On December 8, 1813, two hundred years ago today, Vienna witnessed the premiere of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A Major, with the great maestro conducting the symphony himself. The concert was part of a charity event honoring the Austrian and Bavarian troops of the October 30-31, 1813 Battle of Hanau. The troops fought against Napoleon’s forces that were retreating to France after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig earlier that month. The 7th Symphony’s celebratory character honors the Austrian and Bavarian troops, as well as the major defeat of Napoleon’s forces at Leipzig. The premiere was also a joyful reminder of hope to Austrians, as Napoleon had occupied Vienna in 1805 and 1809. (Sources – see hyper-links above to Wikipedia and NPR)
This is one of my favorite symphonies by Beethoven. It was especially popular in Europe, due to the historical context surrounding the premier. In fact, the work was so well received that it was performed three more times in the subsequent ten weeks. I especially enjoy the second movement – Allegretto, which was performed again as an encore at the premiere. Allegretto, one of Beethoven’s most successful and popular orchestral works, is commonly performed separately from the rest of the symphony!