Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Ninth's New York Debut

Just back from a week in France (with no Beethoven exposure), but here is today's "Composer's Notebook" from American Public Media:   "On today's date in 1846, a Grand Festival Concert took place at New York's Castle Garden, a popular spot for 19th century Manhattanites to enjoy fireworks, balloon ascensions, ice cream, and band concerts.

"The band on this occasion consisted of some 400 vocalists and instrumentalists, including members of the four-year-old New York Philharmonic. They gave, for the first time in America, a complete performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the "Choral Symphony."

"In attendance was a 26-year old lawyer named George Templeton Strong, who kept a diary and recorded his impressions -- which were not favorable:  'A splendid failure, I'm sorry to say," he wrote. "The first movement was utterly barren . . . the minuet was well enough, quite brilliant in parts [and] the only point I found worth remembering in the whole piece . . . then came an andante (very tedious) . . . then the fourth movement with its chorus, which was a bore . . . a small achievement for Beethoven, and the orchestra might as well have been playing at the bottom of a well...'"

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