At the conclusion of our look at the creation of op. 137 we asked the question whether, after the publication of this small work in 1823, before his death, Beethoven would find yet another opportunity to work in this compositional genre. In Thayer-Forbes we come across this report:
"In September, 1824, Beethoven wrote two different letters to Diabelli concerning the completion of a quintet. In the one he promised the quintet in a little over six weeks for 100 gold ducats; in the other he promised a flute quintet. Nothing more is known of a quintet at the time. But in November, 1826, according to Nottebohm, there were sketches for the first movement of a string quintet in C major on a page originally to be used for the new finale of Op. 130. There were also sketches for other movements. In the catalogue of Beethoven's posthumous effects No. 173 was "Fragment of a new Violin Quintet of November, 1826, last work of the composer." Diabelli's firm bought the 24 measure fragment and published it in pianoforte arrangement, two and four hands, with the title, "Ludwig van Beethoven's lat Musical Thought, after the original manuscript of November, 1826," and the remark "Sketch of the Quintet which the publishers, A. Diabelli and Co., commissioned Beethoven to write and purchased from his relics with proprietary rights." This last suggests that the fragment was connected with the correspondence of 1824 although there are no signs of a flute. The published work is a short movement in two divisions, having a broad theme of a festal character, Andante maestoso and a polonaise rhythm" [TF: 1010].
With respect to Beethoven's letters to Diabelli, however, we have to refer to the Henle-Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6 for the years 1825-1827, namely to the following letter:
"Beethoven an Anton Diabelli
[Wien, 26. September 1826]
Hr. v. Diabelli et Comp.
Ich konnte nicht eher antworten, da ich noch keine Zeit bestimmen konnte, jetzt unterdessen verspreche ich ihnen, das quintett über 6 Wochen einhändigen zu können -- ihre Wünsche werde ich beachten, ohne aber meiner k ü n s t l e r i s c h e n F r e i h e i t Eintracht zu thun -- Mit dem Honorar von 100 Dukaten in Geld bin zufrieden --
Mit Achtung ihr ergebenster
Wien am 26ten Septemb.
Für Seine Wohlgebohren Hr. v. Diabelli."
"Beethoven to Anton Diabelli
[Vienna, September 26, 1826]
Hr. v. Diabelli et Comp.
I was not able to reply before, since I could not yet determine a time, but now I promise you that I will be able to hand over the quintet in about 6 weeks--I will heed your wishes, without, however, curtailing my a r t i s t i c f r e e d o m--I am satisfies with the fee of 100 ducats . . . --
With Esteem your most devoted
Vienna, the 26th of Septemb.
For his Well-Born Hr. v. Diabelli."
[Source: Ludwig van Beethoven Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 6, Letter No. 2209, p. 290, Original: not known, text pursuant to Beethovens Mittheilungen von Gustav Nottebohm, XVIII, in: AMZ 8 (1870, p. 59. According to the GA, Nottebohm had the autograph, at that time in the possession of Carl Anton Spina, in front of him); to : according to the GA, Holz reported in the second half of August, 1826: "Diabelli bittet nur um eine Zeile Antwort, ob Sie mit dem Honorar zufrieden sind" ["Diabelli only asks for a line in resonse if you are satisfied with the fee"] and, in doing so, the GA refers to BHh 10, p. 167 (Bl 35 v) and remarks that the present letter is probably the reaction to it; to : the GA points out that already in 1824, Beethoven has promised Diabelli a "Quintett mit Flöte" [Quintet with flute] and refers to Letter No. 1889 from the year 1824 and to the fact that in the fall of 1826, Beethoven worked on a String Quintet in C-Major. This, so the GA, remained unfinished. After Beethoven's death, a fragment of the last movement reportedly ended up in Diabelli's possession and was published by him, arranged for piano, in 1838 as "Last musical thought" of Beethoven (WoO 62); to : according to the GA "So bei Nottebohm"; details taken form p. 290].
Thus we can imagine Beethoven, during his stay at Gneixendorf, in the fall of 1826, as also composing this fragment. While we can find more details with respect to his Gneixendorf stay in our Online Biography, Dominik Prevot's Beethoven Website offers interesting listening samples to this work.
We wish you a great deal of pleasure listening to them!
Barry: Beethoven. (Master Musician Series, edited by Stanley Sadie).
Oxford: 2000. Oxford University Press.
Kinderman, William. Beethoven. Oxford + New York: 1997. Oxford University Press.
Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven - The Music and the Life. New York: 2002. Norton & Company.
Ludwig van Beethoven. Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe. [6 Bände] Im Auftrag des Beethoven-Hauses Bonn herausgegeben von Sieghard Brandenburg. München: 1996. G. Henle Verlag.
Solomon, Maynard. Beethoven. New York: 1979. Schirmer Books, Paperback Edition.
Thayer's Life of Beethoven, edited by Elliott Forbes. Princeton: 1964. New Jersey Princeton University Press.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Vol. 3, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: 2001, MacMillan.