If most people know anything at all about Ludwig van Beethoven, they know that the composer eventually went completely deaf. The question that naturally arises when considering his tragic fate is how he managed to keep on making music. For one thing, the deterioration in his hearing was gradual – it began with a buzzing in his ears and progressed to a loss of sounds in the upper register and then to complete silence – and it took almost 12 years.
During that time and thereafter, Beethoven relied upon his past experience. From his youth, he summoned up memories of what the various instruments would sound like. In other words, his later works took shape in his imagination. Such would surely have been the case with his “Symphony No. 7,” which he premiered in Vienna in 1813, a full year after which he had completely lost his hearing. In fact, insisting that he himself lead the orchestra from the conductor’s stand, Beethoven would have heard neither the music nor the applause that followed the performance.
What is sometimes referred to as “the Glorious Seventh” is one of two Beethoven masterworks that will be featured in tomorrow's concert of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Happy Birthday, Ludwig” – this year marks the 250th anniversary of his birth in Bonn the program also includes the popular “Triple Concerto.”
The premiere of the Seventh Symphony was part of a benefit concert for Austrian soldiers who had been wounded in the Battle of Hanau, one of many military engagements between the French under Napoleon and other European powers. Beethoven made the following remarks to the assembled musicians before the concert: “We are moved by nothing but pure patriotism and the joyful sacrifice of our powers for those who have sacrificed so much for us.”
A later admirer of the work, Richard Wagner, labeled the symphony the “very apotheosis of the dance”; and it is undeniable that all four movements are indeed marked by rhythmic energy. The second movement, marked “allegretto,” was so popular with members of the inaugural concert audience that they called for an immediate encore before proceeding with the rest of the performance. Audience members even cheered and clapped their hands during some of the passages, particularly in the exuberant fourth movement, marked allegro “con brio” or “with brilliance.” Even Beethoven himself was observed pumping his arms and, at one point, jumping in the air.
The other great work scheduled for Feb. 1 is the “Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C major.” Showcased in the ASO rendering of this particular composition is the fabulous Eroica Trio, who are no strangers to Aikenites since Sara Parkins (violin), Sara Sant’Ambrogio (cello), and Erika Nickrenz (piano) have appeared in past concerts held in our fair city. Formed when the three very talented instrumentalists were students at Juilliard, the Eroica Trio – named, appropriately enough, after another work by Beethoven – have been featured often with major orchestras, performing the “Triple Concerto.” In addition, one of their eight recordings showcases this work with which they have long been associated.
Composed in 1803, Beethoven intended his only concerto for more than one solo instrument for one his royal patrons and pupils, the Archduke Rudolf of Austria, who was in his mid-teens at the time. There is, however, no evidence that Rudolph, a member of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, ever performed the piece, which is divided into three movements. Rudolph entered Holy Orders and eventually became a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
For ticket information regarding the Feb. 1 concert set to begin at 7:30 pm at USCA’s Etherredge Center, call 803-220-7251 or visit aikensymphonyorchestra.com.