The chamber arrangement of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony that the Australian Haydn Ensemble performs this month was made by W. Watts for the Philharmonic Society in London, we think, around 1809. Watts was the long term secretary of the Philharmonic Society and, according to the Philharmonic archives, was the most active of the members of the Society in arranging Beethoven’s music at the time.
The Australian Haydn Ensemble. Photo © Helen White
The creation of chamber versions of larger symphonic works was commonplace in the 18th century and it was often the way that many people heard works for the first time given that they didn’t have recordings. This particular set was probably made because the Philharmonic Society wanted to support Beethoven’s work in England – the society commissioned various works from Beethoven, including the Ninth Symphony.
The instrumentation of this version of the Fourth is for two violins, two violas, cello, double bass and flute. The first occurrence of this same instrumentation that I am aware of was Cimador’s set of six Mozart Grand Symphonies that were published by the London publisher Monzani in 1800. The instrumentation is quite specific and...