Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/22 "Beethoven's 11" (Overtures Overview)

Recently I picked up Beethoven's complete overtures with Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker on LP.  4 vinyl sides containing 11 complete overtures - great stuff.  The symphony "form" developed from the operatic opening overture, so in a way I think of these as 1-movement symphonies.  This seems like a good opportunity to give an overview of all of B.'s overtures (especially as I have Hubert Daschner's liner notes right next to me).

The Creatures of Prometheus Op.43 (1801) (links to Karajan performance)
This overture is influenced by Mozart and includes a solemn introduction followed by a joyful allegro section.  However the use of melodic material from the END of the ballet in the main section of the overture was an innovation for its time.

Leonore I Op.138 (1805) (links to Mengelberg performance)
This overture has a slow middle section and foreshadows the "Florestan melody" - but it was criticized as not having enough melodic material from the "action scenes".

Leonore II Op.72 (1805) (links to Klemperer performance)
B. tried again and this time he followed the plot much more closely, down to the "trumpet call" signalling Pizarro's downfall - talk about spoiler-alert!  What might have confused audiences then was that since the story ends soon after that, there's no reason to revisit the opening exposition, which was typical.  B. didn't feel like following the "liberation of the prisoners from oppression" with a "flirty kitchen comedy scene" I guess...

Leonore III Op.72a (1805) (links to Karajan performance)
In this 3rd try he flip-flopped again and re-integrated the recapitulation.  This lasted about a week....;)

Fidelio Op.72b (1814) (links to Levine performance)
Finally, 9 years later, B. just said "the Devil with it!" and wrote an overture which had absolutely nothing to do with the opera itself.  It's exciting as heck tho.

Coriolan Op.62 (1807) (links to Jurowski performance)
Beethoven avoided the "condensed plot" form and instead just concentrated on a couple main themes and saved the climactic development section for the end.  Daschner writes: "Consequently, the whole of Beethoven's oeuvre scarcely contains sharper contrasts or a more pessimistic ending than those in the Coriolanus Overture".
Arturo Toscanini "Coriolanus Overture Rhearsal" Beethoven

Egmont Op.84 (1810) (links to Karajan performance)
Egmont is another of my favorite overtures and at the end has a moment of silence for the death of the hero (another spoiler alert required here), followed by a radiant, triumphal section, expressing the victory of ideals over bodily destruction.

King Stephen (or Hungary's First Benefactor) Op.117 (1811) (links to Schoenzeler full concert performance)
This overture is basically "incidental music" (film music) using Hungarian flavors (in quasi-sonata form).

The Ruins of Athens Op.113 (1811) (links to Schoenzeler full concert performance)
The shortest overture, this one is also "incidental music" using Turkish flavors this time - it was only used at the opening of the new theater at Pest - and only before the 3rd act even.

Name-Day Op.115 (1815) (links to Karajan performance)
Originally labeled "for any occasion - or for concert use",  it contains seeds of the 9th Symphony.  Name-Day is not the same as a birthday - it's related more to one's actual name and the matching saint's feast day.  More...

The Consecration of the House Op.124 (1822) (links to Kocsis performance)
Composed for the opening of the newly-renovated Josefstadt Theater in Vienna, this overture has a slow introduction followed by a fugue-like fast section - similar to what Handel used to do...and it's no secret Handel was Beethoven's favorite composer in his later years.

No comments:

Post a Comment