Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, May 8

Beethoven's Second on first?

Synopsis

Hold on tight—we’re about to cover 150 years of musical—and presidential—history in just 2 minutes!

On today’s date in 1821, back when James Monroe was president, Beethoven’s Second Symphony was performed in Philadelphia at a concert of the Musical Fund Society. That occasion marks the first documented performance of a complete Beethoven symphony in America and occurred when Beethoven was 50 years old and residing in Vienna.

In 1853, when Franklin Pierce was in the White House, the Germania Musical Society took Beethoven’s Second on its American tour, presenting it in St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. That 1853 tour marked the first time an entire Beethoven Symphony was performed in the windy city. Additional 19th century “firsts” for the Second occurred over the next two decades in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, during the administrations of James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson.

Ulysses S. Grant was president in 1870, when Beethoven’s Second debuted in Washington DC, and Grant was still President in 1872, when the Second was the first symphony EVER to be performed in Minneapolis.

A hundred years later, in the NINETEEN-Seventies, when Richard Nixon was in the White House, you could hear performances of Beethoven’s Second from Maine to Hawaii, all while sitting comfortably in your own “Executive Mansion,” courtesy of your local government-assisted public radio station.

If you wish, you may now stand and salute your radio!

Music Played in Today's Program

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) Symphony No. 2 New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony 61835

Additional Information

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