May 7, 1824 – Premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna, Austria
The Ninth Symphony was first performed in the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. This was the composer’s first onstage appearance in 12 years, and the hall was packed with an eager audience and a number of musicians.
Theater am Kärntnertor
The premiere of Symphony No. 9 involved the largest orchestra ever assembled by Beethoven, and required the combined efforts of the Kärntnertor house orchestra, the Vienna Music Society (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde), and a select group of capable amateurs. While no complete list of premiere performers exists, many of Vienna’s most elite performers are known to have participated.
Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him. However, two years earlier, Umlauf had watched as the composer’s attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio ended in disaster. So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost completely deaf Beethoven. At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.
If you’d like to hear the symphony that Beethoven could only hear inside his head, click