Beethoven in Dresden - from 1796 to 2020

Publish Time:2020-03-06 18:12:52Source:Dresden Marketing Board

【Introduction】:In 2020, the world of music is commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17th December 1770 in Bonn, died 26th March 1827 in Vienna). Bonn and Vienna will therefore be very much at the heart of the celebrations. That Beethoven also had connections to Dresden is largely unknown.

Source: DRS Semperoper L.v.Beethoven Büste ©Christoph Münch

Beethoven spent a week in the German city of music. He later immortalised the words of Schiller’s Ode to Joy, a poem completed in Dresden.

In 2020, the world of music is commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17th December 1770 in Bonn, died 26th March 1827 in Vienna). Bonn and Vienna will therefore be very much at the heart of the celebrations. That Beethoven also had connections to Dresden is largely unknown.

While still in Bonn, where he was studying and also composing for the local court orchestra, Beethoven came into contact with musicians from Dresden. Foremost among them was his teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe, who had previously been Kapellmeister at the Seylersche Theatergesellschaft in Dresden, a company that performed at the now vanished Theater am Linckeschen Bad. In fact, the site on the Bautzner Strasse is nowadays occupied by a petrol station and privately-owned sports fields.

Beethoven’s visit to Dresden in 1796

After moving to Vienna, Beethoven started out as a freelance performer – one of the first musicians ever to embark on such a career. From his new home, he andertook a concert tour to Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. He arrived in Dresden on 23rd April 1796 and stayed at the Hôtel de Pologne, the same hotel that had accommodated Mozart almost seven years earlier. The Bavarian ambassador to Saxony at the time wrote: “Beethoven stayed here for about eight days. Everyone who listened to him play the piano was enchanted. Beethoven had the honour of entertaining the Elector of Saxony, a connoisseur in music, one evening for a full 1½ hours, solo and without accompaniment. HRH was exceptionally pleased and presented him with a golden snuffbox.” The private concert took place on 29th April in the Georgenbau. The role of this part of the Residenzschloss complex as a music venue in Dresden is not widely known. When Mozart gave a private concert there during his visit to the city seven years previously, he too was rewarded with an ornate casket containing his fee in coins. Beethoven gave several private concerts in the week before the royal audience and also took the opportunity to admire the sights of the city.

Indirect route to the Ode to Joy

The family of Christian Gottfried Körner was visiting Friedrich Schiller in Jena during that very week. In the summers of 1786 and 1787, Schiller lived as a guest of Körner in his summerhouse on today’s Körnerweg. The poet had recently begun writing his famous Ode to Joy in Leipzig. He put the finishing touches to the poem while staying in Körner’s townhouse (sadly destroyed in the bombing raid of 1945), in Körner’s summer house at Loschwitz and probably also in the small cottage in the vineyard above. This is now the Schillerhäuschen Museum. His host Körner was the first to set it to music. 37 years later in 1824, Beethoven chose the poem as the final chorus of his 9th Symphony. Richard Wagner popularised the work in Dresden by performing it on Palm Sanday every year. It is a tradition that the Staatskapelle Dresden has carried over into our millennium. The Elblandphilharmonie, the resident orchestra of the Landesbühnen Sachsen, has been performing Beethoven’s Ninth at the turn of the year in the Church of the Resurrection in Dresden and in the Lutherkirche Radebeul for the past half century. Christian Körner’s son, Theodor (1791‑1813), made contact with Beethoven during a visit to Vienna and tried unsuccessfully to recruit the composer for a joint opera project.

Fidelio in Dresden – with major historical impact

Beethoven’s opera Fidelio played a special role in the history of Dresden. Premiered in Vienna in the year 1805, the work was first performed in Dresden in 1815 at the Theater am Linckeschen Bad and then in 1823 at the Hofoper (Court Opera), where Carl Maria von Weber was in charge. He made sure that his esteemed fellow composer was well paid. Richard Wagner got to know Fidelio while he was in Dresden, and it was highly influential in his own development as an opera composer.

