Thursday, January 20, 2011

1/20 Playing the European Circuit...with Beethoven

Map of 1801 with some tour cities circled (except London, just seemed relevant).
(orig from Atlas To Freeman's Historical Geography,Longmans Green and Co 1903)
One aspect of Beethoven's life which doesn't get talked about as much is his concert tour career.  In B.'s time, just as in our time, many composer/musicians travelled throughout Europe to make additional income.  Mozart of course was a pro "on the road", and Haydn first met Beethoven on one of his own tours.  Unfortunately when B. moved to Vienna to study with Haydn, Papa H. went on tour again (to England) and was generally too busy to correct Ludwig's homework. Beethoven himself spent only a few years touring seriously, since after his hearing deteriorated he realized it wouldn't be too prudent to play out quite so often.  Even at the end of his life tho, there was great demand for B. to go to England.

Here's a chronology of Beethoven's "Touring Career" (based on what little documentation exists):

1796: Feb-March: Extended visit (tour) to Prague with Count Lichnowsky.  Composes "Ah, Perfido!"and some mandolin music WoO 43-44 for Countess Josephine de Clary in Prague (see bottom of today's post).
"Beethoven spent several weeks in Prague playing not only his own compositions in concerts, but also improvisations which won the favor of his audiences.  His mastery of extemporization was incomparable.  Upon departing from Prague he had made many friends plus a considerable amount of money." (City Museum, Prague)

Apr-July - Arrives in Dresden, soon performs for the Elector of Saxony, then leaves for Leipzig and Berlin.
Obverse of Louis XVI Gold Louis D'Or
"Beethoven used the opportunity of his presence in the Prussian capitol to play for the court and for larger audiences several times, primarily in the concert hall of the Singakademie.His skillful improvisations at the piano on themes given him by the audience apparently left a deeper impression than did his own compositions....Frederick William II, King of Prussia had Beethoven play for him on several occasions, and on his departure presented him with a golden box filled with louis d'ors." (Former State Library, Berlin)
While in Berlin, Beethoven composes Cello Sonata #1, Opus 5 (dedicated to the Prussian King) for court cellist Jean-Louis DuPort as well as the "Judas Maccabaeus" Variations WoO 45 and other works.
(The Berlin Singakademie in 1843 by Eduard Gaertner)
July: Back to Vienna (possibly to feed the horse?)

November: Tour to Pressburg (Bratislava) and Pest/Budapest (concert on Nov 23)

1798 - October (or thereabouts): 2nd visit to Prague to perform his 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos.

1800 - May-July: Return visit to Budapest, performances include Horn Sonata Op.17 with "Punto" (Jan Václav Stich).
"Don't call me Jan."
(Thanks to the Beethoven Compendium for some dates info)
Here's an "all-mandolin" arrangement of the Sonatina for Mandolin and Harpsichord in C major WoO.44a:

Arrangement for mandolin orchestra: Tomislav Kalebić
Mandolin Orchestra "Sanctus Domnio", Conductor: Frane Kuss, Recorded in Zagreb (Croatia), 2006

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