BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, October 9, 1822

Today’s Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Nr. 41 at col. 674-676 contains a substantial review of Beethoven’s Meeres-Stille und Glückliche Fahrt, op.112 in full score as printed by Steiner in Vienna. The thoughtful review is by former editor Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1769-1842), who had visited Beethoven several times earlier this year in Vienna and also saw him in Baden bei Wien before his return to Leipzig.

After bemoaning the long absence of new compositions from Beethoven, Rochlitz delivers an appreciation of the piece, which combines two poems by Goethe (“Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser” and “Die Nebel zerreissen”) as two closely-connected choruses, with orchestral accompaniment. “The song, like the poem, is extremely simple and gently flowing: the orchestra, however, grasps the painterly quality of the contrasting natural scenes and presents them to the listener’s spiritual eye as far as possible….One can be sure that anyone who has a general sense of music and pays attention will find and recognize the traits of the witty descriptions, especially since the poet’s words serve as a commentary. The ‘deep silence‘ that you hear right at the beginning – no matter how strange it may seem – hardly lets you breathe. The ‘immensity,’ p. 4, cuts in powerfully and makes the return of the first picture that follows only more effective. After everything has sunk, as it were, into exhaustion, everything rests like ‘the sea, motionless,’ then, very gradually, the quiet movement begins (ritornello of the second choir) and increases, becomes more and more animated, and now the choir joins in freshly and powerfully: ‘The mist tears apart.‘ One has to smile; there is no other way….”

“If, on the first listen, one has surrendered oneself, as one should, to the total impression, then one has room to notice the art of the master when it is repeated. Here too we can promise the participants that they will each be be satisfied in their own regard. We relate these last remarks of ours first to the indicated passage, but not only to it, but also to several things that preceded and followed; e.g. the: ‘Geschwinde! Geschwinde!‘ [Quickly!] especially where it occurs for the second time and then more often; the same call: “Land!” and then (page 27 and onward) the gentle, touched repetition: ‘das Land!’ until the last joyful cheers, at the end: ‘das Land! das Land!'”

“The whole thing is not difficult at all, or rather, it is easy to play; but it nevertheless requires the greatest precision in performance, especially with regard to the strength and weakness of the tones through all gradations, as noted in the score. The orchestra consists of a quartet, two flutes, two oboes, two A clarinets, two bassoons, two D and two G horns, trumpets and timpani. The score is beautifully engraved. The work is also published by the same publishing house in engraved parts and in piano reduction.”

“Since this writer has had the opportunity to learn about Beethoven’s latest works that have not yet been published, and since he knows that all music lovers take a great interest in B.’s works, he takes the pleasure of telling them that our master recently completed several overtures of different character and expression, and a great Mass for Archduke Rudolph, Prince-Bishop of Olmütz, Imperial Highness. The first of these will soon appear; the latter, given the most benevolent dispositions of that honored leader, we may perhaps hope to see communicated to the public, sooner or later.”

[The “several overtures” alluded to here are probably the Name-Day Overture op.115, completed in 1815, as well as The Ruins of Athens op.113 and King Stephan Overture op.117, both written in 1811 but all of which were as of yet unpublished. The Overture to The Ruins of Athens was published in full score and parts by Steiner in February, 1823. Steiner published the Name-Day Overture in April, 1825, while the Overture for King Stephan did not appear in score and parts until the summer of 1826. This list might also include the recently-premiered Consecration of the House Overture, op.124, although that was published in December 1825 by B. Schott in Mainz, rather than Steiner, who appears to have been Rochlitz’s source for this publication information.]

Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt op.112 is here performed live in 2016 by the Brussels Chamber Orchestra and The New Baroque Times Voices, guest conductor Hansjörg Albrecht: