St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Beethoven. Symphonies № 1 and № 7

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The Mariinsky Orchestra
Conductor: Christian Knapp

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 1 in C Major, Op. 21
Symphony No 7 in A Major, Op. 92

About the Concert

On 26 March 1800, the newspaper Wiener Zeitung carried an announcement: “On Wednesday 2 April 1800 at the Imperial Court Theatre Herr Ludwig van Beethoven will have the honour of giving a grand musical academy on behalf of himself...”
It is notable with what respect Beethoven honoured his own great teachers in his first solo concert, as one would say nowadays: the programme included, in addition to works by Beethoven, a symphony by Mozart and highlights from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation. The playbill announced that there was to be a “grand concerto for piano composed and performed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven; a Septet, loyally dedicated to Her Majesty the Empress... a new large symphony for full orchestra, composed by Herr Ludwig van Beethoven.” Also promised was “Beethoven’s impromptu on piano.” This last comes as no surprise: for the Viennese public, Beethoven was still first and foremost a virtuoso, known for his dazzling improvisations in the city’s musical salons. Bowing to fashion, Beethoven composed whole series of variations on themes by Handel, Mozart, Grétry, Salieri and folk songs, one after another...
Historians today point out that it is in the First Symphony that Beethoven ultimately forms and validates the orchestra’s so-called pairing make-up (it is sometimes also known as “Beethoven cappella”) – two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets; woodwind instruments vividly and contrastingly juxtaposed with the strings. Contemporaries of the composer, too, noted this; it appeared to some that Beethoven’s symphony was like “wind music”, that here... there was superfluous use of the kettledrums! And only the most shrewd of critics who “knew a lion by his claws” felt how, in the roots of the style, sometimes generalised as “Haydn and Mozart”, music of a new century was being born. How the composer was flexing his powerful “muscles” in the first Allegro, how the genre of the symphonic scherzo was emerging in the rhythms of a gallant minuet, how strident fanfares were foretelling an heroic epoch in the coda of the final rondo... In a word, how the symphony of Beethoven was born! Iosif Raiskin

Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Seventh Symphony in the spring of 1812. The work was not performed, however, until 8 December 1813 in a programme together with the battle symphony Wellington’s Victory, or the Battle of Vitoria. Following the years-long Napoleonic Wars, Austria was in a state of triumphant euphoria, and Beethoven’s newest symphony reflected the general mood better than anything else. The Seventh Symphony soon took its honoured place in the “cultural programme” of the Congress of Vienna.
Wagner referred to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony as the “apotheosis of dance.” It is, indeed, imbued with energetic rhythms and it contains not a single truly lento movement. The music of this symphony does not move from suffering towards joy – here the joy reigns throughout, starting with the first movement and concluding in utter ecstasy in the finale.
Beethoven dedicated the score of the symphony to his friend and patron Count Moritz von Fries and the arrangement for piano to Empress Elizabeth Alexeyevna, wife of Alexander I of Russia. Anna Bulycheva

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