Beethoven’s unusual cantata Der glorreiche Augenblick (‘The Glorious Moment’) is filled with patriotic praise for Vienna and tributes to the kings and princes of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. It was performed alongside his symphonic Wellington’s Victory at its première in 1814. The Fantasia in C minor for piano, chorus and orchestra opens with a virtuosic, improvisatory Adagio for the piano. The work’s main theme anticipates the famous Ode to Joy setting Beethoven later devised for his Choral Symphony.
Der glorreiche Augenblick, Op. 136
Beethoven’s unusual cantata Der glorreiche Augenblick (The Glorious Moment) was commissioned by the Vienna City Administration. The work has an undistinguished text suited to the occasion of its first performance, a tribute to the kings and princes of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon, words that are at least better than those that Beethoven had earlier contemplated for this occasion. Later editors and performers have proposed various verbal changes and substitutions, seeking to match the supposed views of Beethoven, as suggested elswhere in his work, not least in his Ninth (Choral) Symphony with its setting of Schiller’s An die Freude. The work is scored for four solo voices, a children’s chorus, a mixed chorus and an orchestra with pairs of flutes and a piccolo, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and strings. The soprano soloist sings the rôle of Vienna, the mezzo-soprano that of a Prophetess, the tenor the Genius and the bass the Leader of the People.
The contemporary fame that Beethoven enjoyed is witnessed by the distinction of the audience at his concert of 29th November 1814 in the Redoutensaal. The leaders of the major European states, through the conservative diplomacy of the Austrian statesman Prince Metternich, were meeting in Vienna at a Congress intended to reestablish something of the European order that had existed before the conquests of Napoleon, now exiled to the island of Elba. The occasion brought a great deal of social activity in Vienna, occasioning the remark of Charles-Joseph, Prince de Ligne: Le congrès danse beaucoup, mais il ne marche pas. Beethoven’s concert had been postponed already three times in November, before all was ready for a programme that included his Battle Symphony, Wellingtons Sieg (Wellington’s Victory), first performed in 1813 and written in celebration of Wellington’s triumph at the battle of Vittoria, his Seventh Symphony and a new cantata, Der glorreiche Augenblick (The Glorious Moment), setting a text by a former army doctor, Aloys Weissenbach. The audience included the Empress, the Tsarina of Russia, the King of Prussia and other dignitaries. The concert was repeated on 2nd December in a benefit performance for the composer that attracted much less attention, and again on 25th December as a charity event in aid of St Marx’s Hospital.
Fantasia in C minor for piano, chorus and orchestra, Op. 80
The first performance of the Choral Fantasia was a less happy occasion. On 22nd December 1808 Beethoven gave a concert at the Theater an der Wien with a programme that included first performances of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, a soprano aria, a choral piece, and his Fourth Piano Concerto. The Choral Fantasia was written to provide a grand conclusion to the evening. Inevitably the programme was under-rehearsed and far too long, particularly in a theatre that lacked proper heating. Various members of the audience on the occasion left their own accounts of what happened. It seems, at least, that the Finale of the Choral Fantasia broke down in some confusion after a wrong entry, apparently because of a misunderstanding over repeats, and had to be started again, souring Beethoven’s relationship with his players still further, after earlier disagreements over his demands on the musicians. The work opens with a virtuosic, improvisatory Adagio for the piano. The work’s main theme anticipates the famous Ode to Joy setting Beethoven later devised for his Choral Symphony.
The soprano Claire Rutter was born in South Shields, County Durham, and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at the National Opera Studio sponsored by The Friends of English National Opera. Her operatic career has taken her to leading opera houses around the world (Aida in Sydney, Don Giovanni in Dallas, Un ballo in maschera in Helsinki and La traviata in Oslo) but she has also enjoyed enormous success in Britain, notably with bel canto repertoire at Grange Park Opera (Norma) and English National Opera (Lucrezia Borgia).
