22 March 2012

Sensational discovery of historic recording

A rare, hitherto unknown recording has been discovered which, according to the accompanying commemorative booklet, includes “an excerpt from the Allegro con brio finale of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 7th symphony in A major conducted by the composer, transferred onto wax by means of a recently invented process by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel – Royal and Imperial Court Mechanic and Inventor – at a concert given at the University of Vienna on the 12th December, 1813”.

What would your feelings be if you had discovered such a treasure?

Well, Dingo knows, because he actually came across this priceless rarity at a sale of second-hand records last week.

He nearly passed out with excitement!

It all seems impossible, but the fact is that Maelzel was a famous inventor in his day with surprisingly advanced ideas. Apart from the metronome and his amazing Panharmonicon and a whole variety of other musical curiosities, he experimented with all sorts of mechanical devices including (and this is truly the most incredible bit) a machine driven by a clockwork mechanism “capable of transferring sound onto a wax disk.” Always fascinated by the possibility of capturing sound by mechanical means, Maezel apparently hit on the idea when making a set of ear trumpets for Beethoven whom he knew. He actually used a modified sample of one of his deaf aids as the basis for the amplifier/recorder part of his ingenious machine.

Fortunately for posterity Maezel decided to use his machine at the concert mentioned above - a concert, incidentally, which he had personally organised on behalf of Beethoven.The experiment was a brilliant success - as this recording amply testifies.

According to a report in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig , the large orchestra – which included leading instrumentalists of the day – “played with outstanding precision under the personal direction of the composer, Herr van Beethoven”. According to Louis Spohr, who also took part in the performance, Beethoven used wildly grotesque gestures when conducting and “shouted out in a loud voice from time to time without knowing he was doing so”.

“Of course, the quality of the orchestral sound is not all that marvellous, and the extract only lasts about 4 ½ minutes” says Dingo, “but at one point you can actually clearly hear Beethoven shouting at the orchestra as Spohr says. It’s FANTASTIC!” he spluttered with excitement! “Beethoven himself! Can you believe it!!!!!”

But the awful thing is that Dingo won’t let us hear it! It looks as if we’ll have no option but to steal it from him and play it secretly when he's out one day!



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