Ludwig van Beethoven towers over others, but even that singular composer didn't come out of the blue. This and the following three Concert Hours explore the musical environment that brought forth that iconic musician.
Our playbill this hour includes a cantata written by Beethoven when he was age twenty; the occasion was the funeral of an emperor. We'll also hear a requiem by Andrea Luca Luchesi, who directed the orchestra in which Beethoven played as a young man. Two very different works with a common theme: the limited time we have on earth and thoughts of eternity.
To get us in the mood, could there be any more fitting piece than the second movement from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony? This might be considered the ultimate funeral march, but it's not all sadness; it also has a certain lightness to it.
Beethoven moved to Vienna as a young man and hardly looked back. But as conductor Werner Ehrhardt explained to DW, his home town of Bonn had all the ingredients to make a great composer: "Here in Rhineland, they really had all the European music of this time. So Beethoven had the opportunity to learn and to hear all this music. Both his father and his grandfather were musicians - so Bonn is a more musical place than you might think."
Imagine the young Ludwig playing the viola in the court orchestra in Bonn. What would he have played? Almost certainly a requiem by Andrea Luca Luchesi. The Italian composer came to Bonn in 1774 and succeeded Beethoven's grandfather as court orchestra director.
Luchesi's Requiem has only two sections, "Requiem Aeternam" and "Dies Irae." The piece is not so much fire and brimstone as it is a quiet meditation on death, or as Dorothee Mields explained to DW: "He focuses on the promise of paradise and life after death. You won't cry in Luchesi."
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, op. 92 (excerpt)
Christoph Spering, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Welle in the World Conference Center Bonn on September 2, 2019
Andrea Luca Luchesi
Requiem for soloists, chorus and orchestra
Dorothee Mields, soprano
Annekathrin Laabs, alto
Martin Koch, tenor
Thomas de Vries, bass
Vox Bona Chamber Chorus of the Church of the Cross, Bonn
Orchestra l'arte del mondo
Werner Ehrhardt, conductor
Recorded by Radio Deutschlandfunk, Cologne (DLF) in the Church of the Cross, Bonn on September 5, 2018