The Dancer Who Made Beethoven’s Ninth Occur

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The Dancer Who Made Beethoven’s Ninth Happen

Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler also began secretly to negotiate with the suburb of Vienna. There was talk of the Burgtheater, the other imperial family, and the small country hall as an alternative.

At the end of March, Schindler visited Duport to ask the Great Hall in the Hofburg or the Imperial Palace for a repeated Beethoven concert. (This hall was also under Barbaja’s administration.) With the plans for the first concert still in progress, Duport may have been confused, but he agreed. It was an unsettling time for him. Barbaja was under house arrest in Naples and was charged with trying to burn down the Teatro di San Carlo to hide accounting irregularities. He was eventually exonerated, but Duport, who had spent the past year in Karlovy Vary to take the water because of an unknown illness, was undoubtedly distracted.

For this planned repetition, Duport was only able to offer Beethoven the smaller hall of the Hofburg, which prompted the composer to threaten to abandon the concerts. At the first event, Schindler still pushed for the Theater an der Wien, but Beethoven wanted Schuppanzigh as concertmaster. When the musicians refused to use external workers, An der Wien was outside. The Kärntnertor was there again.

On April 24, Duport received a letter from Schindler with a long list of demands. Beethoven wanted the concert to be on either May 3rd or 4th and expected an immediate response. The situation was “urgent”. One can only imagine what Duport must have been thinking about; he had confronted Napoleon and now had to deal with the confident Schindler. However, Duport had great respect for Beethoven and agreed to hold the first concert in the Kärntnertor and the second in the Great Hall of the Hofburg.

The Ninth required an 82-piece orchestra and 80 singers, which were breathtaking for the time and offer more than twice as much as Duport could offer. As a result, Beethoven had to supplement the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde with amateurs. And since Beethoven wanted full power on stage, Duport also had to approve the construction of scaffolding and risers. The solo singers complained that the high notes were out of their reach. Government censors disrupted the planned excerpts from the “Missa Solemnis”. Beethoven wanted to open the concert with his overture “Consecration of the House”, but could not find the score.

With the concert only a week away, Duport still had to give Beethoven a formal contract. One of the composer’s friends suggested reporting the manager to the police superintendent. But on the evening of May 7, a large crowd began to enroll in the thousand-seat theater. Although Beethoven had received invitations to the members of the court by hand, the imperial box was empty; The nobility had already left the city for the summer. With only two complete rehearsals and little time to study the score, conductor Michael Umlauf – with Beethoven by his side – made the sign of the cross before giving the downbeat.