Reaching towards heaven but constrained by reality: Beethoven’s ‘Akademie’ concert at Vienna’s Teater an der Wien, three days before Christmas 1808 was both a crowning triumph and plagued by mishaps.
Remarkably, three of Beethoven's masterpieces – the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, and the Fourth Piano Concerto – received their public premiere in this unique and extravagantly lengthy concert conducted by Beethoven himself. Other recent music considered important enough to be included were two movements from the Mass in C and the first performance of the Choral Fantasy in which the composer himself, as in the Concerto, was also the soloist. It was the great composer displaying to the Viennese public the full panoply of his genius – as composer, conductor, virtuoso pianist and improviser.
Yet, the event was at times farcical: the audience shivered in a cold auditorium; amateurs had to fill in gaps within the orchestra, and the Choral Fantasy was barely finished in time for the concert.
In a new production, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia brings this piece of music history to life on the stage of Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.
Stephen Fry, renowned actor, writer and presenter, joins us with hilarious, vivid descriptions of the original concert, taken from the letters and diaries of those who were there.
Events by Eventful