BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, April 19, 1821 (approximately)

Beethoven’s 1804 oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, op.85, is performed by Franz Gebauer’s orchestra and chorus as one of their Concerts spirituels in the run-up to Easter. That holiday fell on April 22 in 1821, so Holy Thursday seems like a solid candidate for the performance. The actual date of the concert is not known, so far as we can tell. The Concerts spirituels were almost always held on Fridays, but occasionally fell on Thursdays. So today, or tomorrow, April 20, Good Friday, are good possibilities. One chorus from the work had been performed the previous year at the April 9, 1820 Concert spirituel. Information from the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of April 28, 1821, at col. 269-270.

The reviewer in the AMZ was quite approving, saying it was a “very good performance for the most part.”
The anonymous reviewer continues, “Beethoven’s genius rules in this work, with all its originality and richness….The great chorus where the Jews take Christ captive [presumably “Auf! auf! ergreifet den Verräther” (Onward, onward, seize the traitor)] acts on the mind of the listener with irresistible power, a feast that excites the highest enthusiasm of hearing.”

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the finale of the oratorio, beginning with the chorus referenced by the AMZ reviewer, here:

Beethoven is almost certainly too sick to attend the concert, but he nevertheless probably was pleased both with the performance of the work (an annual favorite in Vienna until it was banned in 1825) and the glowing review.

Our next update will be April 27.