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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Lovely, Lovely Ludwig Van

From the Vault Dept.: Dipping way back into my journalistic past, here’s a 1984 Metroland piece written under the pseudonym George Gordon, as I was signing my own name to pieces in the low-paying Albany Knickerbocker News, whose genius editor wanted me all to himself. Mr. Gordon needed to come up with an advance about Beethoven’s Ninth and chose to take a route other than that of the standard interview.


Beethoven in 1823
NOT SINCE WILD-EYED MALCOLM MACDOWELL committed acts of “ultraviolence” in Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange” have we been treated to so much of (“Lovely lovely Ludwig van”) Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as this year has promised. A full series of the nine symphonies was performed at Tanglewood over the summer, the Ninth is scheduled with the Schenectady Symphony later in the season and tomorrow night (Friday) the Albany Symphony Orchestra opens its season with the piece.

A radical departure from his earlier eight symphonies in some respects, Beethoven’s Ninth is also a sort of summary of the composer’s genius. He introduced the use of soloists and chorus in a symphonic setting, and proved that such a work needn’t be confined to the half hour or so that was usual.

The Ninth was completed in 1824, at which point the composer was totally deaf – but not at all lacking in enterprise. He took it upon himself to arrange the premiere, a difficult prospect because Vienna had gone crazy for Rossini at this point, and Beethoven feared he couldn’t compete with the Italian, Hearing. of this, Beethoven’s friends got up an ornate petition begging him to present the work in Vienna (not Berlin, as Beethoven was considering).

Marlene Walt
Characteristically, Beethoven got angry and rejected the idea. Then the petition was published in a local paper, and the composer was accused of putting it there himself. He got angrier. A committee was formed to calm him down, and succeeded, but with unexpected results.

Carol Lynn Youtz
For the next few weeks he went from agreeing to a performance to completely forbidding one; when his friends would rent a hall, Beethoven would turn around and un-rent it. When musicians were hired, Beethoven insulted them; yet plans were made to go ahead anyway. On the date of the premiere, May 7, 1824, the composer went even further with his shenanigans and accused the concert managers of skimming the receipts.

Brian Meneely
Following the Ninth’s successful premiere in Vienna, Beethoven sold the symphony to the Philharmonic Society of London, assuring them that the work, which he claimed to have written for them, would be having its world premiere in England. Then he went and dedicated it to the King of Prussia.

THE ALBANY SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE brings together a group of distinguished soloists: Metropolitan Opera baritone David Arnold; tenor Brian Meneely of Philadelphia; mezzo-soprano Carol Lynn Youtz, who is a Schenectady resident; and soprano Marlene Walt of Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia will sing the chorus part, under the direction of Tamara Brooks, formal choral director at SUNYA. The Mendelssohn Club will also perform American composer Vincent Persichetti’s “Mass for Mixed Chorus A Cappella.”

Julius Hegyi is the conductor; the concert will take place tomorrow at 8 P.M. at Albany’s Palace Theater.

Metroland Magazine, 20 September 1984

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