Composers Datebook®

Beethoven at "The Wild Man"

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) — String Quartet in a, Op. 132 (Emerson Quartet) DG 447 075

Composer's Datebook - 20210909


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September 09, 2021


In September of 1825, an Englishman by the name of Sir George Smart came to Vienna, hoping to meet Beethoven. Smart had conducted the British premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth, and wanted, as he put it in his journal, “to ascertain from Beethoven himself the exact tempos of the movements of his sinfonia.”

By luck, Smart arrived in time to attend the first reading of Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, which occurred on today’s date that year in a private room at the Viennese Tavern “Zum Wilden Mann.”

Smart recalled:  “… we took ourselves to the Wilden Mann there was an assembly to hear Beethoven’s new manuscript quartet. It is most chromatic and there is a slow movement entitled ‘Praise for the recovery of an invalid.’ Beethoven intended it to allude to himself, I suppose, for he was very ill during the early part of this year. Beethoven directed the performers, and took off his coat, the room being warm and crowded. A staccato passage not being expressed to the satisfaction of his eye, for alas, he could not hear, he seized the violin and played the passage himself – a quarter of a tone too flat.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) — String Quartet in a, Op. 132 (Emerson Quartet) DG 447 075

On This Day


  • 1872 - American composer Edward Burlingame Hill, in Cambridge, Mass.;

  • 1937 - American composer Olly Wilson, in St. Louis;


  • 1965 - Mexican composer Julián Carrillo, age 90, in Mexico City;


  • 1825 - Beethoven: String Quartet in a, Op.132, at a private performance for an audience of fourteen at the Tavern "Zum Wilden Mann" (The Wild Man) in Vienna, by the Schuppanzigh Quartet; The same players gave the first public performance in Vienna on November 6 that year;

  • 1973 - Frank Martin: "Polyptyque (Six Passiontide Images for Violin and Two Small String orchestras)," in Lausanne, by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra conducted by Edmond de Stoutz, with Yehudi Menuhin the soloist.

  • 1995 - Michael Torke: "Telephone Book" for chamber ensemble (consisting of "The Yellow Pages" from 1985 and two new pieces: "The Blue Pages" and "The White Pages" composed in 1995), at the Milwaukee Art Museum by the Present Music ensemble, Kevin Stalheim conducting.