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Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Was Greatest Concert Ever?

Let's return to that fabled night in Vienna when L.V. Beethoven rented out a hall on December 22, 1808, for the premiere of his Fifth Symphony--you may have heard of it (if you're not dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb)--and Sixth ("Pastoral") Symphony and, by the way, the greatest piano concerto written by anyone ever (his No. 4). And selections from a little thing called the Mass in C Major.  Plus: the Choral Fantasia, forerunner to the Nine Symphony.   For good measure: the maestro himself improvised at the piano. It lasted four hours in a frigid hall.  The next day  critics dubbed it too much of a good thing! Or complained about the cold.  Read all about it in my column from a few years ago. 

Below, the revolutionary "storm" section of the Pastoral.   And note:  our new film and book about the amazing political and cultural influence of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.


Ryan said...

I'd have to say the greatest concert ever was on Feb. 14, 1970 in Leeds, U.K.

glmaranto said...

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, kind of depends on how you define "greatest". Would that be greatest for the individual concertgoer, greatest in terms of musical history (that would be a tough one, no?), greatest in terms of "boy, wouldn't it have been great to be at that one?" Can't you imagine, back in the dim mists of time, some kid banging on a hollow gourd while the elders around the firepit were doing some boring chant thing, and couple other kids picked up sticks and rubbed 'em together, somebody whistled and s--t, we got polyrhythms goin' here? Bach of an envelope calculation: coulda been a lot of those moments in musical pre-history and history...

Laurence Glavin said...

2732It's possible that Beethoven's most revolutionary works couldn't "sink in" until they got performances worthy of LvB's genius. Hastil-thrown-together orchestral players who almost never played in a conventional symphony orchestra were unlikely to present the listening public with a level of execution we often take for granted today. According to Berlioz, it took a Frenchman like Francois Habeneck to whip up the Paris Conservatory Orchestra into shape so it could master the demands of these pieces. Fortunately for Beethoven, his string quartets were premiered by an ensemble led by Ignaz Schuppanzigh that was virtuosic enough to handle this music, even including the fugal finale of the original version of #13. So, although it may be lost to history, the "greatest-concert-of-all-time" (until then) was the FIRST concert by a group able to realize the greatness in the musc itself.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Ryan, but Herr Beethoven may be a close second.

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