Handwashers’ Newsletter 5th December 2020


Today was the day we had planned to celebrate Ludwig von Beethoven’s 250th Birthday with this concert programme:

Hallelujah! (from Christ on the Mount of Olives) (English)

Creation’s Hymn (English)

Choral Fantasia (English)

Mass in C (Latin)

Let’s hope that these plans can be implemented one day but meanwhile:


Beethoven aged 23

Born in December 1770, Beethoven was a crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in music and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

His musical talent was obvious at an early age, and he was harshly and intensively taught by his father Johann van Beethoven, who thought this would make him a child prodigy like Mozart. He was later taught by the composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe. At age 21, he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Joseph Haydn and also gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist.

In 1801, he gained fame for his six String Quartets, his first symphony and for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. During this period, his hearing began to deteriorate, but he continued to conduct, premiering his third and fifth symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. His condition worsened to almost complete deafness by 1811, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public.

During this period of self-exile, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works; his seventh symphony premiered in 1813, with its second movement, Allegretto, achieving widespread critical acclaim. He composed his Missa Solemnis for a number of years before it premiered prior to his ninth symphony in 1824, with the latter gaining fame for being among the first examples of a choral symphony. In 1826, his fourteenth String Quartet was noted not only for its seven linked movements played without a break and is considered the final major piece performed before his death a year later.

The Hallelujah chorus is the final movement of Christus am Ölberge (Christ on the Mount of Olives); an oratorio portraying the emotional turmoil of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion. It was first performed on April 5,1803 in Vienna:


Creation’s Hymn is a short piece of just 3 pages of SATB. We planned to use a translation by Troutbeck;


Beethoven composed the Choral Fantasy as the concluding work for a Benefit Concert he put on for himself in an unheated theatre in Vienna on 22 December 1808. The performers consisted of vocal soloists, chorus, orchestra and Beethoven himself as piano soloist. The Fantasy was designed to include all the participants in the programme and thus unites all these musical forces. It is obviously a forerunner to the much later Ninth Symphony. During the concert, the under-rehearsed and shivering chorus broke down completely only to have Beethoven yell at them that they should start it again. This doesn’t happen with Abbado conducting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCsNlSMAq44 WOW!

The C Major Mass was composed for Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy ll in 1807 to celebrate his wife’s name day. While the Prince was not pleased, the contemporary critic E. T. A. Hoffmann appreciated the “expression of a childlike serene mind”, and Michael Moore notes the music’s “directness and an emotional content”.

Here’s the Kyrie with music so you can sing along:


The Mass was included, along with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the fourth Piano Concerto in the above-mentioned 1808 Benefit Concert; it must have been quite an evening, lasting some 3 hours with the composer conducting, directing and yelling from the piano!

Here, in a quieter mood, the Gloucestershire based Carducci String Quartet performs the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Quartet No6:


or, if you prefer a bigger band, what about Overture Leonora No. 3 played by the CBSO with all the brio demanded by their un-pronounceable conductor:


Later portrait perhaps illustrating the ravages of a harsh upbringing, hard work,

 failures in courtship and increasingly profound deafness


Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was written while on a diving holiday in the Caribbean: it is therefore known as the Coral Symphony. Beethoven dedicated it to his girlfriend who had paid for the holiday, writing on the original score “Owed to Joy”.

And, for something totally different, Chris Burton brings us up to date:


 LATE NEWS from the Oriel singers:

After a pause of nine months, we’re back singing to an audience again at the Painswick Rococo Garden this Sunday, 6 December! We are performing a short programme of Christmas carols at 11am and again at 1pm. The garden is only open to timed ticket holders and it is essential to pre-book. Information on the event and how to book tickets can be found here:


 (Weather forecast for tomorrow is dry with occasional sunny periods but cold!)

and on Saturday 12th December at 4pm at the United Reform Church, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham, James Gilchrist accompanied by John Wright will give a recital of mostly English Christmas music. Details:  HOLST notice of recital 1.12.20