January 20, 2020
St David’s Hall, CardiffTwo conductors, two orchestras and two pianists recreated this historic four-hour four-premiere concert in a passionate and glorious evening of music
Beethoven: the 1808 concert review – a remarkable evening, then, and now
Beethoven’s 1808 benefit concert was one of classical music’s most remarkable evenings: it featured four premieres, including the 5th and 6th symphonies and the 4th piano concerto, and lasted four hours. Yet, in this recreation of that freezing December night in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien – six months before Napoleon invaded the city for the second time – it was not just the event’s scale that created the impact, but the sense it engendered of a genius at work. For the St David’s Hall audience, the buzz came from being part of something where history was being relived, giving substance to the Beethoven 250th celebrations. Here, it took two each of orchestras, conductors and pianists to realise what Beethoven – composer, fixer, conductor and soloist – effectively achieved alone.
Beginning with the Pastoral Symphony No 6 – Carlo Rizzi conducting a storm in its thunderous 4th movement with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra – the programme’s faithfulness to the original happily didn’t extend to replicating the many inaccuracies that Beethoven grumbled about. Soprano Alwyn Mellor brought heft to the high tessitura of the concert aria Ah, Perfido!
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