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"Wellington's Victory" - History
By Craig Smith

Dear Jerry and others,  The record you mention was one of my favorites,
Mercury's recording of Beethoven's "Wellington's Victory".  It was
presented by Antal Dorati and the London Symphony.

From what I've heard, it ranks up there with finding an original copy
of the Mercury "1812" or the 2-record set of the Harry Belafonte
concert.  No wonder you couldn't find it.

I had forgotten the part about the Panharmonicon which was noteworthy in
itself.  Here is a little history.  M.C. and W.W. would have probably
written this from memory; I copied it from the dust jacket.

    "On June 12, 1813, near the Basque city of Vittoria, Sir Arthur
  Wellesley -- later the Duke of Wellington -- soundly whipped a
  French army under King Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jourdan, and
  drove it out of Spain, back into France.

    "This made all anti-Napoleonic Europeans happy, and a thousand
  miles to the northeast, in Vienna, two very talented men prepared
  to celebrate the event in a most unusual way.  These were Ludwig van
  Beethoven, whom everybody knows about, and a friend of his, a man of
  rare but weird abilities named Johann Nepomuk Maelzel.

    "Maelzel was a gadgetteer, with a sort of P.T. Barnum-like mind.
  He had invented a mechanical bugler that could play cavalry marches.
  He also invented an ear-trumpet, which endeared him to Beethoven.
  Finally he invented the Panharmonicon, a giant mechanical orchestral
  machine, run by air pressure and incorporating flutes, trumpets,
  drums, cymbals, triangles, strings struck by hammers, violins,
  cellos, and clarinets.

    "Maelzel had lately lent Beethoven 50 ducats, so Beethoven agreed
  readily, indeed enthusiastically, to write a piece for the metal
  monster.  Who first had the idea of Wellington's Victory, nobody
  really knows; both men claimed it later.  Anyway, Beethoven wrote
  the music in accord with what the machine could do.

    "The behemoth had to be re-rigged for the Battle Symphony, so
  Maelzel suggested that Beethoven meanwhile adapt the score for
  orchestra, give a concert, and raise money.  He did, and they made
  a tidy sum.  He repeated and they made still more.  Then they had a
  fight, since Maelzel laid claim to possession of the score, on the
  grounds that he had paid for it.

    "This threw Beethoven into a fury (which was not hard to do), so
  he stormed off then gave a concert performance of the Victory for his
  own sole benefit.  As he was doing this, Maelzel sneaked out of town
  with a copy of the music.  Since the two men had schemed to go
  conquer London with their awesome joint creation, Beethoven now
  wrote an open letter to the musicians of London, urging them to
  spurn the nefarious Johann Nepomuk when he arrived.  He also filed
  suit in Vienna.

    "Maelzel never got London, and when he finally returned to Vienna,
  Beethoven called off the lawsuit, whereupon Maelzel split the costs
  with him.  They seem to have understood each other pretty well.

    "Maelzel, incidentally, spent his last years in the United States,
  demonstrating a spectacular animated set-piece called the Burning of
  Moscow.  Surely Beethoven did not take this seriously as music,
  but obviously he had much fun writing it.  It may be embarrassingly
  gaudy but it is not a bore.  Patently it was the object of attention
  by P. I. Tchaikovsky, who wrote an overture called 1812."


Now Jerry, what got you so interested in this curious piece????

Craig Smith


(Message sent Thu 9 Jul 1998, 09:10:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  History, Victory, Wellington's