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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 / SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) Symphony No.5 in C Minor, Op. 67
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, grandson of the Kapellmeister of
the musical establishment of the Prince-Archbishop of Cologne and son of a
singer in the chapel. His father, Johann van Beethoven, was of little help to
him, and denied him a sound general education, while attempting to exploit the
child's still undeveloped musical gifts. Beethoven was to suffer for the rest
of his life from his lack of education and a consequent inability to express
himself at all clearly.
By good fortune he found an able teacher in Christian Gottlob Neefe,
court organist and musical director of a theatrical company. Training was
thorough, with a study of J. S. Bach's famous 48 Preludes and Fugues and the
duty of deputising for Neefe both as organist and as conductor of the theatre
orchestra. Beethoven's position was officially recognised when, at the age of
fourteen, he was appointed assistant court organist.
In his final years in Bonn Beethoven profited from experience as a
viola-player in the opera orchestra, playing the works of composers such as
Mozart, Cimarosa and Gluck. It was in Bonn that, in 1792, he met Haydn,
returning from a visit to London, where he had conducted the first set of his
Whether at Haydn's invitation or of his own volition Beethoven travelled
to Vienna at the end of the year, and was to remain there for the rest of his
life. He took some lessons from Haydn, to whom he dedicated his first piano
sonatas, but found in the court organist Albrechtsberger a more satisfactory
and systematic teacher, particularly of counterpoint, the art of putting
melody against melody. From the Court Kapellmeister Salieri, to whom he
dedicated his first violin sonatas, Beethoven learned the techniques necessary
to the setting of Italian words.
Mozart in Vienna had struggled to earn an adequate living without direct
patronage, and without a remunerative position at court, although the success
in Prague of Don Giovanni had brought him the official position of
Kammermusikus, chamber musician, with the responsibility for writing minuets
for court balls and entertainments.
In the 1790s there had already been changes, as the French Revolution
took its course, disturbing the stability of society, as the more privileged
classes became alarmed, and the radicals more optimistic. Beethoven sought to
exist in Vienna by his own exertions, in independence of a patron. He was soon
respected as a remarkable pianist, performing, as was the custom, mainly in
the houses of the aristocracy, but offering a certain number of public
concerts in the year. As a teacher he had distinguished pupils, and was able
to gain some support from his compositions, although much of his later
correspondence seems to be concerned with the difficulties of this, in an age
when copyright agreements were unknown.
The event that was to alter Beethoven's life dramatically was his
deafness, which, becoming evident as early as 1798, was to make public
performance impossible, and to drive the composer into an enforced solitude.
A remarkable document, the so-called Heiligenstadt Testament, a message
written to his brothers Kaspar and Johann, allows us to see the despair that
deafness brought him. The letter is in the form of a final will and testament,
to be read after his death. Written in the countryside outside Vienna, at the
village of Heilgenstadt, it was the prelude to an act of will by which he
surmounted his fate. The death that he seemed to welcome was to occur only 25
years later, after a life in which new heights in music had been scaled and a
new word opened to his successors.
Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, the first heralding the new century, in
1800, and the last completed in 1824. Although he made few changes to the
composition of the orchestra itself, adding, when occasion demanded, one or
two instruments more normally found in the opera-house, he expanded vastly the
traditional form, developed in the time of Haydn and Mozart, reflecting the
personal and political struggles of a period of immense change and turbulence.
To his contemporaries he seemed an inimitable original, but to a number of his
successors he seemed to have expanded the symphony to an intimidating extent.
Beethoven's Symphony in C Minor, Opus
67, is a work that has enjoyed enormous popularity, not least for
its patriotic associations that accord well with the period of its composition
and have proved to suit the sensibilities of later generations. For some the
work has become known as Fate, as the result of an alleged remark of the
composer, reported by the unreliable Schindler, on the opening of the first
movement - Thus Fate knocks at the door. It has been left for others to point
out that there is plenty of evidence for similar knocking at doors in other
compositions by Beethoven, the initial rhythmic figure being one that he found
to his purpose on other occasions.
Beethoven composed music relatively slowly and carefully, and the early
sketches for the C Minor Symphony are found in notebooks of 1804, the period
of the Eroica Symphony. The work
was completed in 1808 and dedicated to Count Razumovsky, Prince Lichnowsky's
brother-in-law, the Tsar's representative in Vienna and a patron of great
munificence, while his money lasted, and to Prince Lobkowitz. It received its
first performance at a concert on 22nd December, 1808. The taxing programme,
that resulted in near disaster in the final Choral
Fantasia, included the Pastoral
Symphony and the Fourth Piano Concerto, as well as a number of
items for soloists and chorus.
It seems that the Fifth Symphony
was at first intended, like the Fourth, for Count Franz von Oppersdorff, from
whom the composer certainly received some payment. By September of the year of
its completion, however, Beethoven had sold it to the publishers Breitkopf and
Haertel. In orchestration the Fifth
Symphony shows innovations in its inclusion of the piccolo, the
double bassoon and three trombones in the final movement.
Franz Schubert (1797 -1828)
Symphony No.8 in B Minor "Unfinished" D. 759
Vienna has always claimed Franz Schubert as its own. Of his immediate
predecessors, Haydn came the village of Rohrau, Mozart came to the city from
provincial Salzburg, while Beethoven travelled there from his native Bonn.
Schubert was born in Vienna and spent most of his life there. His family,
however, were from another pan of the Habsburg empire. Schubert's father,
Franz Theodor, was from Moravia and his mother from Silesia. The former had
joined his eider brother as a schoolmaster in the capital, while the latter's
father had been driven there after financial troubles at home.