Danish mezzo-soprano Matilde Wallevik completed her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where she continues to reside. After winning the EU Opera Competition in Baden-Baden, she made her operatic début as Dorabella in Innsbruck. Other rôles include heroes in Handel repertoire such as Dardano, Ruggiero, Armindo, and Andronico, as well as Carmen, Waltraute, Eboli, Cherubino, Niklausse, Florence Pike and Orlofsky. She is active on the concert platform with works such as Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, oratorios and Sibelius song recitals.
The tenor Peter Hoare studied percussion before starting his professional singing career. Operatic highlights include Tikhon in Kat’á Kabanová (Geneva, Welsh National Opera), Shapkin in From the House of the Dead (Metropolitan Opera, New York; La Scala, Milan), Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore and Vitek in Vec Makropulos (Salzburg Festival), Desportes in Die Soldaten (New National Theatre, Tokyo; Lincoln Centre, New York), and Faust in The Damnation of Faust (English National Opera). He has an extensive concert repertoire, and Delius’s Song of the High Hills and the Master of Ceremonies in Gloriana feature among his several recordings.
English baritone Stephen Gadd was a finalist in the inaugural Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, and among other numerous awards won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship. His early musical training was as a boy chorister at Coventry Cathedral. He then studied engineering while a choral scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, before studying singing with Patrick McGuigan in Manchester at the Royal Northern College of Music. His recent operatic performances have included Macbeth for Glyndebourne Festival, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro for Salzburg Festspiele on tour, and a recording of Weber’s Euryanthe at the Warsaw International Beethoven Festival.
Leon McCawley won First Prize at the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and Second Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition at the age of nineteen in 1993, following his previous success in BBC Young Musician of the Year. His solo recordings have received many accolades including two “Editor’s Choice” awards in Gramophone and a Diapason d’Or for his set of the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas. He has given acclaimed recitals at major venues in Europe and the United States and performed with many leading orchestras at home and abroad, with appearances at the BBC Proms and regular broadcasts.
Westminster Boys’ Choir (Director: Jeremy Walker)
The forty boys of Westminster Boys’ Choir are educated at Westminster Under School, part of London’s historic Westminster School, established before 1179 as a monastic school of the Abbey and re-founded by Elizabeth I in 1560. They have appeared in concert with the English Chamber Orchestra, the Southbank Sinfonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and with many soloists from Faryl Smith to Sir Thomas Allen and Julian Lloyd Webber. They have toured throughout Europe, North and South America, China and South Africa and have twice been category finalists in the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year Competition.
City of London Choir
The City of London Choir was founded in 1963. Under the inspirational leadership of Hilary Davan Wetton, it undertakes a busy annual programme, performing regularly at the Barbican and in a well-regarded season at St John’s, Smith Square, with leading professional orchestras, instrumentalists and soloists. The choir also appears on the Southbank, at the Royal Albert Hall, at St Martin-in-the-Fields and outside London. The choir’s début recording on the Naxos label, In Terra Pax: A Christmas Anthology (8.572102), received great critical acclaim and reached No. 2 in the Gramophone Classical Chart.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Acknowledged as one of Britain’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. Since its formation, the orchestra has been directed by some of the world’s finest conductors, continuing with current Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Charles Dutoit. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is resident at London’s Cadogan Hall, performs regularly at the Royal Albert Hall and gives a prestigious series of concerts each year at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. The orchestra is committed to offering an extensive British regional touring programme and has also toured more than thirty countries in the last five years. The orchestra records extensively for film and television as well as for all the major commercial record companies and also has its own record label.
Hilary Davan Wetton has enjoyed a distinguished career as both conductor and teacher. He was Director of Music at St Paul’s Girls’ and Tonbridge Schools, and conductor of the Edinburgh Youth and Birmingham Schools Orchestras. He is Associate Conductor of the London Mozart Players. Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the City of London Choir since 1989, he was founder/conductor of the Holst Singers and is Conductor Emeritus of the Guildford Choral Society and the Milton Keynes City Orchestra. He has recorded many neglected works, both by British composers (including Parry, Holst, Samuel Wesley and Sterndale Bennett) and by Raff and Mendelssohn. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, for which he presented the popular series Masterclass. His acclaimed recordings include Holst’s Choral Symphony which won the Diapason d’Or in 1994.