Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Beethoven 250: music for theatre

Cover art in Warner Classics: Beethoven: Complete Works: CD 12: Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840): Junotempel in Agrigent. Ca 1828 – ca 1830. Oil on canvas. 54 x 72. Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (Dortmund). Source: The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202. Photo: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 12 / 80
Opus 84: Egmont-Ouvertüre und Schauspielmusik (1810)
    New York Philharmonic Orchestra / Kurt Masur, 1992 live at Avery Fisher Hall
    Sylvia McNair, Will Quadflieg
Opus 113: Die Ruinen von Athen – Singspiel (1811)
Die Weihe des Hauses, Hess 118 (1822) – an adaptation of Die Ruinen von Athen
    Berliner Symphoniker / Hans-Hubert Schönzeler, 1970
    Berliner Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado, 1994
    Sylvia McNair, Neumar Starling, Vladimir de Kanell, Bryn Terfel, Bruno Ganz
    Berliner Konzertchor, 1970
    Rundfunkchor, 1994

AA: This record starts from a thrilling high point: the Egmont overture played magnificently by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur. The rest of the record contains less well known material. All ten tracks of Beethoven's music for Goethe's tragedy Egmont (1787) are of high quality, and Goethe himself praised the composer's "remarkable genius". The drama is about the heroic sacrifice of Egmont who stands up against Spanish oppression in the Netherlands of the 16th century. The music was meant to be played in the theatre, and the tragedy was written to be performed with music. For concert circumstances notable writers have created declamations to be recited by actors; this performance has none. Sylvia McNair sings eloquently the tragic songs of Klärchen, Egmont's loved one. The tenth track, Siegessymphonie, is a recapitulation of the overture.

Die Ruinen von Athen is a celebratory play, ein Festspiel, written by August von Kotzebue. Again Beethoven wrote ten pieces of music. At the start is an intriguing and haunting overture. (Among many other things, Beethoven was a master of overtures!). One of the tracks has become a perennial for pop music: "Marcia alla Turca" (both Mozart and Beethoven created a memorable Turkish March). None other than Bruno Ganz recites "Es wandelt schon das Volk im Feierkleide" in "Musik hinter der Szene". I like also the gentle march with chorus "Schmückt die Altäre" performed by Berliner Konzertchor. Beethoven recycled his composition for another play, Carl Meisl's Die Weihe des Hauses, writing for it another overture (included in CD 11) and a composition for a dance with chorus and aria (heard as the final track on this CD 12).

The ruins of Athens are lamented by the goddess Athene who gave her name to the city, now occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The subject of the ruin brings a new angle to the theme of the sublime in Beethoven's work. The sublime is often at its moving when it is reflected in a hidden power, something overwhelming lying dormant, a bear in hibernation, a volcanic energy before an eruption or the hours before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when the animals sensed in advance what was about to happen. The ruins of Athens are marks of a former glory that might be revived again.

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