If you had arrived early for the gala reopening celebration of Vienna’s Josephstadt Theater on today’s date in 1822, you might have heard the theater orchestra frantically rehearing a new overture by Beethoven. They had just received the score, and so at the last minute were getting their first look at the new piece they would perform that evening.
Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” Overture was a last-minute commission and interrupted Beethoven’s work on two bigger projects: his “Missa Solemnis” and the Ninth Symphony. This overture begins with a series of solemn chords, continues with a stately march, and closes with a fugue — a tribute to Handel, whose music was much on Beethoven’s mind at the time.
One hundred forty-six years later to the day, another festive occasion was observed with new music, when, on October 3rd, 1968, the New York Philharmonic, as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations, premiered a new orchestral work by the American composer William Schuman. Leonard Bernstein conducted.
Schuman’s piece was entitled “To Thee Old Cause,” and was scored for solo oboe and orchestra. Originally, Schumann planned an upbeat, celebratory work, but the 1968 assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy changed all that and more somber music, dedicated to their memory, was the result.
Music Played in Today's Program
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)Consecration of the House OvertureBerlin Philharmonic; Bernhard Klee, cond.DG 453 713
Willliam Schuman (1910-1992)To Thee Old CauseNew York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond.Sony 63088