The Chief Who Saved Beethoven


On the last day of 1813, an advertisement in the Wiener Zeitung briefly states: “I will perform my composition, Victory of Wellington, on Sunday, January 2nd, in Vienna – Redoutensaal – Ludwin van Beethoven, with the participation of distinguished musicians”.

Let's learn the rest of the story from the autobiography of tenor Franz Wild, who performed at the concert:

“The conductor went up to his platform, the orchestra was quite worried as he knew his weakness. The justification of this concern was soon proven. Soft (piano) passages also fell to their knees, while hard (forte) passages were thrown up. It was as if we were watching a camel-dwarf game during the piece. At first, this situation did not cause any discomfort to the musicians. It wasn't failing in sync; but later on, this genius became a dwarf in hard passages and a camel in soft passages, getting ahead of the orchestra. Now the danger was near. Realizing the situation, Umlauf quietly took control. It was signaled for the orchestra to follow him. Beethoven did not realize this for a long time. And when he did, that holy smile that came to his lips was the most wonderful moment that fate gave me the chance to see.”

The second anecdote is by librettist (opera scriptwriter) Georg Freidrich Treitschke, born in 1776. Here is Beethoven's memory of his opera Fidelio:

“The last rehearsal was on May 22, but the promised overture (intro music) was still in the pen of the composer. When the orchestra was called for the final rehearsal on the morning of the concert, Beethoven was absent. After a long wait, we set out for his house to fetch him. He was sleeping in his bed when we entered. Next to him was wine and biscuits. The notes of the overture were strewn across the floor, the melted-out candles showing that they had worked hard until midnight. The impossibility of completing the overture in such a short time was evident from every aspect of the room. Schindler wrote that the overture of the composition 'Die Ruinen von Athen' was used because the overture did not grow. Treitschke continues: “The opera was very well prepared. Beethoven directed it himself. Even though there were moments when he got ahead of the orchestra because of his excitement, Umlauf, standing right behind him, managed to keep the orchestra in the whole with his eyes and hands.”

Sammler writes that the enthusiastic crowd, who did not want to wait for the end of the opera, managed to bring Beethoven to the stage with intense applause at the end of the first act. Beethoven (1823), on the other hand, stated that he was ashamed of the applause he received and that the overture played did not belong to the continuation of the work.


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