Day 265: Cantatas On the Death of Joseph II, On the Accession of Leopold II

BeethovenCD70jpg“Ugh” again.

More operatic singing.

Today’s marks an interesting point in the first year of my three-year journey through the creative works of the world’s masters of their respective art forms. I’m just 100 days shy of completing one full year. I’m also just 16 CDs away from completing the Beethoven leg of my journey.

The performers on today’s CD are:

Fiona Cameron soprano

Teele Joks mezzo-soprano

Mati Korts tenor

Leonid Savitski bass

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

Tonu Kaljuste conductor

There are two cantatas on today’s CD:

On the Death of Emperor Joseph II

On the Accession of Emperor Leopold II

What’s the story behind these cantatas?

Google to the rescue.

First, On the Death of Joseph II.

Here’s what the San Francisco Symphony web site has to say about On the Death of Joseph II:

Beethoven composed the Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II in 1790, but the work was not performed until 1884, when it had its premiere that November in Vienna.

What happened next is not so clear. The minutes of the Literary Society for a meeting on March 17 [1790] state that “for various reasons the proposed cantata cannot be performed,” and a projected performance the following year in the nearby town of Mergentheim did not materialize either. The Joseph cantata is almost certainly one of the works that Beethoven showed to Haydn, an act whose ultimate consequence was Beethoven’s move to Vienna; for the rest, he made no effort to have it performed or published, though he did not forget it. The manuscript was bought by the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel at an auction in 1813, disappeared from view for many years, and came to light again at another auction in 1884. It was performed in Vienna that November and in June 1885 the music was at last heard in Bonn.

Brahms examined the manuscript in 1884 and was moved to write to the critic Eduard Hanslick: “Even if there were no name on the title page, none other could be conjectured—it is Beethoven through and through: the beautiful and noble pathos, sublime in its feeling and imagination; the intensity, perhaps violent in its expression; moreover, the voice-leading and declamation, and in the two outer sections all the characteristics which we may observe in and associate with his later works!”

So this was never performed in Beethoven’s lifetime. Sad.

Second, On the Accession of Leopold.

Information is harder to come by for the second of these cantatas. All I can come up with so far is that Accession was also composed in 1790. One web site – The Unheard Beethoven – offers some interesting background on both.

I’m not a fan of this type of singing. Too screetchy.

These performers have talent. No question about it. To my ears, they sound gifted. I just don’t appreciate this type of music.

To each his own.