On Air Now
The Classic FM Concert with John Suchet 8pm - 10pm
Beethoven's Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra was composed in 1808 - it might be popular now, but its premiere wasn't all that well-received.
Of everything Beethoven composed, this is one of his most intriguing works. The unusual instrumentation he chose would certainly not have been something to which audiences of the time would have been accustomed. Indeed, you could easily believe the Choral Fantasia to be a piano sonata, given the expansive solo passage at the start. On top of that, the structure is a little strange: what exactly led Beethoven to split it into just two movements? The duration is also puzzling. With such a grand title, coupled with the fact that Beethoven was now known for writing large-scale symphonies and concertos, the audience at its premiere must surely have wondered why it was all done and dusted in little over twenty minutes.
When the Choral Fantasia was first performed in 1808, Beethoven had a number of things on his mind. after all, this was the very same concert where, among other works, he was introducing two of his best-loved symphonies (Nos. 5 and 6) to the world for the first time. Far from being a slick affair, the Choral Fantasia’s birth was a difficult one. The performance was clunky, the sense of ensemble between the musicians poor, and the reception decidedly lukewarm.