Hummel's sonatas, Op. 3, are reviewed; in the fifteenth (January 19, 1799), the name of Beethoven first appears, viz.; in the title of three sonatas dedicated to him by Wölffl. At length, in No. 23, that of March 6, 1799, he is introduced to the readers of the journal as a composer-- not of one or more of the eight Trios, ten Sonatas, the Quintet and the Serenade, which make up the opera 1 to 11 then published--but as the writer of the Twelve Variations on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen," and eight on "Une fievre brulante."

The criticisms are a perfect reflection of the conventional musical thought of the period and can be read now with amused interest, at least. . . . " (Thayer: 276 - 277). --

With respect to Beethoven's letter to Hofmeister and the single, laconic sentence on this topic, this writer wonders if it does not refer to Beethoven's letter of "January 15th or thereabouts" in which Beethoven writes:  

" -- Was die Leizpiger R[indviehe] betrifft, so lasse man sie nur reden; sie werden gewiß niemand durch ihr Geschwätz unsterblich machen, so wie sie auch niemand die Unsterblichkeit nehmen werden, dem sie vom Apoll bestimmt ist. -- " (Schmidt, Beethoven=Briefe: 27; [As far as the Leipzig M[orons] are concerned, one should let them talk; with their prattling, they will certainly not make anyone immortal, as they will also not take immortality away from him who is destined for it by the grace of Apollo]).

Perhaps, we should move on to taking a look at the first review and many more until 1808, in order to form our own opinions.

To the First Part of our AMZ Collection