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8.550433 - BEETHOVEN, L. van: 11 Dances, "Mödlinger Tänze" / 12 German Dances / 12 Minuets (Capella Istropolitana, Dohnányi)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
In 1792 Beethoven left his native city of Bonn to seek his fortune in the imperial capital, Vienna. Five years earlier his patron, the Archbishop of Cologne, a scion of the imperial family, had sent him to Vienna, where he had hoped to have lessons with Mozart. His plans were frustrated by the illness and subsequent death of his mother, which made it necessary to return to Bonn and before long to take charge of the welfare of his younger brothers. Beethoven's father, overshadowed by the eminence of his own father, Kapellmeister to a former Archbishop, had proved inadequate both as a musician and in the family, of which his son now took control.
As a boy Beethoven had been trained to continue family tradition as a musician and had followed his father and grandfather as a member of the archiepiscopal musical establishment. In 1792 he arrived in Vienna with introductions to various members of the nobility and with the otter of lessons with Haydn, from whom he later claimed to have learned nothing. There were further lessons from the Court Composer, Antonio Salieri, and from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and an initial career of some brilliance as a keyboard virtuoso. He was to establish himself, in the course of time, as a figure of remarkable genius and originality and as a social eccentric, no respecter of persons, his eccentricity all the greater for his increasing deafness. This last disability made public performance, whether as a keyboard-player or in the direction of his own music, increasingly difficult, and must have served to encourage the development of one particular facet of his music, stigmatised by hostile contemporary critics as "learned", the use of counterpoint.
It is a curious sociological fact that dance has so often assumed importance in society .In the later 18th century court dances were dominated by the elegant form of the minuet, a dance that Mozart, a former composer of court dance music in Vienna, had treated in a way befitting his genius. In the 19th century the position of the minuet was usurped by the waltz, with its greater opportunities for brief intimacy between partners. The contrivance, with its duple measure, had undoubted appeal also to the middle classes, while the so-called German dance from the villages of Bavaria and Austria provided the basis of the waltz itself.
Dance music for balls in Vienna was provided by composers of great contemporary distinction. In 1792 Haydn wrote a set of dances for the Artists' Pension Society Ball, followed in 1793 by the composer and publisher Leopold Kozeluch. In 1794 Dittersdorf and Mozart's friend Eybler wrote sets of dances for the ball, and in 1795 Beethoven provided a set of twelve minuets and twelve German dances, later to be listed as WoO 7 and WoO 8, for the same annual occasion. These sets of dances were intended for the smaller of the ball-rooms available, while the principal ball-room used music written for the occasion by Mozart's pupil Süssmayr. Beethoven's dances make use of the usual modest orchestra, the tenth of the minuets allowing the brief appearance of the popular "Turkish" music of the time, identified with percussion and piccolo. A post-horn is heard in the coda, signalling the end of the set.
The Twelve Contredanses, WoO 14, were completed in 1802, making use of same earlier compositions of the same kind. The seventh and eleventh are used in the finale of the ballet-music for the dancer Salvatore Vigano's Creatures of Prometheus, staged at the Vienna Burgtheater in 1801. The Cantredanses were dedicated to Johann Baptist Friedrich, assistant to Dr. Johann Schmidt, the composer's doctor, who had at this time inspired Beethoven with new optimism about the possibility of a cure for his deafness.
The eleven Mödlinger Tänze, WoO 17, were apparently written in 1819, although some have doubted their authenticity. Beethoven's assistant and biographer Schindler tells how the composer had retired to the country, to Mödling, where he was occupied in the composition of the Missa Solemnis, for his patron and pupil, Archduke Rudolph. In answer to a request from a group of seven local musicians at the Gasthof "Zu den drei Raben" in the neighbouring village of Brühl, he is said to have written a set of eleven dances.
In view of the state of his temper, as recorded by various visitors to Mödling, that summer, this would have been unexpectedly obliging of him. Now virtually stone deaf, he complicated his stay there by the usual difficulties of his own making. Unreasonable quarrels with servants, leading to their abrupt departure, and with inn-keepers unable to provide exactly what he wanted, as the mood took him, punctuated his work on the great setting of the Mass. The parts of the so-called Mödling Dances were discovered at the Thomasschule in Leipzig in 1905 and were published two years later. The original instrumentation was limited by the number of players, who nevertheless were able to turn their hands to more than one instrument each, switching, as occasion demanded, from wind to string instrument.
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