Artist as entrepreneur versus patronage — Beethoven and Mozart

From a letter from Beethoven to Franz Wegeler in Bonn, June 29, 1801:

“You want to know something about my present situation. Well, on the whole it is not at all bad … My compositions bring me in a good deal; and I may say that I am offered more commissions than it is possible for me to carry out. Moreover for every composition I can count on six or seven publishers, and even more, if I want them; people no longer come to an arrangement with me, I state my price and they pay. So you see how pleasantly situated I am. For instance, I see a friend in need and it so happens that the state of my purse does not allow me to help him immediately; well then, I have only to sit down and compose and in a short time I can come to his aid. Moreover, I live more economically than I used to; and if I remain in Vienna for good, no doubt I shall contrive to obtain one day for a concert every year. I have given a few concerts.”*

Contrast that with another musical genius, Mozart, and his almost-constant pursuit of patrons — and his battle then to survive with integrity in a system of politicking, ass-kissing, and intrigue. The great movie Amadeus captures well the semi-functional dynamics of the patronage system.

* Maynard Solomon’s Beethoven, p. 112. See also “Goethe versus Beethoven on deference to aristocrats” and my other posts on Beethoven.

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