There were three works on the program at yesterday afternoon's recital by the Jupiter Symphony Players at Good Shepherd Church, two of them by highly influential eighteenth century Viennese composers.
The afternoon began with a short adagio by Heinrich Baermann taken, according to the printed program, from his Clarinet Quintet No. 3 in D flat major, Op. 23 (1821). According to Wikipedia, Baermann "wrote an Adagio for Clarinet and Strings in D-flat which was long misattributed to Richard Wagner." Baermann himself was among the preeminent clarinet virtuosi of the Romantic era and the musician for whom Mendelssohn wrote the two Konzertstücke, Opp. 113, 114.
The next work was more substantial. This was the Piano Trio No. 4 in A minor, Op. 289 (1834) by Carl Czerny. As can be deduced from the work's high opus number, Czerny was an incredibly prolific composer who wrote over a thousand pieces during the course of his career, many of which remain unpublished, and whose final tally of opus numbers eventually reached an astonishing 861. He was also highly regarded as a piano teacher and authored a number of books containing exercises that are still in use today. As a pianist, he was a child prodigy who gave his first public performance (playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor) in 1800 at only age 9. Despite these accomplishments, what Czerny is best remembered for today is his association with two much more famous musicians. He was not only Beethoven's favorite piano pupil but over the years also became the master's closest confidante. Though he may not have been the most reliable biographer, much of what we know of Beethoven's life come to us through Czerny. Additionally, it was he who debuted many of the composer's most significant piano compositions including the Vienna premiere of the Concerto No. 5 ("the Emperor") in 1812. Later, Czerny became the teacher of Liszt and it was he who introduced the legendary pianist, still only a child, to Beethoven. The trio performed here was a remarkable work, even if not up to the standards of Beethoven's own compositions for piano, and made me interested in hearing more of this composer's work.
The third and final work on the program was the famous Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major “Eroica” Op. 55, (1804), one of Beethoven's greatest achievements and the work that marked the beginning of his "Middle" period. This performance followed a transcription by Carl Friedrich Ebers for 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute, 2 clarinets and 2 horns. This was the first I'd heard of Ebers and thought the description of him provided in the Grove Dictionary quite interesting:
"... a man evidently of great ability, but as evidently of little morale, taking any post that offered, and keeping none; doing any work that turned up to keep body and soul together, and at length dying in great poverty at Berlin, Sept. 9, 1836. Some of his arrangements have survived, but his compositions—half-a-dozen operas, symphonies, overtures, dance music, wind-instrument ditto, and, in short, pieces of every size and form—have all disappeared, with the exception of a little drinking song, 'Wir sind die Könige der Welt,' which has hit the true popular vein."
As the same article goes on to detail the angry protest made by Carl Maria von Weber against the transcription Ebers had made of one of his own chamber works, I was a bit wary of the present arrangement and wondered how accurately it would follow Beethoven's score. I need not have worried. Although there were only ten instruments onstage, the arrangement captured the full range of the music in all its complexity. So rich was the sound that, had I had looked away, I might have thought at times there was a full orchestra present. When the work finished, the entire audience stood up to applaud the musicians who had worked so hard to give a truly great performance.