FIRST HEARD: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

May 7, 1824Premiere 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


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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