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Newly discovered letter gives insight into Beethoven's struggles

Beethoven's poor health and financial difficulties come to the fore in a recently bequeathed letter that had been written by the composer. Experts say the letter is worth more than 100,000 euros.

Handwritten letter by Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven wasn't known for his neat handwriting

German composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the six-page letter in July 1823, four years before his death, in an effort to raise funds for his "Missa solemnis" mass.

"My low salary and my illness demand efforts to make a better fortune," wrote the composer in the letter, which was addressed to harpist and composer Franz Anton Stockhausen.

Beethoven, who was 53 and completely deaf at the time, wanted Stockhausen to help sell the score to the mass.

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn and died in 1827 in Vienna

The letter landed in the hands of Stockhausen's great-granddaughter, music teacher Renate Wirth. She passed away in 2011 and her estate - including the hand-penned letter - was handed over to the Lübeck Brahms Institute earlier this week.

"The bequest is of extraordinary historic value - a piece of luck for the Brahms Institute," said the institute's director, Wolfgang Sandberger, adding that the letter was valued at over 100,000 euros ($127,000).

Untidy writing

Michael Ladenburger, head of the Beethoven House in Bonn, where the composer was born, pointed out that a shopping list written by the composer sold at auction last year for 60,000 euros. "The aura of Beethoven's script is enormous," he said.

Like his scores, the letter is marked with numerous corrections and crossings-out.

"Beethoven was not a composer with beautiful handwriting," Stefan Weymar from the Brahms Institute told Reuters news agency. "It was spontaneous and he wrote things, then crossed them out, his thoughts changed as he went on and that is the impression the letter gives."

Experts had previously known of the letter's existence, but not of its whereabouts, until now. It is to go on display in the Lübeck Brahms Institute late next week.

Author: Kate Bowen (Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Michael Lawton

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