View RSS Feed

Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Musikakademie Konzert der 22. Dezember 1808, Erste Abtheilung

Rate this Entry
Related Article:

En français

Today, and this coming Thursday on ITYWLTMT, we will explore a seminal concert that took place in Vienna on December 22nd 1808.

The concert took place at the Theater-an-der-Wien and was held to promote some of Beethoiven's new compositions. This is not much different, in today's parlance, to a Rock band going on tour to promote a new CD. This means that the composer (or patrons) would act as concert promoters (secure the venue, hire the musicians, etc. etc.) and pocket the profits from the event.

As early as March of that year, Beethoven corresponded with friends to elicit their support or simply to document his feelings at the time. One such correspondent was Heinrich Joseph von Collin (or Coriolan fame):

I ask you, dear friend, since you will probably remember the note that you had written for me [...] the joy that you gave me with it caused me to immediately run to my friend Breuning with it in order to show it to him. There, I left it and thus it was misplaced, its content was, as far as I can remember: "that you had written to me that you had spoken with Hr. v. Hartl, with respect to a date for an academy [concert] and that he had told you to write to me that, if I contribute important works for an academy concert for the benefit of the "Theaterarmen" and if I conduct them, myself, I can right away select a date for an academy [concert] at the Theater-an-der-Wien, and that I could have the same arrangement each year for these conditions.
In his correspondence with von Collin, there is talk of holding the concert near Holy Week (in April), as a concert for the poor. Beethoven wil contribute the following to this academy concert which took place at the Burgtheater on April 13th: the Fourth Symphony Op. 60, the Coriolan Overture Op. 62 as well as his Third Piano Concerto Op. 37.

A later letter (dated late November) discusses Beethoven's ongoing plans. This letter was written after the commission of the opera Bradamante to Reichardt and prior to Beethoven's Academy Concert of December 22, 1808

Great angry poet!!! !!!

Let Reichardt go--take my notes to your poetry, I promise you that you will not be left desperate on account of them--as soon as my academy [concert] that really, since its purpose is to benefit me, takes up a lot of my time, will be over, I will come to you, then we will take on the opera, right away--and it shall sound, soon--by the way, with respect to that about which you are right in letting your complaints about me known, verbally--however, if you should really be inclined to have your opera written by R., I ask you to let me know, right away.

With high esteem, your most devoted
Finally, this snippet showing Beethoven acting as concert promoter, securing his venue:

. . . In return for Beethoven's noble contributions of his works and personal services to the charity concerts of November 15, 1807 (4th Symphony), April 13 and November 15, 1808, Hartl finally gave him the use of the Theater-an-der-Wien for an Akademie on December 22.
Here is the programme that Beethoven ended up using for that evening:

  • The Sixth Symphony
  • Aria: "Ah, perfido", Op. 65
  • The Gloria movement of the Mass in C major
  • The Fourth Piano Concerto (played by Beethoven himself)
  • (Intermission)
  • The Fifth Symphony
  • The Sanctus and Benedictus movements of the C major Mass
  • A solo piano improvisation played by Beethoven
  • The Choral Fantasy

Today's blog and musical selections will explore the first half of the concert. Here is what one attendee wrote. Note his comments about the overall conditions, the lack of proper preparation, and his astonishment (in spite of it all) with the high quality of the compositions:

[...] Beethoven also gave a concert for his own benefit at the large theatre in the suburbs, in which only his own compositions were performed.

I could not possibly miss this and thus, at noon, with sincere thanks, accepted the generous offer by Prince Lobkowitz to take me out there with him to sit in his box. There, we braved it out in the bitterest cold, from six thirty until ten thirty, and found the experience confirmed that one can easily also have too much of the good--even more of the strong. However, in spite of this, neither I nor the kind, delicate Prince, whose box was in the first row, near the stage on which the orchestra performed and Beethoven conducted, quite close to us, could leave the box before the entire end of the concert, although many a faulty execution tried our patience to the utmost.

Poor Beethoven who, from this concert, would gain his first and only cash profit of this entire year, in this performance and execution, has found considerable resistance and only weak support. The singers and the orchestra were comprised of heterogeneous parts, and a complete rehearsal of all pieces which were full of the greatest difficulties, was not possible. You will be amazed what, in spite of this, has been performed of this fruitful genius and untiring worker, during these four hours.

First, a Pastoral Symphony, or Recollections of country life. First piece: Joyful feelings that awaken in man upon his arrival in the country-side. Second piece: Scene by the brook, followed by a fourth piece: thunder and storm; fifth piece: grateful feelings and thanks to the Godhead after the storm. Each piece was very long, completely executed movement full of lively depictions and splendid ideas and figures; and therefore, this one Pastoral Symphony took longer than an entire court concert can last at our court.

[...] Then, there followed the sixth piece, a long Italian scene, sung by Demoiselle Killizky, the beautiful Bohemian with the beautiful voice. That the beautiful child trembled more than she sang, she can not be blamed for, considering the cold, since we trembled in the tight boxes, wrapped in our furs and coats.

Seventh piece: a Gloria with Chorus and solo voices, the execution of which, however, was entirely wrong.

Eighth piece: a new fortepiano concerto of immense difficulty which Beethoven executed astonishingly well, in the fastest tempi. The Adagio, a masterfully through-composed 'song' movement, he really 'sang' on his instrument with profound melancholy, which also touched me.
The following YouTube playlist offers selected movements from the symphony and concerto, as well as the complete aria and Gloria. Links to complete performances of the symphony, mass and concerto are also provided.

See you Thursday for the second half (see the below teaser).


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

First movement (Allegro ma non troppo: Angenehme, heitere Empfindungen, welche bei der Ankunft (Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside) from Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 ('Pastoral')
NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini
[Complete performance on YouTube]

Ah! perfido! Per pieta, non dirmi addio, for soprano and orchestra (aria), Op.65
Maria Callas, soprano, Orchestre de la Société des Concerts Du Conservatoire, Paris under Nicola Rescigno

Gloria from Mass in C Major, Op.86
Janet Baker Mezzo-Soprano, Heather Harper Soprano, Hans Sotin Bass, Robert Tear Tenor, New Philharmonia Chorus and the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Carlo Maria Giulini
[Complete performance on YouTube]

Third movement (Rondo: Vivace) from the Piano Concerto No.4 in G Major, Op.58
Murray Perahia, piano, New York Philharmonic under Sir Colin Davis
[Complete performance on YouTube featuring Kristian Zimmerman and the Wiener Philharmoniker under Leonard Bernstein]

Your YouTube Playlist:

December 22, 2011, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage "This Day in Music History - 22 December 1808" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read our English and French commentary December 22nd on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Dec-20-2011 at 11:45 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Composers , Recorded Music