L van Beethoven – Missa Solemnis
October 31 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Ludwig van Beethoven (Baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time. There is no authentic record of the date of his birth; however, as children of that era were traditionally baptised the day after birth in the Catholic Rhine country (Beethoven was born in Bonn), and it is known that Beethoven’s family and his teacher Johann Albrechtsberger celebrated his birthday on 16 December, most scholars accept 16 December 1770 as his date of birth.
Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age and was initially taught by his father Johann van Beethoven. Some time after 1779 he began his studies with his most important teacher in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed the Court’s Organist in that year. Neefe taught him composition, and by March 1783 had helped him write his first published composition: a set of keyboard variations. His first three piano sonatas, named “Kurfürst” (“Elector”) for their dedication to the Elector Maximilian Friedrich, were published in 1783. Maximilian Friedrich noticed his talent early, and subsidised and encouraged the young man’s musical studies. At age 21 he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven then gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and was soon sought out by Prince Lichnowsky for compositions, which resulted in Opus 1 in 1795.
Around the turn of the century Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate, but he continued to conduct, premiering his third and fifth symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. His condition worsened to almost complete deafness by 1811, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public.
During this period Beethoven composed many of his most admired works; his seventh symphony premiered in 1813, with its second movement, Allegretto, achieving widespread critical acclaim. He composed his final symphony, No 9 – the Choral, which was – and still is -enthusiastically received by critics and audiences alike, between 1824 and 1826 . His fourteenth String Quartet, also from 1826, was noted for having seven linked movements played without a break, and is considered the final major piece performed before his death a year later.
The Missa solemnis was composed by Beethoven from 1819 to 1823. It was first performed on 7 April 1824 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, under the auspices of Beethoven’s patron Prince Nikolai Galitzin; an incomplete performance was given in Vienna on 7 May 1824, when the Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei were conducted by the composer. It is generally considered one of the composer’s supreme achievements and, along with Bach’s Mass in B minor, one of the most significant Mass settings of the common practice period.
Despite critical recognition as one of Beethoven’s great works from the height of his composing career, Missa solemnis has not achieved the same level of popular attention that many of his symphonies and sonatas have enjoyed. Written around the same time as his Ninth Symphony, it is Beethoven’s second setting of the Mass, after his Mass in C major.
The orchestration of the piece features a quartet of vocal soloists, a substantial chorus, and a full orchestra, and each at times is used in virtuosic, textural, and melodic capacities. The writing displays Beethoven’s characteristic disregard for the performer, and is in several places both technically and physically exacting, with many sudden changes of dynamic, metre and tempo. This is consistent throughout, starting with the opening Kyrie where the syllables Ky-ri are delivered either forte or with sforzando, but the final e is piano. The reprise of the Et vitam venturi fugue is particularly taxing, being both subtly different from the previous statements of the theme and counter-theme, and delivered at around twice the speed.
For this concert we’ll be joined by the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town
Conducted by – to be advised.