In 1989, Beethoven’s Fidelio played a significant role in the ‘Peaceful Revolution’. It was the 40th anniversary of the GDR, and director Christine Mielitz made a daring gesture on 7th October at the Semperoper. While protesters were being beaten and arrested on the streets of Dresden, she staged a highly politicised version of the opera. The set for the prison scene was designed to resemble the GDR border. The parallels were not lost on the audience, which included state and party dignitaries. Two days later, the first talks between government representatives and protesters took place in Dresden. The incipient revolution became a peaceful transition. In the Elbe-side foyer of the Dresden Semperoper is a bust of the composer. His portrait and name also adorn the stage curtain.

A missed opportunity

Dresden almost staged the premiere of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. After completion of the work in 1823, Beethoven sent it to various royal courts, including Dresden. There, the score was exquisitely boand and Beethoven received a handsome fee. However, the 80-minute work was not performed in Dresden until 1839. Warnsdorf in Bohemia (modern-day Varnsdorf in the Czech Republic) on a straight line between Dresden and Zittau is credited with the first performance instead.

The following cultural institutions will be paying special attention to Beethoven’s works in this anniversary year (selection):

§  Dresdner Philharmonie im Kulturpalast

24. & 26. April 2020

Beethoven: “Fidelio” (Opera in concert version)

Lise Davidsen, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Christian Elsner, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Georg Zeppenfeld, Günther Groissböck, MDR Rundfunkchor, Marek Janowski, Conductor

18. June 2020

Beethoven: String quartuors A major op. 18,5 & c minor op. 18,4; Symphony N° 1 C major op. 21, Marek Janowski, Conductor & Quatuor Ébène

5. & 6. September

Beethoven: Missa solemnis D major

Regine Hangler, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, Christian Elsner, Georg Zeppenfeld, Rundfunkchor Berlin; Marek Janowski, Conductor

§  Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden in der Semperoper

6. Kammerabend 22. March 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven: String trio G major op. 9 N° 1, a.a.

Duo-Recital of the Capell-Virtuosin Sol Gabetta, 29. March 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonate for Violoncello and Piano N° 3 A major op. 69, as well as works of Schumann and Brahms

12. Symphonic Concert 9.,10. & 11. July 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano concerto N° 5 Es major op. 73 & Sibelius

Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor and Krystian Zimerman, Piano

§  Semperoper

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio, 28. May, 2. and 5. June 2020,

§  Frauenkirche Dresden

09. March 2020

Young Artists Preisträgerkonzert with Marcel Tienhao Tok, Piano

Beethoven: Piano sonata Nr. 21, op. 53 „Waldstein“, works by Haydn, Schumann and Bartók

20. April 2020

Young Artists with Amadeus Wiesensee, Piano

Beethoven: Sechs Variationen F-Dur op. 34, Piano sonata A flat major op. 110, Allegretto from the Symphony Nr. 7 (Arr. Franz Liszt), works by Berg, Schumann und Brahms

20. June 2020

Jean-Yves Thibaudet with the Württembergischen Kammerorchester Heilbronn, Ltg. Case Scaglione

Beethoven: Leonoren-Ouvertüre Nr. 3 & Sinfonie Nr. 7 op. 92, and 2nd  Piano concerto by Liszt.

24. October 2020

Concert in commemoration ot the 15th anniversary of the consecration of Dresden’s Frauenkirche with the Frauenkirche choir

Beethoven: Christus am Ölberge op. 85 (Oratorio – fitting to the theme of the mail alter of the church)

30. October 2020

Sebastian Knauer with the Vienna Chamber orchestra, Dir. Ludwig Müller

Beethoven: Piano concerto 2 op. 19, Piano sonata op. 27,2 „Moonlight“, and Mozart 29th Symphony

§  Dresdner Musikfestspiele (Dresden Music Festival)

May 12 to June 12. 2020

Beethoven String quartet cycle at the Palais im Großen Garten (May 22-24) and Symphonies N°7 (BBC SO, May 26) & N°5+6 (Dresden Festival Orchestra, June 5),

Hochschule for Musik Carl Maria von Weber (Carl Maria von Weber University of Music)

§  Landesbühnen Sachsen

New production of „Fidelio“ and 9th Symphony

§  Sinfonietta Dresden 

Beethoven concert series.

The performance of all concert compositions by Beethoven (5 piano concertos, reconstructed concert of 1784, violin concerto, piano version of the violin concerto, triple concert) will be juxtaposed with Dresden works of the Beethoven period.

§  Wagnerstätten Pirna Graupa

Beethoven Piano Cycle,

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