On 22 June 1829, the legendary French harpist, convicted forger and escaped felon, Robert Nicolas Charles Bochsa performed his most infamous musical offense: a rendition of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony with stage action. Since Grove, this surprisingly early reworking of the Sixth as a ballet-pantomime has not gone down well in the literature. As the twentieth century unfurled, the moment steadily receded into obscurity, losing all cultural and contextual meaning to the point where it is now remembered (if at all) as a lesson in the rogue potential of performance——a pockmark on the historical map. This article will reverse the general slide into amnesia by first excavating this vanished but important moment of the musical past, and then recuperating its seriousness. Enough evidence from the 1820s and 30s suggests that Bochsa's Symphonie (performed at London's King's Theatre) was representative of much more than itself. Far from historically inexplicable, it can be read as an extreme manifestation of a strongly defined ballet-concert exchange that characterized the artistic trends of the late 1820s. By taking on abstract and ““musical”” forms, dance was becoming more concertlike. Concerts, meanwhile, were developing balletic traits in their increasing use of picturesque effects, and their growing fascination for the visual or bodily aspects of musical performance. A rapprochement took place that reshaped the nature of listening and figured the emerging concept of the musical work in a curiously plastic, objective way——as the case study exemplifies.
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