Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beethoven's Egmont Overture

Music lovers in Lincoln will have a couple of chances to hear Beethoven's Egmont Overture this month. The Lincoln Youth Symphony will be performing it at their February 12th concert, and then joining forces with Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra for an all-Beethoven concert on February 25th.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), one of classical music's greatest composers, made a name for himself in the classical period, and then transitioned into the romantic period of 19th century music. Around 1802, Beethoven's middle period work began to celebrate freedom and nobility of spirit, with works such as the Eroica Symphony (Symphony no. 3), his opera, Fidelio, and the Coriolan Overture.

In May 1809, Napoleon invaded Vienna. Life was difficult for the Viennese during the months of French occupation, and freedoms were restricted. The French left in October 1809, and Beethoven was immediately engaged to write incidental music for a revival of Goethe's political drama, Egmont. In the play, the hero, the Count of Egmont, is condemned to death because of his struggles for justice and liberty against despotism and tyranny. Beethoven, a great admirer of Goethe, wrote nine pieces for the play, in addition to the overture. Egmont, with Beethoven's music, premiered in June 1810.

The music of the overture is considered to be a condensation of the main themes of the play. The opening is solemn and tragic. The melodies then become ominous and threatening. A silence marks Egmont's death, but then victory is proclaimed by the orchestra, as tyranny is overcome.

The overture is written in the sonata form of the classical overture. There's a slow introduction, exposition of the themes, the development the themes, a recapitulation of the themes, and the dramatic coda. One analysis of the work relates the introduction to the prison, the body of the work to the fight, and the coda to the victory, as form expresses the play as a whole.

The Lincoln Youth Symphony's free performance of Beethoven's Egmont Overture will be at Lincoln High School, 3:00 p.m., on Sunday, February 12th.

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