250th Anniversary Double Celebration
In 1789, Ludwig van Beethoven was in Bonn playing viola in Mozart’s revolutionary opera The Marriage of Figaro, where Beaumarchais’ working-class hero turns the tables on the Count and his droit de seigneur. That same summer, William Wordsworth was even closer to revolution – he was actually in Paris.
As Wordsworth wrote later:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
When most intent on making of herself
A prime Enchantress—to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!
Beethoven and Wordsworth, both born in 1770, were both at first enchanted by the French Revolution; and later both men arrived at the same disappointment, famously expressed by Beethoven’s furious deletion of Napoleon’s name from the title page of his Eroica symphony.
Wordsworth’s political poems, like ‘I grieved for Bonaparté’, ‘Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour’, ‘After Visiting the Field of Waterloo’ – one of the great memorials to the Pity of War – and many more, and his moving meditations on his journey to France in 1802 to visit the daughter he had never seen, complement the music that the revolution inspired in Beethoven, each artist illuminating the other.
The concert includes intriguing stories spawned by the French Wars – in 1809, for instance, as Napoleon bombarded Vienna, Beethoven cowered in his brother’s cellar, pillows over his ears to save his hearing; Schubert, a 12-year-old choirboy, ran around the city ramparts picking up hand-grenades and throwing them back at the enemy, until the Emperor passed a special law to forbid it; and Haydn rose from his death-bed to defy the French by playing his own Emperor’s Hymn. The music of Mozart, Haydn and Schubert features in the concert, along with Beethoven’s most iconic revolutionary compositions.
Mozart Overture to The Marriage of Figaro (tr. Hummel)
Beethoven Fugue and Finale from the Eroica variations
Haydn The Emperor’s Hymn
Beethoven Clärchens Tod (from Egmont – tr. Metzdorff)
Beethoven Wellington’s Victory
Ode to Joy
Overture: Egmont (tr. Henselt)
Get in touch to book this unique programme!
The latest book by Barney Norris, The Wellspring, is all about my own compositions. We launched it at the Hay Festival last year. The book’s cover shows the church and henge at Knowlton – see HengeMusic.
You might like to see me setting out the dilemmas of Historically Informed Performance (HIP) back in 1990 with David Wilson-Johnson. Eerily still relevant. Enjoy it!
There’s lots to explore here on my website. Click along the menu under the picture. You can listen to selected recordings via links to the record companies, or you can browse through programme ideas under Performances & Projects (here you’ll also find a selection of reviews) and under Presentations. You can follow BBC links to some of my broadcast work on radio and television, including Building a Library and Chord of the Week. My work on early pianos can be found under Devices & Desires, and some of my own music can be heard under Compositions. (Menu items with a drop-down list also have content on the header, by the way.)
If you’re a promoter looking for something different, please get in touch.
Caroline and I thank you for your visit!