International tour – Bern
About the program
This concert will delve deep into the works of a single composer. The earliest and latest of the compositions were written less than a decade apart, but the path the composer took in that time was long.
Beethoven began work on his First Symphony in 1799, the final year of a century which had been exceptionally rich in the genre’s history. With his first symphony, the 29-year-old composer was carrying on the great traditions of Haydn and Mozart. While he wrote only a fraction of the symphonies his predecessors did, each of the nine he composed between 1800 and 1824 were hugely significant, and the last one remains a stand-out pinnacle of the genre.
Every one of the nine symphonies was powerfully novel for the contemporary audience, full of surprises and innovations. The Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung published an enthusiastic review about the concert at the Hofburgtheater on 2 April 1800, which said that the reviewer had not heard such an interesting concert for a long time, and that the concluding symphony “was full of art, novelty and inspiration,” even though he thought the winds and brass were overused.
The Fifth Symphony was written between 1804 and 1808, and includes his famous ‘fate’ motif at the beginning of the first movement. The interpretation was Beethoven’s own, as he enjoyed ridiculing people who wanted to know the real meaning behind his music; yet his explanation that “this is how fate knocks on the door” was probably serious. The work premiered in December 1809, alongside his Sixth Symphony and Piano Concerto in G major, the latter of which will also be heard during our concert. The composer, despite rapidly losing his hearing, could still present the 1807 concert to the audience in person. Contemporary listeners were shocked by the meditative opening phrase of the first movement, and by the numerous novel solutions in the piece.