{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/nls-music-notes.php' }

A Four Hour Concert in an Unheated Hall

On this day, over two hundred years ago, a historic concert took place.

It was in Vienna, in the middle of the Advent season, and Beethoven needed some money.

“But, Beethoven,” you would say, “surely he was doing fine! He is Beethoven! Everyone loves him!”

However, in Vienna in 1808, just because everyone loved you and your musical talents, it did not mean you were getting a steady income. Therefore, Herr Beethoven decided to put on a benefit concert—for himself.

There were many problems, however. The first of which being that it was the middle of December in Vienna, and the concert took place in an unheated Theater an der Wien. Beethoven was also restricted in his choice of musicians, as many regular Theater an der Wien musicians were playing another gig, and he was forced to hire some amateurs for the performance. There was also an under-rehearsed and inexperienced soprano chosen to sing the aria Ah! Perfido, after Beethoven had offended his first pick, Anna Milder-Hauptmann, by quarreling with her betrothed.

So why is this a memorable concert, since everything seemed to go wrong? Well, Beethoven premiered a number of his most famous works, including Symphony No. 6 and Symphony No. 5, (which were both written a good while before the concert), Choral Fantasy, op. 80 (which was hastily finished right before the concert), Piano Concerto No. 4, op. 58 (also written a while before the concert), and an improvised fantasia, which was later published as the Fantasia in G minor, op. 77.

The total length of the concert was four hours, consisting of two 2 hour sets. The concert has become well-known over the years for its length (although not uncommon for that time period), famous premieres, and strange mishaps. There have been quite a few recreations of the concert in recent years, including the Vienna Radio Symphony in 2008, the San Francisco Symphony in 2015, and the BBC Scottish Symphony this year.

A handwritten page from Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. Public Domain.

A handwritten page from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Public Domain.

If you’d like to re-create this epic concert at home, NLS has the materials for you to do so. Thus follows the order of the original concert:

Symphony No. 6, op. 68, “Pastoral”
Symphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68: full orchestral score (BRM35201)
Symphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68: piano arrangement for four hands (BRM26508)

Talking Book
Beethoven: The “Pastoral” Symphony by Jeremy Siepmann (DBM03419)

Ah Perfido!
Unfortunately, we don’t have this concert aria in the collection. However, perhaps these Beethoven arias will satisfy your needs:

O wär, ich schon mit der vereint, Soprano aria (BM34689)

Gloria from the Mass in C Major, op. 86
Mass, C major, op. 86: Vocal score for soprano (BRM36088)

Talking Book
The Mass (DBM00230)

Piano Concerto No. 4, op. 58
Piano Concerto, op. 58, bar over bar, piano solo only (BRM08363)
Piano Concerto, op. 58, bar over bar, arr. for two pianos (BRM34055)

Talking Book
The Concerto I (DBM00095)

Symphony No. 5, op. 67
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67, open score (BRM35188, 6 vol.)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67, arranged for two pianos, bar over bar (BRM00061)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67, bar over bar (BRM24665)

Talking Book
Leonard Bernstein Discusses Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Eroica Symphony, Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, the Music of Charles Ives (DBM00705)

Sanctus from the Mass in C Major, op. 86
Mass, C major, op. 86: Vocal score for soprano (BRM36088)

Talking Book
The Mass (DBM00230)

Fantasia in G minor, op. 77
Fantasy in G minor, op. 77, bar over bar (BRM22812)

Choral Fantasy, op. 80
Fantasie, op. 80, für Klavier, Chor, und Orchester (BRM34661, 6 vol.)
Fantasie, op. 80, piano part only (BRM36247)

What A Great Service!

I heard these words a lot this past weekend. That’s because the NLS Music Section made its way to the NAfME (National Association for Music Education) conference in Grapevine, TX. While there, I was able to promote our service to music teachers from all over the country—and some future music teachers too! The refrain I kept […]

A King and a (Fairy) Queen: Music by Henry Purcell in the NLS Collection

Today (September 10th) we celebrate Henry Purcell’s 356th birthday [Note: this date is actually disputed as no official baptismal record has been found. However, we will use this commonly accepted date, as it gives us a chance to talk about his music!]. Purcell’s contribution to Western classical music is indispensable, as it has influenced numerous other […]

Back to School

September signifies many things to us–cooler temperatures, leaves starting to turn, and…back to school! I would like to showcase some of the items requested with increasing frequency as the semester begins. We have some new titles and some that would be helpful if you’re looking for a guide. Most of these are intended for college […]

NLS Materials for Early Music Education

Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of one of the Twentieth Century’s most well-known composers and music pedagogues, Carl Orff (1895-1982). Although Orff may be best known for his cantata Carmina Burana, he is also quite well-known in the music education field because of “Orff Schulwerk,” an elementary approach to music he co-developed with his colleague Gunild […]

I Love a Parade!

As this post is published, I hope everyone is preparing for the July 4th celebration. Along with fireworks, grilling at picnics, sunflowers, ice cream and the patriotic significance of this date, I enjoy a parade–any parade. Especially those with floats, clowns, men with funny hats, and of course, marching bands. This most recent Memorial Day […]

Remembering the Ladies!

Abigail Adams, in a letter dated March 31st, 1776 to her husband John Adams, advised him to “remember the ladies” in the creation of the new government, independent from Great Britain. This post will be published after March 31st and while Women’s History Month is past, I beg your patience as I also ask you […]

Music History: 101

Recently, we mentioned the Music Section’s acquisition of the sixth edition, Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 3, Twentieth Century. This time of year also marks the beginning of the college spring semester, and we have seen a rise in the average amount of our music history related inquiries. Music history has been on the “brain” of […]