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8 - “Mit Verstärkung des Orchesters”: The Orchestra Personnel at the First Public Performance of Beethoven's Eroica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2020

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Summary

Beethoven played it [his new Symphony] for me recently, and I believe that heaven and earth will tremble when it is performed.

—Ferdinand Ries, Vienna, to Nikolaus Simrock, Bonn, October 22,1803

By the time that Ferdinand Ries penned these words, Beethoven's Eroica Symphony had been developing in the composer's mind and on paper for over a year. As a result of his successful Akademie at the Burgtheater on April 2, 1800, Beethoven had been commissioned by Vienna's court theaters to compose a ballet, Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (The Creatures of Prometheus), which premiered at the Burgtheater on March 28, 1801. It was a typical half-evening ballet, customarily paired with a comic Singspiel or other light entertainment. Prometheus was, however, the first major score in which Beethoven could compose passages to showcase specific orchestral musicians, something that his teacher Haydn had often done. Thus it features solos for flutist Joseph Prowos (b. 1752–53; d. 1819), oboist Georg Triebensee (1746–1813), clarinetist Johann Stadler (1755–1804), basset-hornist Anton Stadler (1753–1812), bassoonist Franz Czerwenka (1745–1801), harpist (and imperial family music mistress) Josepha Müllner (1768–1843), timpanist Anton Eder (ca. 1753–1813), and cellist Joseph Weigl, sr. (1740–1820). Indeed, Haydn had composed his Cello Concerto in C for this same Weigl nearly forty years before. Beethoven seems to have avoided composing any solos for concertmaster Giacomo Conti (1754–1805), who had been a subject of contention in connection with his benefit Akademie at the Burgtheater on April 2, 1800.

Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus enjoyed a respectable run through the end of August 1802. Thereafter, Beethoven may have received the orchestral parts, but in any case he made a suite from the ballet available to his colleague Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776–1830), who conducted the summer morning concerts in the Augarten.

Beethoven's Symphony no. 11/2 (Prometheus)

With newspaper and journal coverage of such events still sporadic, we might never have known about this development, except that on January 22, 1803, Beethoven's arrogant and presumptuous younger brother Carl, who often served as his business agent, wrote from Vienna to the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, offering the unperformed Symphony no. 2 in D and Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Minor.

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The New Beethoven
Evolution, Analysis, Interpretation
, pp. 161 - 202
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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