Franz Schubert, born in 1797, was the fourth surviving child of 14 born
to his mother. His musical abilities were fostered as a chorister in the
Imperial Chapel, a position that brought with it the chance of a decent
education at the Staatskonvikt and also an association with the old Court
Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, whose influence on him was considerable. In
1812 his voice broke, but this need not have ended his schooling. Faced,
however, with a choice between music and academic study he chose to leave, and
in 1814 entered a school for the training of teachers. His father's school
was, after all, the customary family business, demanding the assistance of his
sons. In 1815 he began work as an assistant to Franz Theodor, only to abandon
both home and career, at least for the time being, the following year.
Schubert's childhood had been dominated by music. He played the piano
and the violin, and there was a family string quartet, in which he and two of
his older brothers were joined by their father, an amateur cellist and
allegedly the least proficient of the group. At school he had led the student
orchestra and acquired close familiarity with contemporary repertoire. Above
all, though, he wrote songs, settings of words by famous poets or by writers
who had become his friends.
In 1816, at the age of 19, Schubert left home to live with his friend
Franz von Schober. A year later he was home again at his father's new school.
In 1818, after serving as music teacher to the daughters of Prince Esterházy
in Hungary, he returned to Vienna to share rooms with another friend, the poet
Mayrhofer, later moving back once more to his father's school-house. He was to
return briefly to Hungary for part of the summer of 1824, at a time when his
health had been seriously impaired by the venereal infection that was to cause
his death in 1828.
During his brief life Schubert enjoyed the friendship of a circle of
young poets, artists and musicians, many of them dependent on other employment
for a living. He never held any official position in the musical
establishment, nor was he a virtuoso performer, as Mozart and Beethoven had
been. The latter, who was to die one year before Schubert, had long been
forced to relinquish his earlier career as a virtuoso, but kept and was kept
by a group of rich patrons, and, increasingly, by his manipulation of
music-publishers. Schubert, by the time of his death, seemed only to have
started to make an impression on a wider public. Much of what he had written
had proved eminently suitable for intimate social gatherings. His larger scale
works were often to be played by amateurs, since he never had at his disposal
a professional orchestra, nor, in general, had he or his friends the means to
hire one. The only public concert devoted to his work was given in Vienna nine
months before his death. The venture, supported generously by members of
Schubert's circle, was financially successful and in the same year publishers
had started to show a more active interest in music, much of which was to have
a strong appeal in a period that saw a considerable development in domestic
Schubert's Symphony in B minor
was the work of 1822 and only two of the expected four movements were
finished, with part of a scherzo. These movements were not played in
Schubert's life-time, but were rediscovered 43 years later and given their
first performance in Vienna in 1865. The manuscript had been given by Schubert
to his friend Josef Huettenbrenner as a present for his brother Anseim in Graz.
The latter had later arranged a piano duet version of the movements, which he
and his brother played together. Foryears the manuscript remained in Anseim
Huettenbrenner's possession, its existence only known to a few, until it came
to the attention of the conductor Johann Herbeck.
Later writers have offered various explanations of the fragmentary
nature of the symphony, none completely convincing. It has been suggested,
improbably, that four movements were actually completed and sent to Anseim
Huettenbrenner, who then lost two of the movements. More plausibly others have
found a reason for not finishing the symphony in the composer's preoccupation
with other work. Certainly Schubert could never be sure that larger scale
works would ever be performed. It might be added that in 1822 Schubert
contracted venereal disease and that the serious nature of this incurable
disease and its probable fatal outcome affected him very deeply.
The Austrian conductor Richard Edlinger was born in Bregenz in 1958 and
directed his first concert at the age of seventeen. In 1982 he completed his
studies in conducting and composition at the Vienna Academy, having by then
already acquired considerable professional experience on the podium. He was
the youngest finalist in the 1983 Guido Cantelli Conductors' Competition at La
Scala, Milan. Richard Edlinger has made recent appearances with the Vienna
Chamber Orchestra, the Zagreb Philharmonic, the George Enescu Philharmonic,
the orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and the RTSI Orchestra in Lugano. In 1987 he
was appointed Music Director of the Kamptal Festival in Austria.
Born in Hungary in 1938, Michael Halasz began his professional career as
principal bassoonist in the Philharmonia Hungarica, a position he occupied for
eight years, before studying conducting in Essen. His first engagement as a
conductorwas atthe Munich GaertnerplatzTheatre, where, from 1972to 1975,
hedirected all operetta productions. In 1975 he moved to Frankfurt as principal
Kapellmeister under Christoph von Dohnanyi, working with the most distinguished
singers and conducting the most important works of the operatic repertoire.
Engagements as a guest-conductor followed, and in 1977 Dohnanyi took him to the
Staatsoper in Harnburg as principal Kapellmeister.
In 1978 Michael Halasz was appointed General Musical Director at the
opera-house in Hagen, and there has further developed his experience of the
repertoire, while undertaking guest engagements, which included television
appearances as conductor in English and German versions of the Gerard Hoffnung
Music Festival, as weIl as work with the Philharmonia Hungarica, the Bamberg
Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the Hilversurn Radio
For the Marco Polo label, Michael Halasz has recorded works by Richard
Strauss, Anton Rubinstein, Schreker and Miaskovsky and for Naxos works by
Tchaikovsky, Rossini and Beethoven.
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BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 / SCHUBERT: Symphony No....