Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -1827)
Symphony No. 6 F major, op. 68, Sinfonia pastorale
Symphony No. 5 c minor, op. 67
Wednesday, 18 November 2015, 7.30 pm
“There we sat, in the most bitter cold, from half past six until half past ten, and confirmed for ourselves the maxim that one may easily have too much of a good thing, still more of a very good thing.” This is how the composer and music writer Johann Friedrich Reichardt described the memorable concert of 22 December 1808 in which Beethoven performed several of his works, including his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies in the “great suburban theatre”, the (unheated) Theater an der Wien. But even at room temperature the greatness of these two very different works, which appear so revolutionary and yet classically structured, soon became apparent. The romantic poet E.T.A Hoffmann, giving his assessment of the Fifth Symphony in one of the first important reviews, wrote that Beethoven’s music “opens to us the realm of the monstrous and immeasurable”, but also “proclaims the self-possessed genius of this master”. Beethoven had interrupted his work on his Fifth Symphony in 1806 in order to write the Fourth first, which received its premiere one year later in Palais Lobkowitz. Of the slow movement, Hector Berlioz wrote with as much enthusiasm as grandiloquence that is resembled the sighing of the archangel Michael in a moment of melancholy. That same year, Beethoven was working on his only completed violin concerto, which he wrote for his friend Franz Clement, a violin virtuoso and “music director” at the Theater an der Wien. Legend has it that Beethoven was still working on one part until shortly before the concerto was due to be performed so that Clement had virtually to sight-read it.