Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Unauthorized Use

February 12 is one of those remarkable days in music history, remarkable for all the notable events that took place on this day. So: before getting to our featured topic, let us acknowledge some of those events and share some links to previous Music History Monday and Dr. Bob Prescribes posts that dealt with those events.

Carl Czerny (1791-1857)
Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

On this day in 1812, Beethoven’s student (and friend), the Austrian composer, pianist, and teacher Carl Czerny (1791-1857) performed as the soloist in the premiere of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, the “Emperor.” Czerny was the subject of Music History Monday on July 15, 2019.

We wish a heartfelt farewell to the German pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, who died on this date in Cairo, Egypt in 1894, at the age of 64. Von Bülow was the subject of both Music History Monday and Dr. Bob Prescribes just last month, on January 8 and 9,respectively.

Birthday greetings to the American composer Roy Harris (1898-1979), who was born on this date in 1898 in Chandler, Oklahoma. Harris and his Symphony No. 3 were featured in my Dr. Bob Prescribes post on April 9, 2019.

On February 12, 1924 – exactly 100 years ago today – George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue received its premiere at Aeolian Hall in New York City. Gershwin (1898-1937), accompanied by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, played the solo piano part. George Gershwin and his music have been featured regularly on my Patreon page, including Music History Monday on July 11, 2022; and in Dr. Bob Prescribes posts on October 20, 2020, and January 5, 2021.

Finally, we mark the death on February 12, 1959, of the American composer George Antheil (1900-1959) at the age 58, in New York City. Antheil was the subject of Music History Monday on July 8, 2019.

With no further ado, it is – finally – time to move on to today’s topic!

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) in 1792, by John Hoppner and commissioned in 1791 by the future British King George IV when he was the Prince of Wales
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) in 1792, by John Hoppner and commissioned in 1791 by the future British King George IV when he was the Prince of Wales

On February 12, 1797 – 227 years ago today –– Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3, nicknamed “Emperor” reputedly received its premiere. The quartet’s nickname – “Emperor” – stems from the hymn tune Haydn employed in its second movement theme and variations, a hymn Haydn had composed just a few months before and which was adopted as the Austrian national anthem in 1797.

This elegant and stately hymn, through a route most circuitous (a route that will be detailed in a bit), eventually became the national anthem of Nazi Germany (an anthem that began with the words Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, or “Germany, Germany above all else”).

Had Joseph Haydn – who was a kind, considerate, gentle, optimistic, old-world man of peace and good-will – had even an inkling that a depraved, criminal regime was going to adopt his hymn as its anthem (and as a result forever link his hymn with that regime), he would likely first have vomited and then burned the manuscript of the hymn and every copy he could get his hands on.

The Nazi’s adoption of Haydn’s hymn for its own, political ends, was neither the first nor last example of something we call, today, “unauthorized use.”…

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