“I heard your ballet yesterday and it pleased me very much!”1 (“Nun! gestern habe ich Ihr Ballett gehört, es hat mir sehr gefallen!”), so said Haydn to Beethoven in 1801, to which Beethoven replied: “O dear Papa, you are very kind; but it is far from being a Creation!” (“O, lieber Papa! Sie sind sehr gu?tig, aber es ist doch noch lange keine Schöpfung!”). Haydn was surprised and almost insulted by this remark, and he retorted: “That is true; it is not a Creation and I can scarcely believe that it will ever become one.” (“Das ist wahr, es ist noch keine Schöpfung, glaube auch schwerlich, daß es dieselbe je erreichen wird”)
According to William Kinderman2, this anecdote – about Beethoven’s ballet The Creation of Prometheus – is very plausible and also quite typical. It shows Beethoven’s predilection for plays on words. Haydn’s great oratorio The Creation (Die Schöpfung) had recently had its first performance, and it is telling that the two composers agreed that the ballet was “far from a Creation”. According to Kinderman, the Prometheus ballet is a creation myth in its own right, but it is actually the music of the Eroica that personifies the Promethean stature and that can be seen as the “creation”.