Composers Datebook®

Mozart, Salieri and Beethoven in Vienna

Composers Datebook - Dec. 23, 2023
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Synopsis

Oh, to have been in Vienna on today’s date in 1785! Wolfgang Mozart had just finished a new piano concerto a week earlier and quite likely performed it himself for the first time as an intermission feature at a performance of the oratorio Ester, by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, conducted by Antonio Salieri.

Now wouldn’t that have made for a good scene in the movie Amadeus?

Fast forward 11 years for another memorable concert at the Theater an der Wien, when on today’s date in 1806, it was Beethoven’s turn to premiere one of his new concertos in Emanuel Schikaneder’s Viennese theater. Alongside works of Mozart, Méhul, Cherubini and Handel, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was introduced to the world, with Franz Clement as the soloist.

Beethoven’s friend Czerny recalled that Clement’s performance was greeted with “noisy bravos.”

But a contemporary Viennese music critic wrote: “While there are beautiful things in the concerto … the endless repetition of some commonplace passages could prove fatiguing.” The reviewer’s final assessment? “If Beethoven pursues his present path, it will go ill with him and the public alike.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) Piano Concerto No. 22; Mitsuko Uchida, piano; English Chamber Orchestra; Jeffrey Tate, cond. Philips 420 187

Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) Magic Flute Overture; Zurich Opera House Orchestra; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond. Teldec 95523

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Violin Concerto; Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; New York Philharmonic; Kurt Masur, cond. DG 471 349

On This Day

Births

  • 1689 - French composer Joseph Bodin de Boismorter, in Thionville;

  • 1906 - American composer Ross Lee Finney, in Wells, Minn.;

Premieres

  • 1785 - Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in Eb (K. 482), in Vienna as the entr'acte at a performance of the oratorio "Ester" by Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf conducted by Antonio Salieri; Mozart was the soloist in his Concerto, and it is possible that Salieri conducted both the oratorio and Mozart's new concerto;

  • 1806 - Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, by the orchestra of Vienna's Theater an der Wien, with its music director and concertmaster, Franz Clement, as the soloist and the composer conducting; The concert also included works by Méhul, Mozart, Cherubini, and Handel;

  • 1880 - Dvorák: oratorio "Stabat Mater," in Prague;

  • 1887 - Chadwick: “Melpomene” overture, by the Boston Symphony, Wilhelm Gericke conducting;

  • 1893 - Humperdinck: opera "Hansel and Gretel," in Weimar at the Hoftheater;

  • 1894 - Debussy: Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun," at a concert of the Societé Nationale de Musique (not presented in ballet form until 1912);

  • 1911 - Wolf-Ferrari: opera "Jewels of the Madonna," in Berlin;

  • 1952 - Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano (part one of a two-part recital), in Leningrad, by pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva; See also Dec. 28th;

Others

  • 1989 - Leonard Bernstein leads first of two public performances of Beethoven's Ninth at the Philharmonie in West Berlin, with an international orchestra assembled to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall; The second performance occurred on December 25 at the Schauspielhaus in East Berlin;

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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