What was the expectation of the recipient of a dedication during the early romantic era, if the recipient could perform it?

For example, when Schubert was 22 he composed his Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major which he dedicated to the 18-year-old Josephine von Koller (a pianist), the daughter of Herr von Koller, a wealthy iron merchant of Steyr, at whose house he dined frequently during his visit to the city in the summer of 1819 and made music together with a family guest, Johann Michael Vogl (a baritone and a "fan" of Schubert). Was Josephine expected to perform it in public? How did she respond to the gift?

Note: I'm open for the scope of the period to be broadened / narrowed so that the answer is manageable or the Q be more useful for this site. I only use Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 13 as an example.

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    Well, he was 22, she was 18, and he said she was "very pretty," so maybe there was some relational underpinning to the dedication? See interlude.hk/franz-schubert-and-his-circle-of-friends-v. As for performance, a lot of these pieces would have gotten their premier in gatherings within homes like the Koller's, not ticketed to the public, but maybe planned events that others might be invited to (picture Jane Austen scenes). The whole idea of the "Schubertiade" grew out of this salon culture. Sep 15 at 13:51
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    Meanwhile, you've done a lot of research in secondary sources. I expect the answer to "how did she respond" is unknown, but if it is, I encourage you to try more scholarly sources. A full biography of Schubert or a collection of his correspondences might come closest. Sep 15 at 13:52
  • @AndyBonner Yes, I can definitely picture Jane Austen drawing room scenes as the venue such as Mrs. Cole's party in Emma. Other helpful recent semi-historical movie is Impromptu (1991) (which includes Chopin's dedication of his Etudes to Listz's mistress), Immortal Beloved (1994), and Eroica (2003 BBC TV film). Another secondary resource that is useful is Man and Music book series. But of course going to primary source is the way to go, thanks for the suggestion. Sep 15 at 16:14
  • I forgot in the first version of my answer to note that the title of the first song in Schumann's Myrthen, "Widmung," means "dedication."
    – phoog
    Sep 21 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


What was the appropriate response if an Early Romantic era composer dedicated a composition to you?

Well of course it depends on who you are, what your existing relationship is, and on what you think of the composer.

Wikipedia helpfully has a category page for music with dedications! Let's take a look:

  • Africa by Camille Saint-Saëns was dedicated to Marie-Aimée Roger-Miclos. The piece was written in 1891; Saint-Saëns was born in 1835 and Roger-Miclos in 1860. This appears to be a case of a well established composer dedicating a piece to a well established performer. Saint-Saëns had promised Roger-Miclos a new composition, and Roger-Miclos played its première performance. Surely this is the appropriate response in this circumstance.

  • Ballade No. 4 by Frédéric Chopin, dedicated to Baroness Rothschild, who "who had invited Chopin to play in her Parisian residence, where she introduced him to the aristocracy and nobility." I infer that Chopin composed played the piece in preparation for this performance, in which case the appropriate response was surely to applaud. In addition, since this is a dedication in thanks for patronage, the dedicatee might also appropriately pay the composer an honorarium or take other steps to support the composer's career.

  • Beethoven dedicated his second piano sonata to Joseph Haydn, one of his teachers and perhaps the most senior figure in Viennese musical life. I did not see any indication that Haydn ever performed the piece but he certainly may have, and it's hard to imagine that he never played it at all. In any event, the undeniably appropriate response here is to accept the dedication as an expression of gratitude.

  • In one of the subcategories you will find Robert Schumann's Myrthen, dedicated to Clara Wieck, his fiancée, on the occasion of their marriage. The title of the first song is even "dedication"! (More precisely, it is the German word for it, Widmung.) In this case, the appropriate reaction is, um, marital.

  • Schubert dedicated his ninth symphony to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, which "made him a small payment, arranged for the copying of the orchestral parts, and at some point in the latter half of 1827 gave the work an unofficial perfunctory play-through."

I had trouble finding unwanted romantic dedications, likely because composers tended to rescind them as Beethoven rescinded the initial dedication of his third symphony to Napoleon. An appropriate reaction to an unwanted dedication would be to inform the composer of one's lack of romantic interest.

To reiterate: as with any social interaction, the appropriate response depends on the circumstances.


A dedication would normally be in appreciation (or anticipation) of financial support. I suspect Schubert was flattering the rich parent as much as than the daughter. But maybe there was a romantic element too!

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