The Philharmonic Society
The Ninth SymphonyThe Philharmonic Society, founded in London in 1813, became Beethoven's most important institutional partner in England. The mission of the society, mostly based on private initiative, was to hold concerts on the highest professional level. Many people of importance to Beethoven held relevant positions: The often mentioned musicians Sir George Smart and Ferdinand Ries belonged to the group of directors, and piano and cello player as well as composer Neate was one of the founding fathers. The first concerts each had a composition of Beethoven as the core. In most cases this was a symphony or other composition such as the popular septet op. 20 or the quintet op. 29. The mixed concert programme typical of that time also featured compositions by Cherubini, Mozart, Haydn and Boccherini. In 1815 the Philharmonic Society bought three pieces from the work series Beethoven had offered to Smart and Salomon for publication in England: The overtures for "The ruins of Athens" ("Die Ruinen von Athen") op. 113 and "King Stephan" ("König Stephan") op. 117 and the "Name Day Overture" ("Zur Namensfeier") op. 115. In the same year Neate stayed in Vienna where he visited Beethoven. When he left for London in February 1816 he took several compositions to present them in the concerts of the Philharmonic Society and/or offer them to London publishers. Beethoven also hoped for a beneficiary concert to his avail. Unfortunately, he was disappointed and felt betrayed after he had not heard anything from Neate for months but had read about a successful performance of his symphony in London in the press. It cannot be said for sure if the symphony presented was indeed the new Seventh Symphony or the often performed Fifth Symphony.
In the following year the Philharmonic Society invited Beethoven to London. "We would like to have you with us here in London next winter", wrote Ferdinand Ries on June 9th, 1817. The flattering introduction reads as follows: "The Philharmonic Society where your compositions are preferred to any other wishes to give you proof of its admiration and gratitude for the many wonderful moments we were able to enjoy thanks to your exceptional compositions of genius." The society was willing to pay Beethoven 300 guineas for a season-long stay in London and for the compositions of two symphonies that should then be the property of the Society. During his stay he would be able to give other concerts on his own which would be a nice source of additional income. Beethoven requested an additional minimum remuneration of 100 guineas to cover his travel costs that might be higher because of a necessary travel companion. The Society refused his request and the journey never took place, certainly also due to Beethoven's bad state of health and the concerns for his nephew.
Still, Beethoven intended to visit England and told Ries in 1822 in a letter: "I am still playing with the thought to come to London, if only my health permitting; possibly next spring?" On this occasion he also asked Ries the following: "What remuneration would the Harmonic Society give me for a great symphony?" Ries forwarded the composer's inquiry and in the first session of the season in 1823 the directors decided in favour of Beethoven:
"10. November 1822
Resolved that an offer of £ 50 be made to Beethoven for a M[anu].S[cript].Sym[phony]. He having permission to dispose of it at the expiration of Eighteen Months after the receipt of it. It being a proviso that it shall arrive during the Month of March next."
According to the minutes a remuneration of £ 50 was offered to Beethoven for a new and yet unprinted symphony, given that the manuscript would be received in the month of March. Beethoven would then (as opposed to the offer of 1817) have the full rights of the composition after 18 months. Ries informed Beethoven of the decision five days later.