BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, March 24, 1822 (approximately):

Rossini makes the social rounds in Vienna, where he is met with universal acclaim. Chancellor Metternich in particularly likes Rossini since his operas deal with love, romance and adventure, for the most part staying far away from politics and revolution such as Beethoven liked to dabble with. Rossini is thus quite an acceptable entertainment in Metternich’s eyes.

Very early in his visit to Vienna, likely as early as today, but within the next day or two at the latest, Rossini is treated to a performance, perhaps at Metternich’s palace, of Beethoven’s third symphony. This work was new to Rossini and it struck him hard. If he had a general intention previously to make Beethoven’s acquaintance, he was now single-mindedly concentrated on that purpose.

Rossini told much of the tale himself, in an 1860 conversation with Richard Wagner, related by Edmond Michotte (Souvenirs personnels, Paris 1906). Wagner asked, “Did you tell me a moment ago that you knew Beethoven?”

Rossini responded, “It is the truth. In Vienna, precisely at the time I have just told you about, in 1822, when my opera Zelmira was performed there. I had already heard Beethoven quartets in Milan, I do not need to tell you with what an impression of admiration! I also knew some of his piano works. In Vienna, I attended for the first time the performance of one of his symphonies, the Eroica. This music overwhelmed me. I had but one thought: to know this great genius, to see him, even once.”

The story will continue tomorrow, as Rossini tries to get an introduction to Beethoven through the good graces of publisher Domenico Artaria.