BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, December 17, 1823

At 7 p.m., Beethoven attends the repeat of Ignaz Moscheles concert, once again opening with the Name Day Overture, op.115. The program of this third Vienna concert by Moscheles is essentially the same as that on Monday night, except without Beethoven’s Broadwood piano being featured. There are not many reviews of this repeat concert, but the Allgemeine Theaterzeitung of January 1, 1825 at 2-3 reports that the orchestra played very well in the performance of “Beethoven’s brilliant overture.” So it seems that the performance went better than on the 15th, which should please Beethoven.

Beethoven’s Name Day Overture is here performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Chailly:

The concluding installment of a lengthy article by editor Friedrich August Kanne expressing his dissatisfaction with the present field of oratorios in today’s Vienna Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Nr.101 at 803-804, builds anticipation about the proposed Beethoven oratorio Der Sieg des Kreuzes. The Conservatory of the Muskiverein has commissioned the oratorio The Victory of the Cross, “for Beethoven’s magical power in the realm of sound.”

The libretto by Joseph Carl Bernard is described as having as “much consecration and dignity as is appropriate for the important moment in world history when Constantine, through the sight of a shining cross over the Sun with the motto “In hoc signo vinces,” was called upon to destroy the altars and temples of paganism and overthrow his co-emperor and adversary Maxentius, to plant the holy flag of the cross on the seven hills of Rome, which ever since that time has prepared mankind for the salvation of the world through the propagation of Christianity.”

According to Kanne, the characters include Constantine, Maxentius and Julia, as well as allegorical figures representing faith, hope, love, hate and discord. Choirs of Christians, Gentiles, warriors, augurs, magicians, angels, martyrs and demons act in large imposing masses to hold the main part together.

Kanne describes Bernard’s text as giving the whole a much more intense life than one usually finds in such works. Bernard alternates the poetic reflexes to a beautiful unity. “Through it all, the whole is stamped as a religious drama, in which the strangest and most momentous event in world history is made so vivid in a noble and worthy way, such that the high enthusiasm of our Beethoven must be kindled in a manner that only his creative genius could achieve.”

Kanne concluded, “May the genius of Beethoven in this work of music find its highest triumph, and prepare the poetry for its most beautiful transfiguration. Grillparzer’s beautiful muse has at the same time composed an opera, Melusine, for him, which is already in his hands. From the good condition of his health in general, let us expect the happiest solution for these two works and great accomplishments from Beethoven’s genius. So perhaps in this way a long-felt need in relation to the oratorio will be fulfilled, and the theater will be enriched with a substantial and brilliant work.”

As has been previously mentioned, Kanne is in for some disappointment. Beethoven rejects Bernard’s libretto (for good reason, from this description). While he approves of Grillparzer’s libretto for Melusine, he never begins any serious work on it. In between illnesses of various types, composition of the Ninth Symphony and the subscriptions to the Missa Solemnis have been occupying his mind for most of the year, and he is already months late with the three promised string quartets for Prince Nikolai Galitzin.

The Intelligenzblatt section of today’s Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung at 47 includes an advertisement from Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn for a newly-published edition of Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas, op.102, nrs. 4 and 5, as well as several works for violin and flute by Beethoven’s former pupil Ferdinand Ries.