BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, October 25, 1821

The new season of Franz Gebauer’s Concerts spirituel opens at 4 PM this afternoon, with a performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C, op.86, in Vienna. Other pieces played at the concert include an unidentified symphony by Haydn, and a Te Deum by Ignaz Ritter von Seyfried.

The anonymous reviewer in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung nr. 89, November 1821, columns 705-707, gave a generally glowing review of the performance. Whereas the first season of these concerts in 1819-20 had been considered little more than run-throughs by amateurs, they have now either attracted a better class of musicians, or have been sufficiently rehearsed, or both.

Ferdinand Piringer (whom you may recall had visited the ill Beethoven in February of this year) has taken over the conducting duties from Franz Gebauer. The reviewer is particularly pleased that Piringer included the entire Haydn symphony (it’s not clear which one, since the reviewer gives no indication other than the description “one of his most beautiful pieces”), rather than just one movement, or sprinkling the movements throughout the concert. That practice apparently was a common habit in Vienna at the time.

Following is the AMZ review of Beethoven’s Mass in C:

“A solemn mass by Beethoven followed. The great, fantastic educational power of this master emerges impressively from the deeply felt, harmonious choirs. As gently as the cries of pain of ‘Eleison‘ move the heart, the exultant ‘Gloria‘ rises just as powerfully in the bold eagle flight of the creative composer. The solos sounding softly up from the roaring masses are felt deeply and soulfully, and that feeling arises gladly from their ravishing impressions.

“When Beethoven’s bold genius occasionally places his figures in too bright a light or characterizes them with a somewhat sharp edge, he always knows how to reconcile this with the moved feelings of the observer. The impression of this great work is without question extremely noble and powerful. The precision of the orchestra came out nicely here. The solo parts were sung by the Dlles. Kamper and Weiss, and Messrs. Seipelt and Rauscher, and generally executed well.”

Perhaps this glowing review helped inspire the composer to finally complete work on the Missa Solemnis, which has been an ongoing project for over two and a half years at this point.

Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform the Gloria from the Mass in C here: