December 22, 1808: The most remarkable concert of Beethoven’s career

Beethoven Mass in C major, Op. 86 – VI. Sanctus (Adagio)

See if this doesn’t get your heart beating faster…

Many of Beethoven’s most popular pieces were first performed at a concert on this day under less than ideal circumstances.

Beethoven was tired of having his music performed at charity concerts where he saw no money. So he begged the Theatre an der Wien to let him have a benefit concert for himself. What resulted was the storied “Marathon Concert”.

- The event lasted over four hours; the heater was broken.

- It saw the premiers of: Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 6, Choral Fantasy, Piano Concerto No. 4, part of the Mass in C and an extended jam with Beethoven at the piano.

- The orchestra was unrehearsed. Their last concert with Beethoven ended with a fight, so they refused to rehearse with him this time.

- During the Choral Fantasy, Beethoven stopped the orchestra and had them restart.

- This was Beethoven’s last ever public piano performance before his hearing went.

Despite all this, it was his first (and only) financially successful concert that year. Could you imagine sitting in the cold theatre for four hours and hearing this?