Beethoven Fantasy for Piano, Choir & Orchestra in C minor, op.80
Valentin Gheorghiu, piano
Cluj Napoca Symphony Orchestra & Choir
Emil Simon, conductor.
The first performance of Fantasy, op.80, was quite extraordinary: over a period of four hours, the audience heard the first performances of Beethovens 5th and 6th symphonies, the piano concerto No.4 and movements from the Mass in C. However, the evening was not without its problems.
Ferdinand Ries, a musician, composer and close acquaintance of Beethoven, describes the concert:
“Beethoven gave a large concert on 22 December 1808 in the Theater an der Wien at which were performed for the first time the C minor and Pastoral Symphonies as well as his Fantasia for Piano with orchestra and chorus. In this last work, at the place where the last beguiling theme appears already in a varied form, the clarinet player made, by mistake, a repeat of eight bars. Since only a few instruments were playing, this error was all the more evident to the ear. Beethoven leaped up in a fury, turned around and abused the orchestra players in the coarsest terms and so loudly that he could be heard throughout the auditorium. Finally, he shouted from the beginning! The theme began again, everyone came in properly, and the success was great. But when the concert was finished the artists, remembering only too well the honourable title which Beethoven had bestowed on them in public, fell into a great rage, as if the offence had just occurred. They swore that they would never play again if Beethoven were in the orchestra, and so forth. This went on until Beethoven had composed something new, and then their curiosity got the better of their anger.”
Louis Spohr, a composer, records many years later in his autobiography (1860-61) “a tragicomical incident which took place at Beethoven’s last concert at the Theater an der Wien”, related to him by Ignaz von Seyfried:
“Beethoven was playing a new piano concerto of his, but already at the first tutti, forgetting that he was the soloist, he jumped up and began to conduct in his own peculiar fashion. At the first sforzando he threw out his arms so wide that he knocked over both the lamps from the music stand of the piano. The audience laughed and Beethoven was so beside himself over this disturbance that he stopped the orchestra and made them start again. Seyfried, worried for fear that this would happen again in the same place, took the precaution of ordering two choir boys to stand next to Beethoven and to hold the lamps in their hands. One of them innocently stepped closer and followed the music from the piano part. But when the fatal sforzando burst forth, the poor boy received from Beethovens right hand such a sharp slap in the face that, terrified, he dropped the lamp on the floor. The other, more wary boy, who had been anxiously following Beethovens movements, succeeded in avoiding the blow by ducking in time. If the audience had laughed the first time, they now indulged in a truly bacchanalian riot. Beethoven broke out in such a fury that when he struck the first chord of the solo he broke six strings. Every effort of the true music-lovers to restore calm and attention remained unavailing for some time; thus the first Allegro of the Concerto was completely lost to the audience. Since this accident, Beethoven wanted to give no more concerts.”
Valentin Gheorghiu (21 March 1928, same day with Bach)
Romanian classical pianist and composer. He was first a pupil of Constanţa Erbiceanu and Mihai Jora at the Bucharest Academy of Music and then of Lazare Lévy, Marcelle Mayer and Noël Gallon at the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris between 1937-1939. He is one of the leading Romanian pianists of the twentieth century, but due to the fact that he did not perform much outside the Iron Curtain, he is not well known outside his native country.
Although he had played in Europe, North America, Japan, Canada and Israel with maestros as Antal Dorati, Kurt Masur, Sergiu Commissiona, George Prêtre, Kiril Kondraschin and orchestras as the Dresdner Staatskapelle, Suisse Romande, Bayerisches Rundfunk, Gewandhaus, Baltimore, Leningrad, Montreal, Tokyo and Moscow, he is not well known outside his native country due to Iron Curtain practices before 1990.
Gheorghiu has done recordings for HMV, Deutsche Grammophon, Pathé Marconi, RCA, Supraphon and Eterna. He was a member of the jury in many of the most famous international piano competitions like Leeds, Van Cliburn, Tchaikovsky, Margherite Long, Santander, Chopin, Beethoven and Busoni.
He will be one of the jury members in the upcoming “Fourth International Piano Competition of the Republic of San Marino”, together with Philippe Entremont, Michele Campanella, Arnaldo Cohen, Laura de Fusco, Alexei Lubimov and Joseph Paratore in September 2010.