A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Galitzin, Nicolas

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GALITZIN, Nicolas Borissowitsch, a Russian Prince who is immortalised by the dedication to him by Beethoven of an overture (op. 124) and 3 quartets (ops. 127, 130, 132). Of his birth nothing is known; he died on his estates in the province Kurski in 1866. In 1804–6 he was in Vienna, and doubtless made the acquaintance of Beethoven and his music at the house of Count Rasomowsky, the Russian ambassador, for whom at that very date Beethoven wrote the 3 quartets (op. 59) and at that of the Count von Browne, an officer in the Russian service, for whom Beethoven had written several works (ops. 9, 10, 22, etc.). In 1816 Moscheles met him at Carlsbad, and speaks of him as a practical musician (Leben, i. 27). In 1822 he was married and living in Petersburg in very musical society, his wife an accomplished pianoforte-player and he himself a cellist and an enthusiastic amateur. At this time, Nov. 9, 1822, he [1]writes to Beethoven a letter full of devotion, proposing that he shall compose 3 new quartets at his own price, to be dedicated to the Prince. Beethoven accepts the offer (by letter, Jan. 25, 23), and fixes 50 ducats (say £23) per quartet as the price. Feb. 19 the Prince replies, that he has 'given an order' for 50 ducats to his banker, and will immediately remit 100 more for the two others. May 5, 23, he writes again, 'you ought to have received the 50 ducats fixed for the first quartet. As soon as it is complete you can sell it to any publisher you choose—all I ask is the dedication and a MS. copy. Pray begin the second, and when you inform me you have done so I will forward another 50 ducats.'

From this time the correspondence continues till Beethoven's death. Galitzin's further letters—in French, 14 in number—are full of enthusiasm for Beethoven, pressing money and services upon him, offering to subscribe for mass, symphony, and overture, and volunteering his willingness to wait for 'the moments of inspiration.' In fact he had to wait a long time. The first quartet (in E♭, op. 127) was first played at Vienna, March 6, 1825, and is acknowledged by the Prince on April 29. The second (in A minor, op. 132) was first played Nov. 6, 25, and the third (in B♭, op. 130) on March 21, 26. These were received by the Prince together, and were acknowledged by him Nov. 22, 26. He also received a MS. copy of the Mass in D and printed copies of the 9th Symphony and of the two overtures in C, the one (op. 124) dedicated to him, the other (op. 115) dedicated to Count Radzivill. Thus the whole claim against him was—Quartets, 150 ducats; Overture (op. 115), 25 ducats; Mass, 50 ducats; loss on exchange, 4 ducats; total, 229 ducats, not including various other pieces of music sent. On the other hand he appears, notwithstanding all his promises, to have paid, up to the time of Beethoven's death, only 104 ducats. It should be said that in 1826 war and insurrections had broken out in Russia, which occupied the Prince and obliged him to live away from Petersburg, and also put him to embarrassing expenses. After the peace of Adrianople (Sept. 14, 29), when Beethoven had been dead some years, a correspondence was opened with him by Hotschevar, Carl van Beethoven's guardian, which resulted in 1832 in a further payment of 50 ducats, making a total of 154. Carl still urges his claim for 75 more to make up the 150 for the quartets, which Galitzin in 1835 promises to pay, but never does. In 1852, roused by Schindler's statement of the affair (ed. i., pp. 162, 3), he writes to the Gazette Musicale of July 21, 1852 a letter stating correctly the sum paid, but incorrectly laying it all to the account of the quartets. Other letters passed between him and Carl Beethoven, but they are not essential to the elucidation of the transactions.

There can be no doubt that Galitzin's intentions were excellent, that the world owes to him the existence of the three Quartets, and that he was lavish of admiration and promises to pay. No doubt, too, he had to wait a long while, and to undergo a great deal of disappointment, but this he ought to have known was inevitable in dealing with a man of Beethoven's temperament, whose mode of production has been elsewhere shown to have been so slow and uncertain. [See p. 174.] For the payments of 50 and 25 ducats he had more than ample compensation in the copies of the Mass and the Overture, the pleasure he derived from them, and the credit and importance they must have given him in the musical circles of Russia. For the copies of Sonatas, Overture (op. 115), Terzet, and other works sent him by Beethoven, he appears to have paid nothing, nor can he justly demur to Beethoven's having sold the quartets to publishers, or performed them in public, after the carte blanche which he gives him in his third letter, where all he stipulated for was the dedication and a MS. copy.

The son of the preceding, Prince George Galitzin, was born at St. Petersburg in 1823, and died in Sept. 1872. He was not only a great lover of music, like his father, but was a composer of various works for orchestra, chamber, and voices, and an able conductor. In 1842 he founded in Moscow a choir of 70 boys, whom he fed, clothed, and educated. It was for long one of the sights of the city. He also maintained an orchestra, with which he gave public concerts, visited England and France in 1860.

[ A. W. T. ]

  1. The letters quoted and referred to throughout this notice are almost all in MS., and will be printed in the forthcoming volumes of Thayer's 'Life of Beethoven.'