7 May 1659
With the Protectorate collapsing after the death of Oliver Cromwell eight months earlier, 50 members of the Rump Parliament he forcibly dissolved in 1653 reassemble at Westminster.
7 May 1697
Stockholm’s royal palace is destroyed by fire.
7 May 1748
Birth in Montauban of French playwright and feminist Olympe de Gouges. In 1791 she writes A Declaration of the Rights of Women, a response to the National Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Man. She is sent to the guillotine in 1793.
7 May 1812
Poet Robert Browning was born in Camberwell. His narrative poems, such as The Pied Piper of Hamelin, earned him enormous popularity.
7 May 1840
Composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, Udmurtia. He was initially educated towards a civil service career but in 1862 he entered the St Petersburg Conservatory of Music and completed his first symphony four years later.
7 May 1861
Birth in Calcutta of Bengali musician and man of letters Rabindranath Tagore. In 1913 he became the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
7 May 1824: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony delights Vienna
Deaf and struggling with ill health, the composer nonetheless enjoys one of his greatest triumphs
In the spring of 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven was 53 years old. Exhausted, ill and by now almost totally deaf, he had spent years working on his epic Ninth Symphony, and originally planned to stage the premiere in Berlin. But after a petition from bigwigs in Vienna, where he remained enormously popular, Beethoven agreed that it would go ahead in the city’s splendid Theater am Kärntnertor on 7 May 1824. The performance has gone down in musical legend.
Since the composer’s deafness made him a very unreliable director, the orchestra followed their own director, Michael Umlauf, during the rehearsals, while Beethoven sat on the stage, turning the pages of his manuscript and beating time for musicians he could not hear.
The performance, attended by the great and the good of Viennese society, followed a similar formula. Beethoven “stood in front of a conductor’s stand and threw himself back and forth like a madman”, one musician recalled. “At one moment he stretched to his full height, at the next he crouched down to the floor, he flailed about with his hands and feet as though he wanted to play all the instruments and sing all the chorus parts.”
When the last notes died away, Beethoven carried on conducting. He did not even hear when the audience burst into frenzied applause. Only when the young singer Caroline Unger walked over and gently turned him around did he realise that it was all over – and that the public loved it. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook