|Painting by Joseph Karl Stieler|
On this day in 1808 Ludwig van Beethoven premiered his most well-known composition. The first 8 notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are immediately recognizable.
Not only did he premiere– and conduct — the Fifth, but this concert at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna goes down in history as one of his most famous. It also saw the world premier of his Sixth Symphony. Other compositions on the bill that night were Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, premiered at a private event a year earlier, but this was its first public performance; and Choral Fantasy, so new the ink on the manuscript had barely time to dry. These last two performances featured Beethoven playing the piano.
This concert itself has become famous. As the WikiWackyWoo tells us:
The Beethoven concert of 22 December 1808 was a benefit concert held for Ludwig van Beethoven at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna that featured the public premieres of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy. This concert, then called an Akademie, occurred in a very cold hall and was approximately four hours duration. Its featured performers were an orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, and the composer as piano soloist. Beethoven biographer Barry Cooper refers to the concert, in terms of its content, as the “most remarkable” of Beethoven’s career”.
This would be the last time Beethoven performed a piano concerto before an audience. Again the Wiki picks up the story:
Beethoven’s hearing loss did not prevent him from composing music, but it made playing at concerts—a lucrative source of income—increasingly difficult. After a failed attempt in 1811 to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor”), which was premiered by his student Carl Czerny, he never performed in public again until he directed the premiere performance of the Ninth Symphony in 1824, which involved him giving cues to conductor Michael Umlauf.
But, as we say in the Not Now Silly Newsroom, it’s all about the music: