BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, April 22, 1824

Pietro Mechetti advertises two new works for pianoforte by Beethoven’s former pupil, Carl Czerny, in today’s Wiener Zeitung at 396. The first is the set of Concert Variations for four hands, including a Rondo de Chasse [Hunting Rondo], on the popular March from the ballet Barbe Bleu [Bluebeard], Czerny’s op.67. “The numerous friends of four-hand piano music will certainly not find this new and brilliant, yet not too difficult, composition to be unworthy of being placed alongside the other earlier works of the same author, which have been received so favorably.”

The second work is an Allegretto grazioso for piano solo on a popular quintet also from the ballet Bluebeard, Czerny’s op.69. “The publishing house offers this little work with the conviction that the tasteful yet artistic treatment of a popular theme can always be pleasing to the public. A beautiful motif has here been transformed into a Rondo. The delicate, expressive presentation will certainly not be ineffective.”

In neither case is the composer of the ballet noted, and none of the standard catalogues of Czerny’s works offers a hint either. The Barbe-Bleu ballet with music by Count Wenzel Roberto Gallenberg, and choreographed by Auguste Armand Vestris (1760-1842) is a probable candidate, since the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of April 29 (Nr.18) at 282 confirms that notes that this ballet “by Vestris” was performed on March 13th, 1824, at the Kärntnertor Theater. The description there mentions that the material is similar to Grétry’s opera of the same name, but relocated to India. That ballet does after all contain a march in Act I, and Act IV opens with a scene of hunters, which matches the description of op.67 (for which we have been unable to locate a score). Count Gallenberg was the head of the administration committee of the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna while it was being operated by Domenico Barbaja in the 1820s, where the ballet was performed several times in the spring of 1824, and he was also in charge of the musical archives there, so he would have been well known to Czerny.

We have examined a score of Gallenberg’s Barbe-Bleu used for a performance in Naples around 1820, however, and do not find an Allegretto grazioso corresponding to that which serves as the basis of Czerny’s op.69. It was not unusual in that era for pieces from other works to be reused and shuffled into operas and ballets at this time to fit particular performers (Rossini in particular was notorious for this practice). Indeed, the AMZ review mentions that the music is by “various masters,” (and Gallenberg is not so much as mentioned, so it is possible he merely compiled the ballet from preexisting works), so new numbers by others may have been imported, including this Allegretto grazioso. For that matter, Gallenberg himself wrote around 50 ballets so he certainly had ample material to mix and match as needed, or he might even have written a new number for the performances in Vienna. Because of this discrepancy, we cannot definitively state whether or not Gallenberg’s ballet Barbe-Bleu was the basis of Czerny’s op.67 and 69, but based on the timing of the performance alone, about six weeks before Czerny’s compositions were released, it seems at least likely. We have thus far been unable to identify any other reasonable candidates.

It should be noted also that Gallenberg has Beethoven connections, for the count in 1803 had married Julie (Giulietta) Guicciardi, who was once Beethoven’s piano student and object of his romantic interest, and to whom he dedicated the Moonlight Sonata, op.27/2. She was once a popular candidate for Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved as well. Beethoven had recently had an extended dispute with Count Gallenberg in his archivist position at the theater, since Beethoven wanted to make a copy of his opera Fidelio to send to Dresden for a performance, and Gallenberg refused to loan him the Kärntnertor’s score to do